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The Poems of Ossian (Two Volumes-Complete)
A. Strahan and T. Cadell, London, 1790. Very Good+ with no dust jacket. First Edition (?). 1. Hard Cover Bound in contemporary full leather, spines in six compartments separated by gilt borders, gilt lettering in two compartments on red panels, gilt decoration in other compartments, gilt borders on covers, gilt dentelles, marbled endpapers. In 1760, James MacPherson (1736-96), published "Fingal, an Ancient Epic Poem" his first translation of an ancient Gaelic poem composed by the warrior/poet Ossian a thousand years before. Praised by Schiller, quoted at length by Goethe, and beloved by Napoleon, a complete translation of the works of Ossian followed quickly upon the heels of its predecessor, but like "Fingal, " it was a monumental literary fraud unparalleled in the history of European scholarly letters. Composed entirely by MacPherson, Ossian was entirely a figment of Macpherson's imagination. In the following two years, MacPherson published two additional fragments, "Fragments" and "Temora." MacPherson had compiled fragments of ancient Gaelic poetry, which he interspersed with his own work, and published them all together, again as the work of Ossian, in 1765. This first collected edition, "The Works of Ossian" (1765), contains 400 or so textual revisions, mostly minor in nature, but for his second collected edition Macpherson reworked his entire text stylistically, and reordered the poems 'so as to form a kind of regular history of the age to which they relate'. When faced with skeptics, including Samuel Johnson, MacPherson was forced to fabricate his sources. [Lowndes 1736]. Also published there for the first time were MacPherson's prefatory discussion of the nature and merits of his 'translation' into prose rather than verse, doubting 'whether the harmony which these poems might derive from rhime could atone for the simplicity and energy, which they would lose'. He gives as an example a fragment of an old Norse poem translated by way of Gaelic into contemporary English prose, and then into contemporary English verse. The preface is dated 'Aug. 15, 1773'; it was less than six weeks later that Boswell and Johnson, in Ulinish on the Isle of Skye, were talking with Donald M'Queen about Ossian. 'I look upon M'Pherson's Fingal to be as gross an imposition as ever the world was troubled with', said Johnson. 'Had it been really an ancient work It would have been a curiosity of the first rate. As a modern production, it is nothing' (Boswell's Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, ed. Hill-Powell, in Life of Johnson, V, 240-3) Johnson mentions this discussions with M'Queen in "Journey to the Western Islands" (first edition, pp. 271-7) in the course of a sustained denunciation of MacPherson's 'translations' and their apologists. Within two days of the distribution of Johnson's "Journey" to the booksellers, MacPherson began frantic negotiations with William Strahan, his publisher as well as Johnson's, to have an advertisement printed retracting such expressions as 'insolence, audacity, and guilt
      [Bookseller: Cellar Stories Bookstore]
Last Found On: 2016-02-24           Check availability:      TomFolio    

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