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18 June 2014
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Legacies - Highland

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Myths and Legends
Ossian: Fact or Fiction

Ossian Frontispiece
While the arguments blazed on, the books went through many reprints. Whether the majority seemed to care little whether the stories had a historical background, or were intrigued to judge its worth for themselves, the product continued to sell. Some saw other value in MacPherson’s work, in that even if he had invented these tales he had raised the profile of the epic poems of ancient Scotland, and may even inspire someone to investigate and discover similar unknown works:

“Of the poetical merit of these fragments nothing shall here be said. Let the public judge, and pronounce. It is believed, that, by a careful inquiry, many more remains of ancient genius, no less valuable than those now given to the world, might be found in the same country where these have been collected.”

Fragments of Ancient Poetry, Collected in the Highlands of Scotland, and Translated from the Galic or Erse Language (Edinburgh: 1760).

However, the critics remained adamant that if MacPherson had lied about the origins, the book was worthless:

"Disbelievers refused to grant any distinction between the historical authenticity and the literary worth of the poems. If they were not ancient, they had no value as literature."

Paul J. deGategno, James Macpherson (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1989), p. 5

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