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The Calvinist International

Colin Kidd: Hugh Trevor-Roper, 22 May 2008

The Invention of Scotland: Myth and History 
by Hugh Trevor-Roper.
Yale, 267 pp., £18.99, May 2008, 978 0 300 13686 9
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Europe’s Physician: The Various Life of Sir Theodore de Mayerne 
by Hugh Trevor-Roper.
Yale, 438 pp., £25, October 2006, 0 300 11263 7
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... Casaubon, Mayerne sought, and received, sanctuary at the court of the British philosopher-king James VI and I, where erudition was prized over orthodoxy – or indeed decorum. England was to be Mayerne’s de facto home for the rest of his life. The wars of religion had injected a crucial element of paranoia into court life. Kings and leading courtiers not ...

Post-Cullodenism

Robert Crawford, 3 October 1996

The Poems of Ossian and Related Works 
by James Macpherson, edited by Howard Gaskill.
Edinburgh, 573 pp., £16.95, January 1996, 0 7486 0707 2
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... awakening dates from the production of Ossian,’ Ezra Pound wrote, and he was right. One of James Macpherson’s great contributions to literature was the use of the fragment. His first Ossianic work, the Fragments of Ancient Poetry, published in Edinburgh in 1760, uses in its title and as its form one of the familiar terms of classical scholarship ...

Speaking in Tongues

Robert Crawford, 8 February 1996

The Poetry of Scotland: Gaelic, Scots and English 1380-1980 
edited and introduced by Roderick Watson.
Edinburgh, 752 pp., £19.95, May 1995, 0 7486 0607 6
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... of ‘the frost subdu’d, / Gradual, resolves into a weeping thaw’, though Johnson’s admired James Thomson, author of these lines, came close to being Fergusson’s contemporary. That sense of linguistic jolting and, not infrequently, of cross-linguistic connections lends Watson’s anthology its revelatory potential. Ossianic translatorese, the Burns ...

Bastard Gaelic Man

Colin Kidd, 14 November 1996

The Correspondence of Adam Ferguson 
edited by Vincenzo Merolle.
Pickering & Chatto, 257 pp., £135, October 1995, 1 85196 140 2
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... of 1797 eventually granted Scotland this school of virtue and Ferguson promptly enrolled his son James (b. 1778) in the ballot as an ‘Example to my neighbour Farmers’; though ‘if College call him away I trust that money will procure a Substitute.’ Today it is the Scots alone who detect otherness in the Scottish Enlightenment, and find it ...

Islas Malvinas

Frank Lentricchia, 1 April 1999

... from Scottish was the creation of a poet, who had claimed to discover an ancient Gaelic epic: James Macpherson, oh yes! he knew of Macpherson! 18th-century literary fraud, so gripped by the idea of an art rooted in folk culture, in local earth, that he invented it. The scandal of ...

Malvolio’s Story

Marilyn Butler, 8 February 1996

Dirt and Deity: A Life of Robert Burns 
by Ian McIntyre.
HarperCollins, 461 pp., £20, October 1995, 0 00 215964 3
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... in the vernacular but connected with upper-class Jacobitism. The same is essentially true for James Macpherson, the collector and translator of Gaelic songs, who has been rescued in our time from the slur of being merely a forger. Adam Ferguson and Hugh Blair, two key figures in maintaining Edinburgh’s cultural rivalry with London, played important ...

Full of Glory

John Mullan: The Inklings, 19 November 2015

The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings 
by Philip Zaleski and Carol Zaleski.
Farrar, Straus, 644 pp., £11.20, June 2015, 978 0 374 15409 7
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... whose performances he sought, and how much was written by him. The obvious parallel is with James Macpherson, initially the editor of Fragments of Ancient Poetry Collected in the Highlands of Scotland and eventually the fabricator of Ossian’s epic poetry, which he ‘translated’ out of Gaelic into portentous English sort of verse. Tolkien was ...

Maybe he made it up

Terry Eagleton: Faking It, 6 June 2002

The Forger’s Shadow: How Forgery Changed the Course of Literature 
by Nick Groom.
Picador, 351 pp., £20, April 2002, 9780330374323
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... his plagiarism. In 19th-century Ireland, authors like William Maginn, Francis Sylvester Mahony and James Clarence Mangan were in the habit of producing literary texts cunningly modelled on the work of some well-known author like Tennyson or Thomas Moore, which they then coolly claimed to be the lost original that the author had plagiarised. Maginn, who founded ...

Fine Women

Neil Rennie, 6 July 1989

The Pacific since Magellan. Vol. III: Paradise Found and Lost 
by O.H.K. Spate.
Routledge, 410 pp., £40, January 1989, 0 415 02565 6
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Captain Bligh: The Man and his Mutinies 
by Gavin Kennedy.
Duckworth, 321 pp., £14.95, April 1989, 0 7156 2231 5
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The Sublime Savage: James Macpherson and the Poems of Ossian 
by Fiona Stafford.
Edinburgh, 208 pp., £22.50, November 1988, 0 85224 569 6
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... its Columbus. Within a few decades this continent had been exploded, mostly by its anti-Columbus, James Cook, and crumbled into a multitude of islands in a vast ocean, mapped, measured and ready for invasion by beachcombers, traders, whalers, missionaries, colonial administrators and, in their wake, historians. The voyagers, equipped with scientists and ...

Persons outside the Law

Catherine Hall: The Atlantic Family, 19 July 2018

Children of Uncertain Fortune: Mixed-race Jamaicans in Britain and the Atlantic Family, 1733-1833 
by Daniel Livesay.
North Carolina, 448 pp., £45, January 2018, 978 1 4696 3443 2
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... Around​ 1800 William Macpherson, the 16-year-old son and heir to the chief of Clan Macpherson, decided to try his hand at planting in the West Indies. The family had been Jacobites and urgently needed to repair their finances. His father, Allan, had failed to make a fortune in the East Indies and William knew he had to make good ...

Callaloo

Robert Crawford, 20 April 1989

Northlight 
by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 81 pp., £8.95, September 1988, 0 571 15229 5
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A Field of Vision 
by Charles Causley.
Macmillan, 68 pp., £10.95, September 1988, 0 333 48229 8
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Seeker, Reaper 
by George Campbell Hay and Archie MacAlister.
Saltire Society, 30 pp., £15, September 1988, 0 85411 041 0
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In Through the Head 
by William McIlvanney.
Mainstream, 192 pp., £9.95, September 1988, 1 85158 169 3
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The New British Poetry 
edited by Gillian Allnutt, Fred D’Aguiar, Ken Edwards and Eric Mottram.
Paladin, 361 pp., £6.95, September 1988, 0 586 08765 6
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Complete Poems 
by Martin Bell, edited by Peter Porter.
Bloodaxe, 240 pp., £12.95, August 1988, 1 85224 043 1
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First and Always: Poems for Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital 
edited by Lawrence Sail.
Faber, 69 pp., £5.95, October 1988, 0 571 55374 5
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Birthmarks 
by Mick Imlah.
Chatto, 61 pp., £4.95, September 1988, 0 7011 3358 9
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... accents’. Home is a place with a dialect and tradition. Sometimes writers, whether James Macpherson or T. S. Eliot, attempt to make up a tradition which stands in lieu of home. A tradition isn’t just an academic’s card index, it can also be a writer’s life-support-system; writing is usually a solitary activity, but encouragement and ...

A Spot of Firm Government

Terry Eagleton: Claude Rawson, 23 August 2001

God, Gulliver and Genocide: Barbarism and the European Imagination 1492-1945 
by Claude Rawson.
Oxford, 401 pp., £25, June 2001, 0 19 818425 5
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... womanliness, the glowing, melting sentiments, while David Hume, Adam Smith, Henry Mackenzie and James Macpherson weighed in from North of the border. The Irish were never just gorillas with gelignite. Those Irish historians who play down the anti-Irishness of the British for their own political ends are right to that extent. It would be surprising if ...

Barraclough’s Overview

C.B. Macpherson, 19 June 1980

Turning-Points in World History 
by Geoffrey Barraclough.
Thames and Hudson, 96 pp., £4.50, November 1979, 0 500 25067 7
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... capitalism. A good deal of work has been done on this – by, for example, Jürgen Habermas, James O’Connor, Claus Offe and Alan Wolfe – which could have been brought into even the very brief summary view that Turning-Points affords, but it is not mentioned. Without it, the picture of the world we live in, the forces at work in it, and the limits of ...

Bard of Friendly Fire

Robert Crawford: The Radical Burns, 25 July 2002

Robert Burns: Poems 
edited by Don Paterson.
Faber, 96 pp., £4.99, February 2001, 0 571 20740 5
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The Canongate Burns: The Complete Poems and Songs of Robert Burns 
edited by Andrew Noble and Patrick Scott Hogg.
Canongate, 1017 pp., £40, November 2001, 0 86241 994 8
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... a ‘makar’. A century later in his how-to-be-a-king book, the Basilikon Doron, the versifying James VI of Scotland claimed that he had ‘not spared to play the bairde against all the estaitis of my kingdome’. When James boarded the English throne in 1603, his Scots had to be translated for English readers to whom the ...

Outside the text

Marilyn Butler, 19 December 1985

The Beauty of Inflections: Literary Investigations in Historical Method and Theory 
by Jerome McGann.
Oxford, 352 pp., £19.50, May 1985, 0 19 811730 2
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The Politics of Language: 1791-1819 
by Olivia Smith.
Oxford, 269 pp., £19.50, December 1984, 0 19 812817 7
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... practices of writing in a political light. Her book develops the subject and historical method of James Boulton’s very good study of 1964, The Language of Politics; her cunning play with his title means that she sees the politics as much more pervasive. Even before the French Revolution, books proliferated on grammar, vocabulary, and the history of language ...

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