Page images
PDF
EPUB

ANS W E R

Mr. Shaw's INQUIRY.

[ocr errors]

A R William Shaw, author of the "In 11. quiry `into the Authenticity of the "Poems ascribed to Ollian," is a native of the ise of Artan ; where a dialect of the Gaelic tongue is used, fo corrupt in the words, and so vicious in the pronunciation, as to be almost unintelligible in the other Western Islands and opposite continent of the Highlands, where the language is spoken with elegance and purity, Having lobtained the common education given to persons intended for being ininisters of the church of Scotland, he was admitted a clergyman in that church; and because he had no immediate chance of a living in it, he went to London, where he was employed for fome time by a merchant, à native of Scotland, in the tuition of his children. During the time Mr. Shaw was thus employed, he turned his

thoughts

thoughts to the making some figure in Gaelic literature, as the means of recommending hinyself to the patronage of some of his countrymen, who had ecclesiastical preferments in the Highlands to bestow, He, accordingly published proposals for printing by fubferiptiona Grammar of the Gaelic language; and, through the support of some gentlemen, natives of the Higher lands, refident in London, obrained ja contider able number of subscribers. This circumstance encouraged him to propose to write a Dictiona ry of the Gaelic ; a work much wanted, and defired, by the adinirers of that ancient tongue.

But when the grammar, written by Mr. Shaw, made its appearance in public, it was foon perceived, that, from his ignorance in the first principles of the language, nothing was to be exspected from a dictionary composed by such unskilful hands. His Highland patrons in London became , therefore, indifferent about the proposed work, and the subfcription for the dictionary went on very languidly and coldly. Mr. Shaw, however, having left the service, in which he was employed in England, resolved to make a tour through the Highlands of Scot: land , to obtain subscribers. Unluckily for his

project

project, the reputation of his grainmar had rún before his application for patronage to his dictionary; and the former was by no ineans çalculated to procure encouragement to the latter." Besides, the manners of the man were not such, as were ' requisite to gain the friendship or efteem of those to whom he applied; he therefore met with very little success in his journey. "His profeffed design to rescue, 'what he called the dying language of his country, recommended him, however, to a nobleman in the North, fo far as to obtain from him the presentation to a living in the Highlands, of about 50 l. yearly value.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

C! Mr. Shaw having entered on the funétions of his ministry, foon found that he was by no means agreeable to his parishioners. His forward manner, and uncouth address, gave disgust to many; whilst the provinciality of his dialect rendered his discourses almost unintelligible to all. Under such circumstances, it is natural to fuppofe, he soon became tired of his new preferment; and he returned to London, where he resumed the plan of his dictionary, which he

had in a manner laid aside, on account of the | very little encouragement, he received for the

pro

profecution of his design. He applied to the Highland-Society in London, for their support; which they collectively refused; both from their opinion of Mr. Shaw's, want of abilities and knowledge for such a work, and that fome gent, lemen of talents in Scotland had undertaken to write a diétionary of the Gaelie, that would merit, in every way, their patronage. Some individuals, however, gave their names to Mr. Shaw, which enabled him to print a book, which he called a Galic di&tionary.

[ocr errors]

When the book, under the name of the Galic di&tionary, was published, it evidently appeared, that the distrust, generally entertained of Mr. Shaw's abilities and knowledge, was per featly well-founded. Instead of adhering to the dialect spoken in the Highlands of Scotland, he had thrown into his work all the words he could collect from vocabularies of the different dialects of the Celtic, particularly that which is used in Ireland. To give an appearance of novelty to his book, he seems to have coined many words, to be met with in no dialect whatsoever of any language either ancient or modern. Upon the whole , there perhaps never appeared a work so unworthy of, or to unlike,

(0) - . : its

(8) its title; for there are whole pages of Mr. Shaw's dictionary, which do not contain three words anywise limilar to the Scotch Gaelic. The im. position, in short, was so glaring and impudent, that, the author fell at once under the contempt and ridicule of every man conversant in the Gaelic, who was at the trouble of examining his book. i .

[ocr errors]

Disappointment and resentment operated very powerfully on Mr. Shaw's mind. His hopes . of patronage in Scotland had been exstinguished. He had quarrelled with his parishioners; and a living of fifty pounds a .year was not sufficient to gratify his ambition and pride. He therefore resolved to quit the church of Scotland en. tirely, and to take orders in that of England. As he had failed in his attempt to flatter Scotch 'vanity, he resolved to convert English prejudice to his own advantage, by unsaying and unwriting, what he had said and written in favour of the ancient poetry and language of his native country.

- The colouring of the above picture of Mr. Shaw is neither overcharged, nor are the featu

res

« PreviousContinue »