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Their language is the Gaelic, a dialect of the ancient Celtic, which is said to have prevailed in former times from the pillars of Hercules to the northern extremity of Scotland; but it is now hastening to extinction, and is giving way rapidly to the language of the rest of the island. The productions of the Celtic muse would induce us to believe that, different from every other people in the early stages of society, their manners displayed a civilization only found in the most polished countries: an undaunted courage and heroism; a gallantry which could only be inspired by the enthusiasm of chivalry; the most noble hospitality; and that they possessed a cultivated taste, a polished diction, and a sublime and beautiful poetry remarkable for its expressive and appropriate imagery. The virtues of a generous hospitality, inviolable attachment to their leaders, and fidelity to each other, they may have possessed like other nations in a primeval state; but with these good qualities, they associated all the vices of barbarians: a merciless and insatiable rapacity, the most sanguinary revenge; an incurable indolence; a perfidious disregard of truth, and the most beastly intemperance.
We are informed that a Highlander who made his submission to an enemy, came to his dwelling, and presented his naked sword with the point to his breast, or laid his head on the block disposed for executions: it was thought unworthy to refuse the clemency imploredbut it might be legally done. A famous chief
tain, called M'Intosh, committed depredations at Auchintown on the Gordon family. Afterwards he was vanquished, and reduced to such extremities by the Earl of Huntley, that he was forced to make the amende honorable. He came to Strathbogie castle, during Huntley's absence, and surrendered himself to the countess, who said that the Earl would never forgive him, unless he placed his neck on the block. M'Intosh kneeled down and laid his head on the kitchen dresser, where the oxen were cut up; no sooner was his neck in situ, than the cook, who stood behind with his cleaver uplifted, at a signal from the sanguinary virago, severed the chieftain's head from his body at a stroke!
The period of their confederation into clans has not been ascertained. It was considered as honourable, among hostile tribes, to commit depredations upon each other; and the animosities which divided the clans, attached them to their chiefs, whose authority was boundless. It
appears that their ringleaders were as barbarous as their followers; for, (to use Jarvie's language, “if they dinna bid them gae rive and harry, the deil a bit they forbid themAnd every ane o' them will mainteen as mony o' his ane name, or his clan, as he can rap and rend means for; or as mony as can in
fashion, fair or foul, mainteen themsells-and they are wi' gun and pistol, dirk and dourlach, ready to disturb the peace o' the country whenever the laird likes.” After the introduction
of surnames, when the clans had adopted the name or patronymic assumed by their chieftain, they believed and propagated, (says Laing,) with credulous satisfaction, the story of their common descent from the loins of his progenitors. Thence proceeded an inviolable attachment to his
on his part by a rude hospitality, and maintained by them in adversity, notwithstanding every temptation to desert their clan.
English is now understood by the generality of the Highlanders; and many of them speak that and the Gaelic with equal facility. It has been observed, that those among them who speak English, commonly speak it well, with a few of the words, and little of the tone by which a Scotchman is distinguished; yet it is a difficult matter for an American or Englishman, to convey his meaning to them. I have conversed with them, and have been surprised at their excellent pronunciation of my own language, but I was often at some pains to make them understand me. Possessing two languages, the Highlander is naturally prompted to trace analogies in grammar, to compare in his mind the different modes of expressing the same idea, and to find appropriate denominations, in a manner which might appear
the ef. fect of a knowledge of the rudiments of language, and the principles of cultivated diction.
Whether it arises from their rugged scenery and cheerless climate, or from their manner of life, the Highlanders are, generally speaking,
a melancholy people. The prospects which perpetually engage the eye in this country, have a natural tendency to tinge the spirits with a dash of pensive susceptibility. “ Ye woods and wilds whose melancholy gloom accords with my soul's sadness!” was the very natural exclamation of Lady Randolph; indeed, I have felt myself impressed with sentiments of awful sublimity, when viewing the rugged precipices and extensive lakes of Scotland. Long tracts of mountainous desert, covered with dark heath, and often obscured by misty weather; narrow valleys thinly inhabited, and bounded by precipices resounding with the fall of torrents; a soil so rugged and a climate so dreary, as in many parts to admit neither the amusements of pasturage, nor the labours of agriculture; the mournful dashing of waves along the friths and lakes that intersect the country; the portentous noises which every change of the wind, and every increase and diminution of the waters, is apt to raise in a lonely region, full of echoes and rocks and caverns; the grotesque and ghastly appearance of such a landscape by the light of the moon:Objects like these, (says Dr. Beattie,) diffuse a gloom over the fancy, which may be compatible enough with occasional and social merriment, but cannot fail to tincture the thoughts of a native in the hour of silence and solitude.
Little employed in cultivating the ground, the mind of the Highlander is not fettered by soul-contracting avocations; the world is all
before him, and he surveys the grandest objects toss'd graceful round by Nature's careless hand.” He drives his flocks over extensive moors, he traverses the gloomy forest, and scales the lofty mountain, while the impetuous torrent thunders incessantly on his ears, and the angry voice of the storm howls
the deep and narrow valleys. If, in his perambu, lations, he meets with a brother shepherd, their conversation does not dispel the melancholy which hangs over the mind; but generally dwells on the horrors of the tempest, a dream of supernatural augury, or some terrific story about ghosts, that make the eyes, like stars, start from their spheres."
The superstition of the Highlanders, (of which I will speak hereafter,) naturally calls forth sentiments which are unfavourable to frivolousness of thought. The solitary being who feeds his cattle on the dark unfrequented heath, and who is often exposed to all the inclemencies of the weather during the most stormy nights,-listens with feelings of awful emotion to the howling of the winds and the dashing of the torrents, and fancies that he sees apparitions, and hears the portentous shriekings of the spirits of the night.
Dr. Johnson* noticed the decisive manner with which the Highlanders usually make assertions. The Highlander gives to every ques. tion, (says the Dr.) an answer so prompt and
Journey through the Hebrides.