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Title: Celtic MSS. in relation to the Macpherson fraud

Author: James Cruikshank Roger

Release date: June 16, 2022 [eBook #68323]

Language: English

Original publication: United Kingdom: E. W. Allen, 1890

Credits: Thomas Frost and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive)


[Pg i]

“The Viking Age,”



“I thought your book an imposture. I think it an imposture still.” —Dr. Johnson.

“The purposeless tortuosities of Celtic falsehood, and its most subtile manifestations.”—Weekly Scotsman.

“The received accounts of the Saxon immigration, and subsequent fortunes, and ultimate settlement, are devoid of historical truth in every detail.”—J. M. Kemble.

“And, armed in proof, the gauntlet cast at once
To Scotch marauder, and to Southern dunce.”—Byron.



[Pg ii]


[Pg iii]


That portion of this tractate which relates to Celtic manuscripts and the doings of Macpherson, was transmitted to the Scotsman newspaper, in reply to an article by Professor Mackinnon which appeared in that journal. My communication was however returned by the editor on the plea that he could not find room for its insertion. It was perhaps too much to expect that a journal owned by one of the secretaries of a Society, which had engaged the services of the Celtic Professor at Oxford, to uphold what I call the Celtic myth, should open its columns to one inimical to Macpherson, and utterly sceptical in regard to his pretended translation. Mr. Mackinnon’s enumeration seems a vindication of the antiquity of Celtic MSS. in general, and was no doubt also projected “as a basis for more extended collaboration.”

It occurred to me that my remarks on the Ossian MSS. might with advantage be incorporated with some notice of Professor Freeman’s[Pg iv] criticism of “The Viking Age,” both tending in the same direction. One wipes out the Celts as the pioneers of civilization, the other explodes the Saxons as a race distinct from the Scandinavians. With this in view I have been aiming for some time past, to put my thoughts in train for publication, but want of time has always stood in the way.


Friars Watch,

October, 1890.

[Pg 1]


My attention was lately directed to a lengthy article that appeared in The Scotsman of the 12th of last November, bearing the initials of Mr. Mackinnon, Professor of Celtic at the University of Edinburgh, to whom I sent a copy of my book, Celticism a Myth, then just issued from the press. The article begins with a tribute to the assiduity of the Historiographer Royal in the cause of Celtic literature; but is plainly intended as a refutation of my statement to the effect that “It is no longer pretended that any Gaelic poetry has been preserved in early manuscripts,” &c. In citing the remark of Dr. Irving it was certainly not my intention to call down an exhibition of Professor Mackinnon’s Celtic wares—of the authenticity and character of which I am profoundly ignorant—but simply to express my conviction that the alleged manuscript documents of which Macpherson professed[Pg 2] to give a translation did not exist. De non existentibus et non apparentibus Dr. Johnson says, eadem est ratio. There are unfortunately now no Doctor Johnsons, or Pinkertons or John Hill Burtons to deal with these possible inventions or forgeries of a later age, the perhaps “other evidences” of what the great lexicographer characterised as “Scotch conspiracy in national falsehood.” Ample time and opportunity has been afforded since 1762—the date when Macpherson first gave to the world his Ossian the Son of Fingal—to fabricate missing documents or supply others of more startling character. A pungent criticism from the pen of Mr. Hill Burton, or a crushing commentary by either of the other named critics, would probably have relegated these so-called Celtic MSS.—some of them at least—to the nothingness whence they came. It is clear that what Professor Mackinnon brings forward is not evidence, certainly not such as would be accepted in a Court of Law. There is no substantiation of the Macpherson manuscripts save the statements, and what I fear must be regarded as the fabrications, of a number of interested individuals retailed at second-hand, none of all whom can be accepted as unprejudiced witnesses. After[Pg 3] the strictest search for the originals of Ossian, Dr. Johnson came to the conclusion that as regards Scotland and the pretensions of James Macpherson, there was not in existence “an Erse manuscript a hundred years old.” Any attempt therefore, in our day to bring into agreement this literary imposture with the difficulties which stultify all conception of its genuineness is foredoomed to failure. If, as Mr. Mackinnon alleges, it be “perfectly established” that Macpherson carried away from the North-West Highlands several Gaelic manuscripts it is equally certain he never exhibited them to anyone capable of forming a judgment as to their authenticity. “The collection proper,” it would appear, “consists of sixty-three separate parcels.” How many of these are genuine we shall probably never know. These are “Transcripts of several MSS. or portions of MSS. by Mr. McLachlan, and the Rev. Donald Mackintosh,” and collections of “Ossianic poetry made by a schoolmaster at Kilmelford,” volumes of tales which belonged to Mr. Campbell of Islay, a collection of Gaelic poetry made by a schoolmaster at Dunkeld, the MSS. whatever these may be, written in “The old Gaelic hand!” the use of which, we are told, was discontinued[Pg 4] about the middle of the last century. “Regarding the history of the great majority of these documents,” it is said “we are ignorant”—certainly at least, I am, most profoundly. It appears however, that “The Rev. Mr. Gallie saw in Macpherson’s possession” ‘several volumes, small octavos, or rather large duodecimo in the Gaelic language and characters’! Scarcely less authentic is the fact that Lachlan Macviurich “remembers well that Clanranald made his father give up the Red book to James Macpherson,” and that Macpherson himself deposited certain MSS. with his publishers Messrs. Beckett and Dehondt which for a whole year remained in the custody of that firm. These manuscripts mentioned by Mr. Mackinnon were probably the Gaelic leases of Macleod of Rasay referred to by me in Celticism a Myth. The fact that Macpherson so prostituted his talents, and character for integrity was stated to me many years ago by an aged clergyman of the Church of Scotland, who vouched for his statement on the faith of his friend George Dempster of Dunichen, who was cognizant of the circumstance. Father Farquharson, it is alleged, made a collection of Gaelic MSS. before 1745, the last leaves of which were used to kindle a stove fire[Pg 5] in the Roman Catholic College at Douay, a circumstance, as I think, not greatly to be deplored, while the “illiterate descendant” of the Seanachies attached to the family of Clanranald describes the dispersion of the manuscript library accumulated by his ancestors, and the fate of certain parchments [? old leases] which were cut down for tailors’ measuring tapes. “He himself” (the descendant of the Seanachies) “had possession of some parchments after his father’s death,” but not being able to read, these disappeared from view. A valuable witness truly in the identification of doubtful MSS. “Such acts of vandalism,” we are told, “are not likely to occur again.” Probably not. Like Joshua arresting the Sun and the Moon, they are “things that have once been done but can be done no more.” The fact of the dispersion, however, and the fate of the parchments, leases, title deeds, literary treasures or by whatever name they may be called, rests on the testimony of this Celtic ignoramus who, it is to be feared, would not be too particular in any relation concerning the “glories and greatness” of his country, his personal consequence, or the departed grandeur of his clan. I well remember, many years ago, meeting with an ignorant Highlander[Pg 6] of some property, who offered to sell for ten pounds an ancient claymore, with a pretentious, but unauthenticated pedigree, for which he declared, with the voluntary accompaniment of an oath, he had previously declined “A Sousand pounds.” It is my experience that to persons of this class it comes more natural to state a falsehood than to speak the truth. We all remember Charles Surface’s exculpatory witness in The School for Scandal, “Oh yes, I swear.” Mr. Mackinnon states that “The Gaelic text of Ossian which James Macpherson handed over to Mr. Mackenzie, and which was given to the editor of the edition of 1807, has disappeared.” How very odd that manuscripts on which the human eye never rested should thus so strangely disappear! Can that be said to disappear which was never visible? Of the poems of Ossian, Dr. Irving says, “We are required to believe that these were composed in the third century; and that by means of oral tradition, they were delivered by one generation to another for the space of nearly fifteen hundred years. If this account could be received as authentic, if these poems could be regarded as genuine, they must be classed among the most extraordinary effort of human genius. That a[Pg 7] nation so rude in other arts, and even unacquainted with the use of letters, should yet have carried the most elegant of all arts to so high a degree of perfection, would not only be sufficient to overturn every established theory, but would exceed all the possibilities of rational assent. But if we could suppose an untaught barbarian capable of combining the rules of ancient poetry with the refinements of modern sentiment one difficulty is indeed removed; but another difficulty scarcely less formidable still remains—By what rare felicity were many thousand verses, only written on the frail tablet of memory, to be safely transmitted through fifty generations of mankind? If Ossian could compose epic poems on the same model as Homer, how was it possible for them to preserve their original texture through the fearful vicissitudes of nearly fifteen centuries? * * * * It is utterly incredible that such poems as Fingal and Temora, consisting each of several thousand lines were thus transmitted from the supposed age of Ossian to the age of Macpherson.” “It is” Dr. Irving continues “no longer pretended that any Gaelic poetry has been preserved in early manuscripts; and indeed the period when Gaelic can be traced as a written language is comparatively modern.”[Pg 8] “That many poems and fragments of poems,” he goes on to say, “were preserved in the Highlands of Scotland cannot however be doubted; and it is sufficiently ascertained that Macpherson was assiduously employed in collecting such popular reliques, some of which had perhaps existed for many ages. From the materials which he had thus procured he appears to have fabricated the various works which he delivered to the public under the name of Ossian, and afterwards to have adjusted the Gaelic by the English text.” “The ground upon which Hume finally decided against the authenticity of the Poems of Ossian, was the impossibility of any man of sense imagining that they should have been orally preserved ‘during fifty generations, by the rudest, perhaps of all European nations; the most necessitous, the most turbulent, and the most unsettled.’” Such is the historian Hume’s estimate of the Macpherson fraud as stated by the Edinburgh Review, and such the beggarly array of evidence on which, according to the abettors of Macpherson, the honour and glory of Scotland, must rest in all time to come. The Scotch are a stubborn race on which to operate, especially in matters that concern their nationality. They have conceived the idea that in[Pg 9] the dark ages—dark to all but them—their countrymen, a Celtic race, were skilled in the sciences and acquainted with art. This as an article of faith has hardened into a conviction not to be shaken, and is that which, in their view, distinguishes Scotland above all competitors. In it, in the remote ages of the past, there existed culture and refinement rivalling that of the most literary nations of antiquity whether Egyptian, Etruscan, Greek or Roman. The roving Northmen, according to their account, were but plundering pirates, and other nations barbarians. No evidence, however overwhelming, will alter or modify this opinion. Not on any terms will they be induced to give up their preconceptions. Philologers and Ethnologists, Professors, and specialists, et hoc genus omne, are called to the rescue, while they refuse to look at the clearest facts. When their favourite idol begins to shake they rush into the market-place crying “Great is Diana of the Ephesians.” It is impossible to doubt that Macpherson was an impudent impostor. When his veracity was impugned no simpler method of clearing his reputation from the aspersions cast upon it could have been devised than the very reasonable plan suggested by Dr. Johnson, that[Pg 10] he should place the manuscripts in the hands of the professors at Aberdeen where there were persons capable of judging of their authenticity. The manuscripts were never produced, and in admitting this fact the defenders of Macpherson resign the whole question. “To refuse,” Dr. Johnson says, “to gratify a reasonable curiosity is the last refuge of impudent mendacity.” Dr. Johnson’s letter to this vain-glorious boaster repelling a threat of personal violence is a master-piece of contemptuous scorn and defiance. “Mr. James Macpherson, I received your foolish and impudent letter. Any violence offered me I shall do my best to repel, and what I cannot do myself the law will do for me. I hope I shall never be deterred from detecting what I think a cheat by the menaces of a ruffian. What would you have me retract? I thought your book an imposture. I think it an imposture still. For this opinion I have given my reasons to the public which I here dare you to refute. Your rage I defy. Your abilities since your Homer are not so formidable, and what I hear of your morals inclines me to pay regard, not to what you shall say, but to what you shall prove. You may print this if you will.”

[Pg 11]

We are told that the subject of the Pictish language has been thoroughly discussed by Dr. W. F. Skene in his Four Ancient Books of Wales, that, in addition to Pean Fahel, the sole Pictish word formerly known he has discovered four other distinct words, besides a number of syllables entering into proper names; and from all these he deduces the opinion that Pictish “Is not Welsh, neither is it Gaelic; but it is a Gaelic dialect partaking largely of Welsh forms” whatever that may mean. “More especially,” we are told, “he holds that Pictish as compared with Gaelic, was a Low dialect, that it differed from the Gaelic in much the same way that Low German differs from High.” It is perhaps unnecessary to add that I regard this supposed solution of the Pictish difficulty as so much figment. It is simply the arbitrary conclusion of a man looking into a mill stone, and giving a deliverance in regard to which he is in no more commanding position than the most illiterate specimen of humanity to be found in the slums of the Northern Metropolis. On the other side of the question it is open to me to state that the Pictish words which Mr. Skene persuades himself he has discovered, and which on his own shewing are neither Welsh nor Gaelic but,[Pg 12] belonging to a Low dialect of the latter may after all be only the obsolete remains of an early Gothic speech. The ruler of the Picts about the end of the sixth century, it is said, was Brude, the son of Mailcon, who died in 586. The most active of all the Pictish sovereigns, according to the received accounts, was Hungus or Ængus who began to reign in 730. In so far then as these names may not be absolute myth, they may be claimed as Scandinavian. With Brude compare the Norse personal names Brodi, Breid-r, and Brodd-r (the r final separated by a hyphen being merely the sign of the nominative case). Mailcon is the united Scandinavian personal names of Miöl and Kon-r. With Hungus or Ængus compare the Scoto-Norwegian names Magnus Anguson, and Angus Magnuson.

The Norwegians in Man, in the Hebrides, and in the North, and North-Western Highlands were confessedly the dominant and more numerous race, and there for upwards of four centuries held uninterrupted sway.

Did the Norwegian colonists eventually go off in vapour, leaving behind them only a native residuum speaking a purely Celtic dialect freed from all taint of the Northman’s language after[Pg 13] the close contact of so many centuries? If the Norwegian element was not so sublimated, but as Pinkerton affirms, and which I believe, continues in the modern population of those portions of the United Kingdom, what becomes of the purity of the so-called “Primitive Celtic tongue”? Assuming that it was Celts among whom the Norwegians settled, is it possible to conceive that men of such force of character as the Northmen made no lasting impression on the speech of the wretched Celtic inhabitants whom they trampled under foot? Despite the researches of philologers is it rational to conclude that what is now called Celtic can on any intelligible hypothesis be the primeval speech of the unlettered savages who before the advent of the Romans had been driven into the western portion of the Island by the Belgae? “It is not in nature,” the Saturday Reviewer says, “that people should accept Mr. Roger’s or Pinkerton’s opinion in preference to the universally held belief that the Celtic speech is a language of the Indo-European family of speech,” &c. But it is not alone Mr. Roger and Pinkerton with whom the Reviewer has to deal. The late Lord Neaves, an eminent Scotch judge and antiquary, held an opinion very much akin to that of Pinkerton, that the[Pg 14] Erse, and Gaelic, and Manx dialects, if not entirely a form of obsolete Gothic speech, contain at least a very large admixture of the northern tongue. The editor of the Athenæum too, in reviewing Skene’s Highlanders of Scotland, draws attention to the fact of the striking resemblance between the oldest Erse monuments and those dialects confessedly Teutonic, holding this decisive of the question that the Scots were Germans. On the same side of the question is the strongly expressed opinion of the late Dr. R. Angus Smith, F.R.S. “I consider,” he says, “those who hold the nations called Celtic and those called Teutonic, as one race, to be simply abolishing the knowledge we get from history, and refusing to look at very clear facts.” I am not however going to quarrel with the Saturday Reviewer, who virtually concedes all for which I contend, that the Celts were entirely without art or culture, of which more hereafter. On the question of civilizing influences we have the testimony of Professor Kirkpatrick, of the Scotch Bar, a gentleman of well-known scholarly accomplishments, who occupies the Chair of Constitutional Law and History in the University of Edinburgh. “I have long been of opinion,” he writes, “that we owe the whole of our civilization[Pg 15] to Scandinavian and Teutonic ancestors, and partly to Roman influence, and your very interesting volume confirms that opinion.” There is still another phase of the question with which the philological critic has to deal, and this is, that only where the Northmen settled are found those remains of what is called Celtic speech. “The Northmen formed colonies in Wales, in Cornwall, in Brittany, in Ireland, in the Highlands and islands of Scotland, and in the Isle of Man, and there only do we find those dialects usually known as Celtic.” I do not pretend to explain this, but I state it as an outside fact, which, in my view, it is incumbent on the Celtic philologer to explain. It is, of course, impossible to reach any confident conclusion as to what may have been the language on which the Northman grafted his Teutonic speech, though it must be obvious to every unprejudiced enquirer, that those dialects must now be very much mixed and altered and corrupted from close contact for many centuries with the language of a dominant race. Having regard to this fact, the question arises whether “the universally held belief” referred to by the Saturday Review, be not founded on the Gothic accretions derived from the Northmen, rather than on the structural[Pg 16] peculiarities of the original language of the people among whom the Northmen settled. It is evident from the remarks of Professor Max Muller that too much importance is not to be attached to what is told us by the Celtic philologer. “Celtic words,” he says, “may be found in German, Slavonic, and even Latin, but only as foreign terms, and their number is much smaller than commonly supposed. A far larger number of Latin and German words have since found their way into the modern Celtic dialects, and these have frequently been mistaken by Celtic enthusiasts for original words from which German and Latin might in their turn be derived.”

Professor Kirkpatrick’s opinion suggests a natural connection between the Celtic myth, and M. du Chaillu’s account of The Viking Age. The Scotsman, in its review of this book, wonders what Professor Freeman will say, and we are not long left in doubt. He looks down upon M. du Chaillu from a lofty eminence, evidently regarding him with something like pitying contempt. He is not sure he should have thought the doctrine set forth by M. du Chaillu worthy of serious examination, but for the singular relation in which it stands to Mr.[Pg 17] Seebohm’s “slightly older teaching,” in his book called The English Village Community. Mr. Seebohm’s views, he says, are the evident result of honest work at original materials, and eminently entitled to be considered, and if need be, answered. But obviously both are eminently objectionable. Though differing in method, they rival each other in daring and absurdity. The only question is whether M. du Chaillu’s theory need be discussed at all. Professor Freeman has decreed this, and after so supreme a master in the art of criticism it is vain to question it.

It will thus be seen he lauds the one in order to disparage the other. He compliments Mr. Seebohm and spits contemptuously in M. du Chaillu’s face. I am Jupiter, and by contrast in the scale of intelligence, you, M. du Chaillu, are only a black beetle. “The strife in its new form,” he tells us, “has become more deadly.” M. du Chaillu threatens to wipe out entirely Professor Freeman’s antiquated conception of a Saxon invasion, and the latter is constrained to worship in secret the divinity he pretends to despise. Professor Freeman’s views will be found in The Teutonic Conquest in Gaul and Britain. He has had his say, and “if anybody cares to know what that say is, he may read it[Pg 18] for himself.” Professor Freeman has written what he has written, and woe to him who reads to controvert. It does not, however, follow that what Professor Freeman has written is necessarily the gospel of English history. Both theories alike, it would appear—Mr. Seebohm’s and M. du Chaillu’s—throw aside the recorded facts of history! What are the recorded facts of history in relation to the so-called Saxon invasion? The Saxon invasion was doubted in the days of Bishop Nicolson, who refers to the short and pithy despatch Sir William Temple makes of the Saxon times, and the contempt with which he speaks of its historians. The good Bishop himself is constrained to admit he does not know what has become of the book written by King Alfred against corrupt judges, nor of that gifted King’s collection of old Saxon sonnets.[1] The late J. M. Kemble taught the learned world to believe that, “the received accounts of the Saxon immigration, and subsequent fortunes, and ultimate settlement are devoid of historical truth in every detail.”[Pg 19] Here is an eminent scholar who, having examined the subject with perfect historical candour, regarded the Saxon invasion as fiction and fabrication from beginning to end, and who surely may be accepted as a valuable witness. To the same purpose we have the statement of Mr. James Rankin, F.R.A.S., “Who the Saxons were, or when they arrived, or where they settled, is a subject on which tradition is entirely silent, for of written history there is none.” Professor Freeman says that M. du Chaillu has put forth two very pretty volumes with abundance of illustrations of Scandinavian objects. He contemns the pictures but admires the frames. Most of them, however, he adds, will be found in “various Scandinavian books,” but he does not suggest that the “various Scandinavian books” are not readily accessible to the English reader.

Professor Freeman indulges in that species of raillery to which men usually resort when they are driven into a corner. “We are really not ourselves,” he says, “but somebody else.” “The belief as to their own origin which the English of Britain have held ever since there have been Englishmen,” and such incoherent trifling. The ordinary average Englishman has no independent[Pg 20] belief on the subject. He is told in his youth the story about Hengist and Horsa, and if he remembers it at all it gives him no particular concern. The bulk of Englishmen and Scotchmen too, are profoundly ignorant as to their history and origin. The Englishman has some vague conception that he is an “Anglo-Saxon,” while the Scot takes it for granted that all Scotchmen are Celts, and that all art found in Scotland is Celtic. Sir Daniel Wilson could discern in the rude rock scroll the “stately Cathedral.” There are others “who can see a coffin in a flake of soot.” It is hardly by such an adversary as M. du Chaillu, Professor Freeman says: “that we shall be beaten out of the belief that there is such a thing as English people in Britain. Perhaps too we shall not be more inclined to give up our national being, when we see its earliest records tossed aside with all the ignorant scorn of the eighteenth century.” This is absolutely childish. It reads more like mental imbecility than intellectual acumen. M. du Chaillu does not deny that there is an English people in Britain. He only doubts that the English people are Saxon, and affirms that they are Scandinavian, and in this view of the matter he is sustained by many and strong presumptions.[Pg 21] Neither does he ask us “to give up our national being,” which he does not assail. Macaulay says: “it is only in Britain that an age of fable separates two ages of truth,” and the void, it would appear, is to be filled up with “some hints” by Professor Freeman, who, to his own satisfaction, at least, has bridged over the dreary gulf. Professor Freeman thinks it odd that the so-called Saxons were led into such strange mistakes as to their own name and origin. Is it an exceptional thing for a nation to be mistaken as to its remote history? Can Professor Freeman tell us who were the aborigines of Ancient Greece? Professor Freeman declines to be brought from the North by M. du Chaillu even more strongly than he declines to be brought from the South by Mr. Seebohm. Mr. Seebohm, according to Professor Freeman, “does leave some scrap of separate national being to the ‘Anglo-Saxon invaders’ * * * * M. du Chaillu takes away our last shreds; we are mere impostors,” &c. Must a nation be accounted impostor because it does not possess an accurate knowledge of its remote history? We might, indeed, be justly termed impostors if in the face of overwhelming evidence we should continue to adhere to the foregone conclusions[Pg 22] of dogmatic historians built on the fictions and figment of monkish tradition. “As far as M. du Chaillu’s theory can be made out,” Professor Freeman holds it to be this, “The Suiones of Tacitus are the Swedes, and the Suiones had ships; so far no one need cavil. But we do not hear of the Suiones or any other Scandinavian people doing anything by sea for several centuries. But though we do not hear of it they must have been doing something. What was it they did? Now in the fourth, fifth and sixth centuries we hear of the Saxons doing a good deal by sea; therefore the name Saxones must be a mistake of the Latin writer’s for Suiones.” The assumption that goes through all this, Professor Freeman continues, is that “because the Suiones had ships in the days of Tacitus, as they could not have left off using ships it must have been they who did the acts attributed to the Saxons.” He condescends to admit that “a good deal is involved in this last assumption; it is at least conceivable,” he says, “and not at all unlike the later history of Sweden, that the Suiones went on using their ships, but used them somewhere else, and not on the coasts of Gaul and Britain.” But this begs the question in dispute. Setting aside M. du Chaillu’s conjecture as to the possible[Pg 23] confounding of names,[2] the question still remains who were the Saxons? Whether is it more reasonable to believe that the Suiones or Swedes referred to by Tacitus, not to mention the Danes and Norwegians, did not continue to make their descent on the shores of Britain so readily accessible to their fleets, or that the so-named Saxon invader was one and the same with the Scandinavian? “There is nothing very strange,” the Quarterly thinks, “in supposing that some of the ‘Angles’ or ‘Saxons’ may have descended from the Suiones of Tacitus.” M. du Chaillu, it says, “rests his case mainly on the fact that, while the so-called Anglo-Saxon remains found in England correspond minutely with those discovered in enormous quantities in Norway, Sweden and Denmark, there are no traces of such objects in the basins of the Elbe, the Weser, and the Rhine, nor anywhere else, save in places which Scandinavians are known to have visited.” “Every[Pg 24] tumulus,” M. du Chaillu says, “described by antiquaries as a Saxon or Frankish grave, is the counterpart of a northern grave, thus showing conclusively the common origin of the people.” Professor Freeman considers M. du Chaillu’s theory “several degrees more amazing than that of Mr. Seebohm,” though why the two should be connected I hardly know. “No one denies,” Mr. Freeman says, that the Scandinavian infusion in England is “real, great, and valuable,” only the date of the Scandinavian descent on the shores of Britain, and the degree and manner of the northern immigration must be taken on the faith of Professor Freeman. According to his account the Scandinavian invasion was an infusion that dates from the ninth century. This is exactly the pivot on which the whole question turns. There are strong grounds for believing that the Northman incursions and settlements in Britain were not limited to the Danish invasions of the ninth century. Did the fleets of the Northmen fully equipped start into existence in the middle or end of the ninth century? If not, how were they engaged during the centuries that immediately preceded? Professor Freeman affirms that they were employed “somewhere else.” If they were not[Pg 25] used in the subjugation of Britain, perhaps Professor Freeman will state circumstantially what portions of Europe are comprehended under the vague generality of “Somewhere else.” We want something more convincing than his ipse dixit. Danish writers, we are told, have often greatly exaggerated the amount of Scandinavian influence in England, a remark that applies with equal force to the advocates of the Saxon and Celtic theories. Things, it is said, have been set down as signs of direct Scandinavian influence, which “are part of the common heritage of the Teutonic race.” Admitting this “common heritage,” and having regard to the fact, that the language of the Scandinavian, and that of the so-called Anglo-Saxon are almost identical, who shall decide between their conflicting claims? The Quarterly, citing from the Corpus Poeticum Boreale of Vigfússon and Powell in reference to the poetry of the Norsemen, says, “The men from whom these poems sprung took no small share in the making of England; their blood is in our veins, and their speech in our mouths.”[3] The preponderance of the direct Scandinavian element[Pg 26] in the English language has been shown by Archbishop Trench, who states “That of a hundred English words, sixty come from the Scandinavian, thirty from the Latin, five from the Greek, and five from other sources.” “Dane and Angle, Dane and Saxon,” according to Professor Freeman’s own shewing “were near enough each other to learn from one another, and to profit by one another.” Their dialectic difference was never such as to prevent them from understanding each other. “There is,” the Quarterly affirms, “very high authority for saying that there was as little difference in those early times between a Dane and an Englishman, as there was between two Englishmen in different parts of the country.” The Saxons were in fact only an earlier swarm of northern adventurers of the same race who were afterwards known in history as Danes and Northmen. Still Professor Freeman thinks the Scandinavian element was but an infusion into the already existing English mass. Hardly I should think if the existing English mass, and the invading Northmen had a common origin! The name of England’s principal city, it may be remarked, the great metropolis of the Empire is Scandinavian. Neither are there wanting persons[Pg 27] who believe that such also is the name England itself. In a communication to Notes and Queries by Mr. Henry Rowan in 1868, he suggests a derivation of this name from the Danish Eng. “While travelling in Denmark,” he says, “I met with a word which seems to me to afford a derivation of our name of England, as probable, at least as the ordinary one of Angle land. The word I mean is Eng, an old Danish name applied even yet to the level marshy pasture lands adjoining rivers. I believe the Saxons and Angles, from the time of whose invasion the name is supposed to date, first landed and possessed the Isle of Thanet, which in parts, especially those about Minster, and the river Stour, would answer very well to the description of Danish Eng lands. It is from this word I think the name may have sprung, instead of from the Angles, whom we have no reason for supposing to have been so superior to the Saxons as to leave the remembrance of their name to the entire exclusion of the latter.” M. Worsaae, in the first words of his history unwittingly confirms what Mr. Rowan here points out. “The greater part of England,” he says, “consists of flat and fertile lowland, particularly towards the southern and eastern[Pg 28] coasts, where large open plains extend themselves.” There is a low-lying district of Aberdeenshire called the Enzie, a name of the same character, evidently imposed by the Northmen. This is pronounced by the natives aingie, the sound of the first portion of the name being as the aing in the Scotch surname of Laing. The derivation just cited, coupled with my conjecture that the name Scotland is the ancient gothic Skot-land, land laid under tribute, Icelandic Skat, a tax (Skat-land) goes to confirm M. du Chaillu’s contention that the British people, and tongue (by tongue, I mean the present speech of the British nation) are of northern origin.

The contention that the Danish influx into England was in any sense a mere infusion must in the nature of things be pure fiction. It was a full rolling tide of conquest and colonization swelling a population already essentially Scandinavian.

The first authentic particulars relating to the ancient Britons are derived from Cæsar who made his descent in the year 55 before Christ. The original inhabitants appear to have been Celts from France and Spain. We learn from the Roman historian that they had been driven into the interior and western portion of the[Pg 29] island by the Belgae who settled on the east and south-eastern shores of England, and were now known as Britons. He tells us in language, about which there can be no misconception, that the Belgae were descended from the Germans. These were the Britons with whom Cæsar had to do, and these the Romanized Britons who, in their dire extremity, sent forth their despairing cry to the gates of Imperial Rome, “The barbarians drive us to the sea, and the sea to the barbarians.” Prichard demonstrated, at least to his own satisfaction, that “the ancient Belgae were of Celtic, and not of Teutonic race, as had previously been supposed,” and ethnologists are agreed in setting aside the testimony of Cæsar! What amount of hypothetical evidence is sufficient to overturn an historic fact? It might be difficult to say who is an authority on language, but anyone reasonably endowed with judgment may be an authority on matters of fact and practical sense. The science of language is not an exact science, and leaves a good deal of room for the imagination to play. I would rather doubt the conclusions of philologers than believe that the Roman historian wrote without knowledge of his subject, or deliberately stated what he had no means of knowing to be true.[Pg 30] The weight of evidence is certainly on the side of Cæsar. Not all the ingenuity of all the Bopps and Grimms and Potts and Zeusses who ever applied themselves to the elucidation of this most obscure of all unintelligible subjects can ever be sufficient to overturn an outside historical fact. “In the history of all nations,” Pinkerton says, “it is indispensable to admit the most ancient authorities as the sole foundation of any knowledge we can acquire. If we reject them or pretend to refute them no science can remain, and any dreamer may build up an infinite series of romances from his own imagination. When, therefore, a modern pretends to refute Cæsar and Tacitus in their accounts of the inhabitants of ancient Britain, any man of science would disdain to enter the field.” It does not by any means follow that every scholar who is familiar with the structural peculiarities of language has necessarily any aptitude for perceiving the exact relations of things. Many distinguished men eminent in literature have been singularly deficient in ordinary reasoning power. The late Charles Kingsley, it is well known, “could not discern truth from falsehood.” Though occupying “an historical chair, he lacked every qualification of an historian.”

[Pg 31]

M. Worsaae, the Danish antiquary, after a good deal of hesitation and circumlocution in regard to several matters of disputed origin, in particular the Ruthwell cross which he casts out of the category of Scandinavian remains, and contradicts himself in the following sentences: “Ornaments with similar so-called Anglo-Saxon runic inscriptions are not altogether uncommon in England, particularly in the North. But as not a few ornaments, as well as runic stones with inscriptions in the self-same character, are also found in the countries of Scandinavia both in Denmark and Norway, and particularly the latter, and the west and south-west of Sweden (and there mostly in Bleking), it may be a question whether this runic writing was not originally brought over to England by Scandinavian emigrants. It would otherwise be inexplicable that they should have used entirely foreign runic characters in Scandinavia, whilst they possessed a peculiar runic writing of their own.” I do not think there can be any question in the matter. No stronger evidence could be given in proof of the fact that the so-called Anglo-Saxons and Scandinavians were radically one and the same people. M. Worsaae has done much to illustrate the Scandinavian antiquities[Pg 32] of the British islands, and I am unwilling to cast reflection on the memory of one so eminent and so well-intentioned, but it is evident throughout his book, that he has accepted at second-hand, on a variety of subjects, the conclusions of English and Scotch antiquaries, which as a foreigner he was incapable of dealing with by independent investigation. The Hunterston brooch, which in every lineament is distinctively Scandinavian, he has been told to call Celtic. He deals with this most interesting monument of art in the ambiguous manner for which he is always remarkable where his judgment seems to contradict his conclusion. “An excellent silver gilt brooch,” he says, “found near Hunterston, about three miles from Largs, was once said to have been lost by some Norwegian who fled from the field of battle [nothing more probable]. There is a short Scandinavian runic inscription scratched on the back of it, but from what has hitherto been deciphered, it would rather seem to denote the name of a Scotchman than of a Norwegian. Professor Munch reads ‘Malbritha a dalk thana—Melbridg owns this brooch.’” M. Worsaae here obviously means Celt, as opposed to Scandinavian, but uses the term Scotchman to allow himself, if need be, a door[Pg 33] of escape. “Scotchman” would apply equally to anyone born in Scotland, whether Celt by extraction, Scandinavian, Fleming or Norman. This seems to me an undignified way of getting out of a difficult position. The runic writing of the Hunterston brooch, which is in the Norse tongue, has been accurately explained by Professor George Stephens, of Copenhagen. M. Worsaae, we know, accepted the attentions of eminent British antiquaries, and could not gracefully seem to doubt their conclusions on special subjects submitted to his decision. He is first told what to say, and then cited by his instructors, as an authority for statements which they themselves have put into his mouth. Perhaps, under the circumstances, this may not be an exceptional manner of dealing with matters of disputed history, but it is certainly not the way to reach the truth that reveals itself to intelligence. “In workmanship,” M. Worsaae says, “the Hunterston brooch resembles the contemporary Irish and Scotch more than Scandinavian ornaments.” Now, it certainly does no such thing. It does not appear to me that as regards the Scandinavian remains of Great Britain, one like M. Worsaae groping his way darkly with the help of such lights as he can find is at all[Pg 34] competent to pronounce dogmatic judgments. Ireland and Scotland were invaded, and subdued, and peopled by the Northmen, and brooches of the self-same character are found in the Viking interments of Scandinavia. The contemporary Irish and Scotch brooches may reasonably be presumed to be Scandinavian. The resemblance of the Hunterston brooch to that found at Tara, and to others of like character found in Scotland is certainly not greater than to the brooch in the Bergen Museum exhumed from a Viking mound at Vambheim, or to that dug up at North Trondheim in another grave of the Viking period. The inscription contained on the Hunterston brooch proves to demonstration, not only that its art, and that of all others of kindred type is Scandinavian, but that the name “Melbridg” is Norwegian. Whatever be the origin of the art exhibited on the brooches, it is plain that this cannot be Celtic, inasmuch as that no one has ever shewn that the Celts possessed any knowledge of art. It is all very well to talk in an off-handed way about Celtic art, but something more than this is necessary to carry conviction. To my perceptions a Celtic statement is much improved by some form of evidence. Dr. Soderberg of[Pg 35] Lund doubts if I will find many adherents among Scandinavian scholars. “We are all of us,” he says, “more or less imbued with Celticism.” So much the worse for Scandinavia, that her sons deny her legitimate claims to her own historic and archaic remains. It is not however, as I think, so much a question of scholarship as of practical sense, the capacity to deal with facts which may be weighed by anyone possessed of ordinary reasoning power or capable of speech and thought in their simplest forms. One can understand a Scotch antiquary of the Celtic type placing himself in an attitude of antagonism, just as we might imagine Professor Freeman gliding like a shark along the Saxon line ready to do battle on behalf of his cherished delusion, because that to both of these the Northman theory is total extinction. But that the Scandinavian antiquary, who as regards his national remains has no reason to falsify the facts of history, should in the interest of an exotic fable, waste his ingenuity in disclaiming the art that especially belongs to his country surpasses my comprehension. Let us hear what the Saturday Review has to say on the subject of Celtic art. Taking exception to many of my positions, it says: “He [Mr. Roger] is on much[Pg 36] firmer ground when he declines to believe in any art or culture that can fairly be called Celtic. The very patterns which are usually spoken of as Celtic are common to all the gold work of the Mycenæan graves, which few people, we think, will now place much later than 1500 B.C.” “Dr. Schliemann’s Mycenæan discoveries deprive the Celts of any credit for originality in their system of spiral ornament.” Again “‘Celtic’ patterns certainly existed on the shores of the Ægean fifteen hundred years before our era.” “Mr. Roger is probably right when he claims a Scandinavian origin for the ancient claymores (two handed), for the Tara brooch and other brooches, for stone crosses, dirk handles, and what so else is too commonly attributed to Celtic art.” “‘What is Celtic art?’ cries Mr. Roger, triumphantly. What, indeed? ‘The Celts, Pinkerton tells us, had no monuments, any more than the Finns or savage Africans, or Americans.’ As to Americans, Mr. Roger can see their bas-reliefs at the South Kensington Museum;[4] but for Celtic art not derived from the Scandinavians or Romans, we know not where to bid him look.” I am content[Pg 37] to rest the matter here. There is no art known as distinctively Celtic, and in this aspect of the question I am confirmed by the Saturday Review. But to return to Professor Freeman. In a number of the publication called The Antiquary, issued on November 16th, 1872, the writer of a paper on The Landing of the Saxons in Kent, tells us that “after pillaging for ‘a hundred and fifty years’ the British shores,” the Jutes, or Saxons, landed under Hengist and Horsa, “and here,” the writer says, “we must halt for a few moments till we have disposed of Mr. E. A. Freeman’s astounding statement that Horsa meant mare. Hors, our misspelt horse,” the writer says, “is like its German equivalent Ross, a neuter word. The Saxon hero is sometimes called simply Hors, but more frequently by the addition of a masculine termination—a, as in ‘Ida Ælla,’ and some thousands more, he becomes Horsa, masculine and male. Mare is Myre, feminine. * * * * If Mr. Freeman will be good enough to tell us how he came to fall into this preposterous error, we may possibly clear up the cause of his mistake; for the most part, when he makes a bad blunder, we can form a notion what better authority has misled him; but in this case no English dictionary,[Pg 38] grammar, or history can have been consulted by him. Can it have been a Latin grammar? Mr. Freeman is extensively known as blowing weekly a shrill trumpet, ‘asper, acerba, sonans,’ in reviews of literary and illiterate performances, but then he is in hiding; we hear the obstreperous whirr, but the midge is behind the screen; when he appears in human body, he makes lapses, trips and stumbles, and lays himself bare to stings,” &c. This is in Professor Freeman’s early days, but men carry their idiosyncrasies into their riper years. It gives us an insight into this critic’s mind according to the estimation in which he was then held by his fellow-scribblers. To the article in question, which occupies nearly two columns of The Antiquary, the editor appends the following note:—“The story of Hengist and Horsa (including the so-called Anglo-Saxon invasion) is an exploded fable. The Anglo-Saxons of England, like the Picts or Caledonians of Scotland, were only the earlier Northmen or Scandinavians.”

This is pre-eminently an age of platitudes and Professor Freeman is great in such. “There is,” he says, “an English folk, and there is a British Crown.” There is also, it might be affirmed, a[Pg 39] Scotch folk, and a British Crown, and until Mr. Gladstone shall accomplish his visionary project of Irish Home Rule, there is, and will be an Irish folk and a British Crown. “But the homes of the English folk,” we are to note, “and the dominions of the British Crown do not always mean the same thing.” Does any one suppose they do? “Here by the border stream of the Angle and the Saxon” we are in “the dominions of the British Crown,” &c. If by the “border stream” be meant the Tweed, it is more than doubtful if the Angles and Saxons ever saw that stream. In Professor Freeman’s “youth,” the “Anglo-Saxon race was unheard of,” and by some strange delusion, for which it is difficult to account, the “British race” dates, he believes, from some speech delivered a week before the time at which he writes. It is evident Professor Freeman has not been a reader of Good Words, at least of its early numbers published more than thirty years ago. In one of these he will find “The British race has been called Anglo-Saxon,” &c., and a good deal more which it might be inconvenient for him to learn.

Professor Freeman “shows how some writers, sometimes more famous writers, now and then get at their facts.” “One received way,” he[Pg 40] tells us, “is to glance at a page of an original writer, to have the eye caught by a word, to write down another word, that looks a little like it, and to invent facts that suit the words written down. To roll two independent words into a compound word with a hyphen is perhaps a little stronger; but only a little.” Are we to suppose that Professor Freeman is recounting his individual experience in dealing with the facts of English history?

The gifted Edmund Spenser, who charmed the world with his Faery Queen died forsaken and in want. Milton sold his copyright of Paradise Lost for fifteen pounds, and Goldsmith’s Vicar of Wakefield was disposed of for a trifle to save him from the grip of the law. Tempora mutantur! Third rate contributions by high class writers command their market value. If men can obtain payment for writing such articles as that of Professor Freeman’s criticism of The Viking Age that appeared in the January number of the Contemporary Review it shows that there is something in a name, that the conductors of such periodicals pay more regard to the reputation of the writer, than to the quality of the writing. Professor Freeman is no doubt a very able writer, but this is not the conclusion[Pg 41] that would be reached in reading his captious and illogical criticism of M. du Chaillu’s book.

I have evidently wounded the susceptibilities of some extreme churchman or irascible Celt, in the person of a reviewer in the Literary World, whose hostility is hardly explainable on the ground of mere difference of opinion. According to this disposer of events, I fall wofully short in the qualifications of one who is entitled to speak on the subject of archæology. I might, however, plead in extenuation, and in mitigation of punishment the reason given by Mr. Gladstone for upholding the verity of Old Testament Scripture, that “there is a very large portion of the community whose opportunities of judgment have been materially smaller than my own,” and that, “in all studies light may be thrown inwards from without.” I profess not to unravel the hidden mysteries of prehistoric antiquity, but simply to deal with the historical aspect of outside facts, though, as the Saturday reviewer justly remarks, I must get into prehistory somewhere. Among the numerous disqualifications manifested in my treatise, I show “a very indifferent acquaintance” with “Language;” and its “twin sister, Ethnology,” of which, however, I may reasonably be presumed[Pg 42] to know as much as my censor. Most persons who write on any subject do something to keep in touch with current facts and common knowledge. If the critic of the Literary World had taken the trouble to read my book attentively, he would have found many references to what has been done by philologers and Ethnologists on whose labours he sets so much store. “As the book is in a second edition,” he condescends to inform us, he has “occupied more space than he should otherwise have done in estimating its claims to authority.” The conclusion he has reached is that I go as far astray in one direction as the Celticists do in another, an opinion which is quite within the limit of legitimate criticism. When, however, from his lofty tribune he looks down and imputes to me ignorance of what has been done by the great masters of “Language,” the Joneses, and Colebrookeses, and Bopps, and Potts, and Grimms, and Steinthals, and suggests that I do not know what has been said by such writers as Camper, Jacquart, Blumenbach, Cuvier, Prichard, Latham and Morton, not to mention the pernicious nonsense of Darwin, and the vagaries of Professor Huxley, I must be permitted to take exception. It is one thing to know what they[Pg 43] have written, and quite another to accept their conclusions as absolute and final, considering how often we hear the most arrant nonsense solemnly propounded as the deductions of scientific investigation. It has been pointed out by a late minister of the Crown that “Newton’s projectile theory of Light” which had apparently been firmly established has given place to “the theory of undulation,” which, citing from the Virginian philosopher Dr. Smith, he says, “has now for fifty years reigned in its stead.” On this he grounds the suggestion that we should not “receive with impatience the assertion of contradictions.” On the subject of specialists we have the opinion of the same eminent individual, notable among the great intellects of the age, one who like Brougham, “has the languages of Greece and Rome strung like a bunch of keys at his girdle.” No less a personage in fact, than the Right Hon. W. E. Gladstone, with whom, while admiring the versatility of his genius, I differ politically, toto cœlo. To none of the sciences, rightly or wrongly so named, do his remarks more aptly apply than to the “Science of Language,” and its twin sister, “Ethnology.” “I have had the opportunity,” he says, “of perceiving[Pg 44] how, among specialists as with other men, there may be fashions of the time and school, which Lord Bacon called idols of the market-place, and currents of prejudice below the surface, which may detract somewhat from the authority which each enquirer may justly claim in his own field, and from their title to impose their conclusions upon mankind.” In proof of the fluctuating and uncertain character of this so-called science Dr. Morton in regard to “certain points of primary importance found himself compelled to differ in opinion from the majority of scholars.” I believe with Bishop Percy, Dr. R. Angus Smith, and others, that the Celts and Teutons even remotely had not a common origin, but were ab origine distinct races of mankind. As to authority I hold that “no man is an authority for any statement which he cannot prove,” and although according to the critic of the Literary World, I deliver my opinions in a manner “more forcible than elegant”[5] my pretensions are exceedingly humble. “I venture to draw attention to the subject, in the hope that the matter may be taken up by[Pg 45] some one with more time and better appliances at his disposal than I can command.” Without pretending to be “exhaustive or specially erudite” I have done the best I can to extinguish a national delusion, and I hope cannot finally, and altogether fail. If I be deficient in language, in whatever acceptation, I am in no worse position than the statesman already referred to, who maintains the truth of ancient Scripture avowedly without any knowledge of the Hebrew tongue. Language, as Lord Southesk most accurately, and pertinently points out, “is a thing that seems like a boomerang, so queer are the twists it takes, and so uncertain its returns.” Ethnology, or Anthropology—whichever its votaries choose to call it—is not, as I think, a science. It consists of the conceits and assumptions of men learned and unlearned who have reached certain conclusions, and who profess to bring back from the depths of prehistoric antiquity facts which may not be facts, or which at least we have no means of knowing to be true. The whole subject is “feeble, perplexed, and to all appearance, confused.” Many years since Mr. Hyde Clarke, at a meeting of the Ethnological Society, remarking on the utterances of Professor Huxley, suggested that, although the[Pg 46] latter “had laid down his statements as established by men of science, there was little capable of proof.” What then is the value of a study, the results of which are as unstable as the passing vapour? It was a conception of the late Sir David Brewster, that science is the only earthly treasure we can carry with us to a better state. Let us hope that if Language, and its twin sister be among the number destined thither, they will be freed from their mundane misconceptions and uncertainties.

The Reviewer of the Literary World thinks I “make a sorry jumble of races and languages. All sorts of people, and tribes, dialects, and remains, related and unrelated, are said to be Goths or Gothic,” though in dealing with my shortcomings, real or supposed, he does not always keep faith with facts. The ancient Scythians, he makes me to say, were Goths, for which the only foundation is that I cite Dr. Macculloch and Mr. Planché from each a paragraph in which the name Scythian is mentioned. “The occupiers of prehistoric lake dwellings Goths.” Precisely what I do not say. I mention the facts that “a species of combat called holmgang, peculiar to the old Northmen, was usually fought in a small island or holm in a lake,” and that islands in[Pg 47] lakes were places resorted to by the Scandinavian “foude,” or magistrate, with his law officers, &c. In Iceland, the men on whom sentence of death had been passed, were beheaded upon an islet in a lake or river. I submit these facts to the candid consideration of those who are capable of judging, because if my conjecture be correct, palisaded islands were neither inhabited nor are they prehistoric. “The Caledonians, Goths; the Picts, Goths.” I was taught to believe that Pict and Caledonian are convertible terms. “The Icelanders and others were Goths.” I do not, of course, know which “others” the reviewer may have had in his mind, but the Icelanders are certainly Goths. “Sometimes,” the critic says, “Gothic appears as the equivalent of Scandinavian.” Certainly as opposed to Celtic. “And the sum of the whole matter is that ‘the Scandinavians are our true progenitors,’” which, he points out, is “the same blunder that M. du Chaillu has been dashing his head against.” All wise beyond conception! By a figure of speech a writer might be said to dash his head against a rock, but hardly I should think, against a blunder! It is rather odd that this captious censor should be ignorant of the fact that the quotation which he cites from my[Pg 48] preface contains the ipsissima verba of the writer of an article that appeared in Good Words nearly forty years ago, by whom M. du Chaillu was anticipated, and that the same views and opinions were advocated by myself nineteen years since in the pages of Notes and Queries.

The languages or dialects to be dealt with as regards the British islands, are few in number, and we can judge of them in an outside fashion, without the aid of Bopp, or Grimm, or Zeuss, or Steinthal. These are the Welsh of the Principality, which, roughly speaking, includes the extinct dialect of Cornwall. The Erse or Gaelic of Scotland, Ireland, and the Isle of Man. The Teutonic of the Belgae, which Prichard calls Celtic, but which we gather from Cæsar was German. At least it is a fair inference from his statement, Belgas esse ortos a Germanis, that they spoke some dialect of Teutonic speech.[6] The language of the Picts or Caledonians, which Skene affirms is neither Welsh nor Gaelic, but a Gaelic dialect partaking largely of Welsh forms. This, however, on the faith of Tacitus, I believe to have been Scandinavian, rutilæ Caledoniam[Pg 49] habitantium comæ magni artus Germanicam asseverant. The Saxon, or earlier Scandinavian of South Britain, and the confessedly Scandinavian dialects of Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Northumberland and North Britain. In point of fact only two languages, the Gothic or Teutonic, and the Celtic, or whatever else may be the structure, foundation or admixture of the dialects so named. I have elsewhere stated that “The several dialects of what has been called Celtic might be compared to so many dust heaps to which has been swept the refuse of all other languages from time immemorial,” and I see no reason to change my opinion. It will thus be seen that there is not much room to jumble either races or language. The jumble, if such there be, arises out of the confusion and obscurity of the critic’s own mind. He ridicules the idea of identifying the “Gothic Magus” with what he calls the “Celtic Mac or Maqui.” I deny that Mac is Celtic, and I identify it with the Maqui of the Ogham inscriptions, because I think there are good grounds for believing that Oghams and runes were equally the work of the Northmen, although Lord Southesk, who has made these remains a special study, differs from me in opinion. There is certainly an uncommon[Pg 50] outside resemblance between the two words. It is however, satisfactory to know that his Lordship is in substantial agreement with me on the main subject of my contention, the preponderance of the Scandinavian element in the British Isles. Coming to the essence of the controversy, he says, “Where I agree with you thoroughly is in the belief that the prevalence and influence of the Scandinavian races in Britain and Ireland have been largely underrated, and that much due to them has been ascribed to the various peoples commonly classed as Celts.” “One has only to look at the people inhabiting Aberdeenshire, Angus, &c., to convince one’s-self that Norse blood predominates.” I regard the questions of races, art, and culture entirely from an outside or historic view. In the face of such facts as I have adduced to continue to call Mac Celtic is simply persistent dogmatism—a perverse determination to adhere per fas et nefas to a foregone conclusion. The prefix Mac though found in Scotch Gaelic and other dialects of the Erse, has obviously been imported thither only as a foreign term, in the same manner that the Norse word jarl, an earl, found its way into the Welsh. Mac, as I have elsewhere pointed out, occurs in[Pg 51] the Anglo-Norse dialect of Craven, West Riding of York. It was used in the sense of son by the Danes and Northmen. It occurs as a prefix to an interminable number of personal names distinctively Scandinavian, and in one form or other is found in every dialect of the Teutonic. We must “deal with the evidence before us according to a rational appreciation of its force.” “Plaid,” the critic, affirms, “does not exist in Moeso-Gothic.” Thomson in Observations prefixed to his Lexicon, says, “Plaid, a cloke in Moeso-Gothic, was the Icelandic palt.” I would rather believe that the critic of the Literary World does not know where to look for the word, than that the erudite private secretary to the Marquis of Hastings in India, presuming on their ignorance, sought to impose on his readers a word which he knew did not exist. Again this critic says, “Denying to another (Anglo-Saxon) a word that does (foster).” The expression is confused, but he evidently means that “foster” is found in Anglo-Saxon. In the text of my treatise I say, “Neither can there be any doubt as to the Northern derivation of the word foster.” To this I append a footnote taken from the Quarterly Review, vol. 139 (1875), p. 449. “The word foster is not found in[Pg 52] Anglo-Saxon, Moeso-Gothic, or German,” and at the same time indicate the source whence my information is derived. I accepted the statement on the faith of the writer. If it does occur, it only shows how little dependence can be placed on facts adduced by literary critics even in connection with such responsible publications as the Quarterly Review. Another evidence of disqualification as “a writer on Archæological matters,” is that the word Celte cited from the Vulgate was shown long ago by Mr. Knight Watson to be a misprint for Certe. The critic must indeed have been much at a loss for a peg on which to hang his hypercriticism. I hardly know why it is incumbent on me before delivering my views on the Celtic myth to know all that has been explained on collateral subjects by Mr. Knight Watson. I found neither note nor marginal reference declaratory of this gentleman’s critical acumen, or of the great service he had rendered to archæology in resolving this enigma, nor if I had should I have introduced it into my treatise. My remark in regard to the Vulgate is an incidental reference of the vaguest description on which nothing depends. To borrow the expression of an eminent individual, Would the critic of the Literary World “be[Pg 53] surprised to learn” that by a defect of information, quite as glaring as that which he imputes to me, he has entirely missed the point of my stricture which is directed against the executive of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. At page 11 of its Catalogue of Antiquities, printed in 1876, it is stated as the heading of a section, “Stone Celts or Axe Heads.” Behind the word “Celts,” an asterisk, and underneath, a footnote corresponding thereto the explanation “Celtis, a chisel,” of all which the critic shows himself to be entirely ignorant. He mentions the Gothic word afar. Thomson calls it hafar. I can only conjecture that the critic may have first seen the light within the vibrations of certain well-known sounds, and that he habitually drops the letter h. In the course of my “polemic,” he thinks, I “undoubtedly score a point here and there in matters of detail.” “Thus,” he says, “he maintains what ought to be obvious enough [but which to the Celtic expositor it never is] that remains inscribed in Northern runes must be attributed to the Scandinavians.” I give, he says, “and this appears to be my chef d’œuvre, a very probable reading (Grimkitil thane raist, Grimkitil engraved this) to[Pg 54] a fragmentary inscription ( ... KITIL TH ...) on what is known as the bronze plate of Laws. And inasmuch as” that this critic “formed a similar opinion many years ago, he is bound to approve my suggestion that the old Greek and runic alphabets were derived from some common source, and not either from the other.” He is “bound to approve.” How very condescending! It is evident he does not perceive the effect of his own conclusion. If my reading of the inscription on the Laws plate be correct it involves something more than a mere matter of detail. It is the solution of a problem which has perplexed and bewildered most antiquaries of the present century, because it demonstrates the symbols of the Laws crescent plate, and those of the Scotch sculptured stones to be the work of the Scandinavians. This has long been my individual opinion, though I doubt if the critic of the Literary World will make many converts among antiquaries on the other side of the Tweed. When I attempt to establish “my own peculiar views,” he says, I seem to “break down.” Are not the points on which—to borrow his elegant diction—I “score” as much my “peculiar views” as those on which he alleges I fail? “Of the Teutonic tribes,[Pg 55] whose settlements grew into our old Heptarchy, or Octarchy, none, and no discoverable part of any, were Scandinavian proper. [This is mere arbitrary statement.] There was subsequently, of course, in certain districts, a large infusion of Scandinavian forms, proper names, &c. [What does he mean by forms? The Scandinavians brought their names when they brought their bodies] in consequence of the invasions and settlements of the ‘Danes,’ but in spite of this, and of much more serious disturbance afterwards, our language from the Channel to the Forth, owing to its power of absorption, and assimilation, remained, and remains substantially ‘English.’” “Remained and remains substantially English.” These remarks are unanswerable, which it is said, is the happy property of all remarks sufficiently wide of the purpose. Is the language of the British nation less “English” because derived from the Scandinavian rather than from the Saxon, two dialects of the same speech in their essential elements hardly distinguishable? If this be true—as beyond all question it is true—it demolishes utterly the bugbear which the suggestion he advocates sets up.

While accepting with becoming humility the[Pg 56] disparaging estimate of my performance, it is not desirable that a reviewer of this character should have his say uncontradicted, though in setting myself right with those whom his strictures might have influenced, I have perhaps honoured him with too much notice. It is not a very formidable matter to cope with such an adversary.

“While these are censors, ’twould be sin to spare;
While such are critics, why should I forbear?”—Byron.



[1] The sonnets were originally discovered in the Monastery of the “Monks of Therfuse,” which stood on the site now occupied by the terminus of the “Glenmutchkin Railway.” They were afterwards placed for safe custody with the MSS. of Ossian.

[2] “Well-known scholars,” the Quarterly says, “have shown before him, and he is justified in adopting the conclusion, that the name of ‘Saxon’ must have been loosely applied to all the pirates that scoured the Narrow Seas. We may conjecture that many crews from Scania and the Danish Isles, or from the great bay by the Naze of Norway, which gave its name to the Vikings, must have been found among the roving fleets of the fourth and fifth centuries, when the Empire was crumbling into ruins.”

[3] “The red-bearded Thor was called ‘The Englishmen’s God.’”—Quarterly Review.

[4] I suspect these were not the savage Americans Pinkerton had in his mind.

[5] A writer who, to denote that which is without foundation, makes use of the expression “mere fudge” cannot be a very competent judge of elegance.

[6] That cannot be regarded as science which based only on the uncertain hypothesis of language contradicts the ascertained facts of history.

[Pg 57]


“This issue of the work, resumes in an able statement the arguments of those antiquaries who hold that the early civilization of these islands was the work, not of Celts, but of Scandinavians.”—Scotsman.

“He [Mr. Roger] is on much firmer ground when he declines to believe in any art or culture that can fairly be called Celtic. The very patterns which are usually spoken of as Celtic are common on the gold work of the Mycenæan graves, which few people, we think, will now place much later than 1500 B.C. ... Mr. Roger is probably right when he claims a Scandinavian origin for the ancient claymores (two handed), for the Tara brooch, and other brooches, for stone crosses, dirk handles, and what so else is too commonly attributed to Celtic art.”—Saturday Review.

“The book throughout in its many pages bears evidence to an exceeding amount of careful research, clever reasoning, and close intimacy with the subject.... Until contradicted and disproved the facts in the pages of ‘Celticism a Myth’ must carry conviction.”—Montrose Standard.

“A further issue of this learned work is evidence that the arguments advanced against the pet theories of such recognised authorities as Dr. Joseph Anderson, and Dr. Daniel Wilson have aroused some commotion in the camp of archæologists.”—Publishers’ Circular.

“A second edition of Mr. Roger’s argument against the prehistoric existence of a Celtic civilization, and his ‘demonstration beyond reasonable doubt,’ that the only civilization in Scotland, of which we have any knowledge, was brought there by the Scandinavians.”—The Bookseller.

“It is a vigorous piece of controversy in favour of the argument that Celtic literature, and Celtic art never existed.”—Evening News and Post.

[Pg 58]

“It is a book that has interested me much.”—The Most Hon. The Marquis of Lorne, K.T., &c.

“Where I agree with you thoroughly is in the belief that the prevalence, and influence of the Scandinavian races in Britain and Ireland have been largely underrated, and that much due to them has been ascribed to the various peoples commonly classed as Celts.”—The Right Hon. The Earl of Southesk, K.T., F.S.A. Scot., &c.

“I have long been of opinion that we owe the whole of our civilization to Scandinavian, and Teutonic ancestors, and partly to Roman influence, and your very interesting volume confirms that opinion.”—John Kirkpatrick, Esq., Advocate, M.A., Ph.D. LL.B., LL.D., Professor of History, University of Edinburgh.

“Bertrand gives maps shewing the course followed by the megalithic monument builders in entering Europe, and this, I think, dispels the idea of their being due to the Celts.”—Rev. S. Baring-Gould, M.A. &c., &c.

“Your case is so well put, your rebutting evidence so cogent, and your reasoning so clear, that you must by this time have convinced many of your readers that ‘Celticism’ is ‘A Myth.’”—John C. H. Flood, of the Middle Temple, Esq.

“You have certainly dispelled my illusion as to Celtic art, and I consider you have proved your case certainly in the main, if not altogether.”—Walter L. Spofforth of the Inner Temple, Esq.

“I have seldom perused a more interesting work. The whole argument is clearly stated, and most convincing.”—Rev. George Brown, F.S.A. Scot., Bendochy Manse.


Transcriber’s Note

Printer’s errors were corrected where they could be clearly identified. Otherwise, as far as possible, original spelling and punctuation have been retained.