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DR. ARMSTRONG'S GAELIC DICTIONARY.
We have received a communication signed Ceartas, which it would not, we fear, be creditable to ourselves, nor to the writer, to print; though we cannot altogether condemn his warmth in defending a gentleman who has done himself great honour, by the accomplishment of a literary task which it required a considerable degree of courage to undertake.
We are informed by “Ceartas,” that Dr. Armstrong's Gaëlic Dictionary has been most unwarrantably attacked, in a series of remarks in “ The Perth Courier ;” and it is a matter of regret to us, that so respectable a paper should have been made the vehicle of disingenuous personalities. If these aspersions come from a Highlander, we cannot certainly call that Highlander a patriot; for, in our opinion, Dr. Armstrong has done as much for his native language as any man living ; perhaps more. We grieve, however, to add, as well from our own knowledge, as from the assertion of “Ceartas,” that he has met with opposition and ingratitude where he had a right to expect encouragement and assistance.
It was perfectly unnecessary for “ Ceartas" to communicate to us his own private opinion of the Gaëlic language. If it is the worthless jargon he esteems it, his friend Dr. A., whose native tongue it is, and who must know its beauties and deformities, must have spent his time to very little purpose in compiling a dictionary of it. But our correspondent and Dr. A. are, we know, of very opposite opinions on that question ; for we have often heard the latter gentleman expatiate with great clearness upon the many beauties and great copiousness of the language of which he has enabled foreigners now to judge. We suspect that when “Ceartas" acquires as profound a knowledge of the Gaëlic as the doctor has attained to, he will change his opinion.
At the same time that we profess our admiration of the perseverance which enabled Dr. Armstrong to bring his Gaëlic-English Dictionary so successfully to a conclusion, as well as the great learning he has displayed in that work, we beg leave to correct a few mistakes into which “ Ceartas" has fallen.
He asserts that the Scottish Gaëlic is a dialect of the Irish, which is not the fact; the languages of both countries being the same. The Gaëlic, like the English, has many dialects, but the written language of Ireland and of the north of Scotland are so much alike, that the Irish Bible served the Highlands until very recently. The Gaelic is therefore a language of which there are several dialects, and which is itself a branch of the Celtic, now, like the Gothic, extinct as a living tongue.
The next mistake is the assertion that Armstrong was the first who compiled a Gaëlic dictionary. Had the writer said, the first who compiled a good Gaëlic dictionary, he would have been
right; but we are sure Dr. Armstrong will confess that Shaw's “Gaelic and English Dictionary," in two volumes, 4to., published in Edinburgh, 1780, was of considerable assistance to him in the compilation of his work. Shaw had not the abilities of Armstrong; but he did his best, and merited the gratitude of his country, instead of which he was attacked with even greater virulence than his more talented and more fortunate successor has been.
A third mistake is the assertion that Dr. Armstrong was the first who reduced the Gaelic “to something like intelligible grammatical principles.” If the writer does not know of it, we would refer him to one of the most successful first attempts of the kind ever made in the world; we mean Elements of Gaelic Grammar, in four parts, by Alexander Stewart, minister of the gospel at Dingwalì
. Second edition, corrected and enlarged. 8vo. Edinburgh, 1812."
Though we cannot admit Ceartas's letter for the reason above specified, we are obliged to him for having called our attention to Dr. Armstrong's very excellent work; and we shall be as ready as he could wish us to repel any unmerited attack that may hereafter be made upon it, from whatever quarter the abuse may originate. Calumny and detraction shall find in us the most inexorable enemies; and we hereby warn them, that, when our blood is up, we can belabour with something heavier than the arm of a pigmy.
LEWIS GLYN COTHI.*
Iolo Goch. There has been lately a great excitement caused among the true lovers and admirers of Welsh poetry, by the announcement of the poetical works of Lewis Glyn Cothi being about to be published, under the direction and patronage of the London Cymmrodorion Society, with notes, both historical and explanatory, and also a translation of some of the most interesting passages. We hail the announcement with infinite pleasure and satisfaction; for the compositions of so excellent a poet cannot fail creating a great interest, when we consider that he was an officer of some distinction under Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke, who was half brother to King Henry VI., and that he records numerous incidents and facts, that fell under his own immediate knowledge, during the disturbed reigns of Henry VI., Edward IV., Richard III., to the accession of Henry VII. His works must therefore be considered valuable in a historical point of view, independent of the delight they will afford, from the sweetness and purity of his language, and the excellency of his poetry. He
Valley of Cothi.
stood high as a poet among his contemporaries; and whoever peruses his works will agree with us in saying, that the fame which he acquired was justly merited. His style as a writer is elegant and pleasing, and as smooth and polished as if he had applied the file to every line, and had strictly practised the rules of Horace,
Si non offenderet unum Quemque poetarum limæ labor, et mora. His facility in versification is as extraordinary as the diversity of his talents was great. In reading his compositions, one would be apt to imagine that to be a poet was no difficult task, so easy and simple do his cynghaneddion* appear; but thedelusion will soon vanish, if the daring aspirant were to attempt restoring some lines, which, it is to be regretted, have come down to us in a mutilated state. So intelligible, however, is his style, that one would be led to think that he wrote in our time; and the only difficulty to be encountered in his works is, the many lusions which he makes to things and customs long since past. It may be said with truth that his language is a honied language, and that his poetry is as mellifluous as the sweet note of the nightingale. We hesitate not to add, that the poets of the present day, however gifted they may be, and we allow that many of them are highly gifted; and however elegantly they may write, which also we are proud to acknowledge, will catch an additional flame of poetic fire, after perusing the long neglected poetry of the bard of Glyn Cothi.
In our next number it is our intention to take up this subject again, and present our readers with specimens from the author's pen; and we trust, in the meantime, that we shall not appear too intruding, if we solicit the favour of those gentlemen, and others, who may happen to have portions of his works in their possession, to make it known to us, in order that the Society might be enabled, through them, to do justice to the author; for we look upon the present undertaking of the Cymmrodorion as a national work, which will not only redound honour upon them, but also add to the store of useful literature. Perhaps some of our readers will be able to throw light upon the history of our author, (which, we confess, we are unable to do, except what we can gather from his own lips,) and should they favour us with any anecdotes about him, or some account of his life, it will be our delightful task to communicate the same to the public.
The manuscript copy of his works, in the handwriting of the late patriotic Mr. Owain Jones, (Owain Myvyr,) is now with the Rev. John Jones, (Tegid,) of Christ-church, Oxford, who is engaged in transcribing it, previous to its publication. It contains 232 poems. By this undertaking Mr. Jones will secure the gratitude of all patriots in Cambria, and more especially the esteem of her scholars.
THE GLENALADALE MAC DONALDS.
United Service Club House ; August, 1833. To the Editors of the Caledonian and Cambrian Quarterly
Mayazine. GENTLEMEN, I REJOICE that so respectable a Magazine as yours is now established as a depository for matters of Caledonian interest, chiefly because it is so desirable an acquisition to our numerous Gaëlic friends in the American colonies, with several of whom I am intimately connected. If you have a spare leaf in next number for the subjoined slight communication, its insertion, I am pretty sure, will gratify many more, besides your new subscriber,
A North American TRAVELLER.
The author of a pamphlet written many years ago, but the title of which I cannot recollect, says that the Highlanders have wiped off any stain which their rebellions in favour of the house of Stuart may have brought on their character, by subsequently fighting through seas of blood in defence of their country. The ardour with which they fought the battles of the illustrious family which now presides over the destinies of Great Britain, after having so long and so obstinately opposed their authority, is remarkable; and this patriotic feeling has animated them in the colonies to which, in many cases, they were obliged to exile themselves for their political offences,
The brilliant conduct of the inhabitants of the Glengarry settlement, in Upper Canada, during the last war, viz. from 1811 to 1814, who did so much good service under the conduct of their worthy pastor, may be in the recollection of your readers. Another striking instance of this chivalrous spirit is afforded by the Mac Donalds of Prince Edward's island. Their chief, Glenaladale, took an active part in the rising of 1745, and was of material assistance to Prince Charles Stuart, in his seclusion and escape, as may be found particularly related in “ Ascanius.” Shortly after this unfortunate affair he was obliged to sacrifice a fair estate, and proceed to Prince Edward's island, with his family, accompanied by four hundred of his own clan, besides one hundred others, who were not Mac Donalds, and the whole settled in the same manner as they had lived in Scotland; fondly cherishing old associations, and co-operating together with the kindly feelings of clanship. On the breaking out of the first revolutionary American war, young Glenaladale, unsolicited, and at his own expense, went to Nova Scotia, with half his followers, and offered their services to the British government in defence of that province. They were of course cheerfully accepted, and he was immediately appointed captain in the 84th, or royal Highland emigrant regiment, in which he and his men served with great distinction until the end of the war.
There are at present on the estates of Glenaladale, Glenfinan, Muidart, and Arisaig, belonging to this family in Prince Edward's island, numbers of Highlanders, there born, who do not speak a word of English! A gentleman arrived one evening after nightfall at this settlement, and on applying at one of the houses, was answered by a female, “ Cha n'eil Beurl' agam," she “had no English." The gentleman being himself from the Highlands explained, and was asked to step in while the servant called her master. It was dark, and after lights had been brought, the stranger inquired where the female was who could only speak Gaëlic? on which a negro woman was pointed out!—This reminds me of the observation of a man on the disembarkation of a Highland regiment at Portsmouth. There was an African in the band, and the Englishman remarked with some astonishment that he was the first black Scotsman he had ever seen! In another regiment, a black man was so far naturalized as to become piper, and, when quartered in West Lothian, a good many years ago, one evening, while amusing his companions, a countryman entered the place. The room was but half illuminated, and a glimpse of the Highlanders' skipping through their fantastic reel, and the sable musician blowing with might and main, brought instantly into the honest farmer's mind the scene which Tam O'Shanter witnessed in Kirk Allowa, and he made a hasty retreat. But seriously:-it would be a singular philological revolution, and it is not impossible, nor indeed improbable, should the Gaëlic be found in the New World, after it had become extinct as a spoken language in the mountains of Caledonia.
To the Editors of the Cambrian and Caledonian Quarterly
Magazine. GENTLEMEN, In the year 1789, a small volume of poems was transcribed for me by a clergyman in Montgomeryshire, who was desirous of encouraging a young student in the Welsh language. I was not enabled to make such a proficiency in that tongue as was necessary for the understanding the collection that was made for me, and to me it is a sealed book. The transcriber is, I believe, no more, and whether he copied the poems from manuscripts, or from printed publications, I am wholly ignorant; but the possibility of some of these effusions of former bards being scarce or unknown, struck me, and I thought I could not err in sending you a list of the titles written at the head of each poem. Should it appear to you that any of them night be worthy insertion in your very