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and corrupt; while the best of them were sometimes transported with too vehement a zeal, and much more severe both in their censures and their manners than the spirit of Christianity can be presumed to justify. But allowing all this, and even without approving of the doctrine or discipline established in our sister kingdom,-in comparing what the reformers estab. lished with the corrupting and debasing system that they overturved, in considering the fortitude, disinterestedness, and piety they discovered, in taking into the account the little vio. lence they exercised in the plenitude of their power, and the propitious influence of their exertions, on science, liberty, and religion, it seems hardly possible not to give way to pleasurable feelings. The triumph of light over darkness, of liberty over tyranny, and of virtue over crime, must always be grateful to every well-tempered mind, while the thought of the souls that have been turned from the error of their ways, through the prevalence of the reformed religion in Scots land, must give joy to every Christian heart. Nor is this revolution less encouraging than it is grateful. When the res formers first began to sow the seeds of religious knowledge and liberty, they could have no hope but in the power of God. They had to contend with ignorance, rendered sacred by principle, agreeable errors fortified by power, and corruptions defended by the double rampart of passion and interest. By a series of wonderful and unforeseen incidents, concurring with their activity and patience, they made their way through all these obstacles. What has been, may again be effected; and those who are engaged in promoting the improvement and happiness of their fellow men, should certainly,while they strug. gle with error and corruption, draw encouragment from the success of their predecessors in the same cause, and consider the interpositions of Providence in past ages as a proof both of the interest that God takes in their labours, and of the grand defeat that error and corruption of all kinds have yet to sustain.
Art. IV Essays on the Superstitions of the Highlanders of Scotland; to
which are added, Translations from the Gaelic; and Letters connected - with those formerly published. By the Author of “ Letters from the
Mountains.” 12mo. 2 vols. pp. 670. Price 12s. Longman and Co.
Hatchard, &c. 1811. IT is a gloomy reflection which occurs to us, in contemplat*ing the world as a very picturesque scene, that much the greatest portion of what man has contributed, and still contributes to make it se, is the result and proof of the perverted
condition of the understanding and morality of the species. If we look at the more palpable and material division of the things by which that species have given to the world an aspect very striking to the imagination, it is False Religion that has raised so many superb temples, of which the smallest remaining ruins bear an impressive character of grandeur; that has prompted the creation, from shapeless masses of substance, of so many beautiful or monstrous forms, representing fabulous super-human and divine beings; and that has produced some of the most stupendous works intended as abodes, or monuments, of the dead. It is the evil next in eminence, War, that has caused the earth to be embossed with so many thousands of massy structures in the form of towers and defensive walls-so many remains of ancient camps--so many traces of the labour's by which armies overcame the obstacles opposed to them by rivers, -rocks, or mountains--and so many triumphal edifices raised to perpetuate the glory of conquerors. It is the oppressive Self-importance of imperial tyrants, and of their infe. rior commanders of human toils, that has erected those magnificent residences which make a far greater figure in our imagination, than the collective dwellings of the humbler population of a whole continent, and that has in some spots thrown the surface of the earth into new forms. Had an enlightened understanding and uncorrupt moral principles always and universally reigned among mankind, not one of all these mighty operations, the labours of unnumbered millions, under the impulse and direction of a prodigious aggregate of genius and skill, would even have been thought of. Not one stone would have been laid of Pagan temple or embattled fortress, of mausoleum, or triumphal arch, or tyrant's palace. The ground occupied by the once perfect, and now ruined, mansions of the gods at Athens, or Palinyra, or Thebes, or Rome, the sites of the Egyptian pyramids, of the Roman amphitheatres, and of the palaces of the Alhambra or the Seraglio, might, some of thein, have been cultivated as useful pieces of garden-ground, and some of them covered, from early ages till now, with commodious, but not showy, dwellings of virtuous families, or plain buildings for the public exercises of the true religion. In short, the worl, would have been a scene incomparably more 'happy and more morally beautiful, but it would have been without a vast multitude of objects that now conspire to make a grand, and even awful, impression on the imagination. A
If we fix our attention on the other class of things contributed by the human species, to give what we call a picturesque character to the world -the class supplied by their personal condition and manners—we find that in this part also of that character the most striking appearances are those which mani.
fest error and moral evil. What is it, in this view, that most powerfully seizes the imagination? It is the wild and formidable character and habits of savages and barbarians, -of North-American Indians, South-Sea islanders, Arabs, and Tartars: It is the monstrous forms of national polity, or of subordinate social institution : It is the contrast of the various systems of manners, rivals perhaps in absurdity : It is whatever is most pompous, most fantastic, or most vicious, in the ceremonial appointments of civilized and uncivilized society: It is that ferocious aspect of hostility with which the human tribes all over the earth are constantly looking at one another, and those dreadful collisions in which myriads are perishing every month : but perhaps, above all, it is their superstitions: for these, by their nature, partake more than all the other things enumerated, of that solemnity and mystery which have so mighty a power over the imagination. .
We now come towards the purpose of this prolix array of common places, by the double observation, that the advance of just thinking and right moral principles will, proportionably, annihilate a great deal that is very, striking and romantic in the now existing economy of the human species--but that we ought to be pleased for these picturesque aspects to vanish, if their disappearance be owing to the removal of that intellectual or moral perversion by which they were produced. The complacent feeling here demanded, as a tribute due to the excellence of truth and moral rectitude, is, of course, only called for at the disappearance of such striking features of the · world as belong to the latter division, that is, of such as are presented in the personal condition and habits of the human species, and indicate, so long as they appear, the continued operation of the evil causes from which they have arisen. For as to those niaterial objects produced by the prevalence of evil, and which are so fascinating to the imagination, -the pyra. mids, the ruined temples, and the vast works that remain as monuments of former wars, we suppose almost all men may agree in wishing they might continue to exist to the latest periods of the world, to assist historians in representing, and a distant posterity in a happier age in believing, the true state of mankind in former periods. But the picturesque forms of practical superstition, and of any other thing in the human economy which indicates and results from a still operating perversion of understanding or moral sentiments, ought not to be
deplored when they vanish to return no more,---even though - they were as captivating to the fancy, as comparatively in· noxious, and combined with as many virtues, half yirtues, and romantic fine qualities, as the superstitions of the Highlanders of Scotland.'
Our old friend Mrs. Grant is some trifle below our standard, on this subject. She acknowledges, with full conviction, that that mode of personal character, (comprising notions, moral sentiments, and practical habits,) and that constitution of the social economy, which should be formed on the plain ground of absolute truth generally, and specially on the ground of religionis truth, perfectly clear of every deceptive fancy, would be better than the very best state of the ancient Highland cha. racter and social system. And yet there is something so singular, so poetical, and really in some points so truly elevated, in the ancient character and economy of these Celtic tribes, that she shews a kind of reluctance to lose any particle that entered into the constitution of so strange and interesting a moral order. She cannot help looking back with a feeling perhaps, in some slight degree, tinged with fondness and regret, on some of the more romantic and harmless of the superstitions that once had so visionary and solemn an influence." She has somewhat of a similar feeling, in this retrospect, to that with which a solitary devotee to contemplation has sometimes beheld the beautiful delusive aspects of things by moonlight fading into the plain sober forms of reality under the commencing ascendency of day-light, or with which a person awaking from an enchanting dream, strives to recal the vanishing images, the last glimpse of which seems to convey something much finer than the objects arranged round the room, or to be seen through the window. And we must confess we were scarcely ever in an equal degree disposed to be forbearing to such a feeling. The departed or departing system of sentiments and habits certainly did contain a great deal that very powerfully, tended to fix indelibly a fondly partial impression of almost all its parts on a youthful mind of sensibility and poetical enthusiasm, when presented to its view amidst that solemn mountain scenery, where that system had prevailed so many ages, had left so many religiously admitted traditions, and had continued, even down to that time, to maintain a very considerable, though declining, degree of actual prevalence among the people.
Setting aside historical correctness, we can well believe that our author is better qualified than any other person to delineate a lively picture of the former economy of Highland society, She complains, however, that it is now somewhat too late.
Why has not this wide field for speculation been explored? Why have the lovers of useful knowledge neglected to dig into a mine so rich in science; even the most valuable science, the knowledge of human nature ?
But the lovers of this coy science have too long delayed to follow her to her retreat. In the deep recesses of our Alpine glens, they might have wooed and won the nymph who presides over the treasures of antique lorem 1.n the Celtic Muse they would have found an Egeria, who would have enlightened them by her mystic counsels, and told them the secrets of other ''mes, now doomed to long oblivion. Now it is too late.' - The fair torm, where inspiration has for so many ages awaked the band, animated the hero, and soothed the lover, is fast gliding into the mixt of obscurity, and will soon be no more than a remembered dream, " when the hunter awakes from his noon-day slumber, and has heard in his vision the spirits of the hill.”.
The neglect of pretenders to science, in omitting to acquire a language through which so much is to be known, and the apparent indifference of natives, in not producing, at an earlier period, into the light of a more current language, the hidden treasures of their own, seem equally unaccount. able.' One who, like the writer of these pages, is not absolutely a native, nor encirely a stranger, but has added the observant curiosity of the latter to the facilities of inquiry enjoyed by the former, might best, if otherwise qualified, explain this paradox.
It certainly is to be regretted that there had not been, a century since, or even at a somewhat later period, just such an observer as our author (saving, perhaps, that a somewhat smaller portion of enthusiasm would have sufficed for the object) introduced among the Highland tribes, and domesticated for several years among different clans, in order to enter into the very recesses of their character and social state, to learn their traditionary histories, to preserve the most striking of their written and unwritten poetry, to collect characteristic anecdotes, to discern the most material differences in the general character as appearing among the different sections of the people, and then to come away with a comprehensive description of what certainly had no parallel among nations, and of what, being now in a great measure broken up and annihilated, will never return into existence. And that description ought to have been given with the same ease and animation as this before us, the same power of presenting such moral portraits as will serve as well as if we conversed with the real living beings,—the same general and versatile force of colouring, much of the same friendly sympathy with the people, and as little as possible of the same neglect of method.
But our author shews it would, at any time, have been very difficult to acquire any intimate knowledge of the character of the Highlanders. Between them and the Lowlanders there uniformly existed such an active antipathy as to preclude all unreserved intercourse.
No two nations ever were more distinct, or differed more completely from each other, than the Highlanders and the Lowlanders ; and the sentiments with which they regarded each other were at best a kind of smothered animosity.—The Lowlander considered the Highlander as a fierce and sayage depredator, speaking a barbarous language, and inhabiting a gloomy and barren region, which fear and prudence forbade all strangers