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Originally appearing in Volume V17, Page 267 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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JAMES MACPHERSON (1736–1796), Scottish " translator " of the Ossianic poems, was born at Ruthven in the parish of Kingussie, Inverness, on the 27th of October 1736. He was sent in 1753 to King's College, Aberdeen, removing two years later to Marischal College. He also studied at Edinburgh, but took no degree. He is said to have written over 4000 lines of verse while a student, but though some of this was published, notably The Highlander (1758), he afterwards tried to suppress it. On leaving college he taught in the school of his native place. At Moffat he met John Home, the author of Douglas, for whom he recited some Gaelic verses from memory. He also showed him MSS. of Gaelic poetry, supposed to have been picked up in the Highlands, and, encouraged by Home and others, he produced a number of pieces translated from the Gaelic, which he was induced to publish at Edinburgh in 1760 as Fragments of Ancient Poetry collected in the Highlands of Scotland. Dr Hugh Blair, who was a firm believer in the authenticity of the poems, got up a subscription to allow Macpherson to pursue his Gaelic researches. In the autumn he set out to visit western Inverness, the islands of Skye, North and South Uist and Benbecula. He obtained MSS. which he translated with the assistance of Captain Morrison and the Rev. A. Gallie. Later in the year he made an expedition to Mull, when he obtained other MSS. In 1761 he announced the discovery of an epic on the subject of Fingal, and in December he published Fingal, an Ancient Epic Poem in Six Books, together with Several Other Poems composed by Ossian, the Son of Fingal, translated from the Gaelic Language, written in the musical measured prose of which he had made use in his earlier volume. Temora followed in 1763, and a collected edition; The Works of Ossian, in 1765. The genuineness of these so-called translations from the works of a 3rd-century bard was immediately challenged in England, and Dr Johnson, after some local investigation, asserted (Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland, 1775) that Macpherson had only found fragments of ancient poems and stories, which he had woven into a romance of his own composition. Macpherson is said to have sent Johnson a challenge, to Which Johnson replied that he was not to be deterred from detecting what he thought a cheat by the menaces of a ruffian. Macpherson never produced his originals, which he refused to publish on the ground of the ex-• pense. In 1764 he was made secretary to General Johnstone at Pensacola, West Florida, and when he returned, two years later, to England, after a quarrel with Johnstone, he was allowed to retain his salary as a pension. He occupied himself with writing several historical works, the most important of which was Original Papers, containing the Secret History of Great Britain from the Restoration to the Accession of the House of Hanover; to which are prefixed Extracts from the Life of James II., as written by himself (1775). He enjoyed a salary for defending the policy of Lord North's government, and held the lucrative post of London agent to Mahommed Ali, nabob of Arcot. He entered parliament in 178o, and continued to sit until his death. In his later years he bought an estate, to which he gave the name of Belville, in his native county of Inverness, where he died on the 17th of February 1796. After Macpherson's death, Malcolm Laing, in an appendix to his History of Scotland (1800), propounded the extreme view that industry; manufactures include casks, mats, rope and utensils for the wine-trade. The town has a large trade in wine of the district, known as Macon. It is a railway centre of considerable importance, being the point at which the line from Paris to Marseilles is joined by that from Mont Cenis and Geneva, as well as by a branch from Moulins. Macon (Matisco).was an important town of the Aedui, but under the Romans it was supplanted by Autun and Lyons. It suffered a succession of disasters at the hands of the Gefmans, Burgundians, Vandals, Huns, Hungarians and even of the Carolingian kings. In the feudal period it was an important countship which in 1228 was sold to the king of France, but more than once afterwards passed into the possession of the dukes of Burgundy, until the ownership of the French crown was established in the time of Louis XI. In the 16th century Macon became a strong-hold of the Huguenots, but afterwards fell into the hands of the League, and did not yield to Henry IV. until 1594. The bishopric, created by King Childebert, was suppressed in 1790.
End of Article: JAMES MACPHERSON (1736–1796)

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