James Macpherson

1736 - 1796


The Author


James Macpherson, poet and translator, was born in Ruthven, near Inverness, in Scotland, in 1736. He was educated at Marischal College in Aberdeen and at Edinburgh University, and in 1756 he became a teacher in his native village. Two years later he moved to Edinburgh to pursue a literary career. In 1758 he published «The Highlander», a long poem in heroic couplets. In 1760 he published «Fragments of Ancient Poetry Collected in the Highlands of Scotland», translated from the Gaelic language. Later he published translations of two epic poems, «Fingal» (1761) and «Temora» (1763), which were represented as the work of a Gaelic poet named Ossian. Samuel Johnson and others heatedly challenged the authenticity of the poems, and doubts were strengthened by Macpherson's failure to produce the originals. In later life Macpherson held a colonial secretaryship in Florida, and entered Parliament in 1780. Macpherson died in 1796 at Belville in Badenoch, Inverness, and, despite the controversy surrounding the Ossian poems, was buried in Westminster Abbey. The Ossianic poems were translated into numerous languages and played a crucial role in the emergence of romanticism, even Goethe made reference to Ossian in «The Sorrows of Young Werther».


James Macpherson (by George Romney 1779/80)



The Works


The Highlander (1758)

Fragments of Ancient Poetry Collected in the Highlands of Scotland (1760)

Fingal: An Ancient Epic Poem in Six Books: Together with Several other Poems by Ossian (1761)

Temora, an Ancient Epic Poem, in Eight Books: together with Several Other Poems by Ossian (1763)

The Works of Ossian, the Son of Fingal, translated from the Galic language (1765)

An Introduction to the History of Great Britain and Ireland (1771)

The Poems of Ossian. A new edition, carefully corrected, and greatly improved (1773)

Prose translation of the Iliad (1773)

The History of Great Britain from the Restoration to the Accession of the House of Hanover (1775)

Original Papers: Containing the Secret History of Great Britain ... (1775)





The Poetical Works of Ossian, Boston 1852/63 (Ex-Classics)