2 OCTOBER 1880, Page 22


A posinvzi,y pathetic interest attaches to this work, which is, in many important respects, the best proof we have had for many years of the capacity and energy of provincial publish- ing enterprise. At no time, perhaps, since the death of Burns, was his special poetic genius so much appreciated as now ; at no time, certainly, has BO much been written about him, and to such purpose. To take one striking example, Mr. Mat- thew Arnold has, of late, gone almost out of his way to give his views of a poet with many of whose " rebellions " he can have but scant sympathy. In his Introduction to the " Golden-Treasury " selection from Wordsworth, he admits that his favourite owes his style of perfect plainness and direct- ness to Barns. In his more recent Introduction to Mr Ward's selection from English Poets, he deals with Burns at greater length, and—to take only one judgment—he agrees with Mr. Carlyle and M. Taine as to "The Jolly Beggars," and de- scribes it as "a superb poetic success." Yet how many— or rather, how few—people reflect that nine-tenths of Burns, at least a half of Scott, and three fourths of what is worth reading in Wilson, not to speak of the ciii minerunt gentium of Scotch prose and verse since Bums's day, are not only as sealed as Chaucer, to most Englishmen of the present day, but will be equally sealed to most Scotchmen of the next generatioa ? It would be "bad form" for an English- man of any pretence to acquaintance with modern poetry to avow that he had not read Tam O'Shanter, yet it may be safely be said that only one in ten such could explain the words that rhyme to each other in these familiar lines, abso- lutely without equivalent though they are in our ordinary and orthodox language :— "She tauld thee weel thee was a skellnm,

A bletherin, blusterin, drunken blellnm."

Scott's novels are in the hands of hundreds of tourists at the present time, yet how many of them can find any meaning at all in this, from St. Ronan's Well ?—" It's the junketting and the jirbling with tea and with trumpery that brings our nobles to ninepence, and many a het ha' house to a hired lodging in the Abbey." Yet to the initiated such a sentence is full of " canny " Scotch wisdom, while at least a score of Eng- lish words are required to express the mere mechanical act denoted by " jirbling," not to speak of the altogether inexpressible contempt of the speaker for the act. Of all the languages of our time which have hardly yet sunk so low as to be dialects; none is so capable of expressing the refinements, the " details " of feeling and sensation, as the Scotch, and, through them, of giving "an instantaneous photograph" of what the Scotch themselves call "a character." When Monkbarns is described as being "in a carfuffie," we • An Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language. By John Jamieson, DX). A New Edttion, carefully Revised and Collated, with the Entire Supplement Incor- porated. By John Longmnir, A.M., LL.D.. and David Donaldson, F.B.I.' .S. Yob. I. and II. Paisley : Alexander Gardner. 1880.

have not only the essence of the Monkbarns type, but—pro- vided, of course, we have mastered the meaning of the word " carfu ■i e "—we can tell how the individual Monkbarns will act under any supposable circumstances. Can nothing be done, even at this the eleventh hour of the Scotch language, to enrich our dictionaries and our speech with the thousands of words and phrases, like " jirble " and " carfuffie," which are almost Hel- lenic in variety of meaning, and are perfect in all respects but melody Can no lexicographer boldly incorporate them in his work, instead of treating them like poor relations, and giving them a special and humble place at the end of his last volume, as "A Collection of Scotch Words and Phrases ?" All Scotch writers of the day who are worth their salt write only in English ; half-a-dozen of them, with the courage of their convictions as to what is best in their ancestral tongue, could by the aid of what Mr. Carlyle would call " whole- somely damnable" iteration in their works, permanently Anglicise that best. At the least, should not a movement be started for establishing University Chairs for the preserving axa teaching of Lowland Scotch ? Professor Blackie deserves all credit for the success which has attended his movement for establishing a Gaelic Chair in Edinburgh. But what will it matter that Ossian should live, if Burns is to die, to be entombed in a " glossary " or a " Scotch collection ?"

Meanwhile, we ought to be thankful to Mr. Alexander Gardner, of Paisley, for having crowned his enterprise of Scotch " reprints " with a republication—revised, systematised, and brought down to date—of the work to which Dr. Jamieson gave his heart, and almost his life-blood. Not that we have to be thankful for small mercies, by any means ; on the contrary, at the end of two large volumes, containing over 1,200 pages, we have got no farther than " jyp." Indeed, if Jamieson's pre- sent editors have committed any serious blunder at all, it con- sists in not boiling down some of his old-fashioned and now comparatively useless dissertations. For example, under the head " Eyttyn " (giant) we have a long account of the " Berserkers." All of it is learned, and much of it is valuable, but at this time of day we might have been spared such remarks as these :—" As their strength was remarkable, they were actuated by such fury as to pay no regard to anything that was in their way. They rushed, it is said, through flames, and tore up trees by the roots. They provoked the noble and the rich to single combat, that they might make a prey of their wives, daughters, and possessions, and they were generally successful." It is just possible, indeed, that the size of the work may frighten away some readers.

For the rest, while it would be only fair to criticise the work thoroughly when it is complete, it may be said at once that the editors (Dr. Longmuir and Mr. Donaldson) have done their difficult duty, especially in the Kanner of enlargement, with great care and judgment. Some words which are familiar to Scotchmen in the present day, are conspicuous by their absence from the new Jamieson; and among these, " fracas " (pro- nounced "fracaw," and meaning noise or fuss) will at once sug- gest itself, even to the hurried reader. Some words might, too, have led to interesting little historical disquisitions. Take, for example, "Farintosh," the name of a celebrated variety of whiskey. There might have been introduced in connection with it an Excise story, which we observe a well-informed writer in

an influential Scotch newspaper, the Glasgow Herald, tells thus succinctly :— "At the Revolution of 1688, the lands and brewery of Farintosh would appear to have been laid waste by followers of James II., in consequence of the steady attachment to King William of the elder Duncan of Culloden, father of the Lord President. By way of com- pensation, the Scots Parliament in 1690 voted the yearly Excise of the lands of Farintosh for a nominal sum to the Forbes family ; but complaints soon arose that they were using other grain than the pro- duce of their own land, and underselling other distillers in the Eng- lish and Scotch markets, to the hurt of traders as well as of the Revenue. Much litigation ensued, with results far from uniform, till at length, in 1785, a basis of settlement was arranged, by which_ the then Mr. Forbes received in compensation 221,580 out of the revenue of Excise in Scotland."

But such omissions as may be noticed are trifling, when com- pared with the wealth of matter, interesting alike to the philo- logist and the sociologist, which these volumes contain. It is safe to say, even at this stage, that when Mr. Gardner's work is complete, it will be for the Scotch tongue what "Liddell and, Scott" is for Greek. In the matter of typography, both as re- gards size, clearness, and beauty, it may be doubted if it has a superior, or even an equal, in any language whatever.