Saturday, September 1, 2018

Your rage I defy

Ossian was purportedly an ancient Scots poet translated into English by James Macpherson. Samuel Johnson believed the works were faked by the "translator":
The Scots have something to plead for their easy reception of an improbable fiction; they are seduced by their fondness for their supposed ancestors. A Scotsman must be a very sturdy moralist who does not love Scotland better than truth; he will always love it better than inquiry; and if falsehood flatters his vanity, will not be very diligent to detect it.
Macpherson apparently responded to Johnson's opinion with threats of violence whereupon Johnson wrote to him:
MR. JAMES MACPHERSON:

I received your foolish and impudent letter. Any violence offered me I shall do my best to repel; and what I cannot do for myself, the law shall do for me. I hope I shall never be deterred from detecting what I think a cheat, by the menaces of a ruffian.

What would you have me retract? I thought your book an imposture; I think it an imposture still. For this opinion I have given my reasons to the publick, which I here dare you to refute. Your rage I defy. Your abilities, since your Homer, are not so formidable; and what I hear of your morals inclines me to pay regard not to what you shall say, but to what you shall prove. You may print this if you will.

                                                                        SAM. JOHNSON (Boswell. 20 Jan. 1775)