Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/175

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JAMES MACPHERSON. 545


his being appointed agent to the Nabob of Arcot, in behalf of whom he made several effective appeals to the public, and amongst others published " Letters from Mahommed Ali Chan, Nabob of Arcot, to the court of Directors. To which is annexed a State of facts relative to Tanjore, with an Appendix of ori- ginal papers," 4to. 1777. He is also supposed to have been the author of " The History and Management of the East India Company, from its origin in 1600, to the present times ; vol. i. containing the affairs of the Carnatic, in which the rights of the Nabob are explained, and the injustice of the Company proved," 4to. 1779.

It was now thought advisable that Macpherson, in capacity of agent to the Nabob, should be provided with a seat in parliament, and he was accordingly returned member for Camelford in 1780, and was re-elected for the same place in 1784 and 1790. He, however, never made any attempt to speak in the house, so that the cause of the eastern potentate, whatever it may have gained from his influence abstractly as a member of parliament, was nothing forward- ed by his oratory. The period, however, was now rapidly approaching when this and all other earthly matters were no longer to be of any concernment to him. His health now began gradually to fail, and continued to decline till the year 1796, when he became so seriously ill, that it was thought advisable, as all other means were found unavailing, that he should return to his native country, and try the effect of a change of air. He accordingly proceeded to Scotland ; but died in the same year, on the 17th February, at his seat of Bellville in the shire of Inverness, in the 58th year of his age.

Macpherson died in opulent circumstances, leaving by his will, dated June 1793, legacies and annuities to various persons to a large amount. Amongst his other bequests there is one of particular interest from its connexion with the celebrated works to which he owes his celebrity, and from its bearing on a cir- cumstance which created one of the most memorable civil wars, in the literary world, upon record the question of the authenticity of Ossian's poems.

This bequest comprised the sum of 1000, payable to John Mackenzie of Fig-tree Court, in the Temple, to defray the expense of printing and publish- ing Ossian in the original. Macpherson also directed by his will, that the sum of 300 should be expended in erecting a monument to his memory in some conspicuous situation at Bellville, and that his body should be carried to London and be interred in Westminster Abbey. This was complied with, and he was buried in Poet's Corner.

The preceding sketch, brief as it is, comprehends nearly all of any interest a Hli which the life of Macpherson presents us, and affords in that brevity another instance of the utter disproportion which is so often found to exist be- tween the bulk of a man's personal history and that of his fame, how much may be afforded in one and the same life, to the essayist, philosopher, or moralist, and how little to the biographer.

One point of interest in Macpherson's life, however, and without some al- lusion to which any account of it would be incomplete, has been hitherto left all but untouched in this sketch, and that purposely ; as it was thought better to give it a distinct and separate place at the conclusion than to interrupt the bio- graphical narrative by its earlier introduction.

The circumstance alluded to is the celebrated controversy regarding the au- thenticity of Macpherson's translations of the Poems of Ossian, a controversy which, whether its voluminous amount is considered, the extremely opposite and conflicting testimony by which it is supported, or the various and widely scattered members of which it is composed, cannot be approached without hesitation. The fervour with which it was once attended has long since altogether dis-