Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/333

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JOHN PINKERTON. 127


brings the Peukini along the Danube, whence, passing to the Baltic, they after- wards appear in Scotland as the Picts or Pechts. At this period Pinkerton appears to have been an unsuccessful candidate for a situation in the British museum. Horace Walpole says to him in a letter of the 1 1th February, 1788, " I wrote a letter to Sir Joseph Banks, soliciting his interest for you, should there be a vacancy at the museum. He answers, (and I will show you his an- swer when I see you,) that he is positively engaged to Mr Thorkelin, should Mr Planta resign ; but that, the chancellor having refused to sign the permission for the latter, who will not go abroad without that indulgence, no vacancy is likely to happen from that event" 1 In 1789, he edited from early works, printed and manuscript, " Vitae Antiques Sanctorum Scotorum." This work, of which only one hundred copies were printed, is now scarce and expensive ; but at its appearance it seems to have met little encouragement from the author's countrymen. " Mr Cardonnel, he says in a letter to the earl of Buchan, " some months since informed me that, upon calling at Creech's shop, he learned there were about a dozen subscribers to the ' Vitas Sanctorum ScotiasS Upon desiring my factor, Mr Buchan, since to call on Mr Creech, and learn the names, Creech informed him ' there were about two or three ; and the subscription paper was lost, so he could not tell the names.'" During the same year, Pinkerton published his edition of " Barbour's Bruce." Although the most correct edition up to the period of Dr Jamieson's publication, it was far from accurate, and gave the editor ample opportunity of vituperating those friends who incautiously undertook to point out its mistakes. In 1790, appeared " The Medallic History of England to the Revolution," in 4to, with forty plates ; and, at the same time, the " Inquiry into the History of Scotland, preceding the reign of Malcolm III., or 1056 : including the authentic history of that period." This work contained a sort of concentration of all his peculiarities. It may be said to have been the first work which thoroughly sifted the great " Pictish ques- tion ;" the question whether the Picts were Goths or Celts. In pursuance of his line of argument in the progress of the Goths, he takes up the latter position; and in the minds of those who have no opinions of their own, and have con- sulted no other authorities, by means of his confidence and his hard terms, he may be said to have taken the point by storm. But he went farther in his proofs. It was an undoubted fact that the Scots were Celts, and all old authorities bore that the Scots had subdued the Picts. This was something which Pinkerton could not patiently contemplate ; but he found no readier means of overcoming it than by proving that the Picts conquered the Scots ; a doctrine founded chiefly on the natural falsehood of the Celtic race, which prompted a man of sense, when- ever he heard anything asserted by a Celt, to believe that the converse was the truth. He amused himself with picking out terms of vituperation for the Mac- phersons ; " of the doctor," he said, " his etymological nonsense he assists with gross falsehoods, and pretends to skill in the Celtic without quoting a single MS. ; in short he deals wholly in assertion and opinion ; and it is clear that he had not even an idea what learning and science are :" 5 of the translator he not less politely observes, " He seems resolved to set every law of common science and common understanding at defiance." 6

His numberless observations on the Celts, are thus pithily brought to a focus : " Being mere savages, but one degree above brutes, they remain still in much the same state of society as in the days of Julius Caesar ; and he who travels aiming the Scottish Highlanders, the old Welch, or wild Irish, may see at once the ancient and modern state of women among the Celts, when he beholds these savages stretched in their huts, and their poor women toiling like beasts of bur- Correspondence, i. 180. Ib., 177. * Inquiry, Iritrod., 63. 6 Ib.,64.