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DISSERTATION

ON THE

LITERARY HISTORY

OB

SCOTLAND.

AFTER the decay of Greek and Roman literature, the spirit of enquiry which animated these renowned nations, was gradually diffused over regions that had long been regarded as barbarous. Of intellectual improvement however the progress is generally slow. The local circumstances of some countries retarded their advancement in liberal knowledge : their situation towards the northern extremities of Europe, or the inauspicious influence of national poverty, precluded them from an early participation of such benefits or pleasures as science and literature are capable of affording. Their distance from the

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seat of the Roman government, while it secured them from invasion, tended at the same time to prolong their barbarity. The conquests of that ambitious and warlike people were sometimes productive of such happy consequences, that it may be proposed as a difficult question, whether in certain instances the progress of their arms was more fatal to political independence, or more conducive to the dissemination of useful knowledge. Scotland, it is well known, was never completely subjugated: nor did our ancestors derive any immediate advantages from Roman colonies. From a fortunate concurrence of circumstances, learning was introduced at an earlier period into England, and there nurtured with a superior degree of affection. About eighty years after the birth of Christ, a slight tincture of Roman refinement seems to have been imparted to the Britons". Dr Stillingfleet supposes, that the edict of Gratian, addrest to the Præfectus Prætorio Galliarum, and enjoining the principal cities of that department to establish professors of the Greek and Latin languages, was understood as extending to the British province". This circumstance however seems dubious: and it would at least be somewhat difficult to prove, that in Britain the injunctions of the edict were ever fulfilled. But to the establishment of Roman colonies, the natives of the

2 Taciti Vita Agricolæ, § 21.
b Stillingfleet's Antiq. of the British Churches, p. 215.

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southern division of the island were certainly indebted for the rudiments of liberal knowledge. And another circumstance which materially contributed to their improvement was the early propagation of the Christian religion.

While the island continued sunk in Paganism, the south of Britain could boast of a class of men comparatively enlightened. The Druids, says Diogenes Laertius, are reported to deliver their philosophical precepts in enigmatical terms; and to inculcate the adoration of the gods, abstinence from evil actions, and the exercise of fortitude, The original seat of Druidism appears to have been the south of Britaind. That Druids also existed in Scotland and Ireland", has generally been

€ * Και φάει τους μεν Γυμνοσοφισας και Δρυδας αινιγμάτωδώς αποφθεγγομίνους φιλοσοφήσάι, σέβe» θεούς, και μηδέν κακών δρών, και ανδρώαν ασκειν.”

Laertius de Vitis Philosophorum, p. 4. d « Disciplina in Britannia reperta, atque inde in Gallian translata esse existimatur: et nunc, qui diligentius eam rem cognoscere volunt, plerumque illo discendi causâ proficiscuntur

Cæsar de Bello Gallico, p. 130. edit. 8vo. Clarke. e “ It is more than probable," says Dr Campbell, “ that Druidism was the religion of Ireland before Christianity, as tradition says it was.' (Strictures on the Ecclesiastical and Literary History of Ireland, p. 69. Dublin, 1789, 8vo.) It is by vague assertions of this kind, that the Irish writers have in general attempted to establish the hypothesis.

The German writers have contended with equal zeal, that the Druidic system was anciently established in Germany; and have endeavoured to evade the force of Cæsar's explicit testimony, by opposing it with that of Tacitus. Schedius understands the words of Casar,“ neque sacrificiis student," as implying, that sacrifices were totally unknown among the Germans. / De Dia Germanis, sive Veteri Germanorum, Gallorum, Britarno

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LIVES

OF THE

SCOTISH POETS;

WITH

PRELIMINARY DISSERTATIONS,

ON THE

LITERARY HISTORY OF SCOTLAND,

AND THE

EARLY SCOTISA DRAMA

BY DAVID IRVING, A: M.

VOL. I.

EDINBURGH:

Printed by and for Alex. Lawrie and Co.
SOLD BY BELL & BRADTUTE, P. HILI, AND A. LAWRIE ;

ERASH AND REID, GLASGOW ;

AND

VERNOR & HOOD, LONDON.

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