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Circumstances adverse to preservation of Gaelic literature


Besides these influences, unfavourable to the preservation of the ancient literature of the Scottish Highlands, we have the fierce raid of Edward I. of England into the country, and the carrying away of all the national muniments. Some of these were in all probability Gaelic. A Gaelic king and a Gaelic kingdom were then things not long past in Scotland; and seeing they are found elsewhere, is there not reason to believe that among them were lists of Scottish and Pictish kings, and other documents of historical importance, such as formed the basis of those Bardic addresses made by the royal bards to the kings on the occasion of their coronation? These might have been among the records afterwards intended to be returned to Scotland, and which perished in the miserable shipwreck of the vessel that bore them. These causes may account for the want of a more extensive ancient Celtic literature in Scotland, and for the more advantageous position occupied in this respect by Ireland. Ireland neither suffered from the popular feeling evoked at the Reformation, nor from the spoliation of an Edward of England, as Scotland did. And hence the abundant remans still existing of a past literature there.

And yet Scotland does not altogether want an ancient Celtic literature, and the past few years have done much to bring it to light. It is not impossible that among our public libraries and private repositories relics may be still lying of high interest and historical value, and which more careful research may yet bring into view. The Dean of Lismore's book has only been given to the world within the last six years, and more recently still we have the "Book of Deer", a relic of the 11th or 12th century.