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Few books have exerted such extended influence over English literature as Percy's Reliques. Beattie's Minstrel was inspired by a perusal of the Essay on the Ancient Minstrels; and many authors have expressed with gratitude their obligations to the bishop and his book.
How profoundly the poetry of nature, which lived on in the ballads of the country, stirred the souls of men is seen in the instance of two poets of strikingly different characteristics. Scott made his first acquaintance with the Reliques at the age of thirteen, and the place where he read them was ever after imprinted upon his memory. The bodily appetite of youth was unnoticed while he mentally devoured the volumes under the huge leaves of the plantain tree. Wordsworth was not behind Scott in admiration of the book. He wrote: "I have already stated how much Germany is indebted to this work, and for our own country, its poetry has been absolutely redeemed by it. I do not think there is an able writer in verse of the present day who would not be proud to acknowledge his obligation to the Reliques. I know that it is so with my friends; and for myself, I am happy in this occasion to make a public avowal of my own." After such men as these have spoken, who can despise our old ballads?
BALLAD LITERATURE SINCE PERCY.
The impetus given to the collection of old ballads by the publication of the Reliques showed itself in the rapid succession of volumes of the same class which issued from the press. Most of these were devoted to the publication of Scottish ballads exclusively. In 1769, David Herd, a native of St. Cyrus, in Kincar
dineshire, who had spent most of his life as clerk in an accountant's office in Edinburgh, published his Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs, Heroic Ballads, &c., a work which was enlarged into two volumes in 1776.* He was a most successful and faithful collector, and not being a poet, he was preserved from the temptation of tampering with his stores. Motherwell mentions twenty ballads which had not appeared in a collected form before the publication of this work. Herd was assisted in his editorial labours by George Paton.
In 1777 appeared the first edition of Evans's Old Ballads, Historical and Narrative, in two volumes. The best edition of this work, edited by the son of the original compiler, was published in 4 vols., 1810.
In 1781 Pinkerton published his Scottish Tragic Ballads, which was followed in 1783 by Select Scottish Ballads. These volumes contained several fabrications by the editor, as already stated on a previous page.
In 1783 Ritson commenced the publication of that long series of volumes which is of such inestimable value to the literary antiquary, with A Select Collection of English Songs. The Bishopric Garland, or Durham Minstrel, followed, in 1784; The Yorkshire Garland, in 1788; the Pieces of Ancient Popular Poetry, in 1791; Ancient Songs and Ballads from the reign of Henry II. to the Revolution, in 1787; The Northumberland Garland, in 1793; Scottish Songs, in 1794; and Robin Hood, in 1795.
In 1787 was commenced The Scots Musical Museum, by James Johnson. Johnson was a music-seller and engraver in Edinburgh, and the work was really
* This work was reprinted twice during the year 1869: 1. at Edinburgh under the editorial care of Mr. Sidney Gilpin; 2. at Glasgow.
projected by William Tytler of Woodhouselee, Dr. Blacklock, and Samuel Clark. The first volume was partly printed, when Burns became acquainted with the object of the work. He then entered into the scheme with enthusiasm, and besides "begging and borrowing" old songs, wrote many new songs himself.
In 1801 was published at Edinburgh, Scottish Poems of the XVIth Century, edited by J. G. Dalzell, which contains a reprint of Ane Compendious Booke of Godly and Spirituall Songs, already referred to above.
In 1802 appeared the first two volumes of the only work which is worthy to stand side by side with the Reliques. Sir Walter Scott's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border is a book that can be read through, and it and the Reliques are the only works of the class in which the materials are welded into a whole, so as no longer to appear a collection of units.
In 1806, Robert Jamieson published at Edinburgh his Popular Ballads and Songs, from Tradition, Manuscripts, and scarce editions. He was working upon this book at the same time that Scott was engaged upon his Minstrelsy, and he obtained much of his material from the same source as Scott, viz. Mrs. Brown, of Falkland; but he, nevertheless, was able to print seventeen ballads that had not before appeared in any published collection. Jamieson has the following remarks on himself in the Introduction to the first volume:
Being obliged to go, at a few weeks' warning, to a distant part of the world, and to seek, on the shores of the frozen Baltic, for (which his own country seems to deny him) the means of employing his talents and industry in some such manner as may enable him to preserve (for a time, at least) his respectability and a partial independence in the world, the following
sheets have been prepared for the press, amidst all the anxiety and bustle of getting ready and packing up for a voyage." (Vol. i. p. xvii.)
John Finlay of Glasgow published in 1808 his Scottish Historical and Romantic Ballads. These volumes only contain twenty-six ballads in all.
John Gilchrist's Collection of Ancient and Modern Scottish Ballads, Tales, and Songs, (Edinburgh 1815) is a carefully edited work, compiled from former books.
In 1822 David Laing published his valuable Select Remains of the Ancient Popular Poetry of Scotland, and in 1824 C. K. Sharpe printed privately a little volume which he entitled A Ballad Book. James Maidment printed also privately A North Countrie Garland in the same year (1824).
In 1825 E. V. Utterson printed "Select Pieces of Early English Poetry, republished principally from early printed copies in Black Letter.
Peter Buchan commenced his ballad career by publishing at Peterhead, in 1825, a little volume entitled "Gleanings of Scotch, English, and Irish scarce old ballads, chiefly tragical and historical, many of them connected with the localities of Aberdeenshire." In 1828 he published his "Ancient Ballads and Songs of the North of Scotland, hitherto unpublished." He affirmed that his materials were faithfully and honestly transcribed, and "they have suffered no change since they fortunately were consigned to me by their foster parents." A portrait is given in this book, which represents the compiler as a wild-looking, unkempt, man. Besides these two books Buchan made a large collection of ballads, songs, and poems, which he took down from the oral recitation of the peasantry. These were pronounced by Scott to be "decidedly and indubitably original." The two folio MS. volumes in which they
were contained came into the possession of the Percy Society, and a selection was made from them by J. H. Dixon, in 1845, who entitled his work Scottish Traditional Versions of Ancient Ballads (Percy Society Publications, vol. xvii.).
In 1826 Allan Cunningham published The Songs of Scotland, to which reference has already been made.
George R. Kinloch published in 1827, "Ancient Scottish Ballads, recovered from tradition, and never before published." He states in his introduction that "the present collection is almost entirely composed of ballads obtained in the North Countrie,' a district hitherto but little explored, though by no means destitute of traditional poetry.'
In this same year appeared William Motherwell's Minstrelsy, Ancient and Modern, a work of the most sterling character, which contains the best account of ballad literature extant.
In 1829 Robert Chambers published his collection of Scottish Ballads, which contains eighty pieces, of which number twelve are modern, or imitations. At this period the editor had not elaborated his theory that Sir Patrick Spence and certain other ballads were modern imitations.
Peter Cunningham published The Songs of England and Scotland, in 1835, and Thomas Wright printed The Political Songs of England from the reign of John to that of Edward II. in 1839, for the Camden Society.
In 1840 was founded, in honour of Bishop Percy, the Percy Society, which continued to print some of the old Garlands and various collections of old Ballads until 1852.
William Chappell published in 1840 his valuable Collection of National English Airs, consisting of Ancient Song, Ballad and Dance Tunes, which