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first warns us not to lose our sense of proportion by exaggerating the 'faculty of imitativeness' which • renders the child peculiarly liable to copy whatever he witnesses upon the screen.' In his wide experience he has encountered only four or five authentic instances in which crime seemed to be directly inspired by the cinema. (As we have said, necessarily it is almost impossible to establish a direct connexion by positive evidence.) Prof. Burt is also sceptical about another charge frequently brought against the cinema-that it provides a standing temptation to steal money for admittance. (This is surely no charge at all; for on the same principle the sweet-shop, notoriously a still greater temptation, would stand utterly condemned.) But the main source of harm is expressed by Prof. Burt as follows:
'It is in the general and more elusive influences that the real danger of the cinema lies. Throughout the usual picturepalace programme, the moral atmosphere presented is an atmosphere of thoughtless frivolity and fun, relieved only by some sudden storm of passion with occasional splashes of sentiment. Deceit, flirtation, and jealousy, unscrupulous intrigue and reckless assault, a round of unceasing excitements and the extremes of wild emotionalism, are depicted as the normal characteristics of the everyday conduct of adults. The child, with no background of experience by which to correct the picture, frames a notion, altogether distorted, of social life and manners. It is true that in most of the plays, the scoundrel is infallibly unmasked and eventually requited. But the hollow and factitious character of this pseudopoetic justice seldom deludes the most youthful spectator. Simply to attach a negative to an impressive or alluring thought is not to arrest its tendency to action, except among persons supremely rational and self-controlled. Say to an enterprising but guileless child, "Thou shalt not gamble"; and the mental picture that becomes effective is the new idea of "gambling" conveyed as a temptation of fascinating danger, while the well-worn "not" remains the merest abstract particle which cannot even be visualised. Far better is it that notions and images of vice should never be placed before his eyes at all.
'But, quite apart from the definite presentation of wrongdoing, the social dramas and the pictures of high life, with a force as subtle as it is cumulative, stir the curiosity, heat the imagination, and work upon the fantasies, of boys and girls of every age. They provide models and material for all
engrossing day-dreams; and create a yearning for a life of gaiety-a craze for fun, frolic, and adventure, for personal admiration and for extravagant self-display-to a degree that is usually unwholesome and almost invariably unwise. It is, most of all, in its treatment of the social relations between the opposite sexes that the effects of the film are most injurious. . . . In the moving picture, the intimate details of courtship, coquetry, and married life are given in ocular demonstration with far more vividness, particularity, and repetition than could possibly be provided in the printed book or on the stage. All who have worked with juvenile delinquents must have realised how stimulating such exhibitions are to the sexual instincts and interests, not only among adolescents, but also, prematurely and precociously, among quite young boys and girls. Nor are the ultimate effects confined to habits, thoughts, and vices of a specifically sexual character. Here, once more, direct and immediate imitation is the rarer outcome. More frequently there is, first of all, a furtive perplexity and mental conflict; then, an intolerance of the strain; and, finally, a burst of violence or adventure, which on the surface may have nothing whatever to do with sex, but is calculated to relieve the deeper tension, and to drown the hidden promptings, by some wave of desperation, more turbulent perhaps, but less ruinous and degrading.'
I have quoted this passage at length because it conveys in better words than I could command facts which, though they have a particular importance to the immature mind, are also true, I believe, of many adults. Imaginative relaxation is a vital necessity to all healthy human beings, and nobody would wish to rob the masses of one of their chief pleasures in life. Man cannot live by bread alone; but neither can he live for panem et circenses alone. The cinema has now become an integral, indispensable part of the lives of millions of English men, women, and children; let any intelligent observer judge for himself whether it has added anything valuable to our civilisation, or whether it might not have been better that it should have been submitted when it was first invented, along with the many other triumphs of mechanical ingenuity which now permeate every relationship of our lives, to a Board of Censors in Erewhon.
CARLETON KEMP ALLEN.
Art. 8.-THE TRUTH ABOUT MACPHERSON'S OSSIAN.' Two things, or perhaps three, stand out in the mind of every person who has paid any attention to the celebrated controversy as to the authenticity of James Macpherson's 'Ossian.' The first is the shrewd and inflexible antagonism of Dr Johnson to his claim as a translator, an antagonism that really accounted for Johnson's journey to the Hebrides, a feat in travel-at the time-as well as a feat in literature. The second is the undying legend of Napoleon's carrying a copy of Macpherson's 'Ossian' with him in the wars—an excellent story, whether true or false. That a finely bound copy of the work was found in the Emperor's library after the fall is undoubted, and the curious in historical parallels may interest themselves in finding out how far Napoleon was inspired by the Gaelic myths in dealing with European affairs. The third point of interest is the remarkable Critical Dissertation' of Dr Hugh Blair, on which some of us were fed in younger days. This must stand as one of the most eloquent and convincing pronouncements on the wrong side of a case that can be found in English literary history. Blair was so proud of it, as of all the prominent part that he played in this Macpherson episode, that he declared to Burns that it was he who brought the poems of Ossian to the notice of the world. But after all that was said and done in the last century-and-a-half in this matter of James Macpherson and 'Ossian,' the most widespread uncertainty still exists, even among well-educated persons, as to how this singular business really stands.
To get a right understanding of the situation we must begin by remembering that in the middle of the 18th century, when James Macpherson began with his discoveries, literary ethics were not so strict as they are now, and that a writer might adapt, or transform, in a very generous way the work of an earlier writer and have his productions accepted as perfectly honest and meritorious. In certain ways that may be done even now, if it be managed with consummate care, the classical example in our time being, of course, the 'Omar' of Edward Fitzgerald. No doubt, Dr Johnson, with his sure and strong reason, and his knowledge of
human nature, had this circumstance in his mind when, in regard to both Chatterton and Macpherson, he opposed the claim of their works to authenticity. In the case of Chatterton the exposure was comparatively easy, and complete. But with regard to Macpherson the case was very different, particularly for the reason that Macpherson could always take refuge in the fastnesses of the Gaelic speech and Gaelic literary history, where even Johnson could not follow him, and so the remarkable 'Ossian' controversy was never really settled to a demonstration.
This leads to the further consideration that, living in the atmosphere of this literary practice, such as it was, James Macpherson may possibly have begun originally with a certain innocency; for having undoubtedly made investigations, and spent time and labour over the work, he may-to an extent-have convinced himself that he was really giving to the world something that was worth while, in a way that conveyed to readers the spirit, at least, of the plaintive and charming myths which lie at the back of the story of the Gaelic people. That, however, is about all that is to be said for James Macpherson, except, indeed, that the sentimental form in which he presented his translations in itself was a stroke of genius. With its emotional force the work immediately captured, and retained, the imagination of the public in a way that would have been a pure impossibility if put forward in a spirit of calm and cold scholarship, making appeal merely to the reason or the knowledge of the reader. Those who then read Macpherson's 'Ossian' carried away as vivid an idea of the valorous deeds of the Gael in pre-historic times as could be gathered from a poem, or a novel, and the conception of actual events would be just as well founded in the one case as in the other. Readers in Macpherson's time were, however, not aware of that, and, speaking generally, readers in the present day are not certain of it yet.
It is common literary knowledge that fragments of ancient Gaelic tales to some extent did exist in the Scottish Highlands; but to a far greater extent in Ireland -whence, we must remember, the Scottish Gaels, as well as their Gaelic speech, came to Scotland. Within the last three-quarters of a century a great mass of
THE TRUTH ABOUT MACPHERSON'S 'OSSIAN' 383
Now, the strange thing in this Ossianic business, very little known, or remembered, is the fact that James Macpherson undoubtedly made a translation from Gaelic originals of the poems. Everybody knows that he was repeatedly challenged to produce the Gaelic originals which he declared he worked from; but it is generally forgotten that the challenge was accepted, and that Gaelic originals were produced. As a matter of fact, an advertisement appeared, in 1762, intimating that the original Gaelic manuscript of part of 'Temora' was lying in the hands of Macpherson's publishers in London for the inspection of all who were interested, and that if a sufficient number of subscribers came forward the Gaelic originals would be printed. The manuscript remained there available, actually, for a whole year. We know now, on the authority of one of the publishers, that nobody, friend or foe, took the trouble to call. The manuscript was ultimately withdrawn, and the projected publication of the Gaelic manuscript came, at that time, to nothing.
The crucial question then is-what were these Gaelic