Arthur; or, by HOLE, Reverend Richard (1746-1803).

An Ossian for the West Country
HOLE, Reverend Richard (1746-1803).

Arthur; or, The Northern Enchantment. A Poetical Romance, In Seven Books. Dublin, Zachariah Jackson for Grueber and McAllister, 1790.

First Dublin Edition. 8vo (183 x 110 mm), pp. xvi, 200, with the half-title, first and last leaves a little browned, front and rear endpapers water-stained, in contemporary calf, small at the foot of the front cover, head-cap chipped, some staining to boards, especially foot of front board, red morocco label lettered in gilt.

The first Dublin edition of Richard Hole’s most important work, first published in London in 1789. A romance epic written in seven books in imitation of Ariosto, Homer, Virgil and Spenser, the work is prefaced by a lengthy discussion of the merits of Ariosto’s heroes above those of Homer, of the genius of The Arabian Nights and of the authenticity and antiquity of Ossian. Disclaiming unintentional plagiarism, Hole points out that Ossian has been a chief influence in his writing and speaks of the ‘free use’ he has made of some passages in Ossian. Certainly some of these are highlighted in the poem itself by the use of Hole’s extensive and very learned footnotes. Informed by Hole’s love of local history, the poem, which opens in the Western Isles of Scotland with a mountain incantation by the three witches, is full of references to England’s west country, the Albion of Stonehenge to Land’s End in Cornwall.
‘Ossian is the presiding influence in the first Arthuriad to recreate the manners and belief systems of fifth-century Britain. In an original story Arthur’s Britons, allied with the Irish, repel a horde of invading Saxons and Scandinavians. Supernatural forces figure largely as Merlin, whose daughter is betrothed to Arthur, is pitted against Urda and the Wierd Sisters, who assist Hengist. The historical and geographical setting suggests that the Exeter poet was attempting to do for west Britain what Macpherson’s Ossian had done for Scotland’ (ODNB).

ESTC t126093.

Keywords: English Literature
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