Samuel Johnson and the Ossian Fraud

Written by: Thomas Curley


3rd Century Gaelic-language poet Ossian lies at the center of a giant case of 18th Century copyright infringement! Well, there wasn’t exactly a copyright involved, let’s call this a case of “unauthorized ghostwriting.”

James Macpherson, a Scotsman, published several volumes of “translations” of Ossian’s work, but the vast majority were completely made-up; a few pieces took cues from existing legends. Englishman Samuel Johnson attacked Macpherson on this point. Author Thomas Curley describes these events in Samuel Johnson, the Ossian Fraud, and Celtic Revival in Great Britain and Ireland. Here’s a video of him telling the story:

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About the Author: Thomas Curley


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