1798 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Hector Macneill

Alexander Campbell, in Introduction to the History of Poetry in Scotland (1798) 310.



In 1789, THE HARP, a legendary tale, in two parts, 4to, was printed at Edinburgh. The author of this performance is Hector McNiel, Esq. This ingenious poet, in 1795, when, by an act of the British legislature, the Scotch distilleries were stopt for a limited time, published a poem of uncommon merit, entitled, Scotland's Skaith, or the history o' Will and Jean, owre true a tale, in the Scotch dialect. This piece was greatly patronized by those who took the alarm at the much dreaded consequences that might arise from the high price of whiskey; of course, edition after edition were sold off, with a rapidity that was never heard of before, north of the Tweed. TEN THOUSAND copies were disposed of, in the space of five months. The benevolent intention of the author, was truely praise-worthy: but other motives were attributed to a subsequent production, which he published in 1796, entitled The Waes o' War, or the Upshot o' the History o' Will and Jean, in four parts. It is unnecessary to add, that the distilleries were permitted to go on, whisky became cheap — and — TEN THOUSAND copies of the Waes o' War have not been sold. Mr. McNiel has written several odes, songs, &c. some of which have been printed, and other remain in M.S. Our poet has also written a pamphlet, entitled, Observations on the treatment of the Negroes in the Island of Jamaica, ten thousand copies of this pamphlet has not been sold — at least, so say the booksellers.