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These differences have had considerable effect on the literature, and in the absence of a recognised system of orthography, have aided in confining it within narrow limits. There is no doubt the less intelligible is a provincial production, the less it will obtain general currency. For instance, a Devonshire song will be read by a person indifferent to all the dialects, when a Cumbrian production will be thrown aside.
But if these reasons can be given why the literature has not had a very brilliant existence in the past, they show it to be the better worthy of future preservation. The writer always endeavours to give faithfully the dialect as he has heard and spoken it in his own neighbourhood, and the birthplace of the author is as it were the key to the peculiarities of his orthography. Cumberland and Westmorland have been fortunate beyond any other district in England, in the quality and extent of their provincial productions. This pre-eminence is certainly to be attributed in part to the poetic genius of the writers. And it is a curious fact that the vernacular publications of Cumberland are all poetical, and in imitation of the successful Burns of Scotland, whilst the principal literary productions of Westmorland are in prose, and have been written in rivalry of the Lancashire Tim Bobbin. This observation is not made in detraction of our Cumbrian literature; it cannot diminish its value from a linguistic point of view, and will not surprise those who have made any study of the course of literature in general.
The oldest publication in the dialect of which we have any mention, is entitled, “ A bran new Wark by William de Worfat, containing a true Calendar of his thoughts concerning good nebberhood.” It appeared in Kendal, 1785. It is a good specimen of the Westmorland dialect, says Halliwell, but is of great rarity. Besides this, the principal productions of Westmorland are the dialogues of Mrs. Wheeler, which belongs to the Lancashire border, and the Borrowdale Letter, by Isaac Ritson, a native of Eamont Bridge (Penrith). The Cumberland authors almost exclusively belong to the northern part of the county, and, as remarked before, are all poets. The names of the Rev. J. Relph, Ewan Clark, John Stegg, Mark Lonsdale, Robert Anderson, Miss Blamire, Miss Gilpin, and John Rayson, furnish a respectable list of authors, and make out what may be styled the Augustan era of Cumbrian literature. Very remarkable is the dearth of poetic talent in Westmorland, as far as the vernacular is concerned, for there appears to be nothing of any celebrity, with the exception of the well-known lines on Eighty-eight, the author of which is, and unfortunately must romain, anonymous. Other minor productions there may have been, but they are now forgotten; and of these one only has come to my knowledge, namely, a “ Pastoral Dialogue," by Charles Graham, printed at Penrith, 1778. Graham was,
I understand, a native of Eamont Bridge, and therefore another Westmorland poet.
During Anderson's life two editions of his Cumberland Ballads were printed, but after his death a much larger collection than either, including one hundred and thirty new pieces from manuscript, appeared from under the hands of William Robinson, a Wigton publisher. In this volume are printed a limited number of John Rayson's ballads, and two or three by other poets of Cumberland.
The “ Westmorland and Cumberland Dialects,” published by Russell Smith, London, is the principal collection that has yet appeared in connexion with these counties, and now affords the chief means of study accessible to any curious linguist. It includes the best published compositions of all the authors above-named, with biographical notices; and to it must be referred any person desirous of following up this part of the subject further. The glossary appended to this volume is unusually full, all previous glossaries, and some manuscript collections of words, having been laid under contribution. But it is in the rudest state, and the few etymological attempts made or adopted by the editor, are failures.
Independent of claims as illustrative of the provincial idiom, many of the songs and ballads of the Cumbrian authors are, on their own merits, deserving of praise. The descriptions of local manners, customs, and modes of thought-what best represent the life of the people-preserved in these productions, for vivid
truthfulness cannot be surpassed. That they have received so little patronage is to be regretted, but I must repeat, one principal cause of the neglect is the strangeness of the dialect even to the natives of the county. Avowed imitators and rivals of Burns, it is generally acknowledged that of the Cumbrian poets Robert Anderson most nearly attained his aim, and was most successful in bringing out to advantage the local dialect and the manners of the people.* All, however, with one exception-John Raysonhave now shuffled off this mortal coil; even the dialect is passing away, and the next generation, should it ever find time to leave the dull tracks of prose, will have to woo the muse in another language.
• It is only right to say that Mr. Rayson, the last of the Cumbrian bards, labours under the disadvantage of never having published separately any but earlier pieces. The latest and best effusions of his muse have as yet only appeared in a fugitive form; and certainly Cumberland would do itself justice rather than its poet, in bringing out for him a last and complete edition containing his matured and corrected productions.
SUPERSTITIONS AND CUSTOMS.
“Ein dreifaches Räthsel ist der Menschheit zur Auflösung vorgelegt worden:
Mit heisser, unermüdlicher Arbeit haben die Völker sich an diese Aufgabe gemacht, Vieles haben sie erforscht und mit dem Wachsthume ihrer Erkenntniss hat sich ihre Bewunderung vermehrt-aber gelös't haben sie jene Räthsel nicht."
A three-fold enigma has been proposed to mankind for solution:
With ardent, untiring toil have the nations betaken themselves to this problem; much have they investigated, and with the growth of their knowledge their astonishment has increased—but they have not solved the enigma.