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The following chapters are, with some diffidence, offered as a slender contribution to an interesting branch of science. They originated about three years ago in a series of papers furnished to the Kendal Mercury, and designed, however imperfectly, to make a commencement of a critical examination of the dialect. Of these papers a limited number of copies were printed, to supply persons desirous of preserving the essay. As a sequel to the first series, there followed a second on the superstitions ; but, instead of reprinting this as the former, it was thought better to re-write and reprint the whole.
In the production of his first essay, the author conceived he was called upon to bring into alto-relief the parts of his subject hitherto neglected or slighted, namely, Celtic and Norse. But since then, local archæology has been looking up, the ethnography of the district, with Norse in the ascendant, has been several times before the public in the form of lectures; and the Norse element especially has been treated in an elaborate work, the “ Northmen in Cumberland and Westmorland," by Mr. R. Ferguson. Thus, though, in the author's opinion, much of the matter that made its appearance might be regarded as self-explosive, yet when Norse became the Diggings for Cumbrian etymologists, it ceased to need any special fostering from him; and this must account for what
may appear to “ Norsemen" an undue prominence given to Celtic. And to Mr. Ferguson's work, any person desirous of seeing Norse well advocated-Norse against “all England"—is referred.
It has been the author's endeavour, in the revisal of his papers, without diminishing the information they contained, to give all the additional matter that could be collected. He has never scrupled, under the pressure of evidence, to alter an opinion formerly expressed, though only once has he thought it necessary to make any remark thereon. But it must be added, the alterations are extremely few and unimportant, and in every case involving a theory his convictions have been strengthened many fold.
The author takes advantage of the present occasion to appeal to persons possessed of local information, to place it on record, ere it be lost. He would urge upon them not to be hindered by the vulgar notion that traits of manners and fragments of superstition are subjects of no value, an opinion that could only proceed from a sadly distorted view of history. Let us save what we can, if only a remnant.
In addition to what is acknowledged in the work, thanks are due for some private assistance. The author regrets not having remembered the information on the graves of Westmorland, contained in Mr. Simpson's lecture (so often quoted), which he would gladly have used in the proper place, had not circumstances driven it from his mind. Of books not specially cited, some valuable assistance has been derived from Pott's Etymologische Forschungen and Diefenbach's Vergleichendes Wörterbuch der gothischen Sprache. With these exceptions he has given up his authority, so far as it could be useful to a critic or a reader to verify what is stated, or to pursue the subject farther.
For all the imperfections and shortcomings of the little work, the author can only express his regret.
He has no wish to say anything to disarm criticism. On the contrary, having no favourite theory, and having attempted to do equal.justice to all the elements of his subject, he cannot regard as hostile any remarks corrective of the views he has advanced, proceeding from any one more learned in the whole subject, or better stored with local information on any individual point. And now, having said enough, or more than enough, he is compelled to lay down his book, as the Hebrew woman placed her child among the flags by the river side, and stood afar off to watch what might happen to it.
6. Holy Wells.