THE stories marked XVII.a, XVII.b, XVII.c, XVII.d, in the first volume were intended for the second, but it has been found more convenient to place them in Vol. I. Those which were to have been given as specimens of tales probably derived from the “Arabian Nights,” have been left out to make room for others.
In August and September 1860 I again visited the Western Highlands, carrying with me nearly the whole of these two volumes in print. I have repeatedly made the men who told the stories to my collectors repeat them to me, while I compared their words with the book. In two instances I have made men repeat stories which I had myself written down in English from their Gaelic, and I have found no important variation in any instance. I find that the story is generally much longer as told, but that it is lengthened by dialogue, which has often little to do with the incidents, though sometimes worth preservation. I have now seen most of the men whose names are mentioned, and I have myself heard versions of nearly every story in the book repeated, either by those from whom they were got, or by people who live far from them, – for instance, John Mackinnon, stableman at Broadford, in Skye, told me in September a version of No. 18, which contains nearly all the incidents which I had before got from Islay, and several which were new to me.
Including those which are printed, I have more than two hundred stories written down in Gaelic. I have about an equal number written in English from Gaelic, and I have heard a great many more, while Mr. Hector MacLean, Mr. Dewar, Mr. Carmichael, Mr. Torrie, Mr. Fraser, and others, are still writing down for me, in the Long Island, in Argyllshire, and elsewhere.
If I have time and opportunity, I hope hereafter to arrange these materials; to place the incidents in each story according to the majority of versions, and so strive to get the old form of the legends; for I am convinced that much is to be learned from this despised old rubbish, though it must be sifted before it can be turned to proper use.
In conclusion, I would tender my thanks once more to all those who have given me their assistance. In particular, I wish to express my sense of obligation to the Rev. Thomas Maclauchlan, Free Church Gaelic minister in Edinburgh, who has contributed many stories, written down by himself from the dictation of one of his parishioners, and who had himself published a volume of Celtic gleanings.
I am also much indebted to the Rev. Mr. Beatson, minister of Barra, who aided Mr. MacLean in his search for legends, and who showed much kindness to myself; and I have received assistance from other clergymen of various persuasions, including the Rev. Thomas Pattison in Islay. I am happy to have it in my power to mention such names; for the strange idea possesses the people in many districts, that to repeat the most harmless sgeulachd is a grievous sin, and that fables, and poems, and novels of every sort ought to be put down and exterminated, because they are fictions. That spirit, if strong enough and put in action, would sweep away much of the literature of ancient and modern times; and it seems strange to have to remonstrate against it now-a-days. Still, strange as it may seem, the spirit exists, and I am grateful for the support of enlightened liberal men. Surely the best treatment for “Superstition,” if this be superstition, is to drag it into the light, the very worst to dignify it by persecution, and strive to hide it.