* In this the author is in the same ignorance as his namesake Reginald, though having at least as many opportunities of information.
** In popular tradition, the name of Thomas the Rhymer was always averred to be Learmonth, though he neither uses it himself, nor is described by his son other than Le Rymour. The Learmonths of Dairsie, in Fife, claimed descent from the prophet.
It is a great pity that this horse-dealer, having specimens of the fairy coin, of a quality more permanent than usual, had not favoured us with an account of an impress so valuable to medalists. It is not the less edifying, as we are deprived of the more picturesque parts of the story, to learn that Thomas's payment was as faithful as his prophecies. The beautiful lady who bore the purse must have been undoubtedly the Fairy Queen, whose affection, though, like that of his own heroine Yseult, we cannot term it altogether laudable, seems yet to have borne a faithful and firm character.
I have dwelt at some length on the story of Thomas the Rhymer as the oldest tradition of the kind which has reached us in detail, and as pretending to show the fate of the first Scottish poet whose existence, and its date, are established both by history and records ; and who, if we consider him as writing in the Anglo-Norman language, was certainly one among the earliest of its versifiers. But the legend is still more curious from its being the first and most distinguished instance of a man alleged to have obtained supernatural knowledge by means of the fairies.
*Discourse of Devils and Spirits appended to the Discovery of Witchcraft, by Reginald Scot, Esq. book ii. chap. 3, sec. 19.
Whence or how this singular community derived their more common popular name we may say has not as yet been very clearly established. It is the opinion of the learned that the Persian word Peri, expressing an unearthly being of a species very similar will afford the best derivation, if we suppose it to have reached Europe through the medium of the Arabians, in whose alphabet the letter P does not exist, so that they pronounce the word Feri, instead of Peri. Still there is something uncertain in this etymology. We hesitate to ascribe either to the Persians or the Arabians the distinguishing name of an ideal commonwealth, the notion of which they certainly did not contribute to us. Some are, therefore, tempted to suppose that the elves may have obtained their most frequent name from their being, par excellence, a fair or comely people, a quality which they affected on all occasions ; while the superstition of the Scots was likely enough to give them a name which might propitiate the vanity for which they deemed the race remarkable ; just as, in other instances, they called the fays " men of peace," " good neighbours," and by other titles of the like import. It must be owned at the same time that the words fay and fairy may have been mere adoptions of the French fee and feerie, though these terms, on the other side of the Channel, have reference to a class of spirits corresponding, not to our fairies, but with the far different Fata of the Italians. But this is a question which we willingly leave for the decision of better etymologists than ourselves.