Yet, even when it was no longer possible to argue that Macpherson had done no more than translate ancient Gaelic poetry, it remained a matter of Scottish pride that Ossian had conquered Europe. Napoleon was one of its chief fans, reading it in Cesarottiâ€™s Italian translation, which is still in print. In any case, it was no great matter when belief in Ossian had to be abandoned, because a new and greater myth-maker had appeared in the person of Sir Walter Scott.
He played a major part in popularising the Sartorial Myth, which has made tartan and the kilt the symbols of Scottish national identity. Much of this section of the book is familiar: that the kilt as we know it (the short kilt) was actually invented by an English entrepreneur, by the name of Rawlinson, as a more suitable garb for his workers, and that the so-called clan tartans are a 19th-century invention, owing much to a pair of frauds, the Sobieski Stuarts, who claimed to be the grandsons of Bonnie Prince Charlie, and on whom Trevor-Roper spends too much time. Scottâ€™s part in the popularising of tartan was more important, and his intention clear. It was a means of reconciling Highland and Lowland, and of affirming a distinct Scottish identity within Britain â€” one which did not challenge the Union. For more than two centuries, it worked very well.