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pleased, is that any reason why I should deny myself that pleasure? Many of our strathspeys ancient and modern, give me most exquisite enjoyment, where you and other judges would probably be shewing disgust. For instance, I am just now making verses for Rothemurche's Rant, an air which puts me in raptures; and in fact, unless I be pleased with the tune, I never can make verses to it. Here I have Clarke on my side, who is a judge that I will pit against any of you. Rothemurche, he says, is an air both original and beautiful; and on his recommendation I have taken the first part of the tune for a chorus, and the fourth or last part for the song. I am but two stanzas deep in the work, and possibly you may think, and justly, that the poetry is as little worth your attention as the music.*
I have begun anew, Let me in this ae night. Do you think that we ought to retain the old chorus ? I think we must retain both the old chorus and the first stanza of the old song. I do not altogether like the third line of the first stanza, but cannot alter it to please myself. I am just three stanzas deep in it. Would you
* In the original follow here two stanzas of a song, beginning “ Lassie wi' the lint-white locks ;" which will be found at full length afterwards, p. 192.
have the denouëment to be successful or otherwise ? should she 66 let him in” or not?
· Did you not once propose The Sow's Tail to Geordie, as an air for your work? I am quite delighted with it; but I acknowledge that is no mark of its real excellence. I once set about verses for it, which I meant to be in the alterpate way of a lover and his mistress chanting together. I have not the pleasure of knowing Mrs. Thomson's christian name, and yours I am afraid is rather burlesque for sentiment, else I had meant to have made you the hero and heroine of the little piece,
How do you like the following epigram, which I wrote the other day on a lovely young girl's recovery from a fever? Doctor Maxwell was the physician who seemingly saved her from the grave; and to him I address the following.
To Dr. Maxwell, on Miss Jessy Staig's Recovery.
MAXWELL, if merit here you crave,
That merit I deny :
An angel could not die.
God grant you patience with this stupid epistle!
No. No. LVIII.
MR. THOMSON to MR. BURNS.
I PERCEIVE the sprightly muse is now attendant upon her favourite poet, whose woodnotes wild are become as enchanting as ever. She says she lo'es me best of a', is one of the pleasantest table songs I have seen, and henceforth shall be mine when the song is going round. I'll give Cunningham a copy; he can more powerfully proclaim its merit. I am far from undervaluing your taste for the strathspey music; on the contrary, I think it highly animating and agreeable, and that some of the strathspeys, when graced with such verses as yours, will make very pleasing songs, in the same way that rough Christians are tempered and softened by lovely woman, without whom, you know, they had been brutes.
I am clear for having the Sow's Tail, particularly as your proposed verses to it are so extremely promising. Geordie, as you observe, is a name only fit for burlesque composition. Mrs. Thomson's name (Katharine) is not at all poetical. Retain Jeanie therefore, and make the other Jamie, or any other that sounds agreeably.
Your Ca' the ewes is a precious little mor
Indeed I am perfectly astonished and charmed with the endless variety of your fancy. Here let me ask you, whether you never seriously turned your thoughts upon dramatic writ. ing? That is a field worthy of your genius, in which it might shine forth in all its splendour. One or two successful pieces upon the London stage would make your fortune. The rage at present is for musical dramas: few or none of those which have appeared since the Duenna, possess much poetical merit: there is little in the conduct of the fable, or in the dialogue, to interest the audience. They are chiefly vehicles for music and pageantry. I think you might produce a comic opera in three acts, which would live by the poetry, at the same time that it would be proper to take every assistance from her tuneful sister. Part of che songs of course would be to our favourite Scottish airs; the rest might be left to the London composer-Storace for Drurylane, or Shield for Covent-garden : both of them very able and popular musicians. I believe that interest and maneuvring are often necessary to have a drama brought on : so it may be with the
namby pamby tribe of flowery scribblers; but were you to address Mr. Sheridan himself by letter, and send him a dramatic piece, I am persuaded he would, for the honour of genius, give it a fair and candid trial. Excuse me for obtruding these hints upon your consideration. *
MR. THOMSON to MR. BURNS.
Edinburgh, 14th Oct. 1794. The last eight days have been devoted to the re-examination of the Scottish collections. I have read, and sung, and fiddled, and consi. dered, till I am half blind, and wholly stupid. The few airs I have added, are enclosed.
Peter Pindar has at length sent me all the
* Our bard had before received the same advice, and certainly took it so far into consideration, as to have cast about for a subject.