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MR. THOMSON to MR. BURNS.
August, 1793. MY GOOD SIR,
I CONSIDER it one of the most agreeable circumstances attending this publication of mine, that it has procured me so many of
your much valued epistles. Pray make
my acknowledgments to St. Stephen for the tunes : tell him I admit the justness of his complaint on my staircase, conveyed in his laconic postscript to your jeu d'esprit, which I perused more than once, without discovering exactly whether your discussion was music, astronomy, or politics : though a sagacious friend, acquainted with the convivial habits of the poet and the musician, offered me a bet of two to one, you were just drowning care together; that an empty bowl was the only thing that would deeply affect you, and the only matter you could then study how to remedy!
I shall be glad to see you give Robin Adair a
Scottish dress. Peter is furnishing him with an English suit for a change, and you are well matched together. Robin's air is
Robin's air is excellent, though he certainly has an out-of-the-way measure as ever poor Parnassian wight was plagued with. I wish you would invoke the muse for a single elegant stanza to be substituted for the concluding objectionable verses of Down the Burn Davie, so that this most exquisite song may no longer be excluded from good company,
Mr. Allan has made an inimitable drawing from your John Anderson my Jo, which I am to have engraved as a frontispiece to the humorous class of songs ; you will be quite charmed with it I promise you. The old couple are seated by the fireside. Mrs. Anderson in great good humour is clapping John's shoulders, while he smiles and looks at her with such glee, as to shew that he fully recollects the pleasant days and nights when they were first acquent. The drawing would do honour to the pencil of Teniers.
MR. BURNS to Mr. THOMSON.
August, 1793. That crinkum-crankum tune, Robin Adair, has run so in my head, and I succeeded so ill in my last attempt, that I have ventured in this morning's walk, one essay more. You, my
dear Sir, will remember an unfortunate part of our worthy friend C's story, which happened about three years ago. That struck my fancy, and I endeavoured to do the idea justice as follows:
HAD I å cave on some wild, distant shore,
There would I weep my woes,
Falsest of womankind, canst thou declare,
To thy new lover hie,
What peace is there !
By the way, I have met with a musical Highlander in Breadalbane's Fencibles, which are quartered here, who assures me that he well remembers his mother's singing Gaelic songs to both Robin Adair and Gramachree. They certainly have more of the Scotch than Irish taste in them.
This man comes from the vicinity of Inverness: so it could not be any intercourse with Ireland that could bring them ;-except, what I shrewdly suspect to be the case, the wandering minstrels, harpers, and pipers, used to go frequently errant through the wilds both of Scotland and Ireland, and so some favourite airs might be common to both. A case in point–They have lately, in Ireland, published an Irish air, as they say, called Caun du delish. The fact is, in a publication of Corri's, a great while ago,
you will find the same air, called a Highland one, with a Gaelic song set to it. Its name there, I think, is Oran Gaoil, and a fine air it is. Do ask honest Allan, or the Rev. Gaelic Parson, about these matters.
MR. BURNS to MR. THOMSON.
MY DEAR SIR,
LET me in this ae night, I will reconsider. I am glad that you are pleased with my song, Had I a cave, &c., as I liked it myself.
I walked out yesterday evening with a volume of the Museum in my hand, when, turning up Allan Water, “What numbers shall the muse “repeat,” &c., as the words appeared to me rather unworthy of so fine an air, and recollecting that it is on your list, I sat and raved under the shade of an old thorn, till I wrote one to suit the measure. I
but I think it not in my worst style. You must know, that in Ram