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I have just been looking over the Collier's bonny Dochter;' and if the following rhapsody, which I composed the other day, on a charming Ayrshire girl, Miss Lesley Baillie, (afterwards Mrs Cuming of Logie,) as she passed through this place to England, will suit your taste better than the • Collier Lassie,' fall on and welcome.
BONNIE LESLEY. *
O saw ye bonnie Lesley
As she gaed o'er the border.
To spread her conquests farther.
The last word in the third line of this song, gave Mr 'i homson some uneasiness. He wished some other word to take the rank and precedence of Alexander ; but Burns, true to his post, would not yield to the dictation of the critic. He perhaps was right; and, at any rate, can claim for precedent the great marquis of Montrose, who, in one of his best songs, says,
As Alexander I will reign,
And I will reign alone;
A rival on my throne. In speaking of the fair object who inspired these verses, Burns, in a letter to Mrs Dunlop, dated August, 1792, thus describes his emotions :-“ Know then, that the heart-struck awe, the distant humble approach,—the delight we should have in gazing upon and listening to a messenger of heaven, appearing in all the unspotted purity of his celestial home, among the course, polluted, far inferior sons of men, to deliver to them tidings that make their hearts swim in joy, and their imaginations soar in transport, -such, so delighting, and so
pure, were the emotions of my soul on meeting the other day with Miss Lesley
I have hitherto deferred the sublimer, more pathetic airs, until more leisure, as they will take, and deserve, a greater effort. However, they are all put into your hands, as clay into the hands of the potter, to make one vessel to honour and another to dishonour. Farewell, &c.
Baillie, your neighbour. Mr Baillie, with his two daughters, accompanied by Mr H. of G., passing through Dumfries a few days ago, on their way to England, did me the honour of calling on me: on which occasion I took my horse, (though, God knows, I could ill spare the time,) and accompanied them fourteen or fifteen miles, and dined and spent the day with them.
'Twas about nine, I think, when I left them; and riding home I composed the following ballad.”-M.
BURNS TO MR THOMSON.
Ye banks, and braes, and streams around,
The castle o' Montgomery,
Your waters never drumlie!
And there the langest tarry :
O’my sweet Highland Mary.
* In a preceding volume we have given a short account of Highland Mary, and of her last and affecting interview with her passionate lover. The subjoined particulars have been supplied to us, as they have been to Mr Cunningham, by our friend John Kerr, Esq., Writer in Glasgow, who communicated them to the Scots Times Newspaper, in which Journal they were published, 7th Nov. 1829.
“ The parents of Highland Mary lived in Greenock, and she crossed the firth of Clyde to visit some relations in Cowal, previous to her marriage. Her father was a mariner; had two sons, Archibald and Robert; and, besides Mary, a daughter, named Anne, who married James Anderson, a stonemason. All these individuals are now dead : Mary was not long outlived by her father and brothers : her mother died in great poverty in the year 1828.
The representatives of Highland Mary, therefore, now consist of Anderson's children-two sons and two daughters. Mary it appears was not hurried to the grave immediately after her return from Cowal : she lived several weeks with her father, and every week received a letter from her lover. The circumstance of a girl in her humble condition receiving a letter weekly, excited the curiosity of the neighbours : the secret was carefully hunted out, and one of the gossips informed her father and mother that Mary was in the habit of receiving letters from a person named Burns, who was known to be a strange character, and 'a great scoffer at women.' Mary was questioned on the subject, and admitted the correspondence, laughing heartily at the
How sweetly bloom'd the gay green birk,
How rich the hawthorn's blossom !
I clasp'd her to my bosom!
Flew o'er me and my dearie ;
Was my sweet Highland Mary.
description of her lover, whose scoffing, she said, she was ready to trust to. After this, Mary was allowed to receive her letters openly: one of them, it appears, contained the song of “The Highland Lassie, 0;' for her mother got it by heart from the Poet's correspondence, and, in her declining years, soothed her grand-children with strains which recorded the charms of her favourite daughter.
“ It is to be regretted that none of these letters are now in existence. After Mary's death, her father disliked all allusions to her or to her lover; and when Burns wrote a moving letter, requesting some memorial of her he loved so dearly, the stern old man neither answered it, nor allowed any one to speak about it in his presence. His grand children can sing some scraps of the songs which he wrote in praise of their aunt; and these, save the Bible presented to her by the Poet, are all that the relatives of Highland Mary have to bear testimony of the love that was between her and Burns.
“ Before the last farewell,' commemorated in the song of • Highland Mary,' was taken, the lovers plighted mutual faith, and, exchanging Bibles, stood with a running stream between, and, lifting up its waters in their hands, vowed love while the woods of Montgomery grew and its waters ran. The spot where this took place is still pointed out. Mary's Bible was of the commonest kind, and consisted of one volume only—that of Burns was elegantly bound, and consisting of two volumes. In the first volume he had written,~ And ye shall not swear by my name falsely-I am the Lord. Lev. chap. xix., v. 12.'—In the second
- Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oath. St. Matth. chap. V., v. 33;' and on a blank leaf of both volumes, Robert Burns, Mossgiel.' By the death of Mary, this Bible came into the possession of her mother, who, about twelve years ago, gave it to her only surviving daughter, Mrs Anderson. The circumstance of its being in two volumes seemed at one period to threaten its dismemberment; for, upwards of five years since, Mrs Anderson presented a volume to each of her two daughters; but on the approaching marriage of Wi' mony a vow, and lock'd embrace,
Our parting was fu' tender ;
We tore oursels asunder ;
That nipt my flower sae early!
That wraps my Highland Mary!
these two females sometime afterwards, her eldest son, William Anderson, a mason in Renton, prevailed on each of his sisters to dispose of the volumes they had received to him; and thus both volumes, once more united, now remain in the custody of the senior nephew of Highland Mary. The sacred verses we have quoted above remain in the bold, distinct hand-writing of the Poet; but his signature, on the opposite leaves, is almost wholly obliterated. In the first volume, a masonic emblem, drawn by Burns, below his signature, is in complete preservation. Mr William Anderson is also possessed of a pretty large lock of his aunt, Highland Mary's hair, a portion of which he presented to us, as a relic of the Bard's first love.
“We now come to another era in the history of this Bible. Mr Archibald, schoolmaster in Largs, an admirer of Burns, and a votary of the Scottish muse, waited, it is said, on old Widow Campbell, some time before her death, for the purpose of purchasing the volumes. He learnt, however, that she was a pauper on the roll of the Kirk Session of Greenock, who, in consequence, were entitled to take possession of her little property as soon as death removed her from this world; but in the mean time, to secure a right to them, he is said to have bargained with her that he should become the possessor of the volumes when that event. took place, at such a price as might be agreed upon between hin and the Session. In February last, Mr Archibald having heard that the Bible had found its way into the custody of one of the elders, presented a memorial to the Session:
"• Your Memorialist will not presume to dictate to your Reverend Body what you may or ought to do with the Bible. He takes leave, however, to say, that if you do not see fit to retain them as public property, estimable to the people of Greenock, in consequence of the historical circumstances connected with these volumes, having been within their locality, he, the Memorialist, will be proud to be one of those who will gladly come forward to offer you a handsome sum of money for behoof of the poor, for the possession of the Sacred Pledges of Burns' purest affection. He has no doubt that many will compete with him in the gener