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scribed the heart, I am not vain enough to hope | The " Mountain-Daisy," cherished by the ray for distinguished poetic fame.
FROM DR MOORE.
A poet drew from heaven, shall never die.
'Mid penury's bare soil and bitter gale;
On nature with impassion'd look he gazed;
TO DR MOORE.
SIR, Clifford Street, January 23, 1787. I HAVE just received your letter, by which I find I have reason to complain of my friend Mrs Dunlop for transmitting to you extracts from my letters to her, by much too freely and too carelessly written for your perusal. I must forgive her, however, in consideration of ber good intention, as you will forgive me, I hope, for the freedom I use with certain expressions, in consideration of my admiration of the poems in general. If I may judge of the author's disposition from his works, with REVEREND SIR, Edinburgh, 15th February, 1787. all the other good qualities of a poet, he has PARDON my seeming neglect in delaying so not the irritable temper ascribed to that race long to acknowledge the honour you have done of men by one of their own number, whom me, in your kind notice of me, January 23d. you have the happiness to resemble in ease Not many months ago, I knew no other emand curious felicity of expression. Indeed the ployment than following the plough, nor could poetical beauties, however original and bril- boast any thing higher than a distant acliant, and lavishly scattered, are not all I ad-quaintance with a country clergyman. Mere mire in your works; the love of your native greatness never embarrasses me: I have nocountry, that feeling sensibility to all the ob- thing to ask from the great, and I do not fear jects of humanity, and the independent spirit their judgment; but genius, polished by learnwhich breathes through the whole, give me a ing, and at its proper point of elevation in the most favourable impression of the poet, and eye of the world, this of late I frequently meet have made me often regret that I did not see with, and tremble at its approach. I scorn the poems, the certain effect of which would the affectation of seeming modesty to cover have been my seeing the author last summer, self-conceit. That I have some merit I do when I was longer in Scotland than I have not deny; but I see, with frequent wringings been for many years. of heart, that the novelty of my character, and the honest national prejudice of my countrymen, have borne me to a height altogether untenable to my abilities.
I rejoice very sincerely at the encouragement you receive at Edinburgh, and I think you peculiarly fortunate in the patronage of Dr Blair, who, I am informed, interests himself very much for you. I beg to be remembered to him: nobody can have a warmer regard for that gentleman than I have, which, independent of the worth of his character, would be kept alive by the memory of our common friend, the late Mr George B
Before I received your letter, I sent in closed in a letter to --, a sonnet by Miss Williams, a young poetical lady, which she wrote on reading your Mountain-Daisy; perhaps it may not displease you.*
I have been trying to add to the number of your subscribers, but I find many of my acquaintance are already among them. I have only to add, that with every sentiment of esteem, and most cordial good wishes,
Your obedient humble servant,
* The sonnet is as follows:
WHILE SOOn the garden's flaunting flowers decay,
For the honour Miss W. has done me, please, Sir, return her in my name, my most grateful thanks. I have more than once thought of paying her in kind, but have hitherto quitted the idea in hopeless despondency. I had never before heard of her; but the other day I got her poems, which, for several reasons, some belonging to the head, and others the offspring of the heart, give me a great deal of pleasure. I have little pretensions to critic lore: there are, I think, two characteristic features in her poetry-the unfettered wild flight of native genius, and the querulous, sombre tenderness of "time-settled sorrow." I only know what pleases me, often without being able to tell why.
FROM DR MOORE.
DEAR SIR, Clifford Street, 28th February, 1737. YOUR letter of the 15th gave me a great deal
of pleasure. It is not surprising that you im-ed to have something like a material object prove in correctness and taste, considering where you have been for some time past. And I dare swear there is no danger of your admitting any polish which might weaken the vigour of your native powers.
I am glad to perceive that you disdain the nauseous affectation of decrying your own merit as a poet-an affectation which is displayed with most ostentation by those who have the greatest share of self-conceit, and which only adds undeceiving falsehood to disgusting vanity. For you to deny the merit of your poems would be arraigning the fixed opinion of the public.
As the new edition of my View of Society is not yet ready, I have sent you the former edition, which, I beg you will accept as a small mark of my esteem. It is sent by sea, to the care of Mr Creech; and, along with these four volumes for yourself, I have also sent my Medical Sketches, in one volume, for my friend Mrs Dunlop of Dunlop : this you will be so obliging as to transinit, or if you chance to pass soon by Dunlop, to give to
I am happy to hear that your subscription is so ample, and shall rejoice at every piece of good fortune that befalls you: for you are a very great favourite in my family; and this is a higher compliment than perhaps you are aware of. It includes almost all the professions, and of course is a proof that your writings are adapted to various tastes and situations. My youngest son who is at Winchester school, writes to me that he is translating some stanzas of your Hallowe'en into Latin verse, for the benefit of his comrades. This union of taste partly proceeds, no doubt, from the cement of Scottish partiality, with which they are all somewhat tinctured. Even your translator, who left Scotland too early in life for recollection, is not without it.
TO THE EARL OF GLENCAIRN.
MY LORD, Edinburgh, 1787. I WANTED to purchase a profile of your lord. ship, which I was told was to be got in town; but I am truly sorry to see that a blundering painter has spoiled a "human face divine." The enclosed stanzas I intended to have written below a picture or profile of your lordship, could I have been so happy as to procure one with any thing of a likeness.
As I will soon return to my shades, I want
for my gratitude; I wanted to have it in my power to say to a friend, There is my noble patron, my generous benefactor. Allow me, my lord, to publish these verses. I conjure your lordship by the honest throe of gratitude, by the generous wish of benevolence, by all the powers and feelings which compose the magnanimous mind, do not deny me this petition. I owe to your lordship; and what has not in some other instances always been the case with me, the weight of the obligation is a pleasing load. I trust, I have a heart as in. dependent as your lordship's, than which I can say nothing more and I would not be beholden to favours that would crucify my feelings. Your dignified character in life, and manner of supporting that character, are flattering to my pride; and I would be jealous of the purity of my grateful attachment, where I was under the patronage of one of the much favoured sons of fortune.
Almost every poet has celebrated his patrons, particularly when they were names dear to fame, and illustrious in their country; allow me, then, my lord, if you think the verses have intrinsic merit, to tell the world how much I have the honour to be
Your lordship's highly indebted,
TO THE EARL OF BUCHAN.
THE honour your lordship has done me, by your notice and advice in yours of the 1st instant, I shall ever gratefully remember:
"Praise from thy lips 'tis mine with joy to boast, They best can give it who deserve it most. '
Your lordship touches the darling chord of my heart, when you advise me to fire my muse at Scottish story and Scottish scenes. I wish for nothing more than to make a leisurely pilgrimage through my native country; to sit and muse on those once hard-contended fields, where Caledonia, rejoicing, saw her bloody lion borne through broken ranks to victory and fame; and, catching the inspiration, to pour the deathless names in song. But, my lord, in the midst of these enthusiastic reveries, a long-visaged, dry, moral-looking phantom strides across my imagination, and pronounces these emphatic words, "I, Wisdom, dwell with prudence."
* It does not appear that the earl granted this request, nor have the verses alluded to been found among the MSS.
This, my lord, is unanswerable. I must return to my humble station, and woo my rustic muse in my wonted way at the ploughtail. Still, my lord, while the drops of life warm my heart, gratitude to that dear-loved country in which I boast my birth, and gratitude to those her distinguished sons, who have honoured me so much with their patronage and approbation, shall, while stealing through my humble shades, ever distend my bosom, and at times draw forth the swelling tear.
Ext. Property in favour of MR ROBERT BURNS, to erect and keep up a Headstone in memory of Poet FERGUSSON, 1787.
Session house, within the Kirk of Canongate, the twenty-second day of February, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-seven years.
Sederunt of the managers of the Kirk and Kirkyard Funds of Canongate.
WHICH day, the treasurer to the said funds produced a letter from Mr Robert Burns, of date the sixth current, which was read, and appointed to be engrossed in their sederuntbook, and of which letter the tenor follows: "To the Honourable Bailies of Canongate, Edinburgh. Gentlemen, I am sorry to be told that the remains of Robert Fergusson, the so justly celebrated poet, a man whose talents, for ages to come, will do honour to our Caledonian name, lie in your church-yard, among the ignoble dead, unnoticed and unknown.
"Some memorial to direct the steps of the lovers of Scotish song, when they wish to shed a tear over the "narrow house" of the bard who is no more, is surely a tribute due to Fergusson's memory; a tribute I wish to have the honour of paying.
"I petition you, then, Gentlemen, to permit me to lay a simple stone over his revered ashes, to remain an unalienable property to his deathless fame. I have the honour to be, Gentlemen, your very humble servant, (sic subscribitur), "ROBERT BURNS."
Thereafter the said managers, in consideration of the laudable and disinterested motion of Mr Burns, and the propriety of his request, did, and hereby do, unanimously grant power and liberty to the said Robert Burns to erect a headstone at the grave of the said Robert Fergusson, and to keep up and preserve the same to his memory in all time coming. tracted forth of the records of the managers, by WILLIAM SPROTT, Clerk.
MY DEAR SIR,
You may think, and too justly, that I am a selfish ungrateful fellow, having received so many repeated instances of kindness from you, and yet never putting pen to paper to saythank you; but if you knew what a devil of a life my conscience has led me on that account, your good heart would think yourself too much avenged. By the bye, there is nothing in the whole frame of man which seems to me so unaccountable as that thing called conscience. Had the troublesome yelping cur powers efficient to prevent a mischief, he might be of use: but at the beginning of the business, bis feeble efforts are to the workings of passion as the infant frosts of an autumnal morning to the unclouded fervour of the rising sun and no sooner are the tumultuous doings of the wicked deed over, than, amidst the bitter native consequences of folly, in the very vortex of our horrors, up starts conscience, and harrows us with the feelings of the d
I have enclosed you, by way of expiation, some verse and prose, that, if they merit a place in your truly entertaining miscellany, you are welcome to. The prose extract is literally as Mr Sprott sent it me.
The Inscription on the Stone is as follows:
HERE LIES ROBERT FERGUSSON,
Born September 5th, 1751-Dred, 16th October, 1774.
No sculptured marble here, nor pompous lay "No storied urn nor animated bust;" This simple stone directs pale Scotia's way
To pour her sorrows o'er her poet's dust.
On the other side of the Stone is as follows:
"By special grant of the Managers to Robert Burns, who erected this stone, this burial-place is to remain for ever sacred to the memory of Robert Fergusson."
EXTRACT OF A LETTER FROM
8th March, 1787. I AM truly happy to know you have found a friend in; his patronage of you does him great honour. He is truly a good man; by far the best I ever knew, or, perhaps, ever shall know, in this world. But I must not speak all I think of him, lest I should be thought partial.
So you have obtained liberty from the magistrates to erect a stone over Fergusson's grave? I do not doubt it; such things have been, as Shakspeare says, "in the olden-time:"
"The poet's fate, is here in emblem shown,
It is, I believe, upon poor Butler's tomb that this is written. But how many brothers of Parnassus, as well as poor Butler and poor Fergusson, have asked for bread, and been
served with the same sauce!
TO MRS DUNLOP.
MADAM, Edinburgh, March 22, 1787. I READ your letter with watery eyes. A little, very little while ago, I had scarce a friend but the stubborn pride of my own bosom; now I am distinguished, patronized, befriended by you. Your friendly advices, I will not give them the cold name of criticisms, I receive with reverence. I have made some small alterations in what I before had printed. I have the advice of some very judicious friends among the literati here, but with them I sometimes find it necessary to claim the privilege of thinking for myself. The noble Earl of Glencairn, to whom I owe more than to any man, does me the honour of giving me his strictures: his hints with respect to impropriety or indelicacy, I follow implicitly.
You kindly interest yourself in my future views and prospects; there I can give you no light; it is all
"Dark as was chaos, ere the infant sun
The magistrates gave you liberty, did they? O generous magistrates! *, celebrated over the three kingdoms for his public spirit, gives a poor poet liberty to raise a tomb to a poor poet's memory!—most generous! *** once upon a time gave that same poet the mighty sum of eighteen pence for a copy of his works. But then it must be considered that the poet was at this time absolutely starying, and besought his aid with all the earnestness of hunger; and, over and above, he received a worth, at least one-third of the value, in exchange, but which, I believe, the poet afterwards very ungratefully expunged. Next week I hope to have the pleasure of seeing you in Edinburgh; and as my stay will be for eight or ten days, I wish you or would take a snug, well-aired bed-room for me, where I may have the pleasure of seeing you over a morning cup of tea. But by all accounts, it will be a matter of some difficulty to see you at all, unless your company is bespoke a week before-hand. There is a great rumour here concerning your great intimacy with the Duchess of , and other ladies of distinction. I am really told that "cards to invite fly by thousands each night;" and, if you had one, I suppose there would also be bribes to your old secretary." It seems you But these are all Utopian thoughts: I have are resolved to make hay while the sun shines, dallied long enough with life: 'tis time to be and avoid, if possible, the fate of poor Fer- in earnest. I have a fond, an aged mother to gusson,. ... Quærenda pe- care for; and some other bosom ties perhaps cunia primum est, virtus post nummos, is a good equally tender. Where the individual only maxim to thrive by: you seemed to despise it suffers by the consequences of his own thoughtwhile in this country; but probably some phi-lessness, indolence, or folly, he may be excuslosopher in Edinburgh has taught you better
Pray, are you yet engraving as well as printing? Are you yet seized
"With itch of picture in the front,
With bays of wicked rhyme upon't!"
But I must give up this trifling, and attend to matters that more concern myself: so, as the Aberdeen wit says, adieu dryly, we sal drink phan we meet.*
*The above extract is from a letter of one of the ablest of our poet's correspondents, which contains some interesting anecdotes of Fergusson, that we should have been happy to have inserted, if they could have been authenticated. The writer is mistaken in suppos
The appellation of a Scottish bard is by far my highest pride; to continue to deserve it is my most exalted ambition. Scottish scenes and Scottish story are the themes I could wish to sing. I have no dearer aim than to have it in my power, unplagued with the routine of business, for which heaven knows I am unfit enough, to make leisurely pilgrimages through Caledonia; to sit on the fields of her battles; to wander on the romantic banks of her rivers; and to muse by the stately towers or venerable ruins, once the honoured abodes of her heroes.
able: nay, shining abilities, and some of the nobler virtues, may half-sanctify a heedless character: but where God and nature have intrusted the welfare of others to his care; where the trust is sacred, and the ties are dear, that man must be far gone in selfishness, or strangely lost to reflection, whom these connexions will not rouse to exertion.
I guess that I shall clear between two and three hundred pounds by my authorship; with that sum I intend, so far as I may be said to
ing the magistrates of Edinburgh had any share in the transaction respecting the monument erected for Fergusson by our bard; this, it is evident, passed between Burns and the Kirk Session of the Canongate. Neither at Edinburgh, nor anywhere else, do magistrates usually trouble themselves to inquire how the house of a poor poet is furnished, or how his grave is adorned.
have any intention, to return to my old ac-phors of gratitude. I thank you, sir, for the quaintance, the plough, and, if I can meet with honour you have done me; and to my latest a lease by which I can live, to commence far- hour will warmly remember it. To be highly mer. I do not intend to give up poetry: being pleased with your book, is what I have in bred to labour secures me independence; and common with the world; but to regard these the muses are my chief, sometimes have been volumes as a mark of the author's friendly my only, enjoyment. If my practice second esteem, is a still more supreme gratification. my resolution, I shall have principally at heart I leave Edinburgh in the course of ten days the serious business of life: but while follow-or a fortnight; and after a few pilgrimages ing my plough, or building up my shocks, I over some of the classic ground of Caledonia, shall cast a leisure glance to that dear, that Cowden-Knowes, Banks of Yarrow, Tweed, &c. only feature of my character, which gave me I shall return to my rural shades, in all likeli the notice of my country and the patronage of hood never more to quit them. I have formed a Wallace. many intimacies and friendships here, but I am afraid they are all of too tender a construction to bear carriage a hundred and fifty miles. To the rich, the great, the fashionable, the polite, I have no equivalent to offer; and I am afraid my meteor appearance will by no means entitle me to a settled correspondence with any of you, who are the permanent lights of genius and literature.
Thus, honoured madam, I have given you the bard, his situation, and his views, native as they are in his own bosom.
"Rude am I in speech,
And therefore little can I grace my cause
My most respectful compliments to Miss W. If once this tangent flight of mine were over, and I were returned to my wonted leisurely motion in my old circle, I may probably endeavour to return her poetic compliment in kind.
EXTRACT OF A LETTER
TO MRS DUNLOP.
Edinburgh, 30th April, 1787. so I shall not trouble you with any fine speeches YOUR criticisms, madam, I understand and hunted figures. I shall just lay my hand very well, and could have wished to have on my heart, and say, I hope I shall ever have pleased you better. You are right in your the truest, the warmest, sense of your good-guess that I am not very amenable to counsel.
I come abroad in print for certain on Wednesday. Your orders I shall punctually attend to; only, by the way, I must tell you that I was paid before for Dr Moore's and Miss W.'s copies, through the medium of Commissioner Cochrane in this place; but that we can settle when I have the honour of waiting on you.
Dr Smith was just gone to London the morning before I received your letter to him.
TO DR MOORE.
Edinburgh, 23d April, 1787. I RECEIVED the books, and sent the one you mentioned to Mrs Dunlop. I am ill-skilled in beating the coverts of imagination for meta
Poets, much my superiors, have so flattered those who possessed the adventitious qualities of wealth and power, that I am determined to flatter no created being either in prose or verse.
I set as little by, lords, clergy, critics, &c. as all these respective gentry do by my bardship. I know what I may expect from the world by and by-illiberal abuse, and perhaps contemptuous neglect.
I am happy, madam, that some of my own favourite pieces are distinguished by your particular approbation. For my Dream, which has unfortunately incurred your loyal displeasure, I hope in four weeks, or less, to have the honour of appearing at Dunlop in its defence, in person.