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I must now beg your permission (unless you have some other design) to have your verses printed. They appear to me extremely correct, and some particular stanzas would give universal pleasure. Let me know, however, if you incline to give them any farther touches.
Were they in some of the public papers, we could more easily disseminate them among our friends, which many of us are anxious to do.
tain an honoured guest. You know likewise | idea I think better. A rich and elegant apartthe eagerness the ladies showed to detain you; ment is an excellent contrast to a scene of but perhaps you do not know the scheme Alpine horrors. which they devised, with their usual fertility in resources. One of the servants was sent to your driver to bribe him to loosen or pull off a shoe from one of his horses, but the ambush failed. Proh mirum! The driver was incorruptible. Your verses have given us much delight, and I think will produce their proper effect. They produced a powerful one immediately; for the morning after I read them, we all set out in procession to the Bruar, where none of the ladies had been these seven or eight years, and again enjoyed them there. The passages we most admired are the descrip. tion of the dying trouts. Of the high fall "twisting strength," is a happy picture of the upper part. The characters of the birds, "mild and mellow," is the thrush itself. The benevolent anxiety for their happiness and safety I highly approve. The two stanzas beginning "Here haply too"-darkly dashing, is most descriptively Ossianic.
Here I cannot deny myself the pleasure of mentioning an incident which happened yesterday at the Bruar. As we passed the door of a most miserable hovel, an old woman curtsied to us with looks of such poverty, and such contentment, that each of us involuntarily gave her some money. She was astonished, and in the confusion of her gratitude, invited us in. Miss C. and I, that we might not hurt her delicacy, entered-but, good God, what wretchedness! It was a cow-house-her own cottage had been burnt last winter. The poor old creature stood perfectly silent-looked at Miss C. then to the money, and burst into tearsMiss C. joined her, and, with a vehemence of sensibility, took out her purse, and emptied it into the old woman's lap. What a charming scene!-A sweet accomplished girl of seventeen in so angelic a situation! Take your pencil and paint her in your most glowing tints.-Hold her up amidst the darkness of this scene of human woe, to the icy dames that flaunt through the gaieties of life, without ever feeling one generous, one great emotion.
Two days after you left us, I went to Taymouth. It is a charming place, but still I think art has been too busy. Let me be your Cicerone for two days at Dunkeld, and you will acknowledge that in the beauties of naked nature we are not surpassed. The loch, the Gothic arcade, and the fall of the hermitage, gave me most delight. But I think the last has not been taken proper advantage of. The hermitage is too much in the common-place style. Every body expects the couch, the book-press, and the hairy gown. The Duke's
* "The humble Petition of Bruar- Water to the Duke of Athole."
When you pay your promised visit to the Braes of Ochtertyre, Mr and Mrs Graham of Balgowan beg to have the pleasure of conducting you to the bower of Bessy Bell and Mary Gray, which is now in their possession. Duchess would give any consideration for another sight of your letter to Dr Moore; we must fall upon some method of procuring it for her. I shall inclose this to our mutual friend Dr B, who may forward it. I shall be extremely happy to hear from you at your first leisure. Inclose your letter in a cover addressed to the Duke of Athole, Dunkeld. God bless you, J
FROM MR A
6th October, 1787. HAVING just arrived from abroad, I had your poems put into my hands: the pleasure I received in reading them, has induced me to solicit your liberty to publish them amongst a number of our countrymen in America, (to which place I shall shortly return), and where they will be a treat of such excellence, that it would be an injury to your merit and their feeling to prevent their appearing in public.
Receive the following hastily-written lines from a well-wisher.
But, wae's me, how dare I fin' faut,
Like you to verse or rhyme,
It's fair to praise ilk canty calian,
If he but tries to raise as Allan,
To you, therefore, in humble rhyme,
And tho' it's but a swatch of thine,
From yours still, A
This very day.
FROM MR J. RAMSAY,
REVEREND W. YOUNG, AT ERSKINE.
DEAR SIR, Ochtertyre, 22d October, 1787. ALLOW me to introduce Mr Burns, whose poems, I dare say, have given you much pleaUpon a personal acquaintance, I doubt not, you will relish the man as much as his works, in which there is a rich vein of intellectual ore. He has heard some of our Highland luinigs or songs played, which delighted him so much that he has made words to one or two of them, which will render these more popular. As he has thought of being in your quarter, I am persuaded you will not think it labour lost to indulge the poet of nature with a sample of those sweet artless melodies, which only want to be married (in Milton's phrase) to congenial words. I wish we could conjure up the ghost of Joseph M'D. to infuse into
our bard a portion of his enthusiasm for those neglected airs, which do not suit the fastidious musicians of the present hour. But if it be true that Corelli (whom I looked on as the Homer of music) is out of date, it is no proof of their taste;-this, however, is going out of my province. You can show Mr Burns the manner of singing these same luinigs; and, if he can humour it in words, I do not despair of seeing one of them sung upon the stage, in the original style, round a napkin.
I am very sorry we are likely to meet so seldom in this neighbourhood. It is one of the greatest drawbacks that attends obscurity, that one has so few opportunities of cultivating acquaintances at a distance. I hope, however, some time or other, to have the pleasure of beating up your quarters at Erskine, and of hauling you away to Paisley, &c.; meanwhile I beg to be remembered to Messrs Boog and Mylne.
If Mr B. goes by, give him a billet on our friend Mr Stuart, who, I presume, does not dread the frown of his diocesan.
I am, Dear Sir,
Your most obedient humble servant,
FROM MR RAMSAY,
TO DR BLACKLOCK.
DEAR SIR, Ochtertyre, 27th October, 1787. I RECEIVED yours by Mr Burns, and give you many thanks for giving me an opportunity of conversing with a man of his calibre. He will, I doubt not, let you know what passed between us on the subject of my hints, to which I have made additions, in a letter sent him t'other day to your care.
You may tell Mr Burns, when you see him, that Colonel Edmonstoune told me t'other day, that his cousin, Colonel George Crawford, was no poet, but a great singer of songs; but that his eldest brother Robert (by a former marriage) had a great turn that way, having written the words of The Bush aboon Traquair, and Tweedside. That the Mary to whom it was addressed was Mary Stewart of the Castlemilk family, afterwards wife of Mr John Relches. The Colonel never saw Robert Crawford, though he was at his burial fiftyfive years ago. He was a pretty young man, and had lived long in France. Lady Ankerville is his niece, and may know more of his poetical vein. An epitaph-monger like me might moralize upon the vanity of life, and the vanity of those sweet effusions -But I have
hardly room to offer my best compliments to | ples and dispositions that the best of parents Mrs Blacklock; and I am,
Your most obedient humble servant,
FROM MR JOHN MURDOCH.
took such uncommon pains to instil into your minds from your earliest infancy! May you live as he did! if you do, you can never be unhappy. I feel myself grown serious all at once, and affected in a manner I cannot describe. I shall only add, that it is one of the greatest pleasures I promise myself before I die, that of seeing the family of a man whose memory I revere more than that of any person that ever I was acquainted with.
I am, my dear Friend,
Gordon Castle, 31st October, 1787.
If you were not sensible of your fault as well as of your loss in leaving this place so suddenly, I should condemn you to starve upon cauld kail for ae towmont at least; and as for Dick Latine,* your travelling companion, without banning him wi' a' the curses contain
MY DEAR SIR, London, 28th October, 1787. As my friend, Mr Brown, is going from this place to your neighbourhood, I embrace the opportunity of telling you that I am yet alive, tolerably well, and always in expectation of being better. By the much-valued letters before me, I see that it was my duty to have given you this intelligence about three years and nine months ago; and have nothing to allege as an excuse but that we poor, busy, bustling bodies in London, are so much taken up with the various pursuits in which we are here engaged, that we seldom think of any person, creature, place, or thing, that is absent. But this is not altogether the case with me; for I often think of you, and Hornie, and Russel, and an unfathomed depth, and lowan brun-ed in your letter, (which he'll no value a bawstane, all in the saine minute, although you and they are (as I suppose) at a considerable distance. I flatter myself, however, with the pleasing thought, that you and I shall meet some time or other either in Scotland or England. If ever you come hither, you will have the satisfaction of seeing your poems relished by the Caledonians in London, full as much as they can be by those of Edinburgh. We frequently repeat some of your verses in our Caledonian society; and you may believe, that I am not a little vain that I have had some share in cultivating such a genius. I was not absolutely certain that you were the author, till a few days ago, when I made a visit to Mrs Hill, Dr M Comb's eldest daughter, who lives in town, and who told me that she was informed of it by a letter from her sister in Edinburgh, with whom you had been in company when in that capital.
Pray let me know if you have any intention of visiting this huge, overgrown metropolis? It would afford matter for a large poem. Here you would have an opportunity of indulging your vein in the study of mankind, perhaps to a greater degree than in any city upon the face of the globe; for the inhabitants of London, as you know, are a collection of all nations, kindreds, and tongues, who make it, as it were, the centre of their commerce.
Present my respectful compliments to Mrs
bee,) I should give him nought but Stra'bogie castocks to chew for sax ouks, or aye until he was as sensible of his error as you seem to be of yours.
Your song I showed without producing the author; and it was judged by the Duchess to be the production of Dr Beattie. I sent a copy of it, by her Grace's desire, to a Mrs M Pherson in Badenoch, who sings Morag and all other Gaelic songs in great perfection. I have recorded it likewise, by Lady Charlotte's desire, in a book belonging to her ladyship, where it is in company with a great many other poems and verses, some of the writers of which are no less eminent for their political than for their poetical abilities. When the Duchess was informed that you were the author she wished you had written the verses in Scotch.
Any letter directed to me here will come to hand safely, and, if sent under the Duke's cover, it will likewise come free; that is, as long as the Duke is in this country.
I am, Sir, yours sincerely.
Burns, to my dear friend Gilbert, and all the YOUR kind return without date, but of post
rest of her amiable children. May the Father of the universe bless you all with those princi
• Mr Nicol
mark October 25th, came to my hand only this day; and, to testify my punctuality to my poetic engagement, I sit down immediately to answer it in kind. Your acknowledgment of my poor but just encomiums on your surprising genius, and your opinion of my rhyming excursions, are both, I think, by far too high. The difference between our two tracts of education and the ways of life is entirely in your favour, and gives you the preference every manner of way. I know a classical education will not create a versifying taste, but it migh. tily improves and assists it; and though, where both these meet, there may sometimes be ground for approbation, yet where taste appears single, as it were, and neither cramped nor supported by acquisition, I will always sustain the justice of its prior claim to applause. A small portion of taste, this way, I have had almost from childhood, especially in the old Scottish dialect; and it is as old a thing as I remember, my fondness for Christ's kirk o' the Green, which I had by heart ere I was twelve years of age, and which, some years ago, I attempted to turn into Latin verse. While I was young, I dabbled a good deal in these things; but on getting the black gown, I gave it pretty much over, till my daughters grew up, who, being all good singers, plagued me for words to some of their favourite tunes, and so extorted these effusions, which have made a public appearance beyond my expectation, and contrary to my intentions, at the same time. that I hope there is nothing to be found in them uncharacteristic, or unbecoming the cloth, which I would always wish to see respected.
As to the assistance you propose from me in the undertaking you are engaged in,* I am sorry I cannot give it so far as I could wish, and you, perhaps, expect. My daughters, who were my only intelligencers, are all foris familiate, and the old woman their mother has lost that taste. There are two from my own pen, which I might give you, if worth the while. One to the old Scotch tune of Dumbarton's Drums.
The other perhaps you have met with, as your noble friend the Duchess has, I am told, heard of it. It was squeezed out of me by a brother parson in her neighbourhood, to accommodate a new Highland reel for the Marquis's birth-day, to the stanza of
"Tune your fiddles, tune them sweetly." &c.
If this last answer your purpose, you may have it from a brother of mine, Mr James Skinner, writer in Edinburgh, who, I believe, can give the music too.
There is another humorous thing, I have heard said to be done by the Catholic priest Geddes, and which hit my taste much:
"A plan of publishing a complete collection of Scotti-h Songs," &c.
"There was a wee wifeikie was coming frae the fair,
Had gotten a little drapikie, which bred her meikle care;
It took upo' the wifie's heart, and she began to spew,
And quo' the wee wifeikie, I wish I binna fou, I wish, &c. &c."
I have heard of another new composition, by a young ploughman of my acquaintance, that I am vastly pleased with, to the tune of The humours of Glen, which I fear won't do, as the music, I am told, is of Irish original. I have mentioned these, such as they are, to show my eadiness to oblige you, and to contribute my mite, if I could, to the patriotic work you have in hand, and which I wish all success to. You have only to notify your mind, and what you want of the above shall be sent you.
Meantime, while you are thus publicly, I may say, employed, do not sheath your own proper and piercing weapon. From what I have seen of yours already, I am inclined to hope for much good. One lesson of virtue and morality, delivered in your amusing style, and from such as you, will operate more than dozens would do from such as me, who shall be told it is our employment, and be never more minded: whereas, from a pen like yours, as being one of the many, what comes will be admired. Admiration will produce regard, and regard will leave an impression, especially when example goes along.
Now binna saying I'm ill bred,
Maun aye be harland in their trade,
Wishing you from my poet-pen, all success, and in my other character, all happiness and heavenly direction,
I remain, with esteem,
K-k Castle, 30th November, 1787. I HOPE you will do me the justice to believe, that it was no defect in gratitude for your punctual performance of your parting promise, that has made me so long in acknowledging it, but merely the difficulty I had in getting the Highland songs you wished to have, accurately noted; they are at last inclosed: but how shall I convey along with them those graces they acquired from the melodious voice of one of the fair spirits of the hill of Kildrummie!
⚫ Mrs Ross of Kilravock, Nairnshire.
These I must leave to your imagination to supply. It has powers sufficient to transport you to her side, to recall her accents, and to make them still vibrate in the ears of memory. To her I am indebted for getting the inclosed notes. They are clothed with "thoughts that breathe, and words that burn." These, however, being in an unknown tongue to you, you must again have recourse to that same fertile imagination of yours to interpret them, and suppose a lover's description of the beauties of an adored mistress-why did I say unknown? The language of love is an universal one, that seems to have escaped the confusion of Babel, and to be understood by all nations.
I rejoice to find that you were pleased with so many things, persons, and places in your northern tour, because it leads me to hope you may be induced to revisit them again. That the old castle of K-k, and its inhabitants. were amongst these, adds to my satisfaction. I am even vain enough to admit your very flattering application of the line of Addison's; at any rate, allow me to believe that "friendship will maintain the ground she has occupied" in both our hearts, in spite of absence, and that, when we do meet, it will be as acquaintance of a score of years standing; and on this footing, consider me as interested in the future course of your fame, so splendidly commenced. Any communications of the progress of your Inuse will be received with great gratitude, and the fire of your genius will have power to warm, even us, frozen sisters of the north.
The friends of K-k and Kunite in cordial regards to you. When you incline to figure either in your idea, suppose some of us reading your poems, and some of us singing your songs, and my little Hugh looking at your picture, and you'll seldom be wrong. We remember Mr N. with as much good will as we do any body, who hurried Mr Burns from us.
Farewell, sir, I can only contribute the widow's mite to the esteem and admiration excited by your merits and genius, but this I give as she did, with all my heart-being sincerely yours,
No. XLIV. DALRYMPLE, ESQ. OF ORANGEFIELD.
I SUPPOSE the devil is so elated with his success with you, that he is determined by a coup de main to complete his purposes on you all at once, in making you a poet. I broke open the letter you sent me; hummed over the rhymes; and, as I saw they were extempore, said to myself they were very well: but when I saw at the bottom a name that I shall ever value
with grateful respect, "I gapit wide but naething spak." I was nearly as much struck as the friends of Job, of affliction-bearing me mory, when they sat down with him seven days and seven nights, and spake not a word.
I am naturally of a superstitious cast, and as soon as my wonder-scared imagination regained its consciousness and resumed its functions, I cast about what this mania of yours might portend. My foreboding ideas had the wide stretch of possibility; and several events, great in their magnitude, and important in their consequences, occurred to my fancy. The down.. fal of the conclave, or the crushing of the cork rumps; a ducal coronet to Lord George Gand the protestant interest; or Saint Peter's keys to..
You want to know how I come on. I am just in statu quo, or, not to insult a gentleman with my Latin, "in auld use and wont." The noble Earl of Glencairn took me by the hand to-day, and interested himself in my concerns, with a goodness like that benevolent being, whose image he so richly bears. He is a stronger proof of the immortality of the soul, than any that philosophy ever produced. A mind like his can never die. Let the worship. ful squire, H. L. or the reverend Mass J. M. go into their primitive nothing. At best they are but ill-digested lumps of chaos, only one of them strongly tinged with bituminous particles and sulphureous effluvia. But my noble patron, eternal as the heroic swell of magnanimity, and the generous throb of benevolence, shall look on with princely eye at "the war of elements, the wreck of matter, and the crash of worlds."
TO MRS DUNLOP.
Edinburgh, 21st January, 1788. AFTER Six weeks' confinement, I am beginning to walk across the room. They have been six horrible weeks; anguish and low spirits made me unfit to read, write, or think.
I have a hundred times wished that one could resign life as an officer resigns a commission for I would not take in any poor, ignorant wretch, by selling out. Lately I was a sixpenny private; and, God knows, a miserable soldier enough; now I march to the campaign, a starving cadet: a little more conspicuously wretched.
I am ashamed of all this; for though I do want bravery for the warfare of life, I could wish, like some other soldiers, to have as much fortitude or cunning as to dissemble or conceal my cowardice.
As soon as I can bear the journey, which