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poney, drawn up by the side of a thorough-bred | for months and years, hunter, to start for the plate. I own I am , not only to the necessities, disappointed in the Eneid. Faultless correct- the conveniencies, but the caprices of the imness may please, and does highly please the portant few. We talked of the insignificant lettered critic; but to that awful character I creatures; nay, notwithstanding their general have not the most distant pretensions. I do stupidity and rascality, did some of the poor not know whether I do not hazard my preten- devils the honour to commend them. But sions to be a critic of any kind, when I say light be the turf upon his breast, who taught that I think Virgil, in many instances, a servile "Reverence thyself." We looked down on copier of Homer. If I had the Odyssey by the unpolished wretches, their impertinent me, I could parallel many passages where Vir-wives and clouterly brats, as the lordly bull gil has evidently copied, but by no means improved Homer. Nor can I think there is any thing of this owing to the translators; for, from every thing I have seen of Dryden, I think him, in genius and fluency of language, Pope's master. I have not perused Tasso enough to form an opinion: in some future letter, you shall have my ideas of him; though I am conscious my criticisms must be very inaccurate and imperfect, as there I have ever felt and lamented my want of learning most.
does on the little dirty ant-hill, whose puny inhabitants he crushes in the carelessness of his ramble, or tosses in air in the wantonness of his pride.
TO THE SAME.
THIS is the second day, my honoured friend, that I have been on my farm. A solitary inmate of an old, smoky spence; far from every object I love, or by whom I am loved; nor any acquaintance older than yesterday, except Jenny Geddes the old mare I ride on; while uncouth cares, and novel plans, hourly insult my awkward ignorance and bashful inexperience. There is a foggy atmosphere native to my soul in the hour of care, consequently the dreary objects seem larger than the life. Extreme sensibility, irritated and prejudiced on the gloomy side by a series of misfortunes and disappointments, at that period of my existence when the soul is laying in her cargo of ideas for the voyage of life, is, I believe, the principal cause of this unhappy frame of mind.
"The valiant, in himself, what can he suffer? Or what need he regard his single woes?" &c.
There are few circumstances relating to the unequal distribution of the good things of this life, that give me more vexation (I mean in what I see around me) than the importance the opulent bestow on their trifling family affairs, compared with the very same things on the contracted scale of a cottage. Last afternoon I had the honour to spend an hour or two at a good woman's fireside, where the planks that composed the floor were decorated with a splendid carpet, and the gay table sparkled with silver and china. 'Tis now about term. day, and there has been a revolution among those creatures, who, though in appearance partakers, and equally noble partakers of the same nature with madame; are from time to time, their nerves, their sinews, their health, strength, wisdom, experience, genius, time, nay, a good part of their very thoughts, soldi. e. from Whitsunday to Martinmas, &c.
Your surmise, madam, is just; I am indeed a husband.
I found a once much-loved and still muchloved female, literally and truly cast out to the mercy of the naked elements, but as I enabled her to purchase a shelter; and there is no
*Servants in Scotland are hired from term to term,
sporting with a fellow-creature's happiness or | bundant modesty, you would ao well to give it misery.
The most placid good-nature and sweetness of disposition: a warm heart, gratefully devoted with all its powers to love me; vigorous health and sprightly cheerfulness, set off to the best advantage, by a more than common handsome figure; these, I think, in a woman, may make a good wife, though she should never have read a page, but the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, nor have danced in a brighter assembly than a penny pay-wedding.
TO MR P. HILL.
MY DEAR HILL,
I SHALL say nothing at all to your mad present -you have so long and often been of important service to me, and I suppose you mean to go on conferring obligations until I shall not be able to lift up my face before you. In the meantime, as Sir Roger de Coverley, because it happened to be a cold day in which he made his will, ordered his servants great coats for mourning, so, because I have been this week plagued with an indigestion, I have sent you by the carrier a fine old ewe-milk cheese.
Indigestion is the devil: nay, 'tis the devil and all. It besets a man in every one of his senses. I lose my appetite at the sight of successful knavery; and sicken to loathing at the noise and nonsense of self-important folly. When the hollow-hearted wretch takes me by the hand, the feeling spoils my dinner; the proud man's wine so offends my palate, that it chokes me in the gullet; and the pulvilis'd, feathered, pert coxcomb, is so disgustful in my nostril that my stomach turns.
If ever you have any of these disagreeable sensations, let me prescribe for you patience and a bit of my cheese. I know that you are no niggard of your good things among your friends, and some of them are in much need of a slice. There in my eye is our friend Smellie, . a man positively of the first abilities and greatest strength of mind, as well as one of the best hearts and keenest wits that I have ever met with when you see him, as, alas! he too is smarting at the pinch of distressful circumstances, aggravated by the sneer of contumelious greatness-a bit of my cheese alone will not cure him, but if you add a tankard of brown stout, and superadd a magnum of right Oporto, you will see his sorrows vanish like the morning mist before the summer sun.
Ch, the earliest friend, except my only brother, that I have on earth, and one of the worthiest fellows that ever any man called by the name of friend, if a luncheon of my cheese would help to rid him of some of his supera
David with his Courant comes, too, across my recollection, and I beg you will help him largely from the said ewe-milk cheese, to enable him to digest those bedaubing paragraphs with which he is eternally larding the lean characters of certain great men in a certain great town. I grant you the periods are very well turned: so, a fresh egg is a very good thing; but when thrown at a man in a pillory it does not at all improve his figure, not to mention the irreparable loss of the egg.
My facetious friend, D- --r, I would wish also to be a partaker; not to digest his spleen, for that he laughs off, but to digest his last night's wine at the last field-day of the Crochallan corps.†
Among our common friends I must not forget one of the dearest of them, Cunningham. The brutality, insolence, and selfishness of a world unworthy of having such a fellow as he is in it, I know sticks in his stomach, and if you can help him to any thing that will make him a little easier on that score, it will be very obliging.
As to honest J Se, he is such a contented happy man that I know not what can annoy him, except perhaps he may not have got the better of a parcel of modest anecdotes which a certain poet gave him one night at supper, the last time the said poet was in
Though I have mentioned so many men of law, I shall have nothing to do with them professedly-the Faculty are beyond my prescription. As to their clients, that is another thing; God knows they have much to digest!
The clergy I pass by; their profundity of erudition, and their liberality of sentiment; their total want of pride, and their detestation of hypocrisy, are so proverbially notorious as to place them far, far above either my praise
I was going to mention a man of worth, whom I have the honour to call friend, the Laird of Craigdarroch; but I have spoken to the landlord of the King's arms inn here, to have, at the next county-meeting, a large ewe. milk cheese on the table, for the benefit of the Dumfries-shire whigs, to enable them to digest the Duke of Queensberry's late political conduct.
I have just this moment an opportunity of a private hand to Edinburgh, as perhaps you would not digest double postage.
* Printer of the Edinburgh Evening Courant. † A club of choice spirits.
TO MRS DUNLOP.
Mauchline, 2d August, 1788.
YOUR kind letter welcomed me yesternight, to Ayrshire. I am indeed seriously angry with you at the quantum of your luckpenny; but vexed and hurt as I was, I could not help laughing very heartily at the noble lord's apology for the missed napkin.
I would write you from Nithsdale, and give you my direction there, but I have scarce an opportunity of calling at a post-office once in a fortnight. I am six miles from Dumfries, am scarcely ever in it myself, and, as yet, have little acquaintance in the neighbourhood. Be sides, I am now very busy on my farm, building a dwelling-house; as at present I am almost an evangelical man in Nithsdale, for I have scarce "where to lay my head." There are some passages in your last that brought tears in my eyes. "The heart knoweth its own sorrows, and a stranger intermeddleth not therewith." The repository of these "sorrows of the heart," is a kind of sanctum sanctorum; and 'tis only a chosen friend, and that too at particular, sacred times, who dares enter into them.
"Heaven oft tears the bosom-chords
That nature finest strung."
You will excuse this quotation for the sake of the author. Instead of entering on this subject farther, I shall transcribe you a few lines I wrote in a hermitage belonging to a gentleman in my Nithsdale neighbourhood. They are almost the only favours the muse has conferred on me in that country.
THOU whom chance may hither lead,
Sprung from night, in darkness lost;
Happiness is but a name,
Peace, the tend'rest flow'r of spring;
Keep the name of man in mind,
Him whose wond'rous work thou art;
Stranger go! heaven be thy guide! Quod the Beadesman of Nithside.
Since I am in the way of transcribing, the following were the production of yesterday as I jogged through the wild hills of New Cumnock. I intended inserting them, or something like them, in an epistle I am going to write to the gentleman on whose friendship my excise hopes depend, Mr Graham of Fintry; one of the worthiest and most accomplished gentlemen, not only of this country, but I will dare to say it, of this age. The following are just the first crude thoughts "unhousel'd, unanointed, unanell'd."
Mauchline, 10th August, 1788.
MY MUCH HONOURED FRIEND,
YOURS of the 24th June is before me. I found it, as well as another valued friend-my wife, waiting to welcome me to Ayrshire: I met both with the sincerest pleasure.
When I write you, madam, I do not sit down to answer every paragraph of yours, by echoing every sentiment, like the faithful commons of Great Britain in parliament assembled, answering a speech from the best of kings! I express myself in the fulness of my
heart, and may perhaps be guilty of neglecting some of your kind inquiries; but not from your very odd reason that I do not read your letters. All your epistles for several months have cost me nothing, except a swelling throb of gratitude, or a deep-felt sentiment of veneration.
Mrs Burns, madam, is the identical woman
When she first found herself "as women wish to be who love their lords;" as I loved her nearly to distraction, we took steps for a private marriage. Her parents got the hint; and not only forbade me her company and their house, but on my rumoured West Indian voyage, got a warrant to put me in jail, till should find security in my about-to-be paternal relation. You know my lucky reverse of fortune. On my eclatant return to Mauchline, I was made very welcome to visit my girl. The usual consequences began to betray her; and as I was at that time laid up a cripple in Edinburgh, she was turned, literally turned out of doors, and I wrote to a friend to shelter her, till my return, when our marriage was declared. Her happiness or misery was in my hands, and who could trifle with such a deposit?
I can easily fancy a more agreeable companion for my journey of life, but, upon my honour, I have never seen the individual instance.
Circumstanced as I am, I could never have got a female partner for life, who could have entered into my favourite studies, relished my favourite authors, &c. without probably entailing on me, at the same time, expensive living, fantastic caprice, perhaps apish affectation, with all the other blessed boarding-school acquirements, which (pardonnez moi, madame) are sometimes to be found among females of the upper ranks, but almost universally pervade the misses of the would-be-gentry.
My increasing cares in this, as yet, strange country-gloomy conjectures in the dark vista of futurity-consciousness of my own inability for the struggle of the world-my broadened mark to misfortune in a wife and children :1 could indulge these reflections, till my humour should ferment into the most acrid chagrin, that would corrode the very thread of life.
To counterwork these baneful feelings, I have sat down to write to you; as I declare upon my soul I always find that the most sovereign balm for my wounded spirit.
I was yesterday at Mr's to dinner, for the first time. My reception was quite to my mind; from the lady of the house quite flattering. She sometimes hits on a couplet or two, impromptu. She repeated one or two to the admiration of all present. My suffrage as a professional man was expected: I for once went agonizing over the belly of my conscience. Pardon me, ye, my adored household gods, Independence of Spirit, and Integrity of Soul! In the course of conversation, Johnson's Musical Museum, a collection of Scottish songs with the music, was talked of. We got a song on the harpsichord, beginning,
"Raving winds around her blowing."
The air was much admired: the lady of the house asked me whose were the words
best verses :" she took not the smallest notice of them! The old Scottish proverb says, well, "king's caff is better than ither folks' corn." I was going to make a New Testament quotation about "casting pearls;" but that would be too virulent, for the lady is ac tually a woman of sense and taste.
I like your way in your church-yard lucu-" Mine, madam-they are indeed my very brations. Thoughts that are the spontaneous result of accidental situations, either respecting health, place, or company, have often a strength, and always an originality, that would in vain be looked for in fancied circumstances and studied paragraphs. For me, I have often thought of keeping a letter, in progression, by me, to send you when the sheet was written out. Now I talk of sheets, I must tell you, my reason for writing to you on paper of this kind, is my pruriency of writing to you at
After all that has been said on the other
I had an old grand-uncle, with whom my mother lived a while in her girlish years; the good old man, for such he was, was long blind ere he died, during which time, his highest enjoyment was to sit down and cry, while my mother would sing the simple old song of The Life and Age of Man.
It is this way of thinking-it is those melancholy truths, that make religion so precious to the poor, miserable children of men-If it is a mere phantom, existing only in the heated Imagination of enthusiasm,
"What truth on earth so precious as the lie!"
My idle reasonings sometimes make me little sceptical, but the necessities of my heart always give the cold philosophizings the lie. Who looks for the heart weaned from earth; the soul affianced to her God; the correspondence fixed with heaven; the pious supplication and devout thanksgiving, constant as the vicissitudes of even and morn; who thinks to meet with these in the court, the palace, in the glare of public life? No: to find them in their precious importance and divine efficacy, we must search among the obscure recesses of disappointment, affliction, poverty, and distress. I am sure, dear madam, you are now more than pleased with the length of my letters. return to Ayrshire, middle of next week: and it quickens my pace to think that there will be a letter from you waiting me there. I must be here again very soon for my harvest.
O R. GRAHAM, OF FINTRY, ESQ.
SIR, WHEN I had the honour of being introduced to you at Athole-house, I did not think so soon of asking a favour of you. When Lear, in Shakspeare, asks old Kent, why he wished to be in his service, he answers," Because you have that in your face which I could like to
call master." For some such reason, sir, do I now solicit your patronage. You know, I dare say, of an application I lately made to your Board to be admitted an officer of excise. I have, according to form, been examined by a supervisor, and to-day I gave in his certificate, with a request for an order for instructions. In this affair, if I succeed, I am afraid I shall but too much need a patronizing friend. Propriety of conduct as a man, and fidelity and attention as an officer, I dare engage for; but with any thing like business, except manual labour, I am totally unacquainted.
I had intended to have closed my late ap pearance on the stage of life, in the character of a country farmer; but after discharging some filial and fraternal claims, I find I could only fight for existence in that miserable manner, which I have lived to see throw a venerable parent into the jaws of a jail; whence death, the poor man's last and often best friend, rescued him.
I know, sir, that to need your goodness is to have a claim on it; may I therefore beg your patronage to forward me in this affair, till I be appointed to a division, where, by the help of rigid economy, I will try to support that independence so dear to my soul, but which has been too often so distant from my situation.
WHEN nature her great master-piece designed,
Then first she calls the useful many forth;
Law, physics, politics, and deep divines: