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of those so harmonious, as to add to the beauty: for what poet would not prefer gloaming to twilight.
I imagine, that by carefully keeping, and occasionally polishing and correcting those verses, which the muse dictates, you will, within a year or two, have another volume as large as the first, ready for the press; and this, without diverting you from every proper atten. tion to the study and practice of husbandry, in which I understand you are very learned, and which I fancy you will choose to adhere to as a wife, while poetry amuses you from time to time as a mistress. The former, like a prudent wife, must not show ill humour, although you retain a sneaking kindness to this agreeable gipsey, and pay her occasional visits, which in no manner alienates your heart from your lawful spouse, but tends on the contrary to promote her interest.
I desired Mr Cadell to write to Mr Creech to send you a copy of Zeluco. This performance has had great success here, but I shall be glad to have your opinion of it, because I know you are above saying what you do not think.
I beg you will offer my best wishes to my very good friend, Mrs Hamilton, who I understand is your neighbour. If she is as happy as I wish her, she is happy enough. Make my compliments also to Mrs Burns, and believe me to be, with sincere esteem,
Dear Sir, yours, &c.
FROM MISS J. L
Loudon-House, 12th July, 1789. THOUGH I have not the happiness of being personally acquainted with you, yet amongst the number of those who have read and admired your publications, may I be permitted to trouble you with this. You must know, sir, I am somewhat in love with the Muses, though I cannot boast of any favours they have deigned to confer upon me as yet; my situation in life has been very much against me as to that. have spent some years in and about Ecclefechan (where my parents reside), in the station of a servant, and am now come to Loudon- House, at present possessed by Mrs H-: she is daughter to Mrs Dunlop, of Dunlop, whom I understand you are particularly acquainted with. As I had the pleasure of perusing your poems, I felt a partiality for the author, which I should not have experienced had you been in more dignified station. I wrote a few verses of address to you, which I did not then think of ever presenting: but as fortune seems to have favoured me in this, by bringing me into a family by whom you are well known and much esteemed, and where perhaps I may have an opportunity of seeing you; I shall, in
hopes of your future friendship, take the liberty to transcribe them.
FAIR fa' the honest rus ic swain,
Old Ramsay's shade revived again
Loved Thalia, that delightfu' muse, Seem'd lang shut up as a recluse ; To all she did her aid refuse,
Since Allan's day:
'Till Burns arose, then did she chuse To grace his lay.
To hear thy sang all ranks desire,
Thy breast does warm;
Cæsar and Luath weel can speak, 'Tis pity e'er their gabs should steek, But into human nature keek,
And knots unravel: To hear their lectures once a-week, Nine miles I'd travel.
Thy dedication to G. H.
An unco bonnie hamespun speech,
Than servile bards, who fawn and fleech
When slighted love becomes your theme,
But glanced by the most frigid dame,
The daisy too ye sing wi' skill;
Did Addison or Pope but hear,
Sure Milton's eloquence were faint,
The task I'll drop with heart sincere, To heaven present my humble pray'r That all the blessings mortals share, May be by turns,
Dispensed by an indulgent care To Robert Burns.
Sir, I hope you will pardon my boldness in this; my hand trembles while I write to you, conscious of my unworthiness of what I would most earnestly solicit, viz. your favour and friendship; yet hoping you will show yourself possessed of as much generosity and goodnature as will prevent your exposing what may justly be found liable to censure in this measure, I shall take the liberty to subscribe my self,
Your most obedient humble servant,
P. S.-If you would condescend to honour me with a few lines from your hand, I would take it as a particular favour, and direct to me at Loudon-House, near Galslock.
MY DEAR SIR, London, 5th August, 1789. EXCUSE me when I say, that the uncommon abilities which you possess, must render your correspondence very acceptable to any one. I can assure you, I am particularly proud of your partiality, and shall endeavour, by every method in my power, to merit a continuance of your politeness.
When you can spare a few moments I should be proud of a letter from you, directed for me, Gerrard Street, Soho.
I cannot express my happiness sufficiently at the instance of your attachment to my late inestimable friend, Bob Fergusson, who was particularly intimate with myself and relations.* While I recollect with pleasure his extraordinary talents, and many amiable qualities, it affords me the greatest consolation, that I am honoured with the correspondence of his successor in national simplicity and genius. That Mr Burns has refined in the art of poetry, must readily be admitted; but notwithstanding many favourable representations, I am yet to learn that he inherits his convivial powers.
There was such a richness of conversation, such a plenitude of fancy and attraction in him, that when I call the happy period of our intercourse to my memory, I feel myself in a state of delirium. I was then younger than
The erection of a monument to him.
him by eight or ten years; but his manner was so felicitous, that he enraptured every person around him, and infused into the hearts of the young and old, the spirit and animation which operated on his own mind.
I am, dear Sir, yours, &c.
IN ANSWER TO THE FOREGOING.
MY DEAR SIR,
THE hurry of a farmer in this particular season, and the indolence of a poet at all times and seasons, will, I hope, plead my excuse for neglecting so long to answer your obliging letter of the fifth of August.
That you have done well in quitting your laborious concern in . . . . . I do not doubt; the weighty reasons you mention were, I hope, very, and deservedly indeed, weighty ones, and your health is a matter of the last importance; but whether the remaining proprietors of the paper have also done well, is what I much doubt. The . . . . ., so far as I was a reader, exhibited such a brilliancy of point, such an elegance of paragraph, and such a variety of intelligence, that I can hardly conceive it possible to continue a daily paper in the same degree of excellence; but if there was a man who had abilities equal to the task, that man's assistance the proprietors have lost.
When I received your letter I was transcrib ing, for. . . . ., my letter to the Magistrates of the Canongate, Edinburgh, begging their permission to place a tomb-stone over poor Fergusson, and their edict in consequence of my petition; but now I shall send them to
Poor Fergusson! If there be a life beyond the grave, which I trust there is; and if there be a good God presiding over all nature, which I am sure there is; thon art now enjoying existence in a glorious world, where worth of the heart alone is distinction in the man; where riches, d: prived of all their pleasure-purchasing powers, return to their native sordid matter: where titles and honours are the disregarded reveries of an idle dream; and where that heavy virtue, which is the negative consequence of steady dulness, and those thoughtless, though often destructive follies, which are the unavoidable aberrations of frail human nature, will be thrown into equal oblivion as if they had never been!
Adieu, my dear Sir! so soon as your present views and schemes are concentred in an aim, I shall be glad be hear from you as your welfare and happiness is by no means a subject indifferent to
TO MRS DUNLOP.
Ellisland, 6th September, 1789.
I HAVE mentioned in my last, my appointment to the excise, and the birth of little Frank; who, by the bye, I trust will be no discredit to the honourable name of Wallace, as he has a fine manly countenance, and a figure that might do credit to a little fellow two months older; and likewise an excellent good temper, though when he pleases he has a pipe, only not quite so loud as the horn that his immortal namesake blew as a signal to take out the pin of Stirling bridge.
"Against the day of battle and of war."-spoken of religion.
"Tis this, my friend, that streaks our morning bright,
'Tis this that gilds the horror of our night,
When friends are faithless, or when foes pursue;
I have been very busy with Zeluco. The Doctor is so obliging as to request my opinion of it; and I have been revolving in my mind some kind of criticisms on novel writing, but it is a depth beyond my research. I shall however digest my thoughts on the subject as well as I can. Želuco is a most sterling per
Farewell! A Dieu, le bon Dieu, je vous
I had some time ago an epistle, part poetic, and part prosaic, from your poetess, Mrs J. L; a very ingenious, but modest composition. I should have written her as she re-formance. quested, but for the hurry of this new business. I have heard of her and her compositions in commende! this country and I am happy to add, always to the honour of her character. The fact is, I know not well how to write to her; I should sit down to a sheet of paper that I knew not how to stain. I am no daub at fine drawn letter-writing; and except when prompted by friendship or gratitude, or which happens extremely rarely, inspired by the Muse (I know not her name) that presides over epistolary writing, I sit down, when necessitated to write, as I would sit down to beat hemp.
Some parts of your letter of the 20th August struck me with melancholy concern for the state of your mind at present.
Would I could write you a letter of comfort! I would sit down to it with as much pleasure, as I would to write an epic poem of my own composition, that should equal the Iliad. Religion, my dear friend, is the true comfort! A strong persuasion in a future state of existence; a proposition so obviously probable, that, setting revelation aside, every nation and people, so far as investigation has reached, for at least near four thousand years, have, in some mode or other, firmly believed it. In vain would we reason and pretend to doubt. I have myself done so to a very daring pitch; but when I reflected, that I was opposing the most ardent wishes, and the most darling hopes of good men, and flying in the face of all human belief, in all ages, I was shocked at my own conduct.
I know not whether I have ever sent you the following lines, or if you have ever seen them; but it is one of my favourite quotations, which I keep constantly by me in my progress through life, in the language of the book of Job,
FROM DR BLACKLOCK.
Edinburgh, 24th August, 1789.
Most anxiously I wish to know,
For me, with grief and sickness spent,
TO DR BLACKLOCK.
Ellisland, 21st October, 1789. Wow, but your letter made me vauntie ! And are ye hale, and weel, and cantie? I ken'd it still your wee bit jauntie,
Wad bring ye to:
The ill-thief blaw the Heron south!
But aiblins honest Master Heron,
And holy study; And tired o' sauls to waste his lear on, Een tried the body.*
But what d'ye think, my trusty fier,
Ye'll now disdain me,
Ye glaiket, gleesome, dainty damies,
I hae a wife and twa wee laddies,
But I'll sned besoms-thraw saugh woodies,
Lord help me thro' this warld o' care!
Than mony ithers;
Come FIRM RESOLVE take thou the van,
But to conclude my silly rhyme,
To weans and wife,
* Mr Heron, author of the History of Scotland, lately published; and among various other works, of a respectable life of our poet himself.
I HAVE a good while had a wish to trouble you with a letter, and had certainly done it long ere now-but for a humiliating something that throws cold water on the resolution, as if one should say, "You have found Mr Graham a very powerful and kind friend indeed, and that interest he is so kindly taking in your concerns, you ought by every thing in your power to keep alive and cherish." Now though, since God has thought proper to make one powerful and another helpless, the connexion of obliger and obliged is all fair; and though my being under your patronage is to me highly honourable, yet, sir, allow me to flatter myself, that, as a poet and an honest man, you first interested yourself in my welfare, and principally as such still, you permit me to approach you.
I have found the excise business go on a great deal smoother with me than I expected; owing a good deal to the generous friendship of Mr Mitchell, my collector, and the kind assistance of Mr Findlater, my supervisor. I dare to be honest, and I fear no labour. Nor do I find my hurried life greatly inimical to my correspondence with the Muses. Their visits to me, indeed, and I believe to most of their acquaintance, like the visits of good angels, are short and far between; but I meet them now and then as I jog through the hills of Nithsdale, just as I used to do on the banks of Ayr. I take the liberty to inclose you a few bagatelles, all of them the productions of my leisure thoughts in my excise rides.
If you know or have ever seen Captain Grose, the antiquarian, you will enter into any humour that is in the verses on him. Perhaps you have seen them before, as I sent them to a London newspaper. Though I dare say you have none of the solemn-league-and-covenant fire, which shone so conspicuous in Lord George Gordon, and the Kilmarnock weavers, yet I think you must have heard of Dr M'Gill, one of the clergymen of Ayr, and his heretical book. God help, him poor man! Though he is one of the worthiest, as well as one of the ablest of the whole priesthood of the Kirk of Scotland, in every sense of that ambiguous term, yet the poor Doctor and his numerous family are in imminent danger of being thrown out to the mercy of the winter-winds. The inclosed ballad on that business is, I confess,
Ellisland, 13th December, 1789. MANY thanks, dear madam, for your sheetful of rhymes. Though at present I am below the veriest prose, yet from you every thing pleases. I am groaning under the miseries of a diseased nervous system; a system, the state of which is most conducive to our happinessor the most productive of our misery. For now near three weeks I have been so ill with a nervous head-ache, that I have been obliged to give up, for a time, my excise books, being scarce able to lift my head, much less to ride once a-week over ten muir parishes. What is Man! To-day, in the luxuriance of health, exulting in the enjoyment of existence; in a few days, perhaps in a few hours, loaded with conscious painful being, counting the tardy pace of the lingering moments by the repercussions of anguish, and refusing or denied a comforter. Day follows night, and night comes after day, only to curse him with life which gives him no pleasure; and yet the awful, dark termination of that life, is a something at which he recoils.
"Tell us, ye dead; will none of you in pity Disclose the secret
What 'tis you are, and we must shortly be! 'tis no matter:
A little time will make us learn'd as you are."
Can it be possible, that when I resign this frail, feverish being, I shall still find myself in
*This alludes to the contest for the borough of Dumfries, between the Duke of Queensberry's interest and that of Sir James Johnstone.
conscious existence! When the last gasp of agony has announced, that I am no more to those that knew me, and the few who loved me: when the cold, stiffened, unconscious, ghastly corse is resigned into the earth, to be the prey of unsightly reptiles, and to become in time a trodden clod, shall I yet be warm in life, seeing and seen, enjoying and enjoyed? Ye venerable sages, and holy flamens, is there probability in your conjectures, truth in your stories of another world beyond death or are they all alike, baseless visions, and fabricated fables? If there is another life, it must be only for the just, the benevolent, the amiable, and the humane; what a flattering idea, then, is the world to come? Would to God I as firmly believed it, as I ardently wish it! There I should meet an aged parent, now at rest from the many buffetings of an evil world, against which he so long and so bravely struggled. There should I meet the friend, the disinterested friend of my early life; the man who rejoiced to see me, because he loved me and could serve me.- -Muir! thy weaknesses were the aberrations of human nature, but thy heart glowed with every thing generous, manly, and noble; and if ever emanation from the All-good Being animated a human form, it was thine!-There should I with speechless agony of rapture, again recognize my lost, my ever dear Mary! whose bosom was fraught with truth, honour, constancy and love.
My Mary, dear departed shade!
Where is thy place of heavenly rest? Seest thou thy lover lowly laid? Hear'st thou the groans that rend his breast?
Jesus Christ, thou amiablest of characters I trust thou art no impostor, and that thy revelation of blissful scenes of existence beyond death and the grave, is not one of the many impositions which time after time have been palmed on credulous mankind. I trust that in thee, "shall all the families of the earth be blessed," by being yet connected together in a better world, where every tie that bound heart to heart, in this state of existence, shall be, far beyond our present conceptions, more endearing.
I am a good deal inclined to think with those who maintain, that what are called nervous affections are in fact diseases of the mind. I cannot reason, I cannot think; and but to you I would not venture to write any thing above an order to a cobbler. You have felt too much of the ills of life not to sympathize with a diseased wretch, who is impaired more than half of any faculties he possessed. Your goodness will excuse this distracted scrawl, which the writer dare scarce. ly read, and which he would throw into the fire, were he able to write any thing better, or indeed any thing at all.
Rumour told me something of a son of yours who was returned from the East or Ꭰ ?