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S OF BURNS'S WORKS.
OF THE LIFE.
Circumstances and peculiar Character of his is early years. Sources, such as they were, of ceth Love and Poetry at 16,
i-vi od Gilbert Burns work to their Father, as al work the Poet feared no competitor-This Improvement-At Dancing-School-ProI at Kirkoswald's-Bad Company–At Ir. Member of a Batchelor's Club,
ix-xis d Gilbert, become tenants of Mossgiel habits-The farm cold and unfertileNot cal—The Poet thence involved deeply in esy-Curious account of these disputes in of, and remarks upon the Poet's prin. 1-A crisis. The Jail or the West Indies
www.... XX-Xxxiv I to his Brother Gilbert_Intends for Ja. ms suggested to supply means of outfit ck, 1786– It brings him extended repufriends, but no patron- In these circum. his early friends, Hamilton and Aikenis fame-Jamaica again in view—Plan t by Dr. Blacklock to publish at Edin
XXXV_Ixü h, 1786–7–By his advent, the condition cal, Patrician, and Pedantic-is lighted
of his fame there, and for a while ca18 to him generally in that new world, very trying circumstances—The tavern pted beyond all former experience by ational talent universally admitted, as like to be carried off their feet by it, -Edition of 1500 copies by Creech, esolves to visit the classic scenes of his ; visions of a reflux to bear him back
occowonnen. Ixiy-xi '* in Caledonia-Lands from the first jongst his friends in the Auld Clay y-Falls in with many kind friends with the great, but never secures one - Lingers in Edinburgh amidst the ey coach, which produces a bruised - Is enrolled in the Excise-Another implore even his friend Mrs. Dunlop r. but after settling with him leaves e regular life,
Ixis-IXXV ogetical,) of the event-Remarks se Nich, in a romantic vicinity, six
To his subscribers, the author returns his most sincere thanks : Not the mercenary bow over a counter, but the heart-throbbing gratitude of the bard, conscious how much he owes to benevolence and friendship for gratifying him, if he deserves it, in that dearest wish of every poetic bosomto be distinguished. He begs his readers, particularly the learned and the polite, who may honour him with a perusal, that they will make every allowance for education and circumstances of life ; but if, after a fair, candid, and impartial criticism, he shall stand convicted of dullness and nonsense, let him he done by as he would in that case do by others—let hini be condamned, without mercy, to contempt and oblivion.
In the Dedication of the Life of Burns by Dr. Currie to his friend Cap. tain Graham Moore, the learned Doctor thus expresses himself as to his Editorial office :-“ The task was beset with considerable difficulties, and “ men of established reputation naturally declined an undertaking, to the “ performance of which it was scarcely to be hoped that general approba“ tion could be obtained by any exertion of judgment or temper. To such “ an office my place of residence, my accustomed studies, and my occu“ pations, were certainly little suited. But the partiality of Mr. Syme " thought me, in other respects, not unqualified; and his solicitations, “ joined to those of our excellent friend and relation, Mrs. Dunlop, and of “ other friends of the family of the poet, I have not been able to resist."
These sentences contain singular avowals. They are somehow apt to suggest, what we have all heard before, that some are born to honour, while others have honours thrust upon them. The Doctor's squeamishness in favour of persons of established reputation, who might be chary of a ticklish and impracticable, if not an odious task, is in ludicrous contrast with the facts as they have since fallen out. Have we not seen the master-spirits of the age, Scott, Byron, Campbell, honouring in Burns a kindred, if not a superior genius, and, like passionate devotees, doing him homage? They have all voluntarily written of him; and their recorded opinions evince no feelings of shyness, but the reverse : they not only honour, but write as if honoured by their theme. But let us leave the subject, by merely pointing attention to the Doctor's mode of treating it, as a decisive test of the evil days and evil tongues amidst which the poet had fallen, and of the existence of that deplorable party-spirit, during which the facts involving his character as a man, and his reputation as a poet, could neither be correctly stated, nor fairly estimated.
It is true, Dr. Currie's Life contained invaluable materials. The poet's auto-biographical letter to Dr. Moore, indeed the whole of his letters, the letters of his brother Gilbert,—of Professor Dugald Stewart,-of Mr. Murdoch and of Mr. Syme, and the other contributors, are invaluable ma. terials. They form truly the very backbone of the poet's life, as edited by
Dr. Currie. They must ever be regarded as precious relics; and however largely they may be used as a part of a biographical work, they ought also to be presented in the separate form, entire ; for, taken in connection with the general correspondence, they will be found to be curiously illustrative of the then state of society in cotland, and moreover to contain manifold and undoubted proofs of the diffusion and actual existence, amongst Scotsmen of all degrees, of that literary talent, which had only been inferred, hypothetically, from the nature of her elementary institutions.
We have no wish to detract from the high reputation of Dr. Currie. It will however be remarked, that the biographical part of his labours, as stated by himself, involve little beyond the office of redacteur.-He was not upon the spot, but living in England, and he was engaged with professional avocations. If truth lies at the bottom of the well, he had neither the time nor the means to fish it up. Accordingly, it is not pretended that he proceeded upon his own views, formed, on any single occasion, after a painful or pains-taking scrutiny; or that, in giving a picture of the man and the poet, he did more than present to the public what had come to him entirely at second-hand, and upon the authority of others ; however tainted or perverted the matter might have been, from the then generally diseased state of the public mind. The Life of the poet, compiled under such circumstances, was necessarily defective —nay it did him positive injustice in various respects, particularly as to his personal habits and moral character. These were represented with exaggerated and hideous features, unwarranted by truth, and having their chief origin in the malignant virulence of party
strife. The want of a Life of Burns, more correctly drawn, was long felt. This is evident from the nature of the notices bestowed, in the periodicals of the time, upon the successive works of Walker and Irving, who each of them attempted the task of his biographer ; and upon the publications of Cromek, who in his “ Reliques," and "Select Scottish Songs,” brought to light much interesting and original matter. But these attempts only whet. ted and kept alive the general feeling, which was not gratified in its full extent until nearly thirty years after the publication of Dr. Currie's work. It was nut until 1827 that a historian, worthy of the poet, appeared in the person of Mr. John Lockhart, the son-in-law of Sir Walter Scott, and (ra. ther a discordant title), Editor of the London Quarterly Review. He in that year published a Life of Burns, both in the separate form, and as a part of that excellent repertory known by the title of Constable's Miscellany.
It is only necessary to read Mr. Lockhart's Life of Burns, to be satisfied of his qualifications for the task, and that he has succeeded in putting them, after an upright and conscientious manner, to the proper use. It certainly appears odd, that a high Tory functionary should stand out the champion of the Bard who sung,
* A man's a man for a' that ;" and who, because of his democratic tendencies, not only missed of public patronage, but moreover had long to sustain every humiliation and indirect persecution the local satellites of intolerance could fling upon him. But the lapse of time, and the spread of intelligence, have done much to remove prejudices and soften asperities; to say nothing of that independence of mind which always adheres to true genius, and which the circuinstances in the poet's history naturally roused and excited in a kindred spirit. Mr