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THE PRESENT EDITION.

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 trulv 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 ricotland, and moreover to contains 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 nei. ther 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 in. justice 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 whetted 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 (rather 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 circumstances in the poet's history naturally roused and excited in a kindred spirit. Mr

Lockhart, it will farther be observed, besides having compiled his work in der circumstances of a general nature much more favourable to accurate delineation, likewise set about the task in a more philosophical manner than the preceding biographers. He judged for himself; he took neither facts nor opinions at second-hand; but inquired, studied, compared, and where doubtful, extricated the facts in the most judicious and careful man ner. It may be said, that that portion of the poet's mantle which invested his sturdiness of temper, has fallen upon the biographer, who, as the poet did, always thinks and speaks for himself.

These being our sentiments of Mr. Lockhart's Life of Burns, we have preferred it, as by far the most suitable biographical accompaniment of the present edition of his works. It has been our study to insert, in this edition, every thing hitherto published, and fit to be published, of which Burns was the author. The reader will find here all that is contained in Dr. Currie's edition of 1800, with the pieces brought to light by all the respectable authors who have since written or published of Burns.—The following general heads will show the nature and extent of the present work.

1. The Life by Lockhart. 2. The Poems, as published in the Kilmarnock and first Edinburgh edition,

with the poet's own prefaces to these editions, and also as published in Dr. Currie's edition of 1800; having superadded the pieces since

brought forward by Walker, Irving, Morison, Paul, and Cromek. 3. Essay (by Dr. Currie), on Scottish Poetry, including the Poetry of

Burns. 4. Select Scottish Songs not Burns's, upwards of 200 in number, and many

of them having his Annotations, Historical and Critical, prefixed. 5. Burns's Songs, collected from Johnson's Musical Museum, the larger

work of Thomson, and from the publications of Cromek, Cunningham,

and Chalmers, nearly 200 in number. 6. The Correspondence, including all the Letters published by Dr. Currie,

besides a number subsequently recovered, published by Cromek and

others. The whole forming the best picture of the man and the poet, and the only complete edition of his writings, in one work, hitherto offered to the public. Besides a portrait of the poet, cxecuted by an able artist, long familiar with the original picture by Nasmyth, there is also here presented, an entire novelty), a fac-simile of the poet's handwriting. It was at one time matter of surprise that the Ploughman should have been a man of genius and a poet. If any such curious persons still exist, they will of course be likewise surprised to find that he was so good a penman.

New York, Sept. 11, 1832.

.

CONTENTS OF BURNS'S WORKS.

OF THE LIFE.

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CHAP. I.-The Poet's Birth, 1759_Circumstances and peculiar Character of his

Father and Mother--Hardships of his early years—Sources, such as they were, of

his Mental Improvement-Commenceth Love and Poetry at 16,

i-vii

CHAP. II.-From 17 to 24—Robert and Gilbert Burns work to their Father, as

Labourers, at stated Wages At rural work the Poet feared no competitor_This

period not marked by much Mental Improvement-At Dancing-School-Pro-

gress in Love and Poetry-At School at Kirkoswald's-Bad Company-At Ir.

vine-Flaxdressing-Becomes there Member of a Batchelor's Club,

ix-xix

CHAP. III.-The Brothers, Robert and Gilbert, become tenants of Mossgiel

Their incessant labour and moderate habits- The farm cold and unfertile-Not

Prosperous— The Muse anti-calvinistical—The Poet thence involved deeply in

local polemics, and charged with heresy-Curious account of these disputes

Early poems prompted by them-Origin of, and remarks upon the Poet's prin.

cipal pieces—Love leads him far astray-A crisis The Jail or the West Indies

-The alternative,

comman XX-XXXIV

Chap. IV.-The Poet gives up Mossgiel to his Brother Gilbert-Intends for Ja.

maica-Subscription Edition of his Poems suggested to supply means of outfit

One of 600 copies printed at Kilmarnock, 1786-It brings him extended repu.

tation, and £20_Also many very kind friends, but no patron- In these circum.

stances, Guaging first hinted to him by his early friends, Hamilton and Aiken-

Sayings and doings in the first year of his fame Jamaica again in view_Plan

desisted from because of encouragement by Dr. Blacklock to publish at Edin-
burgh, wherein the Poet sojourns,

namoramow XXXV_Ixü

CHAP. V.-The Poet winters in Edinburgh, 1786-7—By his advent, the condition

of that city-Literary, Legal, Philosophical, Patrician, and Pedantic—is lighted

up, as by a meteor-He is in the full tide of his fame there, and for a while ca-

ressed by the fashionable-What happens to him generally in that new world,

and his behaviour under the varying and very trying circumstances The tavern

life then greatly followed— The Poet tempted beyond all former experience by

bacchanals of every degree-His conversational talent universally admitted, as

not the least of his talents, The Ladies like to be carried off their feet by it,

while the philosophers hardly keep theirs- Edition of 1500 copies by Creech,

which yields much money to the Poet-Resolves to visit the classic scenes of his

own country-Assailed with thick.coming visions of a reflux to bear him back

to the region of poverty and seclusion, name

Ixiy-xri

Chap. VI.-Makes three several pilgrimages in Caledonia-Lands from the first

or these, after an absence of six months, amongst his friends in the Auld Clay

Biggin"-Finds honour in his own country-Falls in with many kind friends

during those pilgrimages, and is familiar with the great, but never secures one

effective patron Anecdotes and Sketches — Lingers in Edinburgh amidst the

Aleshpots, winter 1787-8_Upset in a hackney coach, which produces a bruised

limb, and mournful musings for six weeks Is enrolled in the Excise-Another

crisis, in which the Poet finds it necessary to implore even his friend Mrs. Dunlop

not to desert him_Growls over his publisher. but after settling with him leaves

Edinburgh with £500—Steps towards a more regular life,

Ixis_IXXV

Chap. VII.-Marries_Announcements, (apologetical,) of the event--Remarks

Becomes (1788) Farmer at Elliesland, on the Nith, in a romantic vicinity, six

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