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We shall see that during the whole of this autumn and winter, Burns was in the full glow of poetical worship towards Mrs Whelpdale, till he had celebrated her charms in-no fewer than eleven songs, some of which are amongst the happiest of his compositions. The case was literally as he himself states it. Fascinated by the beauty of this young creature, he erected her as the goddess of his inspiration, at the same time that respect for her intelligence and pity for her misfortunes were sufficient, supposing the absence of other restraints, to debar all unholier thoughts.
The subsequent history of the lady is pitiful. Some years after this outpouring of poesy in her praise, her father was unfortunate in business, and ceased to be the wealthy man he once was. The tuneful tongue which had sung her praise was laid in silence in Dumfries church-yard. She continued to derive no income from her husband, and scarcely even to know in what part of the world he lived. She was now, therefore, compelled to accept of a situation as plain governess in a gentleman's family; and in such situations she passed some years of her life. In 1816, returning from a visit to her brother in Sunderland, she inquired at Brampton for her husband, and learned that she had only missed seeing him by a few hours, as he had that day been in the village. He was now squandering some fourth or fifth fortune, which had been left to him by a relation. Not long after, learning that he was imprisoned for debt at Carlisle, she went to see him. Having announced to him her wish for an interview, she went to the place where he was confined, and was desired to walk in. His lodging was pointed out to her on the opposite side of a quadrangle, round which there was a covered walk, as in the ambulatories of the ancient religious houses. As she walked along one side of this court, she passed a man whose back was towards her—a bulky-looking person, slightly paralytic, and who shuffled in walking, as from lameness. As she approached the door, she heard this man pronounce her name. "Jean!' he said, and then immediately added, as under a more formal feeling, * Mrs Whelpdale!' It was her husband—the gay youth of 1793 being now transformed into a broken-down middle-aged man, whom she had passed without even suspecting who he was. The wife had to ask the figure if he was her husband, and the figure answered that he was. To such a scene may a romantic marriage lead! There was kindness, nevertheless, between the long-separated pair. Jean spent a month in Carlisle, calling upon her husband every day, and then returned to Scotland. Some months afterwards, when he had been liberated, she paid him another visit ; but his utter inability to make a prudent use of any money intrusted to him, rendered it quite impossible that they should ever renew their conjugal life. After this, she never saw him again.
It is understood that this poor, unprotected woman at length was led into an error which lost her the respect of society. She spent some time in a kind of vagrant life, verging on mendicancy, and never rising above the condition of a domestic servant. She never ceased to be elegant in her form and comely of face; nor did she ever cease to recollect that she had been the subject of some dozen compositions by one of the greatest modern masters of the lyre. About the year 1825, a benevolent gentleman, to whom she had made her penury known, bestirred himself in her behalf, and represented her case in the public prints, with the hope of drawing forth a little money for her relief. His wife, having sent her some newspapers containing the paragraphs which he had written, received the following note, in which we cannot help thinking there is something not unworthy of a poetical heroine :
*Burns's Chloris is infinitely obliged to Mrs for her kind attention in sending the newspapers, and feels pleased and flattered by having so much said and done in her behalf.
Ruth was kindly and generously treated by Boaz; perhaps Burns's Chloris may enjoy a similar fate in the fields of men of talent and worth.
March 2, 1825,
LETTER TO MR PETER HILL.
The lady here addressed saw Mrs Whelpdale several times, and was pleased with her conversation, which shewed considerable native acuteness of understanding, and a play of wit such as might have been supposed to charm a high intellect in one of the opposite sex. Afterwards, our heroine obtained a situation as housekeeper with a gentleman residing in Newington, and there she lived for some time in the enjoyment, she said, of greater comfort than she had known since she first left her father's house. But a pulmonary affection of a severe nature gradually undermined her health, and she was ultimately obliged to retire to a humble lodging in Middleton's Entry, Potterrow, near the place where Burns had first met with Clarinda. Here she lingered for some time in great suffering, being chiefly supported by her late master; and here, in September 1831, she breathed her last. Her remains were interred in Newington burying-ground. Her husband, who latterly lived at Langholm, in Dumfriesshire, on a small pension, survived her three or four years.
Poor Chloris is a sad memento of the evils which spring to woman from one ,rash step in what is, for that sex, the most important movement in life. Life was to her clouded in its morn : every grace that Heaven gives to make woman a charm and a solace to man, was possessed in vain ; all through this false step, taken, though it was, at a time when she could scarcely be considered as responsible for her own actions.
In an inedited passage of the last letter, our passion-swayed poet alludes to Clarinda, as 'a ci-devant goddess of mine!' It was right, even in these poetico-Platonic affairs, to be off with the old love before he was on with the new. Yet it was only four months before, only in June, that she was 'my ever-dearest Clarinda!' And a letter of friendship was then too cold to be attempted. Oh woman-kind, think of that when you are addressed otherwise than in the language of sober common-sense! So lately as June, 'my ever-dearest,' and now only 'a ci-devant goddess!'
We turn to lighter matters.
TO MR PETER HILL, EDINBURGH.
[DUMPRIES, end of October 1794 ?] MY DEAR HILL-By a carrier of yesterday, Henry Osborn by name, I sent you a kippered salmon, which I trust you will duly receive, and which I also trust will give you many a toothful of
1 A salmon cut up and dried in the smoke of the chimney-a favourite break. fast relish in Scotland.
satisfaction. If you have the confidence to say, that there is anything of the kind in all your great city superior to this in true kipper relish and flavour, I will be revenged by-not sending you another next season. In return, the first party of friends that dine with you -provided that your fellow-travellers and my trusty and wellbeloved veterans in intimacy, Messrs Ramsay and Cameron, be of the party—about that time in the afternoon when a relish or devil becomes grateful, give them two or three slices of the kipper, and drink a bumper to your friends in Dumfries. Moreover, by last Saturday's fly, I sent you a hare, which I hope came, and carriagefree, safe to your hospitable mansion and social table. So much for business.
How do you like the following pastoral, which I wrote the other day, for a tune that I daresay you well know?
[Follows the song, Ca' the Youces to the Knowes.] And how do you like the following ?
ON SEEING MRS KEMBLE IN YARICO.
Of Moses and his rod;
The rock with tears had flowed.2
So vile was poor Wat, such a miscreant slave,
• And his heart it is poison !' another replies. My best good-wishes to Mrs Hill, and believe me to be, ever yours,
1 Mr Ramsay was printer of that venerable journal, the Edinburgh Evening Courant, which still partly belongs to his family. Mr Cameron was a paper manu. facturer. These two gentlemen seem to have recently been at Dumfries, along with Mr Hill, on which occasion there would of course be a merry-meeting with Burns.
2«On Friday last, our theatre received a great acquisition in the favourite opera of Inkle and Yarico, by the first appearance of Mrs Kemble, in the amiable and interesting character of Yarico. Her excellent performance of that character has been the subject of high panegyric. We can only join our tribute to her established reputation, by observing that her delineations were striking, natural, and affecting, and commanded the attention and applause of an elegant audience. The farce was Animal Magnetism, &c.'—Dumfries Journal, Oct. 21, 1794. The actress in question was the wife of Mr Stephen Kemble, a senior brother in a family which has given at least three distinguished ornaments to the British stage. Mr S. Kemble composed a very pleasing song on the occasion of the death of Burns.
3 This letter appeared in the Knickerbocker (New York Magazine) for September 1848. On another copy of the epigram on Mrs Kemble, it appears that the per. formance of Inkle and Yarico which Burns witnessed, took place on the 24th of October 1794.
ALLAN'S PICTURE OF MAGGIE LAUDER.
MR THOMSON TO BURNS,
EDINBURGH, 27th October 1794. I AM sensible, my dear friend, that a genuine noet can more exist without his mistress than his meat. I wish I knew the adorab] she, whose bright eyes and witching
niles have so often enraptured the Scottish bard, that I might drink her sweet health when the toast is going round. Craigieburn Wood must certainly be adopted into my family, since she is the object of the song; but, in the name of decency, I must beg a new chorus-verse from you. O to be lying beyond thee, dearie, is perhaps a consummation to be wished, but will not do for singing in the company of ladies. The songs in your last will do you lasting credit, and suit the respective airs charmingly. I am perfectly of your opinion with respect to the additional airs. The idea of sending them into the world naked as they were born, was ungenerous. They must all be clothed, and made decent by our friend Clarke.
I find I am anticipated by the friendly Cunningham in sending you Ritson's Scottish collection. Permit me, therefore, to present you with his English collection, which you will receive by the coach. I do not find his historical essay on Scottish song interesting. Your anecdotes and miscellaneous remarks will, I am sure, be much more 80. Allan has just sketched a charming design from Maggie Lauder. She is dancing with such spirit as to electrify the piper, who seems almost dancing too, while he is playing with the most exquisite glee. I am much inclined to get a small copy, and to have it engraved in the style of Ritson's prints.
P.$.- Pray, what do your anecdotes say concerning Maggie Lauder ?-was she a real personage, and of what rank? You would surely speer for her, if you ca'd at Anster town.
BURNS TO MR THOMSON.
November 1794. Many thanks to you, my dear sir, for your present; it is a book of the utmost iniportance to me. I have yesterday begun my ecdotes, &c. for your work. I intend drawing them up in the form of a letter to you, which will save me from the tedious, dull business of systematic arrangement. Indeed, as all I have to say consists of unconnected remarks, anecdotes, scraps of old songs, &c. it would be impossible to give the work a beginning, a middle, and an end, which the critics insist to be absolutely necessary in a work. In my last, I told you my objections to the song you had selected for My Lodging is on the cold Ground. On my visit the other day to my fair Chloris --that is the poetic name of the lovely goddess of my inspirationshe suggested an idea, which I, on my return from the visit, wrought into the following song: