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LIFE AND WORKS
ROBERT BURN S.
DECEMBER 1791 - JULY 1796—(CONTINUED.)
We have seen that, in July 1793, when Burns was asserting his independence of remuneration for his songs, he was in circumstances to render the receipt of a little money highly desirable. It was a time of general difficulty and distress, in consequence of the disturbance which the war created in the usual course of commerce, and the additional burdens which it threw upon the country. Consols, which had been at 96 in the beginning of the preceding year, were down to 78. In the month of July, the number of Scottish bankrupts was forty-three, or about four times the average. Burns suffered among the rest, for an extra income which he derived from the unloading of foreign vessels was now at an end.
TO MR PETER HILL.
[DUMFRIES, July 1793 ?] MY DEAR SIR~* * * * Now that business is over, how are you, and how do you weather this accursed time? God only knows what will be the consequence; but in the meantime the country, at least in our part of it, is still progressive to the devil. For my party "I jouk, and let the jaw flee o'er.'1 As my hopes in this world are but slender, I am turning rapidly devotee, in the prospect of sharing largely in the world to come.
How is old sinful Smellie coming on? Is there any talk of his second volume? If you meet with my much-valued old friend, Colonel Dunbar of the Crochallan Fencibles, remember me most affectionately to him. Alas! not unfrequently, when my heart is in a wandering humour, I live past scenes over again. To my mind's eye, you, Dumbar, Cleghorn, Cunningham, &c. present their friendly phiz[es], and my bosom aches with tender recollections. Adieu!
In the latter part of July, the poet had an excursion through Galloway with his friend Mr Syme, who communicated to Dr Currie an animated account of their adventures:
"I got Burns a gray Highland shelty to ride on. We dined the first day, 27th July 1793, at Glendonwyne's of Parton-a beautiful situation on the banks of the Dee. In the evening, we walked out, and ascended a gentle eminence, from which we had as fine a view of Alpine scenery as can well be imagined. A delightful soft evening shewed all its wilder as well as its grander graces. Immediately opposite, and within a mile of us, we saw Airds, a charming romantic place, where dwelt Lowe, the author of Mary weep no more for me. This was classical ground for Burns. He viewed “the highest hill which rises o'er the source of Dee;" and would have stayed till “the passing spirit” had appeared, had we not resolved to reach Kenmure that night. We arrived as Mr and Mrs Gordon’ were sitting down to supper.
* Here is a genuine baron's seat. The castle, an old building, stands on a large natural moat. In front, the river Ken winds for several miles through the most fertile and beautiful holm,4 till it expands into a lake twelve miles long, the banks of which, on the south, present a fine and soft landscape of green knolls, natural wood, and here and there a gray rock. On the north, the aspect is great, wild, and, I may say, tremendous. In short, I can
1 A Scottish proverbial expression, as much as to say, 'I duck, and let the wave pass over me.' 2 A beautiful and well-known ballad, which begins thus
* The moon bad climbed the highest hill
Which rises o'er the source of Dee;
Its silver light on tower and tree.' 3 Mr Gordon was representative of the Viscounts Kenmure-a title restored in his person in 1824.
4 The level low ground on the banks of a river or stream. This word should be adopted from the Scottish, as, indeed, ought several others of the same nature, That dialect is singularly copious and exact in the denominations of natural objeets.