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If it is true that offences come only from the heart, before you I am guiltless. To admire, esteem, and prize you, as the most accomplished of women, and the first of friends—if these are crimes, I am the most offending thing alive.
In a face where I used to meet the kind complacency of friendly confidence, now to find cold neglect and contemptuous scorn, is a wrench that my heart can ill bear. It is, however, some kind of miserable good-luck, that while de haut-en-bas rigour may depress an unoffending wretch to the ground, it has a tendency to rouse a stubborn something in his bosom, which, though it cannot heal the wounds of his soul, is at least an opiate to blunt their poignancy.
With the profoundest respect for your abilities; the most sincere esteem, and ardent regard for your gentle heart and amiable manners; and the most fervent wish and prayer for your welfare, peace, and bliss --I have the honour to be, madąm, your most devoted humble servant,
TO THE SAME.
I HAVE this moment got the song from Syme, and I am sorry to see that he has spoilt it a good deal. It shall be a lesson to me how I lend him anything again.
I have sent you Werter, truly happy to have any, the smallest opportunity of obliging you.
'Tis true, madam, I saw you once since I was at Woodley; and that once froze the very life-blood of my heart. Your reception of me was such, that a wretch meeting the eye his judge, about to pronounce sentence of death on him, could only have envied my feelings and situation, But I hate the theme, and never more shall write or speak on it.
One thing I shall proudly say, that I can pay Mrs R. a higher tribute of esteem, and appreciate her amiable worth more truly, than any man whom I have seen approach her.
Time passed on, and the original breach was probably made wider by the tittle-tattle of injudicious friends. Certain it is that Burns became deeply incensed against this pair of ancient friends, and stooped to express his rancour in strains truly unworthy of at least his heart, if not his head. It was in the following strain that he lampooned the once admired Maria—a woman whom he had described as one of real talent, and who undoubtedly
LAMPOONS ON MRS RIDDEL.
ON A LADY FAMED FOR HER CAPRICE.
How cold is that bosom which folly once fired,
How pale is that cheek where the rouge lately glistened !
How dull is that ear which to flattery so listened!
If sorrow and anguish their exit await,
From friendship and dearest affection removed;
Thou diedst unwept, as thou livedst unloved.
Loves, Graces, and Virtues, I call not on you;
So shy, grave, and distant, ye shed not a tear:
And flowers let us cull for Eliza's cold bier.
We'll search through the garden for each silly flower,
We'll roam through the forest for each idle weed;
For none e'er approached her but rued the rash deed.
We'll sculpture the marble, we'll measure the lay ;
Here Vanity strums on her idiot lyre;
Which spurning Contempt shall redeem from his ire.
Here lies, now a prey to insulting neglect,
What once was a butterfly, gay in life's beam :
Want only of goodness denied her esteem.
At the head of the company of players at this time in Dumfries, was one named Williamson, who, like Burns, had been patronised to some extent by the gay Creole. Burns represented This individual under the name of Esopus, addressing Maria Riddel from a house of correction.
EPISTLE FROM ESOPUS TO MARIA.
From those drear solitudes and frowsy cells,
Alas! I feel I am no actor here !'3 'Tis real hangmen, real scourges bear ! Prepare, Maria, for a horrid tale Will turn thy very rouge to deadly pale; Will make thy hair, though erst from gipsy polled, By barber woven, and by barber sold, Though twisted smooth with Harry's nicest care, Like hoary bristles to erect and stare. The hero of the mimic scene, no more I start in Hamlet, in Othello roar; Or haughty chieftain, 'mid the din of arms, In Highland bonnet woo Malvina's charms; While sans culottes stoop up the mountain high, And steal from me Maria's prying eye. Blest Highland bonnet ! once my proudest dress, Now prouder still, Maria's temples press. I see her wave thy towering plumes afar, And call each coxcomb to the wordy war;
1 Whether the circumstances alluded to in the following advertisement of Mr Williamson be connected with Burns's whim of representing the writer as in confinement, is unknown to us :
• Theatre, Dumfries, Jan. 28, 1794.-Mr Williamson, after closing the theatrical season, is extremely sorry to feel the necessity of obtruding himself upon the public attention; but finding it has been very currently reported (to serve particular purposes) that the performers have not been paid their stipulated salaries throughout a long and a not most successful season, he respectfully begs the public to suspend their belief of reports at once so false and so injurious to the credit of the undertaking. Mr Williamson pledges himself to prove by the production of his accounts, to the satisfaction of any person interested in the inquiry, that there is a considerable balance due from the company to the last account of the theatre.'-Dumfries Weekly Journal.
2 In these dread solitudes and awful cells,
Epistle of Eloisa to Abelard. 8 Lyttleton's Prologue to Thomson's Coriolanus, spoken by Mr Quin.
LAMPOONS ON MRS RIDDEL.
I see her face the first of Ireland's sons,
. Colonel M‘Dowall of Logan, noted as the Lothario of his county during many long years.
Who says that fool alone is not thy due,
Burns alludes in this poem to a family which in his day occupied a conspicuous place in Dumfriesshire society. Mr John Bushby had risen from the humblest circumstances to wealth and importance, first as a solicitor, and afterwards as a banker. There was a vivid genius about him which rendered him almost as remarkable a person as Burns himself; but it had taken a purely worldly direction. Still conducting business in Dumfries, he had established himself as a country gentleman at Tinwald Downs, where he saw a great deal of company, and among others, often had the poet as his guest. It may be mentioned as a somewhat curious, but undoubted fact, that Burns did not always dine with the other gentlemen assembled in Mr Bushby's halls. There was a middleaged lady, reduced from better circumstances, who exercised the duties of a housekeeper. In her room down stairs, Burns would dine by his own choice, and finally join the gentlemen in the dining-room after the ladies had retired. A lady nearly related to Mr Bushby, and who was occasionally in his house at that time, remembers that Burns was less a favourite with the ladies than the gentlemen. In the drawing-room one evening, when some of the elder ladies spoke censoriously of some points in his character, one young lady present ventured a pleading in his defence. Our bard, hearing of the circumstance, sent her a poetical address a few days afterwards, which she prized as a fine effusion of his genius, but which has unfortunately been lost.
A coldness in time took place between Burns and Bushby, and, according to our informant's recollection, it proceeded from a very trivial circumstance. At dinner one day, the pudding had been brought to table very hot. Mr Bushby, who had tasted and smarted from it-remembering perhaps the boy's trick in similar circumstances, which is the subject of a well-known story-recommended his wife to admonish the cook not to allow the pudding to become so cold in future before being sent up stairs. The bard, engaged in conversation, and not attending particularly to what was going on, fell into the snare, and in full confidence as to the temperature of the pudding, took a large piece into his mouth. The pain he expressed, as he desperately endeavoured