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old, and once dear connexions. The truth
is, I was determined to write a good letter, TO THE EARL OF GLENCAIRN.
full of argument, amplification, erudition, Edinburgh, February, 1787. and, as Bayes says, all that. I thought of MY LORD.-I wanted to purchase a pro- | it, and thought of it, and by my soul I could file of your lordship, which I was told was to not; and, lest you should mistake the cause be got in town; but I am truly sorry to see
of my silence, I just sit down to tell you so. painter has spoiled a Don't give yourself credit, though, that the “human face divine. The enclosed stanzas strength of your logic scares me: the truth I intended to have written below a picture or is, I never mean to meet you on that ground profile or your lordship, could I have been at all. You have shown me one thing which so happy as to procure one with any thing was to be demonstrated: that strong pride of a likeness.
of reasoning, with a little affectation of sinAs I will soon return to my shades, I gularity, may mislead the best of hearts. I wanted to have something like a material likewise, since you and I were first acobject for my gratitude; I wanted to have it quainted, in the pride of despising old in my power to say to a friend, there is my women's stories, ventured in the “daring noble patron, my generous benefactor. Al
Al path Spinosa trod;" but experience of the low me, my lord, to publish these verses. I weakness, not the strength of human powers, conjure your lordship, by the honest throe made me glad to grasp at revealed religion. of gratitude, by the generous wish of bene- I am still, in the Apostle Paul's phrase, volence, by all the powers and feelings which “The old man with his deeds,” as when we compose the magnanimous mind, do not were sporting about the “ Lady Thorn." I deny me this petition. I owe much to your
shall be four weeks here yet at least, and so lordship; and, what has not in some other I shall expect to hear from you ; welcome instances always been the case with me, the sense, welcome nonsense.
I am, with the weight of the obligation is a pleasing load.
warmest sincerity, yours, &c., R. B. I trust I have a heart as independent as your lordship’s, than which I can say nothing more: and I would not be beholden to favours that would crucify my feelings. Your dignified character in life, and manner
TO of supporting that character, are flattering to ON FERGUSSON'S HEADSTONE, my pride; and I would be jealous of the
Edinburgh, March, 1787. purity of my grateful attachment, where I was under the patronage of one of the much
MY DEAR SIR.-You may think, and favoured sons of fortune.
too justly, that I am a selfish, ungrateAlmost every poet has celebrated his ful fellow, having received so many repeated
instances of kindness from you, and yet patrons, particularly when they were nanies dear to fame, and illustrious in their coun
never putting pen to paper to say “thank try: allow me, then, my lord, if you think you”; but you knew what a devil of a life the verses have intrinsic merit, to tell the my conscience has led me on that account, world how much I have the honour to be, your good heart would think yourself too your lordship's highly indebted, and ever
much avenged. By the bye, there is nothing
in the whole frame of man which seems to grateful humble servant,
be so unaccountable as that thing called conscience. Had the troublesome, yelping cur powers sufficient to prevent a mischief, he might be of use; but at the beginning
of the business, his feeble efforts are to the TO MR. JAMES CANDLISH, workings of passion as the infant frosts of STUDENT IN PHYSIC, GLASGOW COLLEGE
an autumnal morning to the unclouded
fervour of the rising sun: and no sooner are Edinburgh, March 21st, 1787.
the tumultuous doings of the wicked deed MY EVER DEAR OLD ACQUAINTANCE. over, than, amidst the bitter native conI was equally surprised and pleased at sequences of folly in the very vortex of our your letter, though I dare say you will horrors, up starts conscience, and harrows think, by my delaying so long to write to us with the feelings of the damned. you, that I am so drowned in the intoxica- I have enclosed you by way of expiation, tion of good fortune as to be indifferent to soms verses and prose, that, if they merit a
place in your truly entertaining miscellany, Burns to erect a headstone at the grave of you are welcome to. The prose extract is the said Robert Fergusson, and to keep up literally as Mr. Sprott sent it me.
and preserve the same to his memory in all The inscription on the stone is as fol- time coming. Extracted forth of the records lows:
of the managers, by “HERE LIES ROBERT FERGUSSON,
WILLIAM SPROTT, Clerk. POET. Born, September 5th, 1751-Died, 16th
October, 1774. “Nosculptured marble here, nor pompous lay, TO THE EARL OF BUCHAN.
*No storied urn, nor animated bust;' This simple stone directs pale Scotia's way
MY LORD.-The honour your lordship To pour her sorrows o'er her poet's dust.'
has done me, by your notice and advice in
yours of the 1st instant, I shall ever grateOn the other side of the stone is as fol- | fully remember :lows :
Praise from thy lips 'tis mine with joy to “By special grant of the managers to
boast, Robert Burns, who erected this stone, this They best can give it who deserve it most. burial-place is to remain for ever sacred to to the memory of Robert Fergusson."
Your lordship touches the darling chord of my heart, when you advise me to tire ray
inuse at Scottish story and Scottish scenes. Session-house within the kirk of Canongate, I wish for nothing more than to make a
the twenty-second day of February, one leisurely pilgrimage through my native coun
thousand seven hundred eighty-seven years. try; to sit and muse on those once hardSederunt of the Managers of the Kirk and contended fields, where Caledonia, rejoicing, Kirk-yard funds of Canongate.
saw her bloody lion borne through broken
ranks to victory and fame; and catching the Which day, the treasurer to the said funds inspiration, to pour the deathless names in produced a letter from Mr. Robert Burns, of song. But, my lord, in the midst of these date the 6th current, which was read and enthusiastic reveries, a long-visaged, dry appointed to be engrossed in their sederunt moral-looking phantom strides across niy book, and of which letter the tenor follows: imagination, and pronounces these emphatic
words: “ To the honourable bailies of Canongate, Edinburgh.--Gentlemen, I am sorry to be
“I, Wisdom, dwell with Prudence. Friend, told that the remains of Robert Fergusson, I do not come to open the ill-closed wounds the so justly celebrated poet, a man whose
of your follies and misfortunes, merely to talents for ages to come will do honour to give you pain: I wish through these wounds
. our Caledonian name, lie in your church-yard to imprint a lasting lesson on your heart.
I will not mention how many of my salutary among the ignoble dead, unnoticed and unknown.
advices you have despised; I have given you Some memorial to direct the steps of the line upon line and precept upon precept; and lovers of Scottish song, when they wish to
while I was chalking out to you the straight shed a tear over the narrow house of the way to wealth and character, with audacious bard who is no more, is surely a tribute due effrontery you have zigzagged across the to Fergusson's memory—a tribute I wish to path, contemning me to my face : you know have the lionour of paying.
the consequences. It is not yet three months I petition you then, gentlemen, to permit since home was so hot for you that you were me to lay a simple stone over his revered
on the wing for the western shore of the ashes, to remain an unalienable property to Atlantic, not to make a fortune, but to hide liis deathless fame. I have the honour to be, your misfortune. gentlemen, your very humble servant, (sic
“Now that your dear-loved Scotia puts it
in subscribitur) ROBERT BURNS."
your power to return to the situation of
your forefathers, will you follow these willTherefore the said managers, in considera-o-wisp meteors of fancy and whim, till they tion of the laudable and disinterested mo- bring you once more to the brink of ruin? tion of Mr Burns, and the propriety of his I grant that the utmost ground you can ocrequest, did, and hereby do, unanimously, cupy is but half a step from the veriest grant power and liberty to the said Robert | poverty; but still it is half a step from it.
If all that I can urge be ineffectual, let her / could wish to sing. I have no dearer aim who seldom calls to you in vain, let the call than to have it in my power, unplagued with of pride prevail with you. You know how the routine of business, for whicli, Heaven you feel at the iron gripe of ruthless oppres- knows, I am unfit enough, to make leisurely sion: you know how you bear the galling pilgrimages through Caledonia; to sit on sneer of contumelious greatness. I hold you the fields of her battles, to wander on the out the conveniences, the comforts of life, romantic banks of her rivers, and to muse independence and character, on the one by the stately towers or venerable ruins, hand; I tender you servility, dependence, once the honoured abodes of her heroes. and wretchedness, on the other. I will not But these are all Utopian* thoughts; I insult your understanding by bidding you have dallied long enough with life ; 'tis time make a choice."
to be in earnest. I have a fond, an aged This, my lord, is unanswerable. I must mother to care for, and some other bosom return to my humble station, and woo my ties perhaps
ties perhaps equally tender. Where the rustic muse, in my wonted way, at the individual only suffers by the consequences plongh-tail. Still, my lord, while the drops of his own thoughtlessness, indolence, or of life warm my heart, gratitude to that folly, he may be excusable--ay, shining dear-loved country in which I boast my birth, abilities, and some of the nobler virtues, and gratitude to those her distinguished may half sanctify a heedless character ; but sons who have honoured me so much with where God and nature have intrusteil the their patronage and approbation, shal, while welfare of others to his care—where the stealing through my humble shades, ever trust is sacred, and the lies are dear that distend my bosom, and at times, as now, man must be far gone in selfishness, or draw forth the swelling tear.
R. B. strangely lost to reflection, whom these con
nexions will not rouse to exertion.
I guess that I shall clear between two and three hundred pounds by my authorship; with that sum I intend, so far as I may be
said to have any intention, to return to my TO MRS. DUNLOP.
old acquaintance, the plough, and, if I can
meet with a lease by which I can live, to Edinburgh, March 22nd, 1787.
commence farmer. I do not intend to give MADAN.—I read your letter with watery up poetry; being bred to labour secures me eyes. A little, very little while ago, I had independence, and the muses are my chief, scarce a friend but the stubborn pride of my sometimes have been my only enjoyment. own bosom; now I am distinguished, pa- If my practice second my resolution, I shall tronised, befriended hy you. Your friendly have principally at heart the serious business advices, I will not yive them the cold name of life; but while following my plough, or of criticisms, I receive with reverence. I building up my shocks, I shall cast a leisure have made some small alterations in what I glance to that dear, that only feature of my before had printed. I have the advice of character, which gave me the notice of my some very judicious friend among the literati | country, and the patronage of a Wallace. here, but with them I sometimes find it Thus, honoured Madam, I have given you necessary to claim the privilege of thinking the bard, his situation, and his views, native for myself. The noble Earl of Glencairu, as they are in his own bosom, R. B. to whom I owe more than to any man,
does me the honour of giving me his strictures; his hints, with respect to impropriety or indelicacy, I follow implicitly.
You kindly interest yourself in my future views and prospects; there I can give you no light. It is all
TO MRS. DUNLOP. Dark as was chaos ere the infant sun
Edinburgh, April 15th, 1787. Was roll’d together, or had tried his beams
MADAM.-- There is an affectation of Athwart the gloom profound.
gratitude which I dislike. The periods of The appellation of a Scottish bard is by Johnson and the pauses of Sterne may hide far my highest pride; to continue to deserve a selfish heart. For my part, Madam, I it is my most exalted ambition. Scottish trust I have too much pride for servility, scenes and Scottish story are the themes I land too little prudence for selfishness. I
have this moment broken open your letter, may probably endeavour to return her poetic but
compliment in kind.
R. B. (20) Rude am I in speech, And therefore little can I grace my cause In speaking for myself—so I shall not trouble you with any fine speeches and hunted figures. I shall just
TO MRS. DUNLOP lay my hand on my heart and say, I hope I shall ever have the truest, the warmest sense
Edinburgh, April 30th, 1787. of your goodness.
YOUR criticisms, Madam, I underI come abroad, in print, for certain on stand very well, and could have wished to Wednesday. Your orders I shall punctually have pleased you better.
have pleased you better. You are right in attend to; only, by the way, I must tell you your guess that I am not very amenable to that I was paid before for Dr. Voore's and couusel. Poets, much my superiors, have Miss Williams's copies, through the medium so flattered those who possessed the advenof Cominissioner Cochrane in this place, but | titious qualities of wealth and power, that I that we can settle when I have the honour am deiermined to flatter no created being, of waiting on you.
either in prose or verse. Dr. Smith (19) was just gone to London I set as little by princes, lords, clergy, the morning before I received your letter to critics, &c., as all these respective yentry do him.
R. B. by my hardship. I know what I may expect
from the world by and bye--illiberal abuse,
my own favourite pieces are distinguished by your TO DR. MOORE.
particular approbation. For my “ Dream,”
which has unfortunately incurred your loyal Edinburgh, April, 23rd 1787. displeasure, I hope in four weeks, or less, to I RECEIVED the books, and sent the one
have the honour of appearing, at Dunlop, in its defence in person.
R. B. you mentioned to Mrs. Dunlop. I am ill skilled in beating the coverts of imagination for metaphors of gratitude. I thank you, Sir, for the honour vou have done me, and to my latest lour will warmly remember
TO JAMES JOHNSON, it. To be highly pleased with your book is, what I have in common with the world, but to regard these volumes as a mark of the author's friendly esteem, is a still more
Lawnmarket, Friday Noon, supreme gratification. I leave Edinburgh in the course of ten
Niny 3rd, 1787. days or a fortnight, and, after a few pilgrim- DEAR SIR.--I have sent you a song never ages over
some of the classic ground of before known for your collection; the air by Caledonia, Cowden Knowes, Banks of 11 Gibbon, but I know not the author of the Yarrow, Tweed, &c., I shall return to my words, as I got it from Dr. Blacklock. rural shades, in all likelihood never more to Farewell, my dear Sir! I wished to have quit them. I have formed many intimacie: seen you, but I have been dreadfully and friendships here, but I am afraid they throng (21), as I march to-morrow. (22) are all of too tender a construction to bear Had my acquaintance with you been a littie carriage a hundred and fifty miles. To the older, I would have asked the favour of your rich, the great, the fashionable, the polite, I correspondence, as I have met with few have no equivalent to offer; arid I am afraid people whose company and conversation my meteor appearance will by no means gave me so much pleasure, because I have entitle me to a settled correspondence with met with few whose sentiments are so conany of you, who are the permanent lights of genial to my own. genius and literature.
When Dunbar and you meet, tell him that My most respectful compliments to Niss I left Edinburgh with the idea of him liangWilliams. If once this tangent flight of ing somewhere about my heart. mine were over, and I were returned to my Keep the original of this song till we meet wonted leisurely motion in my old circle, I | again, whenever that may be. R. B.
TO THE REV. DR. HUGH BLAIR.
TO MR. JAMES CANDLISH.
Edinburgh, 1787. May 3rd, 1787.
MY DEAR FRIEND.If once I were REV. AND MUCII-RESPECTED SIR.-I gone from this scene of hurry and dissipation, leave Edinburgh to-morrow morning, but I promise myself the pleasure of that correscould not go without troubling you with pondence being renewed which has been so half a line, sincerely to thank you for the long broken. At present I have time for kindness, patronage and friendship you nothing. Dissipation and business engross have shown me. I often felt the embarrass- | every moment. I am engaged in assisting ment of my singular situation ; drawn forth an honest Scotch enthusiast (27), a friend of from the veriest shades of life to the glare mine, who is an engraver, and lias taken it of remark, and honoured by the notice of into his head to publish a collection of all those illustrious names of my country, whose our songs set to music, of which the words works, while they are applauded to the end and music are done by Scotsmen. This, you of time, will ever instruct and mend the will easily guess, is an undertaking exactly heart. However the meteor-like novelty of to my taste. I have collected, begged, bormy appearance in the world might attract rowed, and stolen, all the songs I could notice, and honour me with the acquaintance meet with. Pompey's Ghost, words and of the permanent lights of genius and litera- music, I beg from you immediately, to go ture, those who are truly benefactors of the into his second number—the first is already immortal nature of man, I knew very well published. I shall show you the first nunithat my utmost merit was far unequal to the | ber when I see you in Glasgow, which will task of preserving that character when once be in a fortnight or less. Do be so kind as the novelty was over; I have so made up my to send me the song in a day or two-you mind that abuse, or almost even neglect, cannot imagine how much it will oblige me. will not surprise me in my quarters.
Direct to me at Mr. W. Cruikshank's, I have sent you 9. proof impression of St. James's Square, New Town, Edinburgh. Beugo's work (23) for me, done on Indian
R. B. paper, as a trifling but sincere testimony with what heart-warm gratitude I am, &c.
R. B. (24)
TO MR. PATISON, BOOKSELLER,
TO WILLIAM CREECH, Esq.,
Berry-well, near Dunse, EDINBURGH.
May 17th, 1787.
DEAR SIR.--I am sorry I was out of Selkirk, May 13th, 1787.
Edinburgh, making a slight pilgrimage to MY IIONOURED FRIEND:- The enclosed the classic scenes of this country, when I I have just wrote (25), nearly extempore, in was favoured with yours of the llth instant, a solitary inn in Selkirk, after a miserably enclosing an order of the Paisley Banking wet day's riding. I have been over most of Company on the Royal Bank, for twenty-two East Lothian, Berwick, Roxburgh, and pounds seven shillings sterling, payment in Selkirk shires, and next week I begin a tour full, after carriage deducted, for ninaty copies through the north of England. Yesterday of my book I sent you. According to your I dined with Laily Harriet, sister to my motions, I see you will have left Scotland noble patron (26), Quem Deus conservet! | before this reaches you, otherwise I would I would write till I would tire you as much send you “ Holy Willie” with all my heart. with dull prose, as I daresay by this time I was so hurried that I absolutely forgot you are with wretched verse; but I am several things I ought to have minded: jaded to death; so, with a grateful farewell, among the rest, sending books to Mr. Cowan; I have the honour to be, good Sir, yours but any order of yours will be answered at sincerely,
Creech's shop. You will please remember that non-subscribers pay six shillings, this is Creech's profit; but those who have subIscribed, though their names have been