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THE PECULIAR TASTES OF BURNS.
other works, chiefly of the same nature, i lating all the effusions of his muse, and preand among these the Lounger. The so- siding over all his social enjoyments. But to ciety of Mauchline still [1800) subsists, and the thousands who share the original condiappeared in the list of subscribers to the tion of Burns, and who are doomed to pass first edition of the works of its celebrated their lives in the station in which they were associate.
born, delicacy of taste, were it even of easy The members of these two societies were attainment, would, if not a positive evil, be originally all young men from the country, at least a doubtful blessing. Delicacy of and chiefly sons of farmers-a description of taste may make many necessary labours irkpersons, in the op
pinion of our poet, more some or disgusting; and should it render the agreeable in their manners, more virtuous in cultivator of the soil unhappy in his situatheir conduct, and more susceptible of im- tion, it presents no means by which that provement, than the self-sufficient mechanics situation may be improved. Taste and liteof country towns. With deference to the rature, which diffuse so many charınsthrough.
f Mauchline, it may out society, which sometimes secure to their be doubted, whether the books which they votaries distinction while living, and which purchased were of a kind best adapted to still more frequently obtain for them pospromote the interest and happiness of per- thumous fame, seldoin procure opulence, or sons in this situation of life. The Mirror even independence, when cultivated with the and the Lounger, though works of great utmost attention, and can scarcely be purmerit, mav be said, on a general view of their sued with advantage by the peasant in the contents. to be less calculated to increase the short intervals of leisure which his occupaknowledge than to refine the taste of those tions allow. Those who raise themselves who read them; and to this last object their from the condition of daily labour, are usually morality itself, which is, however, always per- men who excel in the practice of some useful fectly pure, may be considered as subordi-, art, or who join habits of industry and so. nate. As works of taste, they deserve great briety to an acquaintance with some of the praise. They are, indeed, retined to a high more common branches of knowledge. The degree of delicacy; and to this circumstance penmanship of Butterworth, and the arith. it is perhaps owing, that they exhibit little metic of Cocker, may be studied by men in or nothing of the peculiar manners of the the humblest walks of life; and they will age or country in which they were produced. assist the peasant more in the pursuit of inBut delicacy of taste, though the source of dependence than the study of Homer or of many pleasures, is not without some disad- Shakespeare, though he could comprehend, Fantages; and, to render it desirable, the and even imitate, the beauties of those impossessor should, perhaps, in all cases, be mortal bards. raised above the necessity of bodily labour, | These chservations are not offered withunless, indeed, we should include under this out some portion of doubt and hesitation. term the exercise of the imitative arts, over The subject has many relations, and would which taste immediately presides. Delicacy justify an ample discussion. It may be of taste may be a blessing to him who has observed, on the other hand, that the first the disposal of his own time, and who can step to improvement is, to awaken the choose what book he shall read, of what di- desire of improvement, and that this will be version he shall partake, and what company most effectually done by such reading as he shall keep. To men so situated, the cul- interests the heart
and excites the in tivation of taste affords a grateful occupation tion. The greater part of the sacred in itself, and opens a path to many other writings themselves, which in Scotland are gratifications. To men of genius, in the more especially the manual of the poor, possession of opulence and leisure, the culti-come under this description. It may be fur. vation of the taste may be said to be essen-ther observed, thatevery human being is the tial; since it affords employment to those proper judge of his own happiness, and, within faculties, which without employment would the path of innocence, ought to be perdestroy the happiness of the possessor, and mitted to pursue it. Since it is the taste of corrects that morbid sensibility, or, to use the Scottish peasantry to give a preference the expressions of Mr. Hume, that delicacy to works of taste and of fancy (44), it may of passion, which is the bane of the temper- be presumed they find a superior gratificaament of genius. Happy had it been for our tion in the perusal of such works; and it bard, after he emerged from the condition of may be added, that it is of more con. a peasant, had the delicacy of his taste sequence they should be made happy in equalled the sensibility of his passions, regu- their original condition, than furnished
with the means, or with the desire, of rising the senate and the bar, which in this, as above it. Such considerations are, doubt- in all other free governments, is productive less, of much weight; nevertheless, the of so much influence to the few who excel in previous reflections may deserve to be it, yet little regard has been paid to the examined, and here we shall leave the subject. humbler exercise of speech in private con.
Though the records of the society at versation--an art that is of consequence to Tarbolton are lost, and those of the society every description of persons under every at Mauchline have not been transmitted, form of government, and on which eloquence yet we may safely affirm, that our poet was of every kind ought perhaps to be founded. à distinguished member of both these The first requisite of every kind of elocu. associations, which were well calculated to tion, a distinct utterance, is the offspring of excite and to develope the powers of his much time and of long practice. Children mind. From seven to twelve persons con- are always defective in clear articulation, stituted the society of Tarbolton, and such and so are young people, though in a less a number is best suited to the purposes of degree. What is called slurring in speech, information. Where this is the object | prevails with some persons through life, of these societies, the number should be especially in those who are taciturn. Arsuch, that each person may have an oppor- ticulation does not seem to reach its utmost tunity of imparting his sentiments, as well degree of distinctness in men before the as of receiving those of others; and the age of twenty, or upwards; in women it powers of private conversation are to be reaches this point somewhat earlier. Feemployed, not those of public debate. A male occupations require much use of limited society of this kind, where the speech, because they are duties in detail. subject of conversation is fixed beforehand, Besides, their occupations being generally 80 that each member may revolve it pre- sedentary, the respiration is left at liberty. viously in his mind, is perhaps one of the Their nerves being more delicate, their happiest contrivances hitherto discovered sensibility as well as fancy is more lively; the for shortening the acquisition of knowledge, natural consequence of which is, a more and hastening the evolution of talents. | frequent utte
ent utterance of tho , a greater Such an association requires indeed some- fluency of speech, and a distinct articulation what more of regulation than the rules of at an earlier age. But in men who have politeness, established in common conversa- | not mingled early and familiarly with the tion, or rather, perhaps, it requires that the world, though rich perhaps in knowledge, rules of politeness, which in animated conver- and clear in apprehension, it is often sation are liable to perpetual violation, should I painful to observe the difficulty with which be vigorously enforced. The order of speech their ideas are communicated by speech, established in the club at Tarbolton, ap-through the want of those habits that con. pears to have been more regular than was nect thoughts, words, and sounds together; required in so small a society; where all which, when established, seem as if they had that is necessary seems to be the fixing on arisen spontaneously, but which, in truth, a member to whom every speaker shall | are the result of
ctice; address himself, and who shall in return and when analysed, exhibit the phenomena secure the speaker from interruption. Con- 1 of most curious and complicated association. versation, which among men whom intimacy Societies then, such as we have been and friendship have relieved from reserve describing, while they may be said to put and restraint, is liable, when left to itself, each member in possession of the knowto so many inequalities, and which, as it ledge of all the rest, improve the powers of becomes rapid, so often diverges into sepa- utterance; and by the collision of opinion, rate and collateral branches, in which it is excite the faculties of reason and reflection. dissipated and lost, being kept within its | To those who wish to improve their minds channel by a simple limitation of this kind, in such intervals of labour as the condition which practice renders easy and familiar, of a peasant allows, this method of abbreflows along in one full stream, and becomesviating instruction, may, under proper smoother, and clearer, and deeper, as it regulations, be highly useful. To the flows. It may also be observed, that in student, whose opinions, springing out of this way the acquisition of knowledge solitary observation and meditation, are becomes more pleasant and more easy, from seldom in the first instance correct, and the gradual improvement of the faculty which have, notwithstanding, while confined employed to convey it. Though some to himself, an increasing tendency to assume attention has been paid to the eloquence of in his own eye the character of demoustra
tions, an association of this kind, where daughter of a substantial country mason they may be examined as they arise, is of One night, there was a rocking at Mossgiel, the utmost importance ; since it may pre- where a lad named Ralph Sillar sang a vent those illusions of imagination, by which number of songs in what was considered a genius being bewildered, science is often superior style. When Burns and Blane debased, and error propagated through were retired to their usual sleeping place in successive generations. And to men who the stable-loft, the former asked the latter having
r general science, what he thought of Sillar's singing, to which in the course of their education, are en-Blane answered that the lad thought so gaged in the active occupations of life, and much of it himself, and had so many airs no longer able to devote to study or to about it, that there was no occasion for books the time requisite for improving or others expressing a favourable opinion-yet, preserving their acquisitions, associations of he added, “I would not give Jean Armour
s kind. where the mind may unbend for a score of him." “ You are always from its usual cares in discussions of talking of this Jean Armour," said Burns ; literature or science, afford the most pleas- "I wish you could contrive to bring me to ing, the most useful, and the most rational see her." Blane readily consented to do so, of gratifications.
and next evening, after the plough was Whether in the humble societies of which loosed, the two proceeded to Mauchline for he was a member, Burns acquired much that purpose. Burns went into a public
rect information, may perhaps be ques. | house, and Blane went into the singing, tioned. It cannot, however, be doubted, school, which chanced to be kept in the that by collision the faculties of his mind floor above. When the school was diswould be excited; that by practice his missing, Blane asked Jean Armour if she habits of enunciation would be established; / would come to see Robert Burns, who was and thus we have some explanation of that below, and anxious to speak to her. Having early command of words and of expression heard of his poetical talents, she said she which enabled him to pour forth his would like much to see him, but was afraid thoughts in language not unworthy of his to go without a female companion. This genius, and which, of all his endowments, difficulty being overcome by the frankness seemed, on his appearance in Edinburgh, of a Miss Morton-the Miss Morton of the the most extraordinary. For associations Six Mauchline Belles-_Jean went down to of a literary nature, our poet acquired a the rooin where Burns was sitting. “From considerable relish; and happy had it been that time,” Blane adds very naïvely, “I had for him, after he emerged from the con- little of the company of Jean Armour." dition of a peasant, if fortune had permitted Here for the present ends the story of him to enjoy them in the degree of which Blane. The results of Burns's acquainthe was capable, so as to have fortified his ance with Jean have been already in part principles of virtue by the purification of his detailed. When her pregnancy could be no taste; and given to the energies of his longer concealed, the poet, under the inmind, habits of exertion that might have fluence of honourable feeling, gave her a excluded other associations, in which it written paper, in which he acknowledged must be acknowledged they were too often his being her husband--a document suffiwasted, as well as debased.
cient to constitute a marriage in Scotland, The allusions in Burns's letter, and that if not in the eye of decency, at least in that of his brother, to his connection with Jean of law. But her father, from a dislike to Armour, afford but a vague account of Burns, whose theological satires had greatly that affair; and it seems necessary that shocked him, and from hopelesness of his some farther and clearer particulars should being able to support her as a husband, now be given.
insisted that she should destroy this paper, John Blane reports the following in- and remain as an unmarried woman.
tances respecting the Some violent scenes ensued. The parents attachment of the poet to Miss Armour: were enraged at the imprudence of their There was a singing school at Mauchline, daughter, and at Burns. The daughter, which Blane attended. Jean Armour was trembling beneath their indignation, could also a pupil, and he soon became aware of ill resist the command to forget and her talents as a vocalist. He even con- abandon her lover. He, in his turn, was tracted a kind of attachment to this young filled with the extremest anguish when wonian, though only such as a country lad informed that she had given him up. Anoof his degree might entertain for the ther event occurred to add to the torments
of the unhappy poet. Jean, to avoid the
"a weary dream, immediate pressure of her father's dis The dream of ane that never wauks." pleasure, went about the month of May. In a letter dated June 12, 1786, he says (1786) to Paisley, and took refuge with a "Poor ill-advised ungrateful Armour came relation of her mother, one Andrew Purdie, home on Friday last. You have heard all a wright. There was at Paisley a certain the particulars of that affair, and a black Robert Wilson, a good-looking young affair it is. What she thinks of her conduct weaver, a native of Mauchline, and who was now, I don't know; one thing I do know, realising wages to the amount of perhaps she has made me completely miserable. three pounds a-week by his then flourishing Never man loved, or rather adored, a wo. profession. Jean Armour had danced with man more than I did her; and, to confess a this “gallant weaver” at the Mauchline truth between you and me, I do love her dancing-school balls, and, besides her still to distraction, after all, though I relative Purdie, she knew no other person won't tell her so if I were to see her, in Paisley " Paskey. Den n du aluminium for how
Being in much need of al which I don't want to do. * * May small supply of money, she found it neces-Almighty God forgive
the sary to apply to Mr. Wilson, who received perjury to me, as I from my very soul her kindly, although he did not conceal that forgive her.” On the 9th July he writes he had a suspicion of the reason of her visit “I have waited on Armour since her return to Paisley. When the reader is reminded home, not from the least view of reconciliathat village life is not the sphere in which tion, but merely to ask for her health, and to high-wrought and romantic feelings are you I will confess it--from a foolish hanker. most apt to flourish, he will be prepared | ing fondness--very ill-placed indeed. The in some measure to learn that Robert mother forbade me the house, nor did Jean Wilson not only relieved the necessities show the penitence that might have been of the fair applicant, but formed the wish to expected. However, the priest, I am in. possess himself of her hand. He called for formed, will give me a certificate as a single her several times at Purdie's, and informed | man, if I comply with the rules of the her, that, if she should not become the wife church, which, for that very reason, I intend of Burns, he would engage himself to none to do. I am going to put on sackcloth and while she remained unmarried. Mrs. ashes this day. I am indulged so far as to Burns long after assured a female friend appear in my own seat. Peccavi, pater, that she never gave the least encourage- niserere mei.” ment to Wilson; but, nevertheless, his!
1 In a letter of July 17, to Mr.
In a letter of July 17, to Mr. David visits occasioned some gossip, which soon Brice of Glasgow, the poet thus continues found its way to Mauchline, and entered the his story :- have already appeared pubsoul of the poet like a demoniac possession. | licly in church, and was indulged in the He now seems to have regarded her as lost | liberty of standing in my own seat. Jean to him for ever, and that not purely through and her friends insisted much that she the objections of her relations, but by her should stand along with me in the kirk, but own cruel and perjured desertion of one the minister would not allow it, which bred whom she had acknowledged as her hus. , a great trouble, I assure you, and I am band. It requires these particulars, little blamed as the cause of it, though I am sure as there may be of pleasing about them, to I am innocent; but I am very much pleased, make us fully understand much of what for all that, not to have had her company,'' Burns wrote at this time, both in verse and And again, July 30—“Armour has got a prose. Long afterwards, he became con- warrant to throw me in jail till I find secu. vinced that Jean, by no part of her conduct rity for an enormous sum. This they keep with respect to Wilson, had given him just an entire secret, but I got it by a channel cause for jealousy: it is not improbable they little dream of; and I am wandering that he learned in time to make it the sub- from one friend's house to another, and, ject of sport, and wrote the song, “ Where like a true son of the g
1. have no Cart rins rowing to the sea," in jocular where to lay my head.' I know you will allusion to it. But for months--and it is pour an execration on her head, but spare distressing to think that these were the the poor ill-advised girl, for my sake; months during which he was putting his though may all the furies that rend the matchless poems for the first time to press | injured, enraged lover's bosom, await her
he conceived himself the victim of a mother until her latest hour! I write in a faithless woman, and life was to him, as he moment of rage, reflecting on my miserable himself describes it,
situation-exiled, abandoned, forlorn,"
JEAN ARMOUR'S TWIN CHILDREN.
In this dark period, or immediately before | ful, and the scene was concluded by his it (July 22), the poet signed an instrument, giving the ailing lady a hearty caress, and
the kingdom, by which he devised all her history as a mother. property of whatever kind he might leave It would appear, from the words used by behind, including the copyright of his the poet on this occasion, that he was not poems, to his brother Gilbert, in considera- without hope of yet making good his matrition of the latter having undertaken to monial alliance with Jean. This is rendered support his daughter Elizabeth, the issue of the more likely by the evidence which exists
tion of this instrument was publicly made tember, entertained a hope of obtaining an at the Cross of Ayr, two days after, by excise appointment, through his friends William Chalmers, writer. If he had been Hamilton and Aiken; in which case he upon better terms with the Armours, it would have been able to present a respectseems unlikely that he would have thus able claim upon the countenance of the devised his property without a respect for Armours. But this prospect ended in dis. the claims of his offspring by Jean.
appointment; and there is reason to con. After this we hear no more of the legal clude, that, in a very short time after the severities of Mr. Armour-th
--the object of accouchement, he was once more forbidden which was, not to abridge the liberty of the to visit the house in which his children and unfortunate Burns, but to drive him away all but wife resided. There was at this time from the country, so as to leave Jean more a person named John Kennedy, who traeffectually disengaged. The POEMS now velled the district on horseback as mercanappeared, and probably had some effect in tile agent, and was on intimate terms with allaying the hostility of the old man to-Burns. One day, as he was passing Mo wards their author. It would at least giel, Burns stopped him, and made the appear that, at the time of Jean's accouche- request that he would return to Mauchline ment, September 3, the “skulking" had with a present for“his poor wife.” Kennedy ceased, and the parents of the young woman consented, and the poet hoisted upon the were not so cruel as to forbid his seeing her.pommel of the saddle a bag filled with the
At this time, Blane had removed from Mr. Armour's house, and requested per. Mossgiel to Mauchline, and become servant mission to see Jean, as the bearer of a to Mr. Gavin Hamilton; but Burris still message and a present from Robert Burns. remembered their old acquaintance. When, Mrs. Armour violently protested against his in consequence of information sent by the being admitted to an interview, and beArmours as to Jean's situation, the poet stowed upon him sundry unceremonious came from Mossgiel to visit her, he called appellations for being the friend of such a in passing at Mr. Hamilton's, and asked man ; she was, however, overruled in this John to accompany him to the house. instance by her husband, and Kennedy was Blane went with him to Mr. Armour's, permitted to enter the apartment where where, according to his recollection, the Jean was lying. He had not been there bard was received with all desirable civility, many minutes, when he heard a rushing Jean held up a pretty female infant to and screaming in the stair, and, immediately Burns, who took it affectionately in his after, Burns burst into the room, followed arms, and, after keeping it a little while. closely by the Armours, who seemed to have returned it to the mother, asking the bless. exhausted their strength in endeavouring to ing of God Almighty upon her and her repel his intrusion. Burns flew to the bed, infant. He was turning away to converse and putting his cheek to Jean's, and then in with the other people in the room, when succession to those of the slumbering Jean said, archly, “But this is not all-here infants, wept bitterly. The Armours, it is is another baby," and handed him a male added by Kennedy, who has himself rechild, which had been born at the same ported the circumstances (45), remained untime. He was greatly surprised, but took affected by his distress; but whether he that child too for a little into his arms, and was allowed to remain for a short time, or repeated his blessing upon it. (This child immediately after expelled, is not mentioned. was afterwards named Robert, and still | After hearing this affecting anecdote of lives : the girl was named Jean, but only Burns, the Lament may verily appear to us lived fourteen months.) The mood of the as arising from melancholy poet then changed to the mirth-1 “No idly feigned poetic pains.” (46)