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TO MR. JAMES SMITH.
| correspondence, like the opening of a twenty
four gun battery! TO MRS. DUNLOP.
There is no understanding a man properly, Mauchline, April 28th, 1788. without knowing something of his previous
ideas--that is to say, if the man has any MADAM-Your powers of reprehension
ideas; for I know many who, in the animal.
ideas. must be great indeed, as I assure you they muster. pass for men, that are the scanty made my heart ache with penitential pangs,
masters of only one idea on any give sub. even though I was really not guilty. As I jent and hv for 7
ject, and by far the greatest part of your commence farmer at Whitsunday, you will
acquaintances and mine can barely boast of easily gliess I must be pretty busy; but that ideas. 725_):5_1.75 (or some such frac. is not all. As I got the offer of the Excise
tional matter); so to let you a little into the business without solicitation, and as it costs
secrets of my pericranium, there is, you me only six months' attendance for instruc
must know, a certain clean-limbed, handsome, tions, to entitle me to a commission-which
bewitching youy huzzy of your acquaintcommission lies by me, and at any future
ance, to whom I have lately and privately period, on my simple petition, can be resumed; | given a matrimonial title to my corpus. I thought five and thirty pounds a-year was no bad dernier resort fir a poor poet, if for
Bude a robe and wear it, tune in her jade tricks should kick him down
Bode a pock and bear it, from the little eminence to which she has
says the wise old Scots adaye! I hate to lately helped him up.
i presage ill-luck; and as my girl has been For this reason, I am at present attending
doubly kinder to me than even the best of these instructions, to have them completed
women usually are to their partners of our before Whitsunday. Still, Madam, I prepared
sex, in similar circumstances, I reckon on with the sincerest pleasure to meet you at
twelve times a hrace of children against I the Mount, and came to my brother's on
celebrate my twelfth wedding day: these Saturday night, to set out on Sunday ; but
twenty-four will give me twenty-four gossipfor some nights preceding I had slept in an
pings, twenty-four christenings (I mean one apartment, where the force of the winds and
equal to two), and I hope, by the blessing of rams was only mitigated by being sifted
the God of my fathers, to make themi twentythrough numberless apertures in the windows, four dutiful children to their parents, twentywalls, &c. In consequence I was on Sunday, I four useful inembers of society, and twentyMonday, and part of Tuesday, unable to stiri
" | fuur approved servants of their God! *** out of bed, with all the miserable effects of a
“ Light's heartsome," quo' the wife when violent cold.
she was stealing sheep. You see what a You see, Madam, the truth of the French
la.np I have hung up to lighten your paths, maxim le vrai n'est pas toujours le vraisem
when you are idie enough to explore the blable. Your last was so full of expostula
combinations and relations of my ideas. tion, and was something so like the language
'Tis 110w as plain as a pike-staff why of an offended friend, that I began to
twenty-four gun battery was a metaplior I tremble for a correspondence, which I had
could readily employ. with grateful pleasure set down as one of the
Now for business. I intend to present greatest enjoyments of my future life.
Mrs. Burns with a printed shawl, an article Your books have delighted me, Virgil,
of which I dare say you have variety : 'tis Dryden am Tasso, were all equally strangers
my first present to her since I have irrevoto me; but of this more ac larye in my
Cably called her mine, and I have a kind of next.
whimsicai wish to get her the first said present from an old and much valued friend of hers and inine, a trusty Trojan, on whose
friendship I count myself possessed of as a NO. CXXVIII.
Look on this letter as a “ beginning of TO MR JAMES SMITH. sorrows ;" I will write you till your eyes
ache reading nonsense. AVON PRINTFIELD, LINLITIGOW.
Mrs. Burns ('tis only her private desig. Mauchline, April 28th, 1788. nation) begs her best compliments to you.
R. B. BEWARE of your Strasburgh, my good Sir! Look on this as the opening of al
of him; though I am conscious my critiTO PROFESSOR DUGALD STEWART.
cisms must be very inaccurate and imperfect,
as there I have ever felt and lamented my Mauchline, May 3rd, 1788. want of learning most.
R. B. SIR-I enclose you one or two more of my bagatelles. If the fervent wishes of honest gratitude have any influence with that great, unknown Being who frames the
NO. CXXXI. chain of causes and events, prosperity and happiness will attend your visit to the con
TO MR. ROBERT AINSLIE. tinent, and return you safe to your native
Mauchline, May 26th, 1788. shore,
Wherever I am, allow me, Sir, to claim it! MY DEAR FRIEND-I am two kind letters as my privilege to acquaint you with my | in your debt; but I have been from home, progress in my trade of rhymes; as I am and horridly busy, buying and preparing for sure I could say it with truth, that, next to my farming business, over and above the my little fame, and the having it in my power plague of my Excise instructions, which this to make life more comfortable to those whom week will finish. nature has made dear to me. I shall ever As I flatter my wishes that I foresee many regard your countenance, your patronage, !
atronage. future years' correspondence between us, your friendly good offices, as the most valued
'tis foulish to talk of excusig dull epistles; cousequence of my late success in life. a dull letter may be a very kind one. I have
R. B. the pleasure to tell you that I have been
extremely fortunate in all my buyings and bargainings hitherto-Mrs. Burns not excepted; which title I now avow to the
world. I am truly pleased with this last NO. CXXX.
affair ; it has indeed added to my anxieties TO MRS. DUNLOP.
for futurity, but it has given a stability to
my mind and resolutions unknown before; Mauchline, Msuy 4th, 1788. and the poor girl has the most sacred enMADAM_Dryden's Virgil has delighted | thusiasın of attachment to me, and has not me. I do not know whether the critics will a
J a wish but to gratify my every idea of her agree with me, but the Georgics are to me i deportment. Tam interrupted.-Farewell ! by far the best of Virgil. It is indeed a
my dear Sir,
R. B. species of writing entirely new to me, and has filled my head with a thousand fancies of emulation : but, alas! when I read the Georgics, and then survey iny own powers,
NO. CXXXII. 'tis like the idea of a Shetland pony, drawn up by the side of a thorough-bred hunter, to
TO MRS. DUNLOP. start for the plate. I own I am disappointed in the Æneid. Faultiess correctness may
May 27th, 1788. please, and does highly please the lettered MADAM-I have been torturing my phi. critic: but to that awful character I have losophy to 110 purpose, to account for that not the most distant pretensions. I do not kind partiality of yours, which has followed know whether I do not hazard my preten-me, in my return to the shade of life, with sions to be a critic of any kind, when I say assiduous benevolence. Often did I regret, that I think Virgil, in many instances, a in the fleeting hours of my late will-o'-wisp servile copier of Homer. If I had the appearance, that “here I liad no continuing Odyssey by me, I could parallel many pas-city;" and, but for the consolation of a few sages where Virgil has evidently copied, but solid guineas, could almost lament the time by no means
ner. Nor can I | that a momentary acquaintance with wealth think there is anything of this owing to the and splendour put me so much out of contranslators; for, from everything I have seen ceit with the sworn companions of my road of Dryden, I think him, in genius and fluency through life-insignificance and poverty. of language, Pope's master. I have not There are few circumstances relating to perused Tasso enough to form an opinion— the unequal distribution of the good things in some future letter you shall have my ideas / of this life that give me more vexation (I
mean in what I see around me) than the im- sensibility, irritated and prejudiced on the portance the opulent bestow on their trifling gloomy side by a series of misfortunes and family affairs, compared with the very same disappointments, at that period of my exista things on the contracted scale of a cottage. ence when the soul is laying in her cargo Last afternoon I had the honour to spend au of ideas for the voyage of life, is, I believe, hour or two at a good woman's fire-side, the principal cause of this unhappy frame of where the planks that composed the floor mind. were decorated with a splendid carpet, and the gay table sparkled with silver and china. The valiant in himself, what can he suffer ? 'Tis now about term-day, and there has been Or what need he regard his single woes? a revolution among those creatures, who,
&c. though in appearance partakers, and equally noble partakers, of the same nature with
Your surmise, Madam, is just; I am inMadame, are from time to time-their
their deed a husband. nerves, their sinews, their health, strength, wisdom, experience, genius, time, nay a good
To jealousy or infidelity I am an equal part of their very thoughts-sold for months
stranger My preservative from the first is and years, not only to the necessities, the
the most thorough consciousness of her conveniences, but the caprices, of the im
sentiments of honour, and her attachment portant few. We talked of the insignificant
to me: my antidote against the last is creatures; nay, notwithstanding their general
iny long and deep-rooted affection for stupidity and rascality, did some of the poor devils the honour to commend them. But
In housewife matters, of aptness to learn light be the turf upon his breast who
and activity to execute, she is eminently taught, “Reverence thyself.” We looked
mistress : and during my absence in Nithsdown on the unpolished wretches, their im
dale, she is regularly and constantly appertinent wives and clouterly brats, as the
prentice to my mother and sisters in their lordly bull does on the little dirty ant-liill,
dairy and other rural business. whose puny inhabitants he crushes in the
The muses must not be offended when I carelessness of his ramble, or tosses in the
tell them, the concerns of my wife and family air in the wantonness of his pride.
will, in my mind, always take the pas; but I R. B.
assure them their ladyships will ever come next in place.
You are right that a bachelor state would have insured me more friends; but, from a
cause you will easily guess, conscious peace NO. CXXXIII.
in the enjoyment of my own mind, and
unmistrusting confidence in approaching TO THE SAME.
my God, would seldom have been of the
number, Ellisland, June 13th, 1788.
I found a once much-loved and still Where'er I roam, whatever realms I see,
much-loved female, literally and truly cast My heart, untravell’d, fondly turns to thee;
out to the mercy of the naked elements ; but Still to my friend it turns with ceaseless
I enabled her to purchase a shelter--there is pain,
no sporting with a fellow-creature's happiAnd drags, at each remove, a lengtheu'd
ness or misery. GOLDSMITH.
The most placid good-nature and sweete
ness of disposition; a warm heart, gratefully This is the second day, my honoured | devoted with all its powers to love me; friend, that I have been on my farm. A vigorous health and sprightly cheerfulness, solitary inmate of an old, smoky spence; set off to the best advantage by a more far from every object I love, or by whom í l than commonly handsome figure; these, I am beloved; not any acquaintance older think, in a woman, may make a good wife, than yesterday, except Jenny Geddes, the though she should never have read a page old mare I ride on; while uncouth cares and but the Scriptures of the Old and New novel plans hourly insi:lt iny awkward igno- | Testament, nor have danced in a brighter rance and bashful inexperience. There is a assembly than a penny pay wedding foggy atmosphere native to my soul in the
R. B. hour of care, consequently the dreary objects seem larger then the life. Extreme
ness. (72) As it is, I look to the Excise
scheme as a certainty of maintenance; a TO MR. ROBERT AINSLIE.
maintenance !--luxury to what either Mrs. Ellisland, June 14th, 1788. Burns or I were born to. Adieu!
R. B. This is now the third day, my dearest Sir, that I have sojourned in these regions; and during these three days you have occu
NO. CXXXV. pied more of my thoughts than in three weeks preceding: in Ayrshire I have several
TO THE SAME. variations of friendship's compass, here it
Mauchline, June 23rd, 1788. points invariably to the pole. My farm givez me a good many uncouth cares and anxieties, This letter, my dear Sir, is only a busibut I hate the language of complaint. Job, ness scrap. Mr. Miers, profile painter in or some one of his friends, says well-"Why your town, has executed a profile of Dr. should a living man complain?"
Blacklock for me; do me the favour to call I have lately been much mortified with for it, and sit to him yourself for me, which contemplating an unlucky imperfection in put in the same size as the doctor's. The the very framing and construction of my account of both profiles will be fifteen soul; namely, a blundering inaccuracy of shillings, which I have given to James her olfactory organs in hitting the scent of Connel, our Mauchline carrier, to pay you craft or design in my fellow-creatures. I do when you give him the parcel. You must not mean any compliment to my ingenuous- not, my friend, refuse to sit. The time is ness, or to hint that the defect is in con-short; when I sat to Mr. Miers, I am sure sequence of the unsuspicious simplicity of he did not exceed two minutes. I propose conscious truth and honour: I take it to be, hanging Lord Glencairn, the doctor, and in some way or other, an imperfection in the you, in trio over my new chimney-piece that mental sight; or, metaphor apart, some \ is to be. Adieu.
R. B. modification of dullness. In two or three instances lately, I have been most shamefully out. I have all along, hitherto, in the warfare
NO. CXXXVI. of life, been bred to arms among the light
TO THE SAME. horse-the piquet-guards of fancy--a kiud of hussars and Highlanders of the brain ;
Ellisland, June 30th, 1788. but I am firmly resolved to sell out of these MY DEAR SIR-I just now received your giddy battallions, who have no ideas of a brief epistle; and, to take vengeance on battle but fighting the foe, or of a siege but your laziness, I have, you see, taken a long storming the town. Cost what it will, I am sheet of writing-paper, and have begin at
y in among the grave the top of the page, intending to scribble on squadrons of heavy-armed thought, or the to the very last corner. artillery corps of plodding contrivance.
I am vexed at that affair of the * * * What books are you reading, or what is but dare not enlarge on the subject until the subject of your thoughts, besides the you send me your direction, as I suppose great studies of your profession? You said that will be altered on your late master and something about religion in your last. I friend's death. (73) I am concerned for the don't exactly remember what it was, as the old fellow's exit, only as I fear it may be to letter is in Ayrshire; but I thought it not your disadvantage in any respect-for an old only prettily said, but nobly thought. You man's dying, except he have been a very will make a noble fellow if once you were benevolent character, or in some particular married. I make no reservation of your situation of life that the welfare of the poor
have so much sense or the helpless depended on him, I think it and knowledge of human nature, that an event of the most trifling moment to the though you may not realise, perhaps, the world. Man is naturally a kind, benevolent ideas of romance, yet you will never be ill animal, but he is dropped into such a needy married.
situation here in this vexaticus world, and Were it not for the terrors of my ticklish: has such a whore-son, hungry, growling, situation respecting provision for a family of multiplying pack of necessities, appetites, children, I am decidedly of opinion that the passions and desires about him, ready to step I have taken is vastly for my happi- ' devour him for want of other food, that in
fact he must lay aside his cares for others full in your own way. I admire the close that he may look properly to himself. You of a letter Lord Bolingbroke writes to Dean have been imposed upon in paying Mr. Swift:-“Adieu, dear Swift! with all thy Miers for the profile of a Mr. H. I did not faults I love thee entirely; make an effort to mention it in my letter to you, nor did I love me with all mine!” Humble servant, ever give Mr. Miers any such order. I have and all that trumpery, is now such a prosno objection to lose the money, but I will tituted business, that honest friendship, not have any such profile in my possession. | in her sincere way, must have recourse
I desired the carrier to pay you, but as Il to her primitive, simple, farewell ! mentioned only fifteen shillings to him, I will
R. B. rather enclose you a guinea-note. I have it not, indeed, to spare here, as I am only a sojourner in a strange land in this place; but in a day or two I return to Mauchline, and there I have the bank-notes through the
NO. CXXXVII. house like salt permits.
TO MR. PETER HILL. There is a great degree of folly in talking unnecessarily of one's private affairs. I have MY DEAR HILL—I shall say nothing just now been interrupted by one of my new to your mad present. 174) You have so neighbours, who has made himself absolutely long and often been of important service to contemptible in my eyes by his silly, garru- me, and I suppose you mean to go on conlous pruriency. I know it has been a fault ferring obligations until I shall not be able of my own, too; but from this moment I to lift up my face before you. In the meanabjure it as I would the service of hell! time, as Sir Roger de Coverley, because it Your poets, spendthrifts, and other fools of happened to be a cold day in which he made that kidney, pretend, forsooth, to crack his will, ordered his servants great-coats for their jokes on prudence; but 'tis a squalid mourning, so, because I have been this vagabond worying in his rags. Still, im- week plagued with an indiyestion, I have prudence respecting money matters is much sent you by the carrier a fine old ewe-milk inore pardonable than imprudence respecting cheese. character. I have no objection to prefer Iudigestion is the devil; nay, 'tis the devil prodigality to avarice, in some few instances; and all. It besets a man in every one of but I appeal to your observation if you have his senses. I lose my appetite at the sight not niet, with the same disingenuousness, of successful knavery, and sicken to loathing the same lollow-hearted insincerity, and dis- at the noise and nonsense of self-important integritive depravity of principle, in the folly. When the hollow-hearted wretch hackneyed victims of profusiou, as in the takes me by the hand, the feeling spoils my unfeeling children of parsimony. I have dinner; the proud man's wine so offends every possible reverence for the much-talked-my palate, that it chokes me in the gullet; of world beyond the grave, and I wish that and the pulverised, feathered, pert coxcomb, which piety believes, and virtue deserves, is so disgustful in my nostril, that my stomay be all matter-of-fact. But in things | mach turns. belonging to and terminating in this present If ever you have any of these disagreeable scene of existence, man has serious and sensations, let me prescribe for you patience interesting business on hand. Whether a and a bit of my cheese. I know that you man shali shake hands with welcome in the are no niggard of your good things among distinguished elevation of respect, or slırink your friends, and some of them are in much from contempt in the abject corner of in need of a slice. There, in my eye, is our significance: whether he shall wanton under friend Smellie, a man positively of the first the tropic of plenty, at least enjoy himself abilities and greatest strength of mind, as in the comfortable latitudes of easy couve well as one of the best hearts and keenest nience, or starve in the arctic circle of dreary wits that I ever met with; when you see poverty; whether he shall rise in the manly him-as, alas! he too is smarting at the consciousness of self-approving mind, or pinch of distressful circumstances, aggravated suk beneath a galling load of regret and by the sheer of contumelious greatnessremorse-these are alternatives of the last bit of my cheese alone will not cure him, moment.
but if you add a tankard of brown stout, You see how I preach. You used occa- and superadd a magnum of right Oporto, sionally to sermonise too; I wish you you will see his sorrows vanish like the would, in charity, favour me with a sheet | morning mist before the summer sun.