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wicked, little village. (204) I liave gone forward, but snows, of ten feet deep, have
BURNS TO MR. THOMSON. (205) impeded my progress: I have tried to "gae back the gate I cam again,” but the same
May, 1795. obstacle has shut me up within insuperable bars. To add to my misfortune, since dinner,
Let me know, your very first leisure, how a scraper has been torturing catgut, in sounds you like this song. that would have insulted the dying agonies [Here follows the song "On Chloris being ill.”] of a sow under the hands of a butcher, and thinks himself, on that very account, ex
How do you like the foregoing? The ceeding good company. In fact, I have been Irish air, “Humours of Glen,” is a great in a dilemma, either to get drunk, to forget favourite of mine, and as, except the silly these miseries; or to hang myself, to get rid stuff in the “Poor Soldier,” there are not of them: like a prudent mán (á character any decent verses for it, I have written for it
as follows: congenial to my every thought, word, and deed), I, of two evils, have chosen the least, [Here follow" Their groves o' sweet myrtle," and am very drunk, at your service!
and “'Twas na her bonnie blue ee was my I wrote you yesterday from Dumfries. I ruin.”] had not time then to tell you all I wanted to Let me hear from you. say; and, Heaven knows, at present I have not capacity.
Do you know an air-I am sure you must know it-“We'll gang no more to yon town?” I think, in slowish time, it would make an excellent song. I am highly delighted with [Burns supposes himself to be writing from it; and if you should think it worthy of
the dead to the living.] your attention, I have a fair dame in my eye, to whom I would consecrate it. As I am just goiny to bed, I wish you a
TO MIRS. RIDDEL good night.
MIADAM—I dare say that this is the first epistle you ever received from this nether world. I write you from the regions of hell, amid the horrors of the
The time and manner of my leaving your earth I do not exactly know, as I took my departure in
the heat of a fever of intoxication, contracted MR. THOMSON TO BURNS,
at your too hospitable mansion; but, on my
arrival here, I was fairly tried, and sentenced February 25th, 1795. to endure the purgatorial tortures of this I HAVE to thank you, my dear Sir, for two
infernal contine for the space of ninety-nine epistles; one containing “Let me in this ane 1 years, eleven months, and twenty-nine days, night;" and the other from Ecclefechan, and all on account of the impropriety of my proving that, drunk or sober, your “mind is conduct yesternight under your roof. Here never muddy." You have displayed great
am I, laid on a bed of pitiless furze, with address in the above song.
Her answer is
my aching head reclined on a pillow of everexcellent, and, at the same time, takes away piercing, thorn, while an infernal tormentor, the indelicacy that othorwise would have wrinkled, and old, and cruel, his name, Í attached to this entreaties. I like the song, pious, forbids peace or rest to approach me,
think, is Recollection, with a whip of scoras it now stands, very much. I had hopes you would be arrested some
and keeps anguish eternally awake. Still, days at Ecclefechan, and be obliged to be- Madam, if I could in any measure be reinguile the tedious forenoons by sony-making. stated in the good opinion of the fair circle It will give me pleasure to receive the verses
whom my conduct last night so much injured, you intend for “Oh wat ye wha's in yon
I think it would be an alleviation to my tor-
I trouble town ?"
you this letter. To the men of the company I will make no apology. Your husband, who insisted on my drinking more than I chose, has no right to blame me; and the other
gentlemen were partakers of my guilt. But
Friday Evening. to you, Madam, I have much to apologise.
P.S. Mr. Burns will be much obliged to Your good opinion I valued as one of the Mrs. Riddel if she will favour him with greatest acquisitions I had made on earth, perusal of any of her poetical pieces which and I was truly a beast to forfeit it. There he may not have seen. was a Miss I
too, a woman of fine sense, gentle and unassuming manners-do make, on my part, a miserable wretch's best apology to lier.
A Mrs. Gm a charming woman, did me the honour to be prejudiced in my favour; this makes me hope that I have not outraged her heyond all forgiveness. To all the other TO MR. HERON, OF HERON. (207) ladies please present my humblest contrition
Dumfries, 1795. for my conduct, and my petition for their gracious pardon. Oh all ye powers of de
Sir-I enclose you some copies of a couple cency and decorum! whisper to them that of political ballads, one of which, I believe, my errors, though great, were involuntary-- you have never seen. (208) Would to that an intoxicated man is the vilest of Heaven I could make you master of as many beasts-that it was not in my nature to be | votes in the Stewartry-butbrutal to any one that to be rude to a
Who does the utmost that he can, when in my senses, was impossible Does well, acts nobly--angels could no more. with me-but
In order to bring my humble efforts to Regret! Remorse! Shame! ye three hell- | bear with more effect on the foe, I have prihounds that ever dog my steps and bay at vately printed a good many copies of both my heels, spare me! spare me!
ballads, and have sent them among friends Forgive the offences, and pity the perdition all about the country. of Madam, your humble slave, R. B. To pillory on Parnassus the rank reproba
tion of character, the utter dereliction of all principle, in a profligate junto, which has not only outraged virtue, but violated common decency; which, spurning even hypocrisy as paltry iniquity below their dariny-to unmask their flagitiousness to the broadest day
to deliver such over to their merited fate
-is surely not merely innocent, but laudaTO THE SAME.
ble; is not only propriety, but virtue. You
have already as your auxiliary, the sober deDumfries, 1795. testation of mankind on the heads of your
opponents; and I swear by the lyre of Thalia Mr. Burns's compliments to Mrs. Riddel to muster on your side all the votaries of -is much obliged to her for her polite atten- honest laughter, and fair, candid ridicule ! tion in sending him the book. Owing to I am extremely obliged to you for your Mr. B. at present acting as supervisor of kind mention of my interests in a letter Excise, a department that occupies his every | which Mr. Syme showed me.
At present hour of the day, he has not that time to my situation in life must be in a great measpare which is necessary for any belle-lettre sure stationary, at least for two or three pursuit; but as he will in a week or two years. The statement is this—I am on the again return to his wonted leisure, he will supervisors' list, and as we come on there by then pay that attention to Mrs. R.'s beauti- precedency, in two or three years I shall be ful song, “To thee, loved Nith,” which it so at the head of that list, and be appointed well deserves. (206)
Anacharsis' of course. Then, a FRIEND might be of Travels come to hand, which Mrs. Riddel service to me in getting me into a place of mentioned as her gift to the public library, the kingdom which I would like. A sinerMr. B. will feel honoured by the indulgence visor's income varies from about a hundred of a perusal of them before presentation : it and twenty to two hundred a-year ; but the is a book he has never yet seen, and the business is an incessant drudgery, and would regulations of the library allow too little be nearly a complete bar to every species of leisure for deliberate reading.
literary pursuit. The moment I am appointed
supervisor, in the common routine, I may be nominated on the collector's list; and this is
MR. THOMSON TO BURNS. always a business purely of political patronage. A collectorship varies much, from better You must not think, my good Sir, that I than two hundred a-year to near a thousand. have any intention to enhance the value of They also come forward by precedency on my gift, when I say, in justice to the inthe list; and have, besides a handsome in- genious and worthy artist, that the design come, a life of complete leisure. A life of and execution of the “Cotter's Saturday literary leisure, with a decent competency, Night” is, in my opinion, one of the happiis the sunimit of my wishes. It would be est productions of Allan's pencil
. I shall the prudish affectation of silly pride in me be grievously disappointed if you are not to say that I do not need, or would not be quite pleased with it. indebted to, a political friend; at the same The figure intended for your portrait, I time, Sir, I by no means lay my affairs before think strikingly like you, as far as I can you thus, to hook my dependent situation remember your phiz. This should make on your benevolence. If, in my progress of the piece interesting to your family every life, an opening should occur wliere the good way. Tell me whether Mrs. Burns finds offices of a gentleman of your public charac- you out among the figures. ter and political consequence might bring me I cannot express the feeling of admiration forward, I shall petition your goodness with with which I have read your pathetic “Adthe same frankriess as I now do myself the dress to the Woodlark,” your elegant panehonour to subscribe myself,
R. B. gyric on Caledonia, and your affecting verses
on Chloris's illness. Every repeated perusal of these gives new delight. The other song to “Laddie, lie near me,” though not equal to these, is very pleasing.
TO MISS FONTENELLE.
Dumfries, 1795. MADAM-In such a bad world as ours,
BURNS TO MR. THOMSON. (210) those who add to the scanty sum of our WELL! this is not amiss. You see how pleasures are positively our benefactors. To I answer your orders--your tailor could not you, Madam, on our humble Dumfries boards. be more punctual
. I am just now in a high Í have been more indebted for entertainment fit for poetising, provided that the strait than ever I was in prouder theatres. Your
jacket of criticisin don't cure me. charms as a woman would ensure applause can, in a post or two, administer a little of to the most indifferent actress, and your the intoxicating potion of your applause, it theatrical talents would ensure admiration to
will raise your humble servant's frenzy to the plainest figure. This, Madam, is not the any height you want. I am at this moment unmeaning or insidious compliment of the
" holding high converse" with the Muses, frivolous or interested; I pay it from the and have not a word to throw away on such same honest impulse that the sublime of a nrosaic dog as you are. nature excites my admiration, or her beauties give me delight.
Will the foregoing lines (209) be of any service to you in your approaching benefit night? If they will, I shall be prouder of my muse than ever. They are nearly extempore: I know they have no great merit; BURNS TO MR. THOMSON. but though they should add but little to the entertainment of the evening, they give me
May, 1795. the happiness of an opportunity to declare
Ten thousand thanks for your elegant how much I have the honour to be, &c.
present-though I am ashamed of the value R. B.
of it being bestowed on a man who has not, by any means, merited such an instance of kindness. I have shown it to two or three
judges of the first abilities here, and they am happy to find you are in such a high fit all
agree with me in classing it as a first- of poetising. Long may it last ! Clarke rate production. My phiz is sae kenspeckle, has made a fine pathetic air to Mallet's that the very joiner's apprentice, whom Mrs. superlative ballad of “William and MargaBurns employed to break up the parcel (I ret," and is to give it to me, to be enrolled was out of town that day), knew it at once. among the elect. My most grateful compliments to Allan, who has honoured my rustic muse so much with his masterly pencil. One strange coincidence is, that the little one who is making the felonious attempt on the cat's tail, is the most striking likeness of an ill-deedie, d-n'd, wee, rumble-gairie urchin of mine,
BURNS TO MR. THOMSON, whom, from that propensity to witty wickedness, and manfu' mischief, which, even at IN “Whistle, and I'll come to ye, ny twa days' auld, I foresaw would form the lad," the iteration of that line is tiresome to striking features of his disposition, I named my ear. Here goes what I think is an Willie Nicol, after a certain friend of mine, improvement :-who is one of the masters of a grammar-whistle, and I'll come to ye, my lad; school in a city which shall be nameless. Give the enclosed epigram
Oh whistle, and I'll come to ye, my
lad much-valued friend Cunningham, and tell Tho' father and mother and a’should gae him, that on Wednesday I go to visit a
mad, friend of his, to whoin his friendly par- Thy Jeanie will venture wi' ye, my lad.” tiality in speaking of me, in a manner in
In fact, a fair dame, at whose shrine I, troduced me I mean a well-known military the Priest of the Nine, offer up the incense and literary character, Colonel Dirom.
of Parnassus--a dame whom the Graces You do not tell me how you liked my two have attired in witchcraft, and whom the last songs. Are they condemned ?
Loves have armed with lightning-a fair
Do you know that you have roused the torpidity of Clarke at last?
He has rem MR. THOMSON TO BURNS. quested me to write three or four songs for
him, which he is to set to music himself. May 13th, 1795. The enclosed sheet contains two songs for
him, which please to present to my valued It gives me great pleasure to find that friend Cunningham. you are all so well satisfied with Mr. Allan's
I enclose the sheet open, both for your production. The chance resemblance of inspection, and that you may copy the song your little fellow, whose promising disposi
“Oh bonnie was yon rosy brier.” I do not tion appeared so very early, and suggested know whether I am right, but that song whom he should be named after, is curious pleases me; and as it is extremely probable enough, I am acquainted with that person, that Clarke's newly-roused celestial spark who is a prodigy of learning and genius, and will be soon smothered in the fogs of indoa pleasant fellow, though no saint.
lence, if you like the song, it may go as You really make me blush when you tell Scottish verses to the air of “I wish my me you have not merited the drawing from love was in a mire ;” and poor Erskine's
I do not think I can ever repay you, English lines may follow. or sufficiently esteem and respect you, for
I enclose you a “For a' that and a' that," the liberal and kind manner in which you which was never in print; it is a much have entered into the spirit of my
superior song to mine. I have been told taking, which could not have been perfected that it was composed by a lady. without you.
So I beg you would not make a fool of me again by speaking of [Here follow the songs, “ Now spring has obligation.
clad the grove in green,” and “O bonnie was I like your two last songs very much, and / yon rosy briar.”
Written on the blank leaf of a copy of the last edition of my poems, presented to
BURNS TO MR. THOMSON. (211) the lady whom, in so many fictitious reveries of passion, but with the most ardent senti.
How do you like the foregoing? I have ments of real friendship, I have so often writtten it within this hour: so much for sung
under the name of Chloris, is the fol- | the speed of my Pegasus; but what say you lowing:
to this bottom. [“ To Chloris."]
COILA. Une bagatelle de l'amitié.
BURNS TO MR. THOMSON. (212)
Such is the peculiarity of the rhythm of this air, that I find it impossible to make
another stanza to suit it. MR. THOMSON TO BURNS.
am at present quite occupied with the
charming sensations of the toothache, so Edinburgh, August 3rd, 1795. have not a word to spare. MY DEAR SIR-This will be delivered to you by a Dr. Brianton, who has read your works, and pants for the honour of your acquaintance. I do not know the gentleman; but his friend, who applied to ine for this introduction, being an excellent
MR. THOMSON TO BURNS. young man, I have no doubt he is worthy
June 3rd, 1795. of all acceptation. My eyes have just been gladdened, and
MY DEAR SIR-Your English verses to my mind feasted, with your last packet
“Let me in this ane night," are tender and full of pleasant things indeed.
beautiful; and your ballad to the “ Lothian imagination is yours !-it is superfluous to Lassie" is a master-piece for its humour and tell you that I am delighted with all the
naiveté. The fragment for the “ Caledonian time song , as .well as with your elegant Hunt” is quite suited to the original and tender verses to Chloris.
measure of the air, and, as it plagues you i am sorry you should be induced to alter so, the fragment must content it. I would “Oh whistle and I'll come to ye, my lad," rather, as I said before, have had bacchanato the prosaic line, “Thy Jeanie will venture lian words, had it so pleased the poet; but, wi'ye, my lad." I must be permitted to nevertheless, for what we have received. say, that I do not think the latter either Lord, make us thankful! reads or sings so well as the former. I wish, therefore, you would in my name petition the charining Jeanie, whoever she be, to let the line remain unaltered.
I should be happy to see Mr. Clarke produce a few airs to be joined to your verses.
TO MRS. DUNLOP. Everybody regrets his writing so very little, as everybody acknowledges his ability to
December 15th, 1795. write well. Pray was the resolution formed
MY DEAR FRIEND-As I am in a comcoolly before dinner, or was it a midnight plete Decemberish humour, gloomy, sullen, "
over bard ? I shall not fail to give Mr. Cunningham letter with a number of heavier apologies
could wish, I shall not drawl out a heavy what you have sent him. P.S.-The lady's “For a' that, and a'
for my late silence. Only one I shall menthat,” is sensible enough, but no more to be tion, because I know you will sympathise in that,” is sensible enough, but no more to be it : 'these four months, a sweet little girl, compared to yours than I to Hercules.
my youngest child, has been so ill, that every day, a week or less threatened to terminate her existence. There had much need be