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fortitude or cunning as to dissemble or to conceal my cowardice.
As soon as I can bear the journey, which will be, I suppose, about the middle of next week; I leave Edinburgh, and soon after I shall pay my grateful duty at Dunlop-house.
EXTRACT OF A LETTER.
TO THE SAME.
Edinburgh, 12th. February, 1788.
SOME things, in your late letters, hurt me: not that you say them, but that you mistake me. Religion, my honoured madam, has not only been all my life my chief dependence, but my dearest enjoyment. I have indeed been the luckless victim of wayward follies; but, alas! I have ever been more fool than knave." A mathematician without religion, is a probable character; an irreligious Poet, is a monster.
TO A LADY.
Mossgiel, 7th. March, 1788
THE last paragraph in yours of the 30th. February, affected me most, so I shall begin my answer where you ended your letter. That I am often a sinner with any little wit I have, I do confess but I have taxed my recollection to no purpose, to find out when it was employed against you. I hate an ungenerous sarcasm, a great deal worse than I do the devil; at least as Milton describes him; and though I may be rascally enough to be sometimes guilty of it myself, I cannot endure it in others. You, my honoured friend, who cannot appear in any light, but you are sure of being respectable-you can afford to pass by an occasion to display your wit, because you may depend for fame on your sense; or if you chuse to be silent, you know you can rely on the gratitude of many and the esteem of all; but God help us who are wits or witlings by profession, if we stand not for fame there, we sink unsupported!
I am highly flattered by the news you tell me
of Coila.* I may say to the fair painter who does me so much honour, as Dr. Beattie says to Ross the Poet, of his muse Scota, from which, by the bye, I took the idea of Coila: ("Tis a poem of Beattie's in the Scots dialect, which perhaps you have never seen.)
"Ye shak your head, but o' my fegs,
Lang had she lien wi' buffe and flegs,
"Bombaz'd and dizzie,
"Her fiddle wanted strings and pegs,
To MR. ROBERT CLEGHORN.
Mauchline, 31st. March, 1788.
YESTERDAY, my dear Sir, as I was riding thro' a track of melancholy, joyless muirs, between Galloway and Ayrshire; it being Sunday, I turned my thoughts to psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs; and your favourite air, Capt. Okean, coming at length in my head, I tried these words to it. You will see that the first part of the tune must be repeated.†
*A Lady was making a picture from the decription of Coila in the Vision.
+ Here the bard gives the first stanza of the Chevalier's Lament.
I am tolerably pleased with these verses, but as I have only a sketch of the tune, I leave it with you to try if they suit the measure of the music.
I am so harrassed with care and anxiety, about this farming project of mine, that my muse has degenerated into the veriest prose-wench, that ever picked cinders, or followed a tinkerWhen I am fairly got into the routine of business, I shall trouble you with a longer epistle; perhaps with some queries respecting farming: at present, the world sits such a load on my mind, that it has effaced almost every trace of the in me.
My very best compliments, and good wishes to Mrs. Cleghorn.
To MRS. DUNLOP.
Mauchline, 28th. April, 1788.
YOUR powers of reprehension must be great indeed, as I assure you they made my heart ache with penitential pangs, even though I was really not guilty. As I commence farmer at Whitsunday, you will easily guess I must be pretty busy; but that is not all. As I
got the offer of the excise business without solicitation; and as it cost me only six months attendance for instructions, to entitle me to a commission; which commission lies by me, and at any future period on my simple petition can be resumed; I thought five and thirty pounds a year was no bad dernier resort for a poor poet, if fortune in her jade tricks should kick him down from the little eminence to which she has lately helped him up.
For this reason, I am at present attending these instructions, to have them completed before Whitsunday. Still, madam, I prepared with the sincerest pleasure to meet you at the Mount, and came to my brother's on Saturday night, to set out on Sunday; but for some nights preceding I had slept in an apartment, where the force of the winds and rains was only mitigated by being sifted through numberless apertures in the windows, walls, &c. In consequence I was on Sunday, Monday, and part of Tuesday unable to stir out of bed, with all the miserable effects of a violent cold.
You see, madam, the truth of the French maxim, Le vrai n'est pas toujours le vrai-semblable; your last was so full of expostulation, and was something so like the language of an offended friend, that I began to tremble for a correspondence, which I had with grateful plea