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sure set down as one of the greatest enjoyments of my future life.
Your books have delighted me; Virgil, Dryden, and Tasso, were all equally strangers to me; but of this more at large in my next.
To PROFESSOR DUGALD STEWART.
Mauchline, 3d. May, 1788.
I INCLOSE you one or two more of my If the fervent wishes of honest bagatelles. gratitude have any influence with that great, unknown Being, who frames the chain of causes and events; prosperity and happiness will attend your visit to the Continent, and return you safe to your native shore.
Wherever I am, allow me, Sir, to claim it as my privilege, to acquaint you with my progress in my trade of rhymes; as I am sure I could say it with truth, that, next to my little fame, and the having it in my power to make life more comfortable to those whom nature has made dear to me, I shall ever regard your countenance, your patronage, your friendly good offices, as the most valued consequence of my late success in life.
EXTRACT OF A LETTER
To MRS. DUNLOP.
Mauchline, 4th. May, 1788.
DRYDEN's Virgil has delighted me.—
I do not know whether the critics will agree with me, but the Georgics are to me by far the best of Virgil. It is indeed a 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 my own powers, 'tis like the idea of a Shetland po ney, drawn up by the side of a thorough-bred hunter, to start for the plate. I own I am disappointed in the Eneid. Faultless correctness may please, and does highly please the lettered critic; but to that aweful character I have not the most distant pretensions. I do not know whether I do not hazard my pretensions to be a critic of any kind, when I say that I think Virgil, in many instances, a servile copier of Homer. If I had the Odyssey by me, I could parallel many passages where Virgil has evidently copied, but by no means improved, Homer. Nor can I think there is any thing of this owing to
the translators; for, from every thing I have seen of Dryden, I think him in genius, and fluency of language, Pope's master. I have not perused Tasso enough to form an opinion: in some future letter you shall have my ideas of him; though I am conscious my criticisms must be very inaccurate and imperfect, as there I have ever felt and lamented my want of learning most.
TO THE SAME.
27th. May, 1788.
I HAVE been torturing my philosophy to no purpose, to account for that kind partiality of yours, which unlike
has followed me in my return to the shade of life, with assiduous benevolence. Often did I regret, in the fleeting hours of my late will-o-wisp appearance, that "here I had no continuing city;" and, but for the consolation of a few solid guineas, could almost lament the time that a momentary acquaintance with wealth and splendour, put me so much out of conceit with the sworn companions of my road through life, insignificance and poverty.
There are few circumstances relating to the unequal distribution of the good things of this life, that give me more vexation (I mean in what I see around me) than the importance the opulent bestow on their trifling family affairs, compared with the very same things on the contracted scale of a cottage. Last afternoon I had the honour to spend an hour or two at a good woman's fire side, where the planks that composed the floor were decorated with a splendid. carpet, and the gay table sparkled with silver and china. 'Tis now about term day, and there has been a revolution among those creatures, who, though in appearance, partakers and equally noble partakers of the same nature with Madame; are from time to time, their nerves, their sinews, their health, strength, wisdom, experience, genius, time, nay a good part of their very thoughts, sold for months and years,
not only to the necessities, the conveniences, but the caprices of the important few. We talked of the insignificant creatures; nay, notwithstanding their general stupidity and rascality, did some of the poor devils the honour to commend them. But light be the turf upon his breast, who taught, "Reverence thyself." We looked down on the unpo
*Servants, in Scotland, are hired from term to term, i. e. from Whitsunday to Martinmas, &c.
lished wretches, their impertinent wives and clouterly brats, as the lordly bull does on the little dirty ant-hill, whose puny inhabitants he crushes in the carelessness of his ramble, or tosses in air in the wantonness of his pride.
TO THE SAME,
AT MR. DUNLOP's, HADDINGTON.
Ellisland. 13th. June, 1788.
"Where'er I roam, whatever realms I see,
My heart, untravell'd, fondly turns to thee;
THIS is the second day, my honoured friend, that I have been on my farm. A solitary inmate of an old, smoky Spence;* far from every object I love, or by whom I am beloved; nor any acquaintance, older than yesterday, except Jenny Geddes, the old mare I ride on; while uncouth cares, and novel plans, hourly insult my aukward ignorance and bashful inexperience. There is a foggy atmosphere native to my soul in the hour of care, consequently the dreary ob