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but vexed and hurt as I was, I could not help laughing very heartily at the noble lord's apology for the missed napkin.
I would write you from Nithsdale, and give you my direction there, but I have scarce an opportunity of calling at a post office once in a fortnight. I am six miles from Dumfries, am scarcely ever in it myself, and, as yet, have little acquaintance in the neighbourhood. Besides, I am now very busy on my farm, building a dwelling-house; as at present I am almost an evangelical man in Nithsdale, for I have scarce "where to lay my head."
There are some passages in your last that "The heart knoweth brought tears in my eyes. its own sorrows, and a stranger intermeddleth not therewith." The repository of these "sorrows of the heart," is a kind of sanctum sanctorum; and 'tis only a chosen friend, and that too at particular, sacred times, who darès enter into them. "Heaven oft tears the bosom-chords
"That nature finest strung."
You will excuse this quotation for the sake of the author. Instead of entering on this subject farther, I shall transcribe you a few lines I wrote in a hermitage, belonging to a gentleman in my Nithsdale neighbourhood. They are almost the only favours the muses have conferred on me in that country
"Thou whom chance may hither lead." See Poems, p. 203.
Since I am in the way of transcribing, the following were the production of yesterday, as I jogged through the wild hills of New Cumnock. I intend inserting them, or something like them, in an espistle I am going to write to the gentle man on whose friendship my excise hopes depend, Mr. Graham of Fintry; one of the worthiest and most accomplished gentlemen, not only of this country, but I will dare to say it of this age. The following are just the first crude thoughts "unhousel'd unanointed unanell'd."
Pity the tuneful Muses' helpless train;
Weak, timid landsmen on life's stormy main:
Who make poor will do wait upon I should;
We own they're prudent, but who owns their goodė
Ye wise ones, hence! ye hurt the social eye;
God's image rudely etch'd on base alloy !
Here the muse left me. I am astonished at what you tell me of Anthony's writing me. I never received it. Poor fellow! you vex me much by telling me that he is unfortunate.
shall be in Ayrshire ten days from this date. I have just room for an old Roman farewell.
TO THE SAME.
Mauchline, 10th. August, 1788.
MY MUCH HONOURED FRIEND,
YOURS of the 24th. June is before me. I found it, as well as another valued friend-my wife, waiting to welcome me to Ayrshire: I met both with the sincerest pleasure.
When I write you, madam, I do not sit down to answer every pargraph of yours, by echoing every sentiment, like the faithful Commons of Great Britain in parliament assembled, answering a speech from the best of kings! I express myself in the fulness of my heart, and may perhaps be guilty of neglecting some of your kind inquiries; but not from your very odd reason that I do not read your letters. All your epistles for several months have cost me nothing, except a swelling throb of gratitude, or a deepfelt sentiment of veneration.
Mrs. Burns, madam, is the identical woman
When she first found herself "as women wish
to be who love their lords;" as I loved her nearly to distraction, we took steps for a private marriage. Her parents got the hint; and not only forbade me her company and their house, but on my rumoured West Indian voyage got a warrant to put me in jail, till I should find security in my about-to-be paternal relation. You know my lucky reverse of fortune. On my
cclatant return to Mauchline, I was made very welcome to visit my girl. The usual conse
quences began to betray her; and as I was at that time laid up a cripple in Edinburgh, she was turned, literally turned out of doors, and I wrote to a friend to shelter her, till my return, when our marriage was declared. Her happiness or misery were in my hands, and who could trifie with such a deposit?
I can easily fancy a more agreeable companion for my journey of life, but, upon my honour, I have never seen the individual instance.
Circumstanced as I am, I could never have got a female partner, for life, who could have entered into my favourite studies, relished my favourite authors, &c. without probably entailing on me at the same time, expensive living, fantastic caprice, perhaps apish affectation, with all the other blessed, boarding school acquirements, which (pardonnez moi, Madame) are sometimes
to be found among females of the upper ranks, but almost universally pervade the misses of the would-be gentry.
I like your way in your church-yard lucubrations. Thoughts that are the spontaneous result of accidental situations, either respecting health, place, or company, have often a strength, and always an originality, that would in vain be looked for in fancied circumstances and studied paragraphs. For me, I have often thought of keeping a letter, in progression, by me, to send you when the sheet was written out. Now I talk of sheets, I must tell you, my reason for writing to you on paper of this kind, is my pruriency of writing to you at large. A page of post is on such a dis-social, narrow-minded scale, that I cannot abide it; and double letters, at least in my miscellaneous reverie manner, are a monstrous tax in a close correspondence.
TO THE SAME.
Ellisland, 16th. August, 1788.
I AM in a fine disposition, my honoured
friend, to send you an elegiac epistle; and want
only genius to make it quite Shenstonian.