Изображения страниц

able character, lately deceased, whose poems his friends had it in idea to publish, soon, by subscription, for the sake of his numerous family: -not in pity to that family, but in justice to what his friends think the poetic merits of the deceased; and to secure, in the most effectual manner, to those tender connections, whose right it is, the pecuniary reward of those merits.


No. 69.


Ellisland, 23d. March, 1789.

THE gentleman who will deliver you this is a Mr. Neilson, a worthy clergyman in my neighbourhood, and a very particular acquaintance of mine. As I have troubled him with this packet, I must turn him over to your goodness, to recompense him for it in a way in which he much needs your assistance, and where you can effectually serve him:-Mr. Neilson is on his way for France, to wait on his grace of Queensberry, on some little business of a good deal of importance to him, and he wishes for your instructions respecting the most eligible mode of travelling, &c. for him, when he has crossed the channel. I should not have dared to take this liberty with you, but that I am told,

by those who have the honour of your personal acquaintance, that to be a poor honest Scotchman is a letter of recommendation to you, and that to have it in your power to serve such a character, gives you much pleasure.


The enclosed ode is a compliment to the memory of the late Mrs. ******, of ********** You probably, knew her personally, an honour of which I cannot boast; but I spent my early years in her neighbourhood, and among her servants and tenants, I know that she was detested with the most heartfelt cordiality. However, in the particular part of her conduct which roused my poetic wrath, she was much less blameable. In January last, on my road to Ayrshire, I had put up at Bailie Whigham's, in Sanqhuar, the only tolerable inn in the place. The frost was keen, and the grim evening, and howling wind, were ushering in a night of snow and drift. My horse and I were both much fatigued with the labours of the day, and just as my friend the Bailie and I were bidding defiance to the storm, over a smoaking bowl, in wheels the funeral pageantry of the late great


and poor I am forced to brave all the horrors of the tempestuous night, and jade my horse, my young favourite horse, whom I had just christened Pegasus, twelve miles farther on, through the wildest moors and hills of

Ayrshire, to New Cumnock, the next inn. The of poesy and sink under me, when I would describe what I felt.



Suffice it to say, that when a good fire, at New Cumnock, had so far recovered my frozen sinews, I sat down and wrote the inclosed ode.*

I was at Edinburgh lately, and settled finally with Mr. Creech; and I must own, that, at last, he has been amicable and fair with me.

No. 70.


Ellisland, 2d. April, 1789.

I WILL make no excuses, my dear Bibliopolis, (God forgive me for murdering language!) that I have sat down to write you on this vile paper.

It is economy, Sir; it is that cardinal virtue, prudence; so I beg you will sit down, and either compose or borrow a panegyric. If you are going to borrow, apply to

to compose, or rather to compound, something very clever on my remarkable frugality; that I

* Dweller in yon dungeon dark, &c.-See Poems p. 207.

write to one of my most esteemed friends on this wretched paper, which was originally intended for the venal fist of some drunken exciseman, to take dirty notes in a miserable vault of an alecellar.

O Frugality! thou mother of ten thousand blessings-thou cook of fat beef and dainty greens!-thou manufacturer of warm Shetland hose, and comfortable surtouts!-thou old housewife, darning thy decayed stockings with thy ancient spectacles on they aged nose!-lead me, hand me in thy clutching palsied fist, up those heights, and through those thickets, hitherto inaccessible, and impervious to my anxious, weary feet-not those Parnassian craggs, bleak and barren, where the hungry worshippers of fame are, breathless, clambering, hanging between heaven and hell; but those glittering cliffs of Potosi, where the all sufficient, all-powerful deity, Wealth, holds his immediate court of joys and pleasures; where the sunny exposure of plenty, and the hot walls of profusion, produce those blissful fruits of luxury, exotics in this world, and natives of paradise!—Thou withered sybil, my sage conductress, usher me into the refulgent, adored presence!—The power, splendid and potent as he now is, was once the puling nursling of thy faithful care, and tender arms! Call me thy son, thy cousin, thy kinsman, or favourite, and adjure the god by the

scenes of his infant years. no longer to repulse me as a stranger, or an alien, but to favour me with his peculiar countenance and protection! He daily bestows his greatest kindnesses on the undeserving and the worthless-assure him, that I bring ample documents of meritorious demerits! Pledge yourself for me, that, for the glori ous cause of LUCRE, I will do any thing, be any thing but the horse-leech of private oppression, or the vulture of public robbery!


But to descend from heroics,

I want a Shakespear; I want likewise an English dictionary-Johnson's, I suppose, is best. In these and all my prose commissions, the cheapest is always the best for me. There is a small debt of honour that I owe Mr. Robert Cleghorn, in Saughton Mills, my worthy friend and your well-wisher. Please give him, and urge him to take it, the first time you see him, ten shillings worth of any thing you have to sell, and place it to my account.

The library scheme that I mentioned to you, is already begun, under the direction of Capt. Riddel. There is another in emulation of it going on at Closeburn, under the auspices of Mr. Monteith, of Closeburn, which will be on a greater scale than ours. Capt. R. gave his infant society a great many of his old books, else

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »