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To MR. GILBERT BURNS,
Ellislany, 11th. January, 1790.
MEAN to take advantage of the frank, though I have not in my present frame of mind much appetite for exertion in writing. My state. I feel that
nerves are in a
horrid hypochondria pervading every atom of both body and soul. enjoyment of myself.
This farm has undone my
It is a ruinous affair on all hands. But let it go to ****! I'll fight it out and be off with it.
(at my desire) as to set on foot, in the barony of Monkland, 'or Friar's Carse, in this parish. As its utility has been felt ' particularly among the younger class of people, I think, 'that if a similar plan were established, in the different 'parishes of Scotland, it would tend greatly to the speedy improvement of the tenantry, trades people, and work 'people. Mr. Burns was so good as to take the whole charge ' of this small concern. He was treasurer, librarian, and censor, to this little society, who will long have a grateful 'sense of his public spirit and exertions for their improve6 ment and information.
I have the honour to be, Sir John,
To Sir John Sinclair,
Yours most sincerely,
of Ulbster, Bart.
We have gotten a set of very decent players here just now. I have seen them an evening or two. David Campbell, in Ayr, wrote to me by the manager of the company, a Mr. Sutherland, who is a man of apparent worth.On New-year-day evening I gave him the following Prologue, which he spouted to his audience with applause.
"No song nor dance I bring from yon great city," &c. See Poems, p. 276.
I can no more.-If once I was clear of this farm, I should respire more at ease.
To MRS. DUNLOP.
Ellisland, 25th. January, 1790.
IT has been owing to unremitting hurry of business that I have not written to you, Madam, long ere now. My health is greatly better, and I now begin once more to share in satisfaction and enjoyment with the rest of my fellow-creatures.
Many thanks, my much esteemed friend, for your kind letters: but why will you make me run the risk of been contemptible and mercenary in my own eyes? When I pique myself on my independant spirit, I hope it is neither poetic
licence, nor poetic rant; and I am so flattered with the honour you have done me, in making
me your compeer in friendship and friendly correspondence, that I cannot without pain, and a degree of mortification, be reminded of the real inequality between our situations.
Most sincerely do I rejoice with you, dear Madam, in the good news of Anthony. Not only your anxiety about his fate, but my own esteem for such a noble, warm-hearted, manly young fellow, in the little I had of his acquaintance, has interested me deeply in his fortunes.
Falconer, the unfortunate author of the Shpwreck, which you so much admire, is no more. After weathering the dreadful catastrophe he so feelingly describes in his poem, and after weathering many hard gales of fortune, he went to the bottom with the Aurora frigate! I forget what part of Scotland had the honor of giving him birth, but he was the son of obscurity and misfortune. He was one of those daring adventurous spirits, which Scotland beyond any other country is remarkable for producing. Little does the fond mother think, as she hangs delighted over the sweet little leech at her bosom, where the poor fellow may hereafter wander, and what may be his fate. I remember a stanza in an old Scottish ballad, which, notwithstanding its rude simplicity, speaks feelingly to the heart:
"Little did my mother think,
"That day she cradled me, "What land I was to travel in,
"Or what death I should die !"
Old Scottish songs are, you know, a favorite study and pursuit of mine: and now I am on that subject, allow me to give you two stanzas of another old simple ballad, which I am sure will please you. The catastrophe of the piece is a poor ruined female, lamenting her fate. She concludes with this pathetic wish:
"O that my father had ne'er on me smil'd;
that my mother had ne'er to me sung!
"O that the grave it were my bed;
My blankets were my winding sheet; "The clocks and the worms my bedfellows a'; "And O sae sound as I should sleep!"
I do not remember in all my reading to have met with any thing more truly the language of misery, than the exclamation in the last line. Misery is like love; to speak its language truly, the author must have felt it.
I am every day expecting the doctor to give your little godsont the small-pox. They are rife in the country, and I tremble for his fate. By the way, I cannot help congratulating you
+ The bard's second son, Francis.
on his looks and spirit. Every person who sees him, acknowledges him to be the finest, handsomest child he has ever seen. I am myself delighted with the manly swell of his little chest, and a certain miniature dignity in the carriage of his head, and the glance of his fine black eye, which promise the undaunted gallantry of an independent mind.
I thought to have sent you some rhymes, but time forbids. I promise you poetry until you are tired of it, next time I have the honour of assuring you how truly I am, &c.
FROM MR. CUNNINGHAM.
28th. January, 1790.
IN some instances it is reckoned
donable to quote any one's own words, but the value I have for your friendship, nothing can more truly or more elegantly express, than
"Time but the impression stronger makes,
"As streams their channels deeper wear."
Having written to you twice without having heard from you, I am apt to think my letters have miscarried. My conjecture is only framed upon the chapter of accidents turning up against me, as it too often does, in the trivial, and I