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as the first performance in its kind I ever saw. From what book, moral or even pious, will the susceptible young mind receive impressions more congenial to humanity and kindness, generosity and benevolence; in short, more of all that ennobles the soul to herself, or endears her to others-than from the simple affecting tale of poor Harley.
Still, with all my admiration of M'Kenzie's writings, I do not know if they are the fittest reading for a young man who is about to set out, as the phrase is, to make his way into life. Do not you think, Madam, that among the few favoured of Heaven in the structure of their minds, (for such there certainly are) there may be a purity, a tenderness, a dignity, an elegance of soul, which are of no use, nay, in some degree, absolutely disqualifying for the truly important business of making a man's way into life. If I am not much mistaken, my gallant young friend, A******, is very much under these disqualifications; and for the young females of a family I could mention, well may they excite parental solicitude, for I, a common acquaintance, or as my vanity will have it, an humble friend, have often trembled for a turn of mind which may render them eminently happy-or peculiarly miserable!
I have been manufacturing some verses lately; but as I have got the most hurried season
of excise business over, I hope to have more leisure to transcribe any thing that may shew how much I have the honour to be,
Madam, Yours, &c.
To DR. MOORE.
Dumfries, Excise-office, 14th, July, 1790.
COMING into town this morning, to attend my duty in this office, it being collection day, I met with a gentleman who tells me he is on his way to London; so I take the opportunity of writing to you, as franking is at present under a temporary death. I shall have some snatches of leisure through the day, amid our horrid business and bustle, and I shall improve them as well as I can; but let my letter be as stupid as *
as miscellaneous as a news-paper, as short as a hungry grace-before-meat, or as long as a law-paper in the Douglas cause; as ill spelt as country John's billet-doux, or as unsightly a scrawl as Betty Byre-mucker's answer to it; I hope, considering circumstances, you will forgive it; and as it will put you to no expence of postage, I shall have the less reflection about it.
I am sadly ungrateful, in not returning you my thanks for your most valuable present, Zeluco. In fact, you are in some degree blameable for my neglect. You were pleased to express a wish for my opinion of the work; which so flattered me, that nothing less would serve my over-weening fancy, than a formal criticism on the book. In fact, I have gravely planned a comparative view of you, Fielding, Richardson, and Smollet, in your different qualities and merits as novel-writers. This, I own, betrays my ridiculous vanity, and I may probably never bring the business to bear; but I am fond of the spirit young Elihu shews in the book of Job"And I said, I will also declare my opinion. I have quite disfigured my copy of the book with my annotations. I never take it up with out at the same time taking my pencil, and marking with asterisms, parentheses, &c. wherever I meet with an original thought, a nervous remark on life and manners, a remarkably wellturned period, or a character sketched with uncommon precision.
Though I shall hardly think of fairly writing out my "Comparative view," I shall certainly trouble you with my remarks, such as they are. I have just received from my gentleman, that horrid summons in the book of Revelations― That time shall be no more!"
The little collection of sonnets have some
charming poetry in them. If indeed I am indebted to the fair author for the book, and not, as I rather suspect, to a celebrated author of the other sex, I should certainly have written to the lady, with my grateful acknowledgments, and my own ideas of the comparative excellence of her pieces. I would do this last, not from any vanity of thinking that my remarks could be of much consequence to Mrs. Smith, but merely from my own feelings as an author, doing as I would be done by.
To MRS. DUNLOP.
8th. August, 1790.
AFTER a long day's toil, plague, and care, I sit down to write to you. Ask me not why I have delayed it so long? It was owing to hurry, indolence, and fifty other things; in short, to any thing-but forgetfulness of la plus amiable de son sexe. By the bye, you are indebted your best courtesy to me for this last compliment; as I pay it from my sincere conviction of its truth-a quality rather rare, in compliments of these grinning, bowing, scraping times.
Well, I hope writing to you will ease a little
my troubled soul. Sorely has it been bruised to-day! A ci-devant friend of mine, and an intimate acquaintance of yours, has given my feelings a wound, that I perceive will gangrene dangerously ere it cure. He has wounded my pride!
To MR. CUNNINGHAM.
Ellisland, 8th. August, 1790.
FORGIVE me, my once dear, and ever dear friend, my seeming negligence. You cannot sit down and fancy the busy life I lead.
I laid down my goose feather to beat my brains for an apt simile, and had some thoughts of a country grannum at a family christening; a bride on the market-day before her marriage;
a tavern-keeper at an election-dinner; &c. &c. - but the resemblance that hits my fancy best is, that blackguard miscreant, Satan, who roams about like a roaring lion, seeking, searching whom he may devour. However, tossed about as I am, if I chuse (and who would not chuse) to bind down with the crampets of attention, the brazen foundation of integrity, I may rear up the superstructure of Independence,