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No. 75.



Ellisland, 21st. June, 1789.

WILL you take the effusions, the miserable effusions of low spirits, just as they flow from their bitter spring. I know not of any particular cause for this worst of all my foes besetting me, but for some time my soul has been beclouded with a thickening atmosphere of evil imaginations and gloomy presages.



Monday Evening.

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I have just heard sermon. He is a man famous for his benevolence, and I revere him; but from such ideas of my Creator, good Lord deliver me! Religion, my honoured friend, is surely a simple business, as it equally concerns the ignorant and the learned, the poor and the rich. That there is an incomprehensibly Great Being, to whom I owe my existence, and that he must be intimately acquainted with the operations and progress of the internal machinery, and consequent outward deportment of this creature which he has made; these are, I think, self-evident proposi


That there is a real and eternal distinction between virtue and vice, and consequently that I am an accountable creature; that from the seeming nature of the human mind, as well as from the evident imperfection, nay, positive injustice, in the administration of affairs, both in the natural and moral worlds, there must be a retributive scene of existence beyond the grave; must, I think, be allowed by every one who will give himself a moment's reflection. I will go farther, and affirm, that from the sublimity, excellence, and purity of his doctrine and precepts, unparalleled by all the aggregated wisdom and learning of many preceding ages, though to appearance, he himself was the obscurest and most illiterate of our species; therefore, Jesus Christ was from God.


Whatever mitigates the woes, or increases the happiness of others, this is my criterion of goodness; and whatever injures society at large, or any individual in it, this is my measure of iniquity.


What think you, Madam, of my creed? trust that I have said nothing that will lessen me in the eye of one, whose good opinion I value almost next to the approbation of my own mind.


No. 76.


Clifford-street, 10th. June, 1789.

I THANK you for the different communications you have made me of your occasional productions in manuscript, all of which have merit, and some of them merit of a different kind from what appears in the poems you have published. You ought carefully to preserve all your occasional productions, to correct and improve them at your leisure; and when you can select as many of these as will make a volume, publish it either at Edinburgh or London, by subscription; on such an occasion, it may be in my power, as it is very much in my inclination, to be of service to you.

If I were to offer an opinion, it would be, that in your future productions you should abandon the Scottish stanza and dialect, and adopt the measure and language of modern English poetry.

The stanza which you use in imitation of Christ kirk on the green, with the tiresome repetition of " that day," is fatiguing to English ears, and I should think not very agreeable to Scottish.

All the fine satire and humour of your Holy Fair is lost on the English; yet, without more trouble to yourself, you could have conveyed the whole to them. The same is true of some of your other poems. In your Epistle to J. S――, the stanzas, from that beginning with this line, "This life, so far's I understand," to that which ends with, "Short while it grieves,' are easy, flowing, gaily philosophical, and of Horatian elegance-the language is English, with a few Scottish words, and some of those so harmonious, as to add to the beauty; for what Poet would not prefer gloaming to twilight.

I imagine, that by carefully keeping, and occasionally polishing and correcting those verses, which the Muse dictates, you will within a year or two, have another volume as large as the first, ready for the press; and this, without diverting you from every proper attention to the study and practice of husbandry, in which I understand you are very learned, and which I fancy you will chuse to adhere to as a wife, while poetry amuses you from time to time as a mistress. The former, like a prudent wife, must not shew ill humour, although you retain a sneaking kindness to this agreeable gipsey, and pay her occasional visits, which in no manner alienates your heart from your lawful spouse, but tend on the contrary to promote her in


I desired Mr. Cadell to write to Mr. Creech to send you a copy of Zeluco. This performance has had great success here, but I shall be glad to have your opinion of it, because I value your opinion, and because I know you are above saying what you do not think.

I beg you will offer my best wishes to my very good friend, Mrs. Hamilton, who I understand is your neighbour. If she is as happy as I wish her, she is happy enough. Make my compliments also to Mrs. Burns, and believe me to be, with sincere esteem,

Dear Sir, Yours, &c.

No. 77.

FROM MR. ******


London, 5th. August, 1789.

EXCUSE me when I say, that the uncommon abilities which you possess, must render your correspondence very acceptable to any one. I can assure you, I am particularly proud of your partiality, and shall endeavour by every method in my power, to merit a continuance of your politeness.


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