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To MRS. STEWART, OF STAIR
THE hurry of my preparations for going abroad has hindered me from performing my promise so soon as I intended. I have here sent you a parcel of songs, &c. which never made their appearance, except to a friend or two at most. Perhaps some of them may be no great entertainment to you, but of that I am far from being an adequate judge. The song, to the tune of Etrick banks, you will easily see the impropriety of exposing much, even in manuscript. I think, myself, it has some merit; both as a tolerable description of one of nature's sweetest scenes, a July evening; and one of the finest pieces of nature's workmanship, the finest indeed we know any thing of, an amiable, beautiful young woman; but I have no common friend to procure me that permission, without which I would not dare to spread the copy.
I am quite aware, Madam, what task the world would assign me in this letter. The obscure bard, when any of the great condescend to take notice of him, should heap the altar with the incense of flattery, Their high ances
try, their own great and godlike qualities and actions, should be recounted with the most exaggerated description. This, madam, is a task for which I am altogether unfit. Besides a certain disqualifying pride of heart, I know nothing of your connexions in life, and have no access to where your real character is to be found-the
company of your compeers: and more, I am
afraid that even the most refined adulation is by no means the road to your good opinion.
One feature of your character I shall ever with grateful pleasure remember; the reception I got when I had the honour of waiting on you at Stair. I am little acquainted with politeness, but I know a good deal of benevolence of temper, and goodness of heart. Surely did those in exalted stations know how happy they could make some classes of their inferiors by condescension and affability, they would never stand so high, measuring out with every look the height of their elevation, but condescend as sweetly as did Mrs. Stewart of Stair.*
*The Song inclosed is "The Lass of Ballochmyle."— See Poems, p. 529.
To the REV. G. LAWRIE.
REVEREND AND DEAR SIR,
I OUGHT to have acknowledged your favour long ago, not only as a testimony of your kind remembrance, but as it gave me an opportunity of sharing one of the finest, and, perhaps, one of the most genuine entertainments, of which the human mind is susceptible. A number of avocations retarded my progress in reading the Poems; at last, however, I have finished that pleasing perusal. Many instances have I seen of nature's force and beneficence, exerted under numerous and formidable disadvantages; but none equal to that with which you have been kind enough to present me.There is a pathos and delicacy in his serious Poems; a vein of wit and humour in those of a more festive turn, which cannot be too much admired, nor too warmly approved; and I think I shall never open the book without feeling my astonishment renewed and increased. It was my wish to have expressed my approbation in verse; but whether from declining life or a
temporary depression of spirits, it is at present out of my power to accomplish that agreeable intention.
Mr. Stewart, professor of morals in this university, had formerly read me three of the Poems, and I had desired him to get my name inserted among the subscribers; but whether this was done or not I never could learn. I have little intercourse with Dr. Blair, but will take care to have the Poems communicated to him by the intervention of some mutual friend. It has been told me by a gentleman, to whom I shewed the performances, and who sought a copy with diligence and ardour, that the whole impression is already exhausted. It were therefore much to be wished, for the sake of the young man, that a second edition, more numerous than the former, could immediately be printed; as it appears certain that its intrinsic merit, and the exertion of the author's friends, might give it a more universal circulation than any thing of the kind, which has been published within my memory.*
* The reader will perceive that this is the letter, which produced the determination of our bard to give up his scheme of going to the West-Indies, and to try the fate of a new edi tion of his Poems in Edinburgh. A copy of this letter was sent by Mr. Lawrie to Mr. G. Hamilton, and by him communicated to Burns, among whose papers it was found.
FROM SIR JOHN WHITEFOORD.
Edinburgh, 4th. December, 1786.
I RECEIVED your letter a few days ago. I do not pretend to much interest, but what I have I shall be ready to exert in procuring the attainment of any object you have in view. Your character as a man, (forgive my reversing your order) as well as a Poet, entitle you, I think, to the assistance of every inhabitant of Ayrshire. I have been told you wished to be made a gauger; I submit it to your consideration, whether it would not be more desirable, if a sum could be raised by subscription for a second edition of your Poems, to lay it out in the stocking of a small farm. I am persuaded it would be a line of life much more agreeable to your feelings, and in the end more satisfactory. When you have considered this, let me know, and whatever you determine upon, I will endeavour to promote as far as my abilities will permit. With compliments to my friend, the doctor,
1 am, your friend and well wisher,
JOHN WHITEFOORD. P. S. I shall take it as a favour when you at any time send me a new production.