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The Life of Robert Burns
Burns in Dumfries


THIS chapter is to be a long one, for we cannot tell where logically to break it in two. Burns has got now on the inclined plane leading down to the grave. Either before or immediately after his removal to Dumfries he had paid a visit to Edinburgh, and had one more interview with Clarinda. She had been occasionally corresponding with him, and had been gradually reconciled to the belief that they were never to be one. Her anger at his marriage had subsided, and she wished to see him once more before going to join her husband in Jamaica. We suspect that Burns did not care much for this; that his feelings for her were not so strong as hers for him; and that he felt that an interview would be extremely embarrassing and painful—how much so we cannot tell, unless we knew the exact terms on which the two lived and loved together. But he could not deny her request, and they met accordingly on the 6th day of December, 1791. Perhaps the taste is a little prurient which would like to know the particulars of the interview. Let us say, as Byron of Numa and Egeria—

"The purple midnight veiled that mystic meeting
With her most starry canopy, and seating
Thyself by thy adorer—what befell?"

Grant it a scene of perfect purity, and even delicacy— there would be passionate words, perhaps bitter recriminations, burning tears, and "again and again reverberated, everlasting farewells." Jamie in "Auld Robin Gray," and his lover, took but "ae" kiss, and then separated for ever. Burns and Clarinda probably took more, but there came a last one—

"As fond kiss, and then we sever."

Burns vented his chagrin, or whatever his feeling was, in lyric after lyric, each more beautiful and passionate than another, and they became a safety valve. Clarinda’s feelings were deeper and more silent. On January 25, 1792 (Burns’ thirty- third birthday), she wrote him her last letter bidding him farewell in anticipation of her immediate voyage. It has the religiosity which characterized her; perhaps we might use a better, perhaps a worse name :—" Seek God’s favour ; keep his command. ments ; be solicitous to prepare for a happy eternity. Then I trust we will meet in never-ending bliss." She did not sail till February, and, curiously enough, she set out in that very Roselle in which Burns intended to have sailed for Jamaica five years before. It was doomed to bear in it for once, and very nearly twice, the cargo of a broken and miserable heart.

Burns had no time to spend in idle lamentations, nor do we think his inward wound was so deep as in the case of Mary Campbell. He soon plunged into other pleasures in addition to the cares of his calling. He got acquainted with Maria Riddell, and, as usual, there was a mutual fascination, which never went any farther, but in a while withered into an estrangement. Maria Woodley was the daughter of the Governor-general of Berbice, and had married Walter Riddell, younger brother of Glenriddell, who had come home lately from Antigua, where he had an estate. They settled at a place called The Holm (once the seat of Andrew Crosbie, better known as "Counsellor Pleydell," in "Guy Mannering "), four miles south of Dumfries, which Mr. Riddell named Woodley Park, after his wife. She was a highly accomplished and very clever woman, perhaps the most accomplished lady Burns had ever met—a lover of poetry, herself a poet, and extremely fond of books and of literary society. She was very young—only eighteen; already a mother; and like most natives of her burning clime, ardent, susceptible, and not a little capricious. Burns knew her through the Riddells of Friars’ Carse, and became soon a frequent visitor of Woodley Park, and, as usual, imagined himself in love with the lady of the house, who treated him with great distinction, and often called at his dwelling. As she had a book preparing for the press on the "Natural History of Madeira and the Leeward Islands," she consulted Burns, who sent her, with a letter of introduction to his old friend Smellie, like a gazelle into the den of a bear. He received her, however, very graciously. About this time Burns paid an account he had owed for two years to Robert Burn, architect, of £5 10s., for erecting a monument to Robert Fergusson. Burn, who was all but the poet’s namesake, had some of his wit; for he returned the account, adding, "I will be happy to receive orders of a like nature for as many more of your friends that have gone hence as you please!"

Burns’ first house was in the Wee Vennel, as it was called, now Bank Street. It is the first flat of a two-storied house, and consists now of two rooms inhabited by different families — the one having been, we are told, Burns’ study, while the other is much larger, and might have formed a very respectable parlour or dining-room in those days. It originally consisted, we think, of three apartments—study, bedroom, and parlour. On the ground floor in Burns’ day was John Syme’s office for the distribution of stamps, where now our worthy friend Mr. Hamilton, corn merchant, has his business room. There does not seem to be much alteration either in the approach or the interior; and we said to ourselves as our friend and we climbed up the stair, how often has Burns done this, and how interesting such a commonplace sound as we are making must have been in the ear of Jean, wearying for the return of her lord, and saying, when it was at last heard—

"His very foot has music in ‘t
As he comes up the stair!"

We pass now to a curious incident, which has much exercised the biographers of Burns. A superintendent, a kind of "Frank Kennedy," was stationed in Annan to watch the smuggling trade, then carried on with great activity along the Galloway coast. Burns was one of the party employed to watch a suspicious-looking brig which appeared in the Solway Frith. As it seemed too strong and well-armed to be attacked rashly, Lewars, a brother exciseman, went off for a party of dragoons to Dumfries. Burns and his companions waited impatiently for their return, and one of them expressed a wish that the Devil had Lewars for his slowness in returning, and that Burns might indite a song on the laggard. Burns said nothing, but after a few strides along the wet marsh, came back roaring out the clever ditty, "The Deil‘s awa’ wi’ the Exciseman." By-and-bye Lewars arrived with his troop, the brig was boarded, Burns being the first man; and the next day, when the vessel was sold in Dumfries, he purchased four carronades (at £3) and presented them to the French Legislative Assembly—not the Convention, as Lockhart says, which had not then existence. We were still at peace with France, although possibly, ere these carronades reached, war might have begun. It was a fine erratic impulse on the part of the poet, and showed with what evident sympathy he was watching the rising of the Day-Star of Liberty, soon to be quenched in darkness and in blood. He had arrived at the first stage of sympathy with the French Revolution, which almost all the poetic souls and liberal politicians of the period reached— Coleridge, Southey, Wordsworth, Godwin, Cowper, Macking Fox, Hazlitt, Canning—all except Burke, whose prophet eye saw the red flower of massacre and anarchy within the white and beautiful bud which concealed it, and

"Heard the thunder ore the tempest lowered!"

Significant that all these except Fox, Godwin, and Hazlitt, turned more or less against this "Grand Phenomenon,"   which they had so warmly admired and so eloquently praised! Burns is hardly a case in point, and his conversion to Conservatism was not that of his whole heart.

Our poet at first seems rather to have liked Dumfries. He had more there to divert him from his own sad thoughts. An evening walk by the Nith did not always soothe him to peace. The theatre or a night at the Globe always seemed to do, and he had no time the next morning, as at Ellisland, to nurse his headache or indulge his remorse. Another vision of beauty and grace transported him (Miss Lesley Baillie, afterwards Mrs. Cumming of Logic, who died in 1843), recalled the perished days of Margaret Chalmers and Charlotte Hamilton; and he accompanied her, though he could ill spare time, thirteen miles on her southward journey, dined with her, and made a ballad on her as he returned.

George Thomson of Edinburgh having, along with a company of musical amateurs, projected a collection of Scottish airs and tunes on a new and recherché scale, asked the aid of Burns, which was enthusiastically rendered; Burns stipulating for no fee or reward, and not even expecting at first what was to be the richest of all his rewards—the privilege of setting the heart of the Scottish nation to everlasting song, and doing for Scottish feeling what he had done for Scottish manners, customs, and religious rites.

In August this year came out, along with the heather blooms, the fourth volume of "Johnson’s Musical Museum," which Thomson’s book was to eclipse, but in which appeared some of Burns’ most charming songs— "Craigie Burn Wood," "Oh meikle thinks my love o’ my beauty," the "Banks o’ Doon," "Flow gently, sweet Afton," and perhaps best of all, that dainty and delicious strain—

"O luve will venture in where it daurna weel be seen,
O luve will venture in where wisdom ance has been;
But I will down you river rove, amang the woods sae green,
And a’ to pu' a posie to my ain dear May."

On the 21st of August, 1792, Mrs. Burns had a daughter, who was named Elizabeth Riddell, in honour of the laird of Friars’ Carse, and was not destined to a long life. Chambers speaks with a kind of surprise of Burns’ being seen in the summer gloamings dandling his little daughter in his arms, and singing to her. One minds the story of the poor negro who, when he heard of God sending His Son to redeem the world, cried, "It be just like Him." So this little anecdote "be just like" Burns, the most affectionate of fathers. Smellie and Maria Riddell had become great friends. He praised and patronized her volume; and she got the great eccentric naturalist to visit Dumfries, where he figured as a most extraordinary "lion "—attended assemblies, and was, along with Burns, entertained by the magistrates. Bozzy was not a prouder man when he brought Dr. Johnson and Jack Wilkes together, than was Mrs. Riddell when she accomplished a reunion between such a pair as Burns and Smellie although as Bozzy received sundry knocks from both his friends as a reward for going between them, so Mrs. Riddell got one coarse compliment, at least, from Smellie, which we would rather not transfer from Chambers’ page to our own. It was characteristic of the times, and of the rude "Orson" who uttered i ; but not, we trust, applicable to the lady. Chambers says that in those days a woman even of refinement had to stand a great deal from her male friends. But unlike Smellie, Burns, unless when intoxicated, was incapable, we think, of insulting a lady like Maria Riddell.

And now commenced that correspondence with Thomson which, with the delightful lyrics sprinkled through it, and the comments from the pen of Burns, forms such a pleasant portion of his writings. How charming, at the turning of every page, to come upon those old familiar faces of song —"Highland Mary," the "Lea Rig," "Duncan Gray," and "Auld Rob Morris." He found time, too, to write some trifles upon Miss Fontenelle, a petite actress of the day on the Dumfries stage, such as the "Rights of Woman," "An Address," &c.

Burns had at this time fallen into a grave error. A young woman, residing with her sister, Mrs. Hyslop of the Globe Tavern, bore him a daughter. Some suppose that it was while Mrs. Burns was in Ayrshire visiting her friends that this unhappy affair occurred. Everybody remembers that Jean took home the child, laid her in a cradle beside her own infant, and when her father, who visited her, asked in astonishment if she again had twins, answered "It’s a neebor’s bairn who is unwell," and brought up the child as her own. The child’s name was Elizabeth, as that of all the three daughters of Burns was. She became a Mrs. Thomson, of Pollokshaws, and bore a striking resemblance to her father. People will judge of Burns and Jean in this matter according to their own temperament and habits of thinking. Burns’ conduct may be palliated, but cannot be defended; he would not have defended it himself, and many will deem the palliations pled from his passions, his habits, and his wife’s absence, very poor ones. Let us simply say, "None else is judge but God!" But Jean’s conduct, in our idea, rises to the sublime. She acted to the child in the cradle, to her husband, and to the guilty mother in the very spirit of Jesus Christ. And how her conduct led, undesignedly, to deeper retribution! Burns suffered severely in his own conscience, but it was Jean’s action which barbed the arrow that pierced his vitals. How could he sleep while she was in unmurmuring silence rocking the cradle of that child of sin?

Robert Chambers says, in allusion to Burns’ feelings of remorse and misery, "Is there really in the world anything greatly to discompose a man besides the Promethean vulture of a sense of his own errors?" This may to some extent, though not entirely, solve the mystery of Burns' misery, but not that of thousands of other men. Surely Chambers has forgotten the names of Pascal, Johnson, Foster, Carlyle, among philosophers; Young and Cowper among poets; Robert Hall, at one period of his life, among preachers; the whole martyrology of the world; Paul exclaiming, "0 wretched man that I am ;" and innumerable more names recorded in history of men and women of spotless life and noble character who have been unhappy. One name occurs to us—mentioned in Thomas Erskine of Linlathen’s "Memoirs "—Madame de Broglie, daughter of the great Madame de Stael, a lady of virtue, parts, easy circumstances, fortunate family relationships, and yet weighed down by constant melancholy, desiring to die, and glad exceedingly when she had found the grave. Errors in life are common; but while they spread down for some men a Promethean pillow of thorns, on many, perhaps on more, they have little effect. A more sensible question has been asked, "Who is happy?" although many try to believe they are so who are most miserable in spirit. How many shrink back from looking into their own hearts, as men used to shrink from looking into a mirror when alone, afraid that they might see there, instead of their own face, that of a fiend, or worse still, that of the image of themselves as they were in innocent childhood or happy youth, now gone for ever!

Burns certainly was not happy at this time, and seems to have often (what a sad and suggestive expression!) forgot himself! He was a good deal exposed to temptation. Dumfries was then a small, social, hearty town—a town like those so graphically described by Christopher North :—" The whole town tipples; there are club-rooms in every lane ; the flow of ale is perpetual, perpetual the puffing of pipes; the system of soaking knows no change of seasons. All classes drink — the schoolmaster, the curate, the private saint, the publican and sinner, the tax-gatherer, the exciseman, the half-pay officer, the roughrider, &c., &c." In Dumfries there were three great howffs—the King’s Arms, the George, and the Globe—all, we believe, still extant. The Globe was Burns’ favourite haunt. It is a snug little inn—to gain which you must pass through a close and ascend a stair, which was very convenient for those "drouthy cronies" who did not like to be seen entering a hostelry, however respectable in its character, as it has always been—where you can still sit down in Burns’ leathern chair in the corner, and see the words, "Lovely Polly Stewart" and other ditties, scrawled by him on the window-pane. Many strangers were then passing through Dumfries on their way from England to the north of Ireland; and perhaps for a hundred in our hero-worshipping days who pause to visit his grave, or call on his two houses, or drink his memory in the Globe or King’s Arms, ten might then stop to see the living dog, so much better than the dead lion. "Is Burns still here? Is he at home? Do get me a sight of our great national poet. Send for him with my compliments (Mr. So So), and say I shall be so proud if he will step over and drink a single glass with me. I take no refusal." And Burns good-naturedly comes, and takes one glass, and then another, and another; and the afternoon becomes evening, and the evening midnight, and the rest can be imagined. The traveller goes to bed in the inn, rises in tune for the stage-coach, has a headache, which he charitably imputes to the great poet who made him sit too late with him; but by the time he reaches Portpatrick is quite well, and tells all the people he meets of his glorious "Night with Burns." Burns reels home, gets a curtain lecture, sleeps a few uneasy hours, and rises miserable to his miserable drudgery. Once, we are told, returning from some such orgy, he met his neighbour, George Haugh, the blacksmith, going forth to his manly toil "until the evening," and contrasted himself with him—the one repairing to his healthful labour, the other to his brief and troubled repose. This state of matters, although only of course occasional, was not infrequent, and could not be expected with a man of his temperament to last very long.

Poor "Clarinda" had come back to Scotland. She found a cold reception from her husband. There would be little but a bandying of reproaches. Very likely he had heard of her intimacy with Burns; her admiration for him she would scorn to conceal, and he had been openly and grossly unfaithful to her. He used her ill, at all events, and she suffered besides from the climate. She resolved to come home, and did so in August, 1792. Burns had written her twice through her friend, Miss Peacock, but both letters had miscarried. He now, on the 6th of December, the fatal anniversary, wrote Miss Peacock again, "Clarinda’s" return being not yet known. When he knew of it, he wrote to herself an elaborately-frenzied letter. It would seem as if these two lovers could ne’er be sundered. Like the curve seeking the asymptotes, for ever in vain, so perpetually fruitless was the pursuit going on between them.

But now the times had become portentous and electric. It was the hour fully come—memorable for evermore in the annals of men—when, in the language of a poet, kindred to Burns in enthusiasm for liberty, if not so masculine and brawny in his power—

"Great France sprang forth,
And seized, as if to break, the ponderous chains
Which bind in woe the nations of the earth;"

and when her effort was welcomed with a shout of applause from all the most ardent and aspiring spirits in Europe. Wilder events, the imprisonment of the king and the formation of a republic and a revolutionary army in France, had succeeded. In Britain Paine’s "Age of Reason" had struck at the root of despotism, with the force and will of the axe of a backwoods-man at some old pine of the forest, and the blow echoed through the universe. Societies of Friends of the People—in spite of Burke, in whose "Reflections on [or Reply to] the French Revolution" Vesuvius seemed to answer Etna—were formed. The Government got alarmed, prosecutions for sedition became the order of the day, and war with the infant republic was imminent. Burns’ heart—a heart overshadowed and withered under the pressure of poverty, pride, and a galling sense of injury and neglect, leaped up when he saw the beautiful rainbow of the French Revolution bridging the sky; and in his usual outspoken and fearless manner he expressed his gladness. He ordered a Radical paper, started in Ayr by one Captain Johnstone— the same paper spoken of by Hector MacNeil in his "Will and Jean," when his hero and others

"Clubbed and gat the Gazetteer."

He threw off a political song—

"Here‘s a health to them that’s awa’."

He uttered a few fierce speeches, and gave some rather daring toasts in private. It would seem as if he had a presentiment of some coming calamity, as on the 6th December, the same day he had written to Clarinda, he penned a dismal letter to Mrs. Dunlop, announcing a visit to Ayrshire, and his intention to see her. He spent four days at her house, and on his return he got an intimation that the Board of Excise were about to inquire into his political opinions and conduct, and to reprimand, if not to dismiss him, on account of them. This plunged him into a terrible state of apprehension that total and irreversible ruin lay before him and his family. He wrote a letter to Mr. Graham of Fintry, and although some expressions in it are so excessively exaggerated that you are led to suspect other influences at work besides alarm, there can be no doubt that there was real danger, and the report spread that he was dismissed; indeed, he says he would have been so but for Mr. Graham’s intercession. Erskine of Mar (descended from the rebel earl, but himself a great Whig), hearing that Burns was cashiered, wrote to Mr. Riddell offering to head a subscription for him. Burns in reply wrote (13th April, 1793) his noblest letter—that one at any rate in which his characteristic qualities of manly freedom and stubborn independence come out most strongly. His conduct was in the last degree imprudent, and in some measure unreasonable. He had sold his birthright for £50, and was it not now rather late to quarrel with the bargain? As a gauger and government servant he had no business to take part in political agitation; the fault lay in his position, or rather in the poverty which rendered that position involuntary and inevitable.

This dreary December merged in 1793. Mrs. Dunlop presented him with a cup which had been a family piece among the descendants of Sir William Wallace. This was soon employed in ladling out cold punch, which effectually overthrew some of his visitors; he having previously told her on the second of the month that he had given up "hard-drinking." It had now become a daring feat in any clergyman to baptize Burns’ children. Mr. MacMorine of Caerlaverock, an able, worthy, free and easy man, had promised to Burns to come one day and sprinkle little Elizabeth Riddell, Burns’ babe, and when he came, found a curious group; Burns was seated beside two companions, not of the most respectable appearance, and they had all evidently been up the whole night. Burns, however, was sober, or at least speedily sobered himself, and arranged matters for a ceremony about which he had forgot. The baptism passed off fairly, but MacMorine, we suppose, left humming the line—-

"We’ll gang nae mair to yon toun."

Some suppose that these were the "two worthy men" Burns refers to in a letter as having partaken too liberally of his ‘‘Wallace Cup."

Still the new year began well with Burns in a literary point of view, with "Poortith Cauld," written for and on a Miss Jane Blackstock, afterwards a Mrs. Whitier of Liverpool, for whom he seems to have had one of his passing penchants. On his birthday, the 25th of January, he wrote a sweet sonnet on a thrush singing in his morning walk, and next day "Lord Gregory." The story of this fine ballad is old. Peter Pindar, the popular poet of that day, had written some very good verses on it; but Burns certainly excelled him. There are some touching lines on a similar story—that of a maiden seduced by a lord and going to his door to die, to be found in the "Roman" by our dear deceased friend, Sidney Dobell, entitled a "Winter Night," which we never have been able to read without tears. Less powerful and condensed than Burns’, it is more pre-Raphaehitically simple and minutely true. We venture to quote some passages of it in a note.

"And she stood at its father’s gate,
With her baby at her breast;
‘Twas about the hour of rest,
There were lights about the place.
The old moon began to sink
(Long like her upon the wane);
It grew dark, she drew her hood
Close about her pallid face.
At the portal door she sate,
Where she will not sit again.
'Little one,’ she slowly said,
Bending low her lowly head,
‘In all this wide world only thee
And my shame he gave to me.
When thou camest I did think
On that other gift of his.
Hating that, I dreaded this;
Thou art fair, but so was he—
‘Tis a winning smile of thine,
Ah what fatal praise it is!
One such smile once won all mine.
Little one I not repine;
It befits me well to wait
My Lord’s will, till I be dead;
Once it was a gentler will.’

‘Little one,’ she said, ‘the cot
Where I bore thee was too low
For a haughty baron’s bride.
Little one, I hope to go
Where the palace halls are wide.
When thou prattlest at his knee,
Wilt thou sometimes speak of me?
Tell him on some eve,’ she said,
‘Where thou knowest I shalt be.
When he hears that I am grand,
In those mansions ever fair,
Will he hope to meet me there
As a lady of the land;
And think no more in scorn
Upon thee and on the dead?’
Furious blasts arose, and Grown gross
With the licence of the hour,
They smote the mother and the child!
Dark night grew darker, not a smile
Came from one star. The moon, long since,
had sunk behind the mountain.
At the mirkest, somewhat stirred
The sere leaves where the mother sate.
For a moment the babe cried,
Something in the silence sighed,
And the night was still. O Fate!
What hadst thou done? O that hard night
Which morn must see! When winter went
About the earth at dawn, he rent
His locks in pain, and cast grey hairs
Upon it as he past. So when
Maids, poor mother, wail thy lot,
Mournful at the close of day
By that legendary spot,
Oft they tell us, weeping, how
Hoar frost lay on thy pale brow
When they found thee, and was not
Paler than the clay."

"Clarinda" again turns up for the penultimate time. Burns, we said, through accident, had not heard of her return to Scotland for a long while after it had occurred; but when he learned she was in Edinburgh he wrote her a letter full of ravings about wounded pride, ruined peace, frantic disappointed passion, and adjured her to write him no more—words which she began to rate at their true value. One gets tired of the eternal popping up (so it was on Burns’ part at least) of this equivocal and ridiculous passion in a history where there is so much of real suffering and sorrow. We turn with far more interest to his correspondence with Thomson, and to the care and enthusiasm he was bestowing on his songs. We remember that when Hannah More expressed her wonder to Dr. Johnson how the author of "Paradise Lost" could write such poor sonnets, the Doctor replied, "Milton, madam, could cut out a Colossus from a rock, but could not carve heads upon cherry stones." But Burns could do both. Hogarth was never more Hogarth than when drawing heads upon his thumb nail; and so Burns, our Scottish poet, carved immortal passions and poetry, faces of surpassing beauty and forms of unequalled grace, upon his cherry stones—his smallest ballads and bits of ballads. We are sorry to find him underrating "Mary Morrison," calling it nothing remarkable, while he praises a most bombastic effort, "Raving winds around her blowing," as his best verses. But Burns, to do him justice, very seldom indeed errs in his estimate of his own works. We find him applying about this time, on the strength of a burgess ticket he had got when he first visited Dumfries in 1787, asking cheaper education for his children at the public school; his request was complied with at once and gracefully by the magistrates, and his sons were getting a good education at the time their father died. A new edition of his Poems was issued about this time. He does not seem to have derived any profit from it; but he took the opportunity of sending copies to some of his friends, such as Patrick Miller and the new Lord Glencairn. One evening he was sitting in the inn at Broom-hill with two friends, when a poor soldier passed the window. Burns, on a sudden impulse, called him in and inquired the story of his adventures, afterwards fell into a fit of abstraction, and in fine, produced the song "The Soldier’s Return," which became not only popular with the general public, but raised his repute for loyalty, which had rather sunk in the land. Yet, when he heard of Dumourier deserting the army of the Republic, he broke out into the fiery lines — "You ‘re welcome to despots, Dumourier;" nor was this his only rhymed and spoken offence. When at some feast or other Pitt was proposed as a toast, Burns was for substituting George Washington as the greater man; and when the other was preferred, he let his glass stand untasted before him and preserved a sullen silence. He wrote a song of a somewhat equivocal character — " The last time I came o’er the muir"— although we think the evidence by no means clear that it was prompted by a disreputable passion for Mrs. Riddell. What passion is in it was probably excited by the fumes of the port wine, and perished in those, or was absorbed into and evaporated by the song.

At Whitsuntide Burns and his family removed to a self-contained house in what was then known as Millbank Brae, but is now called Burns Street. It is at present the dwelling-house of the keepers of a Ragged School which stands on the south of it — a most respectable couple, Malcolm by name.

In December, 1877, we visited this house, passed through all the rooms, but paused with special emotioin in the room where he died. The bed is under the wall, and on the very spot of Burns’ deathbed. Many thoughts passed through our mind, chiefly of sadness, tinged with a little exasperation. All very well, we thought, to talk of posthumous honours, and universal influence, and enviable immortality. What are all these to the poor inhabitant that once occupied this miserable corner? What availeth to him that the enormous blunder, and misconception, and cruelty perpetrated on him living, ceased with his death, and that since whole trade-winds of "mouth-honour breath" have passed over him? that he asked for bread, and received a forest of statues and busts? Who can tell whether these are known to him in his present state of existence ; or if known, that they can give him any pleasure? How much a very little of all this paid him in advance would have soothed his wounded spirit, consoled him in the prospect of death, of leaving his widow destitute and his children abjects! The cry of a dying minister to his wife yet rings in our hearing after many years, "You will be a widow, and a poor widow!" and that cry might have been the cry of Burns. But it is the way of the world, and a miserable way of a hard and heartless world it is; since for the sums given and the incense offered up after death, the donors were recouped by the gratification of their vanity, and perhaps by the calming of their remorse—if remorse they were able to feel; and probably not a shilling paid implied any self-sacrifice. But Burns was "a proud man, and a dissipated man, and a man to whom it was difficult to do any real service." If this had been said after any sincere trial to do him good, it might have been something to the purpose. But the priest and the Levite had passed by on the other side, and the offices of the good Samaritan were performed, not to the living man, but to the cold and senseless corpse! Perhaps such thoughts might come in more logically afterwards; but we prefer recording them now, as we still seem to stand by Burns’ deathbed in this upper room of the Old Mill Vennel of Dumfries. Well do we remember many years ago, in the company of Thomas Carlyle and Thomas Aird, passing this house, and the mood in which we passed it was that of silence—the silence of pity, love, and a shade of awe; and how the feeling, awakened but not expressed—an hour afterwards, in a walk through a deep-wooded, moonlit lane leading up from the Nith— became in Carlyle inspiration, as he sounded on his way in a stream of talk so wild, holy, and melancholy, that it seemed as if the great inspired soul of Burns were incarnate in his person and speaking through his lips!

Chambers proves that Burns at the time he entered his new house was by no means rich, and quotes a letter of his to some unknown friend earnestly begging the loan of three or four guineas, and complaining bitterly of the times. Yet he would take no money from Thomson for his songs, and even fiercely rejected an offer of it again and again made by him. He seemed to think that songwriting must be a labour of love, and that the idea of cash connected with it would deprive it of all spontaneity. He could not turn his blood into ducats; and songs or rhymes were to him, to quote Shakspeare’s beautiful words again, as the "ruddy drops which visited his sad heart." William Motherwell gotten shillings for "Jeanie Morisson," the most natural and pathetic of recent Scottish lyrics. Thomas Aird got two guineas (!) for his "Devil’s Dream on Mount Acksbech," one of the grandest flights of modern imagination. But Burns got nothing whatever for what has been truly called a world of songs, and a world as varied as vast—nothing but the solitary joy and triumph of the Demiurge. Neither he nor his family could dine on "Scots wha hae" or a "Man’s a man for a’ that;" and in vain might he say with Milton—

"Ever against eating cares,
Lap me in soft Lydian airs."

One cause of his peculiar poverty at this time was that, owing to the war, an extra income derived from the unloading of foreign vessels was stopped.

We are now as far as 1793, and find Syme and Burns on an excursion to Galloway, a country well worth a more thorough exploration than he had then time to give it, with its fine meandering rivers, its gloomy moorlands, alternating with rich reaches of arable ground and alluvial scenery the storm of mountains surging above Newton Stewart, the beautiful bay of Wigton, the exquisite coast scenery around Ravenshall, where you find a combination of different trees as varied as Spenser’s "Wood of Error," with rocks, and caves, and creeks, bold promontories plunging into the blue sea on the one hand, and high bleak mountains piercing the blue sky on the other (Guy Mannering’s country), the famous Castle Kennedy, and the Mull of Galloway planting its foot into the ocean with an air of such blunt and bold defiance! We quote all John Syme’s account of the journey, and a supplementary bit from Mr. Carson:-

"I got Burns a gray Highland shelty to ride on. We dined the first day, 27th July, 1793, at Glendonwyne’s of Parton—a beautiful situation on the banks of the Dee. In the evening we walked out, and ascended a gentle eminence, from which we had as fine a view of Alpine scenery as can well be imagined. A delightful soft evening showed all its wilder as well as its grander graces. Immediately opposite, and within a mile of us, we saw Airds, a charming romantic place, where dwelt Lowe, the author of ‘Mary, weep no more for me.’ This was classical ground for Burns. He viewed ‘the highest hill which rises o er the source of Dee,’ and would have stayed till ‘the passing spirit’ had appeared, had we not resolved to reach Kenmure that night. We arrived as Mr. and Mrs. Gordon were sitting down to supper.

"Here is a genuine baron’s seat. The castle, an old building, stands on a large natural moat. In front, the river Ken winds for several miles through the most fertile and beautiful helm, till it expands into a lake twelve miles long, the banks of which, on the south, present a fine and soft landscape of green knolls, natural wood, and here and there a gray rock. On the north the aspect is great, wild, and I may say, tremendous. In short, I can scarcely conceive a scene more terribly romantic than the castle of Kenmure. Burns thinks so highly of it that he meditates a description of it in poetry ; indeed, I believe he has begun the work. We spent three days with Mr. Gordon, whose polished hospitality is of an original and endearing kind. Mrs. Gordon’s lap dog, Echo, was dead. She would have an epitaph for him. Several had been made. Burns was asked for one. This was setting Hercules to his distaff. He disliked the subject, but to please the lady, he would try. Here is what he produced—

‘In wood and wild, ye warbling throng,
Your heavy loss deplore!
Now half extinct your powers of song,
Sweet Echo is no more.

Ye jarring, screeching things around,
Scream your discordant joys!
Now half your din of tuneless song
With Echo silent lies.’

"We left Kenmure and went to Gatehouse. I took him the moor-road, where savage and desolate regions extended wide around. The sky was sympathetic with the wretchedness of the soil; it became lowering and dark. The hollow winds sighed, the lightnings gleamed, the thunder rolled. The poet enjoyed the awful scene; he spoke not a word, but seemed rapt in meditation. In a little while the rain began to fall; it poured in floods upon us. For three hours did the wild elements rumble their belly-full upon our defenceless heads. Oh! oh! ‘twas foul. We got utterly wet; and to revenge ourselves, Burns insisted at Gatehouse on our getting utterly drunk.

"From Gatehouse we went next day to Kirkcudbright, through a fine country. But here I must tell you that Burns had got a pair of jemmy boots for the journey, which had been thoroughly wet, and which had been dried in such manner that it was not possible to get them on again. The brawny poet tried force, and tore them to shreds. A whiffling vexation of this sort is more trying to the temper than a serious calamity. We were going to St. Mary’s Isle, the seat of the Earl of Selkirk, and the forlorn Burns was discomfited at the thought of his ruined boots. A sick stomach and a headache lent their aid, and the man of verse was quite accablé. I attempted to reason with him. Mercy on us, how he did fume and rage! Nothing could reinstate him in temper. I tried various expedients, and at last hit on one that succeeded; I showed him the house of [Garlieston ?], across the Bay of Wigton. Against [the Earl of Galloway?]. with whom he was offended, he expectorated his spleen, and regained a most agreeable temper. He was in a most epigrammatic humour indeed! He afterwards fell on humbler game. There is one . . . . whom he does not love; he had a passing blow at him—

‘When —, deceased, to the devil went down,
‘Twas nothing would serve him but Satan’s own crown;
Thy fool’s head, quoth Satan, that crown shall wear never;
I grant thou’rt as wicked, but not quite so clever.’

"Well, I am to bring you to Kirkcudbright along with our poet without boots. I carried the torn ruins across my saddle in spite of his fulminations, and in contempt of appearances; and what is more, Lord Selkirk carried them in his coach to Dumfries. He insisted they were worth mending.

"We reached Kirkcudbright about one o’clock. I had promised that we should dine with one of the first men in our country, J. Dalzell. But Burns was in a wild and obstreperous humour, and swore he would not dine where he should be under the smallest restraint. We prevailed, therefore, on Mr. Dalzell to dine with us in the inn, and had a very agreeable party. In the evening we set out for St. Mary’s Isle. Robert had nbot absolutely regained the milkiness of good temper, and it occurred once or twice to him, as he rode along, that St. Mary’s Isle was the seat of a lord; yet that lord was not an aristocrat, at least in his sense of the word. We arrived about eight o’clock, as the family were at tea and coffee. St. Mary’s Isle is one of the most delightful places that can, in my opinion, be formed by the assemblage of every soft but not tame object which constitutes natural and cultivated beauty. But not to dwell on its external graces, let me tell you that we found all the ladies of the family (all beautiful) at home, and some strangers; and among others, who but Urbani! The Italian sang us many Scottish songs, accompanied with instrumental music. The two young ladies of Selkirk sang also. We had the song of ‘Lord Gregory,’ which I asked for, to have an opportunity of calling on Burns to recite his ballad to that tune. He did recite it ; and such was the effect, that a dead silence ensued. It was such a silence as a mind of feeling naturally preserves when it is touched with that enthusiasm which banishes every other thought but the contemplation and indulgence of the sympathy produced. Burns’ ‘Lord Gregory’ is, in my opinion, a most beautiful and affecting ballad. The fastidious critic may perhaps say some of the sentiments and imagery are of too elevated a kind for such a style of composition; for instance, ‘Thou bolt of heaven that passest by,’ and ‘Ye mustering thunder,’ &c.; but this is a cold-blooded objection, which will be said rather than felt.

"We enjoyed a most happy evening at Lord Selkirk’s. We had, in every sense of the word, a feast, in which our minds and our senses were equally gratified. The poet was delighted with his company, and acquitted himself to admiration. The lion that had raged so violently in the morning was now as mild and gentle as a lamb. Next day we returned to Dumfries; and so ends our peregrination. I told you that, in the midst of the storm on the wilds of Kenmure, Burns was wrapt in meditation. What do you think he was about? He was charging the English army, along with Bruce, at Bannockburn. He was engaged in the same manner on our ride home from St. Mary’s Isle, and I did not disturb him. Next day he produced me the following address of Bruce to his troops, and gave me a copy for Dalzell—

‘Scots, wha hae wi’ Wallace bled,’" &c.

Mr. Carson says :—" The only friends of the host and hostess invited to meet the travellers, Burns and Syme, at Kenmure, were the Rev. John Gillespie, the. highly-esteemed minister of the parish (Kells), and myself.

"On the evening preceding their departure, the bard having expressed his intention of climbing to the top of ‘the highest hill that rises o’er the source of Dee,’ there to see the arbour of Lowe, the author of the celebrated song, ‘Mary’s Dream,’ Mr. Gordon proposed that they should all sail down the loch in his barge Glenkens, to the Airds Hill below Lowe’s seat. Seeing that this proposal was intended in compliment by the worthy host both to the bard and to Mr. Gillespie, who had been the patron of Lowe, the gentlemen all concurred; and the weather proving propitious next morning, the vessel soon dropt down to the foot of Loch Ken with all the party on board. Meanwhile, Mr. Gordon’s groom led the travellers’ horses round to the Boat-o’-Rhone, saddled and bridled, that each rider might mount on descending from the poet’s seat; but the barge unfortunately grounded before reaching the proposed landing-place—an obstruction not anticipated by any of the party. Mr. Gordon, with the assistance of an oar, vaulted from the prow of the little vessel to the beach, and was soon followed in like manner by Mr. Syme and myself; thus leaving only the venerable pastor of Kells and the bard on board. The former, being too feeble to jump, as we had done, to land, expressed a desire to remain in the vessel till Mr. Gordon and I returned; upon hearing which, the generous bard instantly slipt into the water, which was, however, so deep as to wet him to the knees. After a short entreaty he succeeded in getting the clergyman on his shoulders; on observing which Mr. Syme raised his hands, laughed immoderately, and exclaimed: ‘Well, Burns, of all the men on earth, you are the last that I could have expected to see priest-ridden!’ We laughed also, but Burns did not seem to enjoy the joke. He made no reply, but carried his load silently through the reeds to land.

"When Mr. Syme’s account of this excursion with the bard into Galloway appeared in Dr. Currie’s first edition of the ‘Life and Works of Robert Burns,’ the Glenkens people, who were actors in this part of the drama, were very much surprised to find the above incident not even alluded to; but we plainly perceived that Syme had only taken a few incidents of the journey as pegs to hang other drapery upon. We were all fully satisfied that it was by the bard’s wading in the loch that his new boots were so thoroughly wet, and that the choler or independence next day manifested by him to Syme was only the result of his wounded feelings at having been made such a laughingstock by his friend for merely rendering the assistance due by common humanity to old age or infirmity, which Mr. Gordon and myself charged ourselves afterwards for having overlooked in that instance."

And thus the first rude draught of the grandest War Ode in the world was produced. No doubt Burns, in a letter dated September that year, speaks to Thomson of having in his evening walk along the Nith thrown off what he calls a kind of Scottish ode—" Scots wha hae;" and Chambers rather perplexes than clears up the matter in his remarks. John Syme was a man of honour and a genuine enthusiast, and would not, in his letter to Dr. Currie, have given a false report of what he had witnessed; nor could he have forgotten at that date such a remarkable circumstance. In the solitude of Galloway Burns, we believe, produced and gave to Syme the first rude draught; on the banks of the Nith he expanded it to its perfect and final form. "Scots wha hae," we venture to say, could not have been conceived except in a thunderstorm and on the dreary moors—the place is the same still, all wanted is the poet—between Kenmure and Gatehouse. The song tuned itself to the thunder, and might, as Carlyle says, "be sung by the throat of the whirlwind." Every line is electric; and the eye of the poet meeting the blackness of the sky, with fierce flashes falling across it, like spilt shafts from the quiver of Death, and vibrating as they fell, must have been a sight to dream of, not to see. The excitement was of that fearful and half-frenzied sort which sought relief and gained the gate of slumber through the power of a coarser intoxication. Burns at Gatehouse got "utterly drunk." It is not to be defended—it will be sternly condemned; but it is hardly, at that time and in a man like Burns, to be wondered at. Thus Edmund Kean could get no other relief; after "Othello" or "Lear" had awakened a delirium which ran through his brain and nerves like molten lead. Thus Fox and Sheridan rounded off some of those tremendous philippics against the tyrants of India and the Continent, which are matched only in those by which Demosthenes

"Shook the Arsenal and fulmined over Greece,
To Macedon and Artaxerxes’ throne!"

In his age perhaps only one man of Burns’ order of mind and genius—namely, Burke—was much more temperate than Burns.

Peter Pindar, alluded to above as the author of another poem on Lord Gregory, and considerably overrated by Burns, does not deserve, on the other hand, the cold water cast by Chambers on his claims. He calls him a man of moderate abilities, speaks of his ribald recklessness, and so forth. Macaulay somewhere expresses a much higher opinion of him. Dr. Wolcot was no common man. His appearance and enormous brow proved it, apart from his works. His patronage of Opie, the painter, testified to his discernment as well as heart. His witty tales will last as long as the English language. He was a coarse man, and many of his writings are as coarse as they are all eminently clever. But in political integrity he rivalled Burns himself. He is a star that has somewhat receded from his pride of place, but he remains in the firmament still. His lowest praise is that he was a piercing thorn in the king’s side. In a letter to Home Tooke, Junius applies this as a compliment to Wilkes; and such as it was, it was equally deserved by Peter Pindar.

More truly, Chambers notes with wonder Burns’ extreme fertility of song-writing this season. Gagged and muzzled in politics, told that it was his business to obey and be silent, not to think or speak, he found no outcome for his fancy and no channel for his feeling but song. Among the beautiful songs he produced this autumn, besides his final version of "Scots wha hae," we notice his "Auld Lang Syne," a song which for many years has been sung at the close of every festive gathering on the New - year, and often at other seasons, throughout the world; and the myriads then standing up and grasping each other’s hands, and who for the nonce are "brithers for a’ that," are standing up in honour and recognition of Burns. Burns has added one innocent, universal, and unselfish joy to the list of the world’s pleasures; and surely the universal poet, who is the universal benefactor too, is twice blessed!

Many were now disposed to say—Let the poet confine himself to his art, and leave politics alone. Thus do they often say to men of eminence, as if excellence in one department disqualified them from interfering in another; and because an extraordinary man is only, after all, an ordinary citizen, he has no right to speak at all on subjects which, as a citizen, interest him! Burns, the greatest of Scotland’s poets, was not, perhaps, the profoundest of politicians; but was this to seal his lips? The mere feeling of such a man on political matters, the mere side he takes, is itself a matter of importance as a weight in the scales with that of many ordinary citizens. Burns felt this himself; and felt besides an ardent interest in the political questions of the times. Hence, even after his rebuke by the Excise and his enforced silence, he was now and then nearly getting into scrapes by his outspokenness. He had taken a great part in a public library which had been established in Dumfries, was presented by the committee with a share in it free of entrance-money and of the quarterly contribution, in honour of his literary reputation, and elected a member of committee. And he presented four books to it —"Humphrey Clinker," "Julia De Roubigne," "Knox’s History of the Reformation" (a special favourite of his), and "De Lolme on the British Constitution." This volume, chiefly owing to the praise of Junius, who calls it a treatise "deep, solid, and ingenious," was then counted a book of great authority. On the fly-leaf Burns had written—" Mr. Burns presents this book to the library, and begs they will take it as a creed of British liberty until they find a better." Early in the morning after it had been presented he called on Mr. Thomson, the provost of Dumfries, ere he was up, and asked to see the volume, as he was afraid he had written on it something that might bring him into trouble. It was brought; and having got some paste, he proceeded to paste over it the fly-leaf; so as to conceal it. It could, however, be seen by holding up the leaf to the light. Poor Burns! In politics as in charity he needed to learn the lesson not to tell his left hand what his right was about, and when he tried to deceive he made only a bungling hypocrite. On another occasion he called on his neighbour, George Haugh the blacksmith, and gave him Paine’s "Common Sense" and "Rights of Man," and told him to keep them for him, since if found in his possession ruin would follow. On another occasion still (we were told by a clerical gentleman in Dumfries) Burns and a few other Republican friends were met, as they met occasionally, in a room in an inn to discuss politics; when the cry got up that the magistrates and their myrmidons were at hand, and they all leaped out of’ a window and made an abrupt and narrow escape. At that time a cloud of suspicion and espionage rested over all the land, but seemed thickest over Dumfries. We may liken it to that cholera cloud which, in 1832, Dr. Robert Knox described to us as hanging above the Queen of the South, and which he and his brother, who were travelling toward the town, and felt themselves (the brother particularly) getting ill as they approached, avoided by riding in another direction, till gaining Lochmaben they became quite well, and heard the next morning that the pest had come down over the place like a blanket, in the evening, and slain its hundreds, Alas! Burns had not the power that others possessed of removing from the sphere of danger, but must wait gloomily where he was till the advent of better times.

It was about this time—surely one of the darkest points in his whole history—that Burns, as he tells Mr. MacMurdo, to whom he was paying the debt of a few guineas (after which "he didn’t owe a shilling to man or woman either"), began to form a collection of licentious songs, known as the "Merry Muses," and which is certainly the biggest literary blot on his memory. We own to having read these unworthy productions; and while we admit the plea that many of them are not, as a whole, from the pen of Burns, that those which are manifestly his are the purest, and that to his hand we trace all those strokes of quirky humour and naïveté which are found in the most and worst of’ them, we freely grant that the "Merry Muses" may be called, what Leigh Hunt calls Cotton’s "Virgil," a "beastly book," and is rank throughout with the very miasma of uncleanness. We believe that most of what Burns wrote in it was written while in a state of intoxication. Than the gentleman who showed us the copy— the late Robert White of Newcastle, author of "Otterburne" and "Bannockburn," works both of high antiquarian value—a purer, sincerer, simpler being, or one who more admired Burns, never existed. Deep sorrow, rather than anger, was in both our hearts as we went over it together. White told us he knew an innkeeper (he mentioned his name, but we, who had no thought then —it was in 1872—of writing a life of Burns, neglected to take it down) whose house the bard frequented, who said that up to a certain point he was most delightful society, but beyond that he would often spend the rest of the evening in singing obscene songs; at a certain stage the poet and the man were spirited away—the Burns evaporated, the Brute only remained. White mentioned this to us repeatedly, and it was undoubtedly true. Chambers gives what is, we suppose, an accurate enough account of the way in which the collection came to see the light, after Bums’ death, through the cupidity of a bookseller. He calls it a "mean - looking volume." This was true of the copy White showed us; but we once saw, for a mere minute or two, a better got-up edition (not for sale, however), in two volumes, in the shop of the late Maurice Ogle, publisher, Glasgow. This miserable book may probably be still creeping, like the plague in Constantinople, in obscure regions of the country. But its very vileness prevents it from being noxious; it kindles no feeling but disgust, awakens no passion but anger, or rather grief— disgust at the volume itself, grief for the author.

While on this ungrateful subject, we may as well quote what Byron says of Burns’ letters, which had been shown him by Allen, Lord Holland’s librarian—a man of vast and curious erudition :—" Allen has lent me a quantity of Burns’ unpublished and never to be published letters. They are full of oaths and obscene songs. What an antithetical mind! tenderness, roughness, delicacy, coarseness, sentiment, sensuality, soaring and grovelling, dirt and Deity, all mixed up in one compound of poor clay." This is from his Journal; but in his Letter to Bowles he says farther—" I have seen myself a collection of letters of another eminent—nay, pre-eminent--—deceased poet, so abominably gross and elaborately coarse, that I do not believe they could be paralleled in our language. What is more strange is, that some of them are couched as postscripts to his serious and sentimental letters, to which are tacked either a piece of prose or some verses of the most hyperbolical obscenity. He himself says that ‘if obscenity (he uses a much coarser word) were the sin against the Holy Ghost, he most certainly could not be saved.’" We have not seen the letters referred to, but perhaps Mr. White’s statement points out one way of explaining them—the sentimental part might be written before dinner, and the postscript added after. This is an explanation, though, of course, not a sufficient palliation of the offence. Burns, writing to Mrs. Dunlop, Dr. Moore, and Dugald Stewart, could not have written obscenely; since he would not, one would think, have allowed himself to write to them if he had been in this state. Writing to others whom he respected less, he might have permitted wine and passion to have their way; and then, as when he was with the innkeeper, the Burns vanished, the Brute survived (and is there not more or less of the brutal nature in all men and hence came the "hyperbolical obscenity."

During the summer of 1793 Burns was little at Woodley Park; Mrs. Riddell was away in London for some months, and afterwards her husband was called suddenly on business to the West Indies, and when he returned found her alone in the mansion house. Here Burns, according to the etiquette of the times, and perhaps also owing to his peculiar reputation, was not permitted to visit her, but would have occasionally entered her box at the theatre had it not been for what he calls "lobster-coated puppies," i.e., officers belonging to a regiment in Dumfries, and with whom it was the fate of the bard more than once to come into collision. He suspected that they had spread reports against his loyalty to the Board of Excise; they feared his power of scathing sarcasm, and cowered at the flash of his dark eye. They not only came between him and Mrs. Riddell, but on another occasion Miss Benson, afterwards Mrs. Basil Montagu, met his displeasure for mingling with these "epauletted puppies," as he called them, and seeming to neglect him. They got a handle against him, when one evening heated with wine in a private company he gave as a toast-" May our success in the present war be equal to the justice of ‘our cause!’" At these words a captain present chose to be so seriously offended that a quarrel was the consequence, and Burns the next morning had to write a letter which was equivalent to a humble apology. Worst of all, Mr. Riddell having returned, and Burns having resumed his visits to Woodley Park, he one day committed himself by a nameless insult to his fair hostess, in remorse for which he next morning indited a letter to her purporting to be written in the abode of the damned; this produced a breach between them, which gradually widened into a great gulph fixed till very near his end, and Burns took his revenge by certain bitter lampoons, which did as little honour to his gentlemanly feeling as to his genius. Rejected at Woodley Park, he continued his visits to Tinwald Downs, where John Bushby was landlord—a remarkable person, who had risen from the ranks to opulence, was a solicitor, a banker, a country gentleman, kept open table, and had Burns often among his guests. It is said that Burns sometimes preferred dining in the room of the housekeeper, a decent lady reduced in circumstances, and afterwards was brought up along with a new batch of claret, like a bag-pipe player, to amuse the company. Chambers hints that Burns liked this: he might at times, at other times he stormed. The story at least is told that when once brought up stairs and to table, like Samson to make the people sport, he showed what terrible sport a Samson could make by pouring out a torrent of invective, flaked by oaths, shaking the pillars of the house, and rushing out in unceremonious haste and recalcitrating fury! This perhaps is a mythical, but decidedly improved version, of Chambers’ tales about Burns being snared by Bushby into swallowing a piece of pudding boiling hot, while Bushby laughed till the tears were gushing out at his eyes in emulous sympathy with those produced by heat in the eyes of Burns; and Burns got angry, and this little bit of hot pudding led to a long coolness between them—an incident altogether more characteristic of the "Bashful Man" in fiction than of a being like Burns in reality. At all events Burns and Bushby ceased to be friends, and the poet visited the offences of the sire on the son in his lines ". AEsopus to Maria," in which he lashes Bushby Maitland as an advocate, and a man reputed much inferior to his father in intellect.

Amidst all this tempest of quarrel, contrition, and chagrin, the year 1794 dawned on our impolitic poet. It dawned darkly upon him personally and in public estimation; but we know not if his mind was ever stronger, prouder, yet tenderer than then, and if ever soured sensibility, feigned pride, and irritated passion produced through the compound stimulus they gave to genius (with the one exception of Byron’s writings in Venice, "Childe Harold," "Manfred," and "Don Juan") such works as his noble letter to Cunningham, dated the 25th February, "The Lovely Lass of Inverness," the "Red, Red Rose," and above all, the "Vision of Liberty," decidedly, in the brevity of its compass, the concentration of its power, and the vividness of its imagery, one of Burns’ very noblest strains. It is a torso, ranking not in size but in merit, with "Cambuscan" in Chaucer, with "Hyperion," "The Excursion;" greater in its mutilation, even as the splinter of a statue gives a better idea of the infinite than a statue itself. It was inspired by a visit to Lincluden Abbey. Burns often there-

"Turned from men his lonely feet,"

especially when evening was resting on the landscape, and he could glide out like a ghost to meet with the loneliness and lurid grandeur of the Abbey, carrying a ruin to ruins, as if to compare the fissures in a broken heart with the larger inroads of time upon one of the sublime structures of the past. Where, indeed, can the unhappy repair to escape from their own sorrows, or from the unthinking glee or constitutional cheerfulness of others, more fitly than to those spots where naked Nature dwells alone, or adopts and fondles the fallen fanes of Religion and the broken masterpieces of Art. She will not then and there seem to insult them by her laughing luxuriance, her foliage fluttering, as if in vain display, with the glossy gilding of her flowers and the sunny sparkle and song of her waters. But she will uplift a mightier and older voice. She will soothe them by a sterner ministry. She will (as says De Quincey in his sublime Suspiria de Profundis) "teach them old truths, abysmal truths, awful truths." She will answer their sighs by the groans of the creation travailing in pain; suck up their tears in the sweat of her great agonies; reflect their tiny wrinkles in those deep scars and stabs upon her forehead, which speak of ages of struggle and contest; give back the gloom of their brows in the frowns of her forests, her mountain solitudes, and her waste midnight darkness; perhaps infuse something, too, of her own sublime expectancy (the "earnest expectation of the creature ") into their spirits, and dismiss them from her society, it may be sadder, but certainly wiser men. How admirably is Nature suited to all moods of all men! In Spring she is gay with the light-hearted; in Summer gorgeous as its sun to those fiery spirits who seem made for a warmer day; in Autumn she spreads over all poetic hearts a mellow and unearthly charm; and even in Winter she attracts her own few but faithful votaries, who love to see her severe charms then unveiled, and enjoy her solemn communion none the less that they enjoy it by themselves. To use the words of the late John Wright of Ayrshire, a true poet undeservedly forgotten, addressing the Spring specially, but it applies to all Nature—

"Thou op’st a storehouse for all hues of men:
To hardihood thou, blust’ring from the North,
Roll’st dark; hast sighs for them that would complain;
Sharp winds to clear the head of wit and worth,
And melody for those that follow mirth;
Clouds for the gloomy, tears for those that weep;
Flowers blighted in the bud for those that birth
Untimely sorrow o’er; and skies where sweep
Fleets of a thousand sail for those who plow the deep."

Two or three days after our first visit to Burns’ house we went along with Thomas Aird, on the evening of a burning Sabbath day, leaving Dumfries while the full moon had newly risen and was resting on the top of the Crichton Asylum, to Lincluden; the Nith talking to us all the while in her gentlest mood of soliloquy, and when we reached the pile, the moon appearing in the eastern window, acting as our guide into the interior, and shedding her "holier day" with an effect wholly magical and indescribable upon the sides and secret places of the ruin.

"It was a night so still and fair,
We scarce would start to meet a spirit there."

But the "stern and stalwart ghaist" whom Burns encountered could only appear in the light of the "cauld blae north," and to the music of the "hissing eery din" produced by its fantastic and capricious fires—

‘‘Like fortune’s favours, tint as win’."

Burns eldest son used to point out the spot where his father loved to rest and muse on two lovely landscapes, which can be seen from a little mount to the south, as if set in the windows of the ancient building.

In one of the panes of the Globe Tavern, as already hinted, may yet be seen, scrawled in Burns’ handwriting, the stanza—

"O lovely Polly Stewart!
O charming Polly Stewart!
There’s not a flower that blooms in May
That’s half so fair as thou art!

Worth and truth eternal youth
Will gie to Polly Stewart."

This young woman was reared in good circumstances in a place near Ellisland, and married to a wealthy gentleman. She came, however, to grief, lost her way in life, lived in a poor position in Maxwellton, near Dumfries, and died in France. Alas for poetical prophecy! Alas for the poetical prophet himself! who while free to drink jorums at the Globe; and to scribble down the names of heroines on its windows, was sinking out of the sight and the respect of that upper class which, perhaps, he had done but too much to conciliate. The Riddells of Friars’ Carse followed the example of the Riddells of Woodley Park in cutting Burns. Glenriddell himself died soon after, and Burns sang his loss; and as he had in his possession some MS. books of Burns’, especially one collection of his minor pieces, Burns felt a natural desire to reclaim them, the more as much of it was unfit for the public eye. In doing this he applied to a sister of Mr. Riddell’s, and his letter to her shows how sore he felt about the numerous rumours which were then being circulated against him. Burns had now come round to the second Nadir in his life; 1794 was indeed the darkest year in his dark sojourn on earth. His expected promotion in the Excise was now, as it turned out, arrested for ever. Even the secret solace of song-writing was for a time closed this spring. Many doors in Dumfries and its neighbourhood, which had been thrown wide open, were now shut in his face. Insinuations of the darkest kind, probably darker than the truth, were circulating busily against his morals, his religious opinions, the jeux d’esprit he was inditing, and the company of his private hours. And now occurred the melan’choly incident communicated by David MacCulloch of Ardwell—recorded by Lockhart and commented on so plaintively by Carlyle— of Burns on a grand ball night in Dumfries (perhaps in honour of the king’s birthday) walking along the shady side of the street alone, while the opposite side was gay with parties of ladies and gentlemen who had assembled for the ball; and how when the young MacCulloch proposed they should cross the street and join them, Burns replied, "Nay, nay, my young friend, that’s all over now," and proceeded to quote some lines from Grizel Baillie’s ballad—

"His bonnet stood ance fu’ fair on his brow,
His auld ane looked better than mony ane’s new;
But now he let’s wear ony gate it will hing,
And casts himsel’ dowie upon the corn bing;
Oh! were we young, as we ance hae been,
We sud hae been galloping down on yon green,
And linking it o’er the lily-white lea;
And were na my heart light I wad dee!’,

Sad, too, his taking MacCulloch home and entertaining him with punch, and Jean’s singing his own songs till the hour of assembly came, when he was left alone in his house to brood bitterly on past and present. The whole is characteristic of the proud and self-contained poet. Fielding when in deep waters was happy on a mutton chop and a bottle of champagne, as happy as his nature could possibly be. But Burns was not a Fielding; he had a deeper moral constitution, a prouder spirit, and a keener sense of right and wrong. The iron had entered into his soul, and his main sense of suffering was, not that he was rejected and despised of men, but that he knew he in some measure deserved it. We remember no parallel instance of the universal rejection of a gifted and admired man, except that of Byron in 1816. But Byron possessed the money power, and used it in accomplishing a Parthian retreat from his angry country. Burns’ poverty compelled him to remain, else unquestionably he would have fled Dumfries, and shot barbed arrows behind him at every step of his departure. As it was, he persisted in the duties of his calling, consumed his own smoke as successfully as possible, and tried to hope and do the best he could. But we can conceive few more painful spectacles than that of this great, unhappy, indignant being pacing along the banks of the Nith or going out to Lincluden, perhaps, as of old, with a pocket edition of Milton in his hands that he might study the character of Satan, and with something of Satanic pride, misery, and remorse in his heart. Retreat from men, however, was a greater punishment to Burns than to Byron, for the former was a sincere lover of his kind, and valued their love even more than their admiration. We find him in June this year in Galloway on a visit to Heron of Kerroughtree, along with David MacCulloch, who promised to accompany him there; and in Castle Douglas penning a melancholy letter to Mrs. Dunlop, and complaining of a flying gout. And here, positively for the last time, turns up the "unspeakable" Clarinda, to whom Burns, sitting like a solitary hermit in a solitary inn, with a solitary bottle of wine, wrote a characteristic letter. In it he proclaims his pride ; he rejoices in her recovered health; tells her that he constantly gives her health, when asked for the toast of a married lady, as Mrs. Mac —; and incloses as a bonnie bouche, a "Monody on a Lady noted for her caprice"—his old flame and new foe, Maria Riddell.

He, John Syme, and young Maxwell the surgeon, held meetings of a quasi-seditious kind, with locked doors and bated breath, a few bold toasts, and free and easy songs. From these orgies, however, there issued nothing of consequence except some epigrams of little value in reply to others of none, and one rather spirited song, "The Tree of Liberty." In autumn he resumed his song writing, and as poets, according to "Festus," must have a lay figure, he found the inspiration of many a sweet and many a silly ditty in Chloris, the last of his many fancy-loves. Her real name was Jean Lorimer. She was the daughter of a substantial farmer a little way from Ellisland, nearer Dumfries, and also a tea and spirit dealer in Dumfries and Kemmis-hall. Burns first came in contact with him professionally as an exciseman, but was afterwards a great favourite and frequent visitor of the family. Once arriving unexpectedly, and entering by the back-way, he found Mrs. Lorimer busy making candles for her home use— they were then an exciseable commodity. He said simply, "Faith, Ma’am, ye‘re thrang the nicht!" and passed in. Jean, her daughter, was a beautiful creature with fine flaxen hair and a handsome figure. A Mr. Gillespie—a brother exciseman settled in Dumfries—wooed her, being backed in this by Burns; but in vain. A splendid spendthrift called Whelpdale, from Cumberland, who had taken a farm near Moffat, got acquainted with Jean, then only eighteen years of age, proposed elopement to Gretna Green, threatening to hang or drown himself if she would not consent, gained his point, and they returned to Barnhill man and wife. Soon, however, his debts forced him to decamp, and she did not see him for twenty-three years! She returned to live with her parents, and it was then that Burns became intimate with her. Whether he really loved her, or not, cannot now be very accurately ascertained. It is certain that his wife was intimate with the Lorimers as well as he; but it is certain also that he wrote a great many verses, very sweet and tender, belauding her charms. The frequent visits he paid to her abode were in her unprotected state extremely imprudent, and no doubt his enemies would put the worst construction on them; but this perhaps he knew not, or if he did, treated it with contempt. Her after fate was tragical. Her father failed, and she had from poverty to become a governess, and continued so for years. Returning, in 1816, from a visit to her brother in Sunderland, she heard at Brampton that her husband had left the village only a few hours before she called. He was afterwards imprisoned for debt at Carlisle, and Jean went to see him. When they met she could hardly recognize him, till he cried out "Jean;" he was so changed, slightly paralytic, a mere wreck. They met only once afterwards, and then parted for ever. After this she fell gradually—committed a faux pas, became a mendicant, then got a situation as a housekeeper in Newington, and ultimately died in a humble lodging in Middleton’s Entry, Potterrow, not far from "Clarinda’s" house. This was in 1831. Her husband, who latterly lived in Langholm, survived her a few years. She never ceased to retain her elegance of form and the remains of beauty, nor to be proud of having been sung by Burns, as "Chloris," in eleven or twelve songs.

Nothing else of importance occurred in his history this year, which had gradually brightened a little around him, but a proposal from Mr. Miller, junior, of Dalswinton, and Perry of the Morning Chronicle, afterwards the patron of Hazlitt, and the generous friend of many literary men, that Burns should remove to London, and write regularly at a good annual stipend for the Morning Chronicle. This offer he declined. Was it a pity he did not accept it! There are here various opinions; and first, of his going to London. Had Burns been as young as his years, and had he acquired thorough self-control, this had been a desirable measure. London in 1794 had no man his superior in general mental power, except Fox or Burke; in poetical genius no rival at all, unless Cowper, who was nearly off the stage, and fated to write little more. Coleridge, Southey, and Wordsworth were yet in blossom. Godwin, Thomas Paine, Holcroft, and others were mainly political writers, although Godwin’s "Caleb Williams" had just appeared. On the whole, although Peter Pindar, Sheridan, and Colman were the wits of the day, and very popular, there was ample field for Burns. He could have probably got into better society than in Scotland; and from the time of his death, and long afterwards, regrets were expressed that he had not been introduced among the more liberal yet refined society of England, where indeed peccadilloes and peculiarities might have had a large margin, but where, even then, there was a demand for greater regularly and decency of outward deportment and converse, although there were some men, like Sheridan, who set habitually both morals and decorum at defiance. But while they were chartered libertines, we doubt if Burns would instantly have obtained a similar privilege; we doubt, too, if he would have subsided easily into a hard-working literary man, and he would have been exposed besides to many temptations. Then his constitution was to some extent injured, and Nature had begun to signal through all his veins that she was angry with him and must soon call him to account. We fear his career in London would have been very short; seven or eight years before it might have been otherwise. As it was, and on the whole, he was wise in refusing to go to London; although he did not act with equal wisdom in refusing the pay which Perry so generously offered him for contributing regularly to the Morning Chronicle. This, in the first place, would have secured him a valuable addition to his income; secondly, given him work to do, the fact of which being paid for would have acted as a stimulus to do it well; and, thirdly, it would have created for him a much wider public, and would have probably procured more enthusiastic readers and more generous patrons.

One reason why Burns refused to go to London said bind himself down to be a regular contributor to Perry’s journal was, that he began to entertain hopes of promotion in the Excise. Chambers is at pains to prove that Burns, by fines, &c., made up his income to nearly £90 per annum, a sum fully equivalent to £160 at present; that he often received presents of rum, oysters, game, &c.; that he had thus a good deal of roughness in his ménage; that his house was tolerably well furnished, with mahogany table, &c.; that he had a maid-servant, and sat with his Jean in the parlour; that there was often very good society with him; that he liked to see his wife well dressed, and gave her the first gingham gown ever seen in Dumfries. Burns speaks, when the "Mousie" is accused of stealing from his corn, of "getting a blessing wi’ the lave and never missing it." There were two worthy clergymen, long since dead, one of them specially known to us, who were conversing about their respective incomes: one of them had £300 a year and a vixen, quite a "Xantippe," for his wife; the other £50 with a kind, sunny, excellent spouse. "I have £300 a year," said Mr. C.; "how much, brother G., have you?" "£50 and a blessing" was the naïve reply. We fear the blessing (we do not, however, refer to Jean) was denied to Burns. Amidst comparative competence and comfort he was not happy, but restless, discontented, and too ready to seek solace in excesses, where it ought not to be sought, and cannot be found. Yet he began 1795 well. January brought with her as her "first foot" that noblest of his songs, "A Man‘s a Man for a’ that." It was the true "Psalm of Life," and at it, as at the blast of a trumpet, many of his spectres vanished. He says, in a preliminary letter to Thomson, "A great critic on songs (Dr. Aiken) says that love and wine are the exclusive themes for songwriting; the following is on neither subject, and is consequently no song." But Burns has selected here a nobler subject than either love or wine. It is manhood, and his poem, for it is rather a poem than a song, may be called the triumph or Apotheosis of Manhood. Shakspeare makes one of his characters define a man as a "forked radish," another, as a man made out of a "cheese-paring." Burns goes in opposition to such mean and disenchanting views of humanity on the one side, and to Daddy Auld’s and Thomas Boston’s dismal notions on the other. Burns glories in humanity per se, in its aboriginal elements. He is naked, and not ashamed. He believes (with all deductions) in the Divinity of human nature—in it, within and without, as the God-Man, of whom the Christ is the starry Head. And the God within us is propelling slowly but surely the coming time

"When man to man the warld o’er
Shall brithers be for a’ that."

The sentiment and the song together form at once a burst of the clearest prophetic insight, an act of the noblest self-assertion, and a strain of the truest poetry, and are being fulfilled every moment in the advancing wisdom, the decreasing selfishness, the enlarging benevolence, and the approaching unity of Man.

Things otherwise began to mend. The political ferment subsided, and there was less danger of "raxed necks coming into fashion," as "Pate in Peril" says in "Redgauntlet." Burns’ political sins, he says, were forgiven him. A coldness which had estranged him from Captain Hamilton of Allershaw, his landlord and warm friend, was terminated by a kind letter from him in acknowledgment of the receipt of three guineas Burns sent in part payment of rent. Mrs. Riddell and he were so far reconciled as to exchange songs, books, and literary courtesies, though in a formal "Mr. Burns to Mrs. Riddell" kind of way. All this shows that after an estrangement he and the Dumfries public were coming again to terms.

Acting as supervisor in lieu of another, Burns got snowed up at Ecclefechan in a storm, which seems to have been almost unparalleled in Scotland; houses being covered up to the second storey, and wreaths accumulated amid the Campsie hills to the depth of one hundred feet. His Correspondence contains a very laughable account of the poet’s plight in what he calls the "wicked little village," a village closely connected with his own history—since Nicol, his ancient friend, Currie, his first biographer, and Carlyle, his most powerful panegyrist and advocate, were all born there.

We find next the bard in a position not much more creditable to him than when he drowned his snow-sprung sorrows in the flowing bowl at Ecclefechan—engaged in doing the squib work and letting fly the miserable crackers of a south-country election of the period. The death of General Stewart in January created a vacancy in the representation of Kirkcudbrightshire, in which two candidates presented themselves—Mr. Heron of Kerroughtree, an excellent man, and Mr. Gordon of Balmaghie, supported by Murray of Broughton and the influence of the Earl of Galloway. Burns mingled in the fray, moved more by dislike to John Bushby and the Earl of Galloway than by political feeling. Hence came his two ballads. From a letter he wrote to Heron along with them, it appears he had some hope of promotion, for which he asks his aid. He wishes to rise to the office of a collector, which implied more money—from £200 to £1000—and almost complete leisure. The first man in Scotland humbly confines his ambition to a life of literary leisure with a decent competency; and he hints very gently that perhaps Mr. Heron might help him toward this by his political influence. He might as soon have asked for his estate of Drumlanrig at once. Heron triumphed, and Burns wrote a third ironical ballad, entitled "John Bushby’s Lamentation." In the second and third ballads he had attacked Muirhead, the minister of Urr, a man of ability and scholarship, who had been a wit about town in Edinburgh among the Gilbert Stuarts and Dr. John Browns of that day (some notices of him will be found in the Life of the great scholar, Dr. Alexander Murray, recently published); full of family pride, and fond of talking of his genealogical tree, and who had been sarcastically described by Burns-—And as one

"Whase haly priesthood nane can stain,
For wha can dye the black?"

Muirhead was not a man to sit silent under the attack of any one—not even of Burns. It was not uncommon for satirists, both in prose and verse, to take some passage from a classical author, and to found on it their, attack, by translation or paraphrase more or less free. Camille Desmoulins, during the Reign of Terror, had based some of his most brilliant and scathing diatribes on Tacitus. Muirhead printed in Edinburgh a brochure founded on the following lines of Martial (Martialis, lib. ii. ep. 66):-

"Et delator es et calumniator,
Et fraudator es et negotiator,
Et fellator es et lanista: miror
Quave non habeas, Vacerras, nummos?"

Then followed a free translation—

"Vacerras, shabby son of w----,
Why do thy patrons keep thee poor?
Bribe—worthy service thou canst boast.
At once their bulwark and their post!
Thou art a sycophant, a traitor,
A liar, a calumniator,
Who conscience (hadst thou that) would sell,
Nay, lave the very sewer of hell
For whisky! Eke, most precious imp,
Thou art a rhymster, gauger, pimp.
Whence comes it then, Vacerras, that
Thou art as poor as a church rat?‘

It is a very clever epigram, doubtless; and because its two severest words, "whisky" and "poor," were founded on fact, Burns felt it severely, and took his revenge afterwards in his "Excellent New Song"—

"Here’s armorial bearings
From the manse of Urr;
The crest a sour crab apple,
Rotten at the core."

This shaft was aimed at Muirhead’s weakness about his family, which was all right; but Burns had no business with his heart, never a fair mark, and from which the keenest arrow rebounds. Muirhead survived the poet twelve years (he died 1808, in the sixty-eighth year of his age and thirty-eighth of his ministry), long enough, we trust, to forgive Burns, and to regret his angry collision with him in his sad declining days.

In spite of such severities and their effect on the public mind, which is said to have been very great at the time, Burns was steadily rising from the low pitch which he had reached in 1794. Partly from his changed tone of mind, and partly as a popular stroke, he joined the volunteer corps which had been formed in Dumfries, and to which his friends, Maxwell and Syme, had from prudential motives annexed themselves. Some of the haughtier Tories tried to prevent Burns from joining this corps, on account of his former imprudences. But among them he appeared, and was seen by Allan Cunningham, then a boy, with his very swarthy face, his ploughman stoop, his large dark eye, and his indifferent dexterity in handling his arms. But while many could handle their arms better than Burns, none but he could write what he now wrote, "The Dumfries Volunteers," a song discovering the same genius, although with a fainter breath, which had fanned the banners of Bannockburn. But while people sang and shouted at this song in hundreds of Scottish villages, country sides, and many populous cities, all its author received for it was a reluctant pardon for his past offences from the Dumfries gentry, a permission to enter and continue among the volunteers, and to get fou as often as he could afford it in their ranks! A gentleman told a friend of ours that the only time he ever saw Burns was in Thornhill on a market day, lying in his full volunteer uniform, totally incapable, in the mud of the main street; no one taking the trouble to lift him up or cover him from the public gaze. Had Burns been a Frenchman on the Republican side, how different would have been his treatment! he would have given France another and a nobler Marseillaise Hymn to sing; and with what sympathetic music his strains would have accompanied the march of the Tricolor, forcing its terrible way to victory over heaps of dead, or floating over cities, forests, fields, and provinces on fire, or swaying dubiously above the tide of deep and desperate battle! Their Laureate would not have been left, nay, never would have fallen, in the mire. There never yet was a Tory Tyrtaeus. Burns was essentially a Republican poet, and even in his song, "The Dumfries Volunteers," the old spirit comes out in the lines—

"But while we sing ‘God save the King,’
We’ll ne’er forget the People."

In the course of 1795 there was a renewal of a scheme which had been under consideration some years before— that of appointing Burns to a decent office in Leith, with easy duties and emoluments amounting to £200 a year.. This was a project of Graham of Fintry; but, says Professor Walker, it was frustrated by the imprudence of the poet himself. We do not know whether he refers to any new special act or to his general character. No such arrangement, even if proposed again, was ever effected. Burns continued all the rest of the year to write songs for Thomson, to take his ease in the old Globe Inn, or to hold literary "symposia" with John Syme, a man of no ordinary abilities and of very social habits, a "No Song no Supper" person, who often entertained the poet at his house at Ryedale, beyond the Nith. He tells some story, which Chambers tries to prove exaggerated, about Burns in an exalted mood drawing his sword-cane and threatening to kill Syme, till checked by his exclaiming "What! wilt thou thus, and in mine house?" and that the repentant poet in remorse dashed himself down on the floor. The "sword-cane" adds a romantic air to this story, and perhaps, more than anything else, has led to doubts as to its authenticity. Had it been a poker, men might have readily believed that one whose eyes, according to Syme, were "coals of living fire" in repose, might in his altitudes have threatened to knock him down therewith. Such things have happened in better regulated families than that of Ryedale. Burns did certainly wear a sword-cane, and, according to Chambers, touched it in his ire; but how does this merely touching it with his finger account for his thereafter dashing himself down on the ground in an agony of shame? We incline to believe that Syme was, in the main, accurate both in his account of Burns composing "Scots wha hae" on the moors of Galloway, and of his getting into a towering passion when his host began, in his own house and over his own wine, to act the Mentor to the irritable poet, by this time, doubtless, considerably excited; while Syme might perhaps, from the theatrical tone of his words, appear to his guest to bear a striking similitude to Satan reproving sin.

This year the graceless Duke of Queensberry, of whom Burns had previously written

"How shall I sing Drumlanrig’s Grace—
Discarded remnant of a race
Once great in martial story?
His forbears’ virtues all contrasted,
The very name of Douglas blasted—
His that inverted glory,"

capped his previous infamy by cutting down all his wood, fit for being sold, in Drumlaurig and Neidpath, to furnish a dowry for the Countess of Yarmouth, supposing her to be his daughter. (George Selwyn, the famous wit, also left this lucky lady a fortune under the impression that she was his! Truly a miscellaneous composition.) Burns, who had often occasion to pass that way, was of course indignant at the devastation, and wrote his famous verses on the destruction of the woods of Drumlanrig on the back of a window in a toll-house hard by. It is difficult to believe, looking at these woods now casting their solemn weight of shadow on the immemorial castle, that they had ever been touched by a sacrilegious hand; "but," says Dr. Ramage, in his interesting book on Drumlanrig and the Douglasses, "it will take a century to replace them." Wordsworth champions the cause of injured Neidpath, and aims at the devastator a smooth stone from the brook in The shape of a sonnet—

" Degenerate Douglas! oh, unworthy lord,
Whom mere despite of heart could so far please,
And love of havoc (for with such disease
Fame taxes him), that he could send forth word
To level with the dust a noble horde,
A brotherhood of venerable trees,

Leaving an ancient dome and towers like these
Beggared and outraged! Many hearts deplored
The fate of these old trees; and oft with pain
The traveller at this day will stop and gaze
On wrongs which Nature scarcely seems to heed.
For sheltered places bosoms, nooks, and bogs,
And the pure mountains, and the gentle Tweed,
And the green silent pastures, still remain."

Burns flings a flake of that "wil’flre" of which he speaks—

(" Was’t wi'lfire scorched their boughs?")—
to blast and scorch the Vandal.

"The worm that gnawed my bonnie trees,
That reptile wears a ducal crown."

In spite of the combined assaults of the two mighty poets, and the indignation of the public, William, Duke of Queensberry, sat down infamous and contented, and lived on till 1810, dying at the great age of eighty-five, without legitimate children, but bequeathing Drumlanrig estate to Henry, third Duke of Buccleuch.

Burns was now.living in Dumfries a life very differently described by different observers, and of which it is difficult to form an accurate average estimate. On the one hand, he was not idle; but along with his various engagements, professional, domestic, and literary, was rather busy, although by no means hard wrought. He occasionally assisted his children in their lessons. He was generally himself in the forenoons. James Gray, the teacher, paints the poet’s life in rose colours; but he was a simple, warm-hearted enthusiast, one of that class of hero worshippers who can, in reference to their idols, see no iniquity in Jacob, and no perverseness in Israel. It is told that when the famous convivial and privileged eighteenth century divine, Dr. Webster, was reeling home one night or morning past the Tron Church, a gentleman met him and said, "Ah, Dr. Webster, what would the Whigs in St. Giles’ say if they saw you in this state?" "Deed," quoth the Doctor, "they wadna believe their ain een?." So, had Gray seen Burns ever so bad, he would not have believed his senses. This, at least, James Hogg avers of him; and Hogg knew Gray well. Mrs. Burns very naturally makes the best of it, and describes her husband as tolerably sober when he came home at night; and this was no doubt, as a rule, the case. Findlater, the supervisor, always speaks kindly and tenderly of him. On the other hand, to be perfectly candid, there were floating rumours of a very dark kind, and affecting his morale in other points besides drinking. It was broadly hinted that his society did no good to young men; and that young women, too, had to avoid it or risk their character, and had to visit Mrs. Burns by stealth. Thomas Aird—one of the most virtuous and generous of men, who had lived forty years in the locality, who had even a pet fancy that no bitter assailant of Burns had ever come to a good end, and who in his Mount of Communion in the "Old Bachelor," has given a good poetic photograph of him—told us he knew stories about Burns he never would reveal, and often deplored that "raging animalism" which was the fountain of his errors and his misery. We are anxious to avoid all one-sidedness and all mere sermonizing on this matter; but we should remember, that while Premat atra Nox (" Let the deep night conceal these errors ") is a noble charitable motto for such men as Aird and Wilson to use, it could not be expected to be that of Dumfries in Burns’ day, or to be altogether that of his professed and honest biographer in ours. As we have repeatedly said and will say again, we believe Burns to have been a noble being in spite of his errors; but we believe his errors to have been very great, and that it is the part of a real biographer to admit this, and to register everything of importance in reference to such a man, that he believes true, even if against his hero, as did Boswell to Johnson (see what Boswell says of Johnson’s moral errors in the close of his Life), while maintaining on the whole the worth of the character, and while drawing as an inference of broad application and most mournful truth, "Lord, what is Man!" and enforcing the lesson implied in the words of Burke, "to love all human-kind, and to fear ourselves." Chambers quotes Burns’ words—

"A towmond of trouble, should that be my fa’,
A night of guid fellowship southers it a’"-

as if this were Burns’ sober and habitual estimate of the balance of existence. Robert Hall says justly "that the greatest sensualist would prefer a small addition to his fortune to the most exquisite repast," and Burns, unless in a moment of caprice or irritation, could never have believed in such a monstrous moral misproportion as implied in these two lines. Over the sky of his strong judgment gusts of passion and clouds of sophistry were continually rushing, but ever behind them the clear stern azure was sure to arise in its calm immortality:-

"It trembled, but it could not pass away."

In the Autumn of the year he lost his daughter, who, after a long illness, died at Mauchline. It was a heavy blow to his kind parental heart that he could not leave his duties and attend her to the grave. His own health was now beginning to break down. A person called on him in the spring of 1795 and found him ailing, and exclaiming, as he rubbed his shoulders, "I am beginning to feel as if I were soon to be an old man." Byron was still younger when he said, "I am beginning to have a dreary sort of old feel about me." A year before he had spoken to Mrs. Dunlop of a flying gout as inflicting punishment on him for the sins of his youth. To these forebodings of his fate his own folly possibly added that accidental complaint which Currie speaks of as confining him from October, 1795, to January, 1796. The confinement and regimen could not indeed have been very strict, since we find him spending a night in November in an inn with Professor Walker.

"Circumstances," says the professor, "having at that time led me to Scotland, after an absence of eight years, during which my intercourse with Burns had been almost suspended, I felt myself strongly prompted to visit him. For this purpose I went to Dumfries, and called upon him early in the forenoon. I found him in a small house of one storey. He 'was sitting on a window-seat reading, with the doors open, and’ the family arrangements going on in his presence, and altogether without that appearance of snugness which a student requires. After conversing with him for some time he proposed a walk, and promised to conduct me through some of his favourite haunts. We accordingly quitted the town, and wandered a considerable way up the beautiful banks of the Nith. Here he gave me an account of his latest productions, and repeated some satirical ballads which he had composed to favour one of the candidates at the last borough election. . . . He repeated also his fragment of an ‘Ode to Liberty’ with marked and peculiar energy, and showed a disposition, which, however, was easily repressed, to throw out peculiar remarks, of the same nature with those for which he had been reprehended. On finishing our walk he passed some time with me at the inn, and I left him early in the evening to make another visit at some distance from Dumfries.

"On the second morning after," continues the professor, "I returned with a friend who was acquainted with the poet, and we found him ready to pass a part of the day with us at the inn. On this occasion I did not think him quite so interesting as he had appeared at his outset. His conversation was too elaborate, and his expression weakened by a frequent endeavour to give it artificial strength. He had been accustomed to speak for applause in the circles which he frequented, and seemed to think it necessary, in making the most common remark, to depart a little from the ordinary simplicity of language, and to couch it in something of epigranimatic point. In his praise and censure he was so decisive as to render a dissent from his judgment difficult to be reconciled with the laws of good-breeding. His wit was not more licentious than is unhappily too venial in higher circles, though I thought him rather unnecessarily free in the avowal of his excesses. Such were the clouds by which the pleasures of the evening were partially obscured, but frequent coruscations of genius were visible between them. When it began to grow late he showed no disposition to retire, but called for fresh supplies of liquor with a freedom which might be excusable, as we were in an inn and no condition had been distinctly made, though it might easily have been inferred, had the inference been welcome, that he was to consider himself as our guest; nor was it till he saw us worn out that he departed, about three in the morning. Upon the whole, I found this last interview not quite so gratifying as I had expected; although I had discovered in his conduct no errors which I had not seen in men who stand high in the favour of society, or sufficient to account for the mysterious insinuations which I had heard against his character. He on this occasion drank freely without being intoxicated, a circumstance from which I concluded, not only that his constitution was still unbroken, but that he was not addicted to solitary cordials; for if he had tasted liquor in the morning, he must have easily yielded to the excess of the evening."

Professor Wilson has commented severely on Walker’s narrative, and it has certainly a petty, patronizing air. But our readers should recall to mind who and what Walker was, and his relation to Burns. He was a violent Tory, while Burns had but recently escaped from the suspicion of Jacobinism. He was a man of a formal and finical cast of mind. It was almost a risk in him—looking forward as he did to promotion in the Revenue service, a promotion he ultimately got in the Custom House of Perth—to visit and spend an evening with such a tabooed character as Burns. And then he could not be expected to look at the shabby-seeming, deboshed gauger, throwing out political inuendoes, quoting bitter pasquinades, and calling for fresh supplies of liquor at three in the morning, with the same eyes as eight years before when he saw him lying entranced on the mossy couches of the Tilt, or sharing in the refined hospitalities of Blair Castle; or with the same eyes as Christopher North, writing in the year 1841, when the grief and guilt were both past, and the glory remained. There cannot be a doubt that a certain degree of degradation came across this great spirit in these latter years. This we gathered from the late amiable and child-like Dr. Wightman of Kirkmahoe, a man of a very different type from Josiah Walker, equally sincere, and far more enthusiastic. He told us that when he knew Burns he had become desperate and at bay, and it was a great affliction to be in his company. His talk was fierce, lurid, too often loose, profane, and unhappy. The noble vessel, as we would put it, had got on fire; its guns were going off, and It became positively dangerous to approach it. This Dr. Wightman said infinitely more in sorrow than in anger. It was corroborated by the statement, or rather by the silence, of another gentleman in Dumfries, a Mr. Thorburn, who had also met Burns, and who, while saying very little, gave us the same impression. This applied more to the years 1794 and 1795 than to his closing days, in which there were occasional indications of a great though fitful amelioration. Our readers are invited to compare such statements, for which this biographer vouches, with the picture of Burns’ private manners Chambers has given, from the pen of Mr. Pattison of Kelvin Grove (Chambers, vol. iv. p. 173), which is exceedingly charming, and though no doubt coloured a little by a boy’s vivid fancy, is in the main, we believe, true. Never, save in Shakspeare, was there volatility like that of Burns. Shakspeare could in an incredibly short time create a "Hamlet," a "Prospero," a "Falstaff" and a "Sir Toby Belch." Burns could be a "Lord Glencairn," a "Robert Ainslie," a "Smellie," a "John Rankine," or a "tinkler caird"in the course of twenty-four hours.

Ere this year closed Burns favoured the young actress, Miss Fontenelle, with an Address for her benefit night; wrote Collector Mitchell a rhyming epistle soliciting the loan of a guinea, and hinting that he had narrowly escaped death; and when, in a Reign of Terror which came upon Scotland, Henry Erskine was beat by the Lord Advocate as candidate for the position of Dean of Faculty, poured out the vexation of his heart, which was that of the community at large, in a copy of truculent and not over-decent verses ycleped the "Dean of Faculty." It was under this mortification that honest Henry went at night and hewed off with an axe the brass plate on his door which bore the lost title. But his chagrin soon gave way, and he retired to the country; and when found one day busy in a potato field, and a gentleman said to him, "So you are enjoying otium cum dignitate," replied, "Yes, diggin a taty." It would be long ere Pious Bob (as Burns nicknames the Lord Advocate) forgave the poet.

In January, 1796, the last January Burns was ever to see, he committed a great imprudence, which was punished as just but remorseless Nature punishes all such offences. The story told by Currie and Chambers is, that Burns tarried to a very late or early hour in the Globe Tavern, drank too much, fell asleep on his way home in the snow; and that, owing to the particular condition to which the use of a severe medicine had reduced his body, a fatal chill penetrated his bones, and was succeeded by a rheumatic fever from which he never thoroughly recovered. We add another version of the story communicated to us by the late Dr. William Anderson of Glasgow, a man whose probity was as conspicuous as his genius. He said that Burns went from the Globe Tavern to a house of ill fame, and there behaved so disgracefully, being of course intoxicated, that he was spurned out, and fell on a hedge opposite the door. The ground was covered with snow; and when he awoke and went home, he found the fatal chill and time accidental disease to boot. To this version of the story, which Dr. Anderson firmly believed, and which he appeared to have on good authority, our chief objection is that it contradicts Currie, who makes the accidental disease precede, not succeed, that fatal visit to the Globe. We therefore have doubts of its truth, and even were it true it would not materially alter our opinion of Burns; it would not increase our surprise, though it might deepen our sorrow. It was not Burns who left the Globe that night, and who probably had no consciousness of what befell; it was a blind-besotted vassal of an infernal will! But it was Burns, alas! who awoke and experienced horrors such as few but he have ever felt in their dread and disgraceful complexity. Burns received in himself the reward of his error which was meet, and let us trust, forgiveness afterwards from the Father who will by no means clear the guilty and remorseless, but accepts the penitent child.

Chambers says it was not the pressure of poverty, or disrepute, or wounded feelings, or a broken heart, in which lay the determining cause of the sadly shortened days of our great national poet. All true; but no doubt these combined with this unfortunate accident in bringing him to an untimely grave. It was only a complication of calamities, some sapping within, others assaulting from without, which could, at such an early age and in such a short time, have destroyed the great soul and powerful body of Burns. All these united in his ruin, and there was fatality besides:-

"It was that fatal and perfidious bark,
Built in the Eclipse and rigged with curses dark,
That laid so low that sacred head of thine!"

From his melancholy bed Burns rose on the 28th January, and attended a Mason Lodge meeting, and recommended for entry as an apprentice Mr. James Georgeson, a Liverpool merchant. He wrote an unhappy letter to Mrs. Dunlop, deploring his situation and her silence. He tottered out sometimes to the street, where one day meeting his old neighbour, Mrs. Haugh, after a long talk about his state of health, he parted with the words, "I find that a man may live like a fool, but he will scarcely die like one." His commander in the volunteers— Colonel De Peyster, a remarkable man, who had served in Canada, borne the Royal Commission for eighty years, resumed in Dumfries, where he retired, the command of a troop (we figure him another Synie or Timothy Tickler of the "Noctes "—seven feet high, straight as a statue, his cheek a rose, his hair a snow-drift, his bearing that of one of Nature’s noblest chivalry), and who died in his ninety-seventh year—was one of Burns’ staunchest friends, sent some kind inquiries in reference to his health, and received from the poet a characteristic epistle, showing the old Adam, which was in his case the love of wine and woman, reporting itself in the midst of "bolus, pills, and potion glasses "—the ruling passion surging up strong in the very jaws of Death! On the 3rd January he had indited his lamentable epistle to Mrs. Dunlop; in February (probably one of the first days of it) he wrote for Thomson the lively song, "Hey for a lass wi’ a tocher!" Currie describes his state as most deplorable ;—" His appetite now began to fail, his hand shook, and his heart faltered on any exertion or emotion. His pulse became weaker and more rapid, and pain in the larger joints and in the hands and feet deprived him of the enjoyment of refreshing sleep. Too much dejected in his spirits, and too well aware of his real situation to entertain hopes of recovery, he was ever musing on the approaching desolation of his family, and his spirits sank into a uniform gloom." The last clause is hardly true. His spirits might be artificial, but he was in spirits when he wrote that knowing, knavish, lively ditty, "Hey for a lass," &c. Burns had taken the part of Mr. James Clarke, who had been schoolmaster in Moffat, when unjustly accused of undue severity to his boys. They had had, he says, "many a merry squeeze together," and Burns had lent him money. Clarke was now reported to be prosperous in Forfar as a teacher; and the poet was driven by the excessive badness of the times—the dearth of oatmeal keeping the lower orders on the brink of rebellion—and the increased expenses of his establishment, produced by his illness, to apply to him for his own. Clarke inclosed £1 in a very sympathetic letter, explaining why he could not send more till afterwards—a letter which perhaps did Burns more momentary good than £10 would have done. Moving one day through the street—the reality at thirty-seven of his own picture of old age, when it comes

"Hoasting, hirpling o’er the field"—

he met Miss Grace Aiken, a young daughter of his old friend, Robert Aiken. She knew him not till he spoke; then she prest him to go with her to Mrs. Copland’s, where she was staying; and they spent a quiet, pleasant evening in that highly respectable and hospitable house, the subject being, doubtless, Ayr, Ayr, Ayr, all the time. Chambers thinks Mrs. Copland’s welcoming Burns a proof that the Respectables of Dumfries were now ready to receive him into their dwellings. Alas! what family so callous and cruel as to have refused the poet admission now, with his hollow cheek, crinkling cough, stammering step, eyes burning bright, like gems set in the head of his own "Death l" Surely every house in Dumfries, we think, would then, when too late, have been thrown open to him. Chambers says "the provincial clergy had forsaken him to a man," nor do we hear of them returning when he needed their help. Perhaps they had not forgiven his

"Three priests’ hearts, rotten, black as muck,
Lay stinking, vile, in every neuk."

He was none of their charge. Burns had latterly attached himself as a hearer to a Secession meeting-house, where then preached a Mr. Inglis, who, according to the poet, believed what he said and practised what he preached. Of him we have ascertained only that he laboured in the congregation of Loreburn Street for forty-two years, died in 1826 in his eighty-fifth year, and hailed from Leslie, in Fife. He was succeeded by Mr. Clyde, father of the accomplished Dr. Clyde of the High School, Edinburgh, and he by our excellent friend, Rev. David Scott. We may here mention that Dr. Ferrier of Paisley, one of the most eloquent and able ministers of the Secession body, used to tell that he once encountered Burns in an inn. They began to dispute on the subject of promiscuous dancing, and took different sides. Both were powerful talkers; but Ferrier, who knew Burns, at last levelled him by quoting his words from the "Holy Fair"—" As you have said, sir,

"Mony jobs that day begin
May end in houghmagandie
Some ither day."

Burns felt the home-blow, laughed heartily, and they became for the rest of the evening the best of friends.

But now the poet was manifestly going down, and that in the sight of a Scotland which had received him as it had never received a poet before nor has since. His works were read in every hamlet, and his songs sung in every cottage; and he was dying, poor, neglected, and miserable. Partly, of course, the fault was his own. Nor was his case so well known as it would become now in a single week. We think, however, it was better known than is generally suspected; but he had far less sympathy than he ought to have had. Many would have been kind to him had he crossed their path, and welcomed even a visit from him; but they did not go out of their way to seek him. There was now no nobleman, as Lord Craig says of Michael Bruce, to come to his dwelling, and bid him be happy. Mrs. Dunlop at last became cold and silent, and her silence, we believe, was never explained to the poet before death, although Currie says it was; to his family after it she was eminently kind. Now it is remarkable, and has not, we think, been noticed before, that in his letters to her he was no hypocrite, but spoke out sometimes as frankly about his errors as to any of his correspondents.

May at last arrived, a May for once worthy of its old fame and of Buchanan’s exquisite Ode on the 1st of May; but, alas! Burns might exclaim with Bruce—

" Now Spring returns, but not to me returns
The vernal joy my better years have known."

The breeze blew around his faded form and hollow features, flattering him with hopes which it was unable to fulfil. His pay is not to be materially reduced, but he receives no satisfactory assurance to the contrary; and this, of course, adds to his misery. His family had made him, as he says, a broadened mark for misfortune; and Misfortune’s motto was, Spare no arrows. The duties necessary for receiving his pittance of pay were performed by one Stobie, a young expectant for Excise promotion; to his name be everlasting honour! for he who did a little could and would, if necessary, have done more. Findlater defends the Board by saying that Burns was no worse treated than others in similar circumstances, of which apology let us only say—

"Come, then, expressive Silence, muse its praise!"

Still the old poet and lover’s spirit was in him, would not be subdued, and burst out in a song called "Jessie"- a song as sweet as if inspired by real passion, although it could only have been deep respect and gratitude which were rising in his bosom as he wrote. The object was Jessie Lewars, sister of his brother exciseman, and one altogether worthy of ministering to the later hours of a Burns. Seemed she not, while bending over his bed, though he was a sinful man,

"Like an angel o’er the dying
Who die in righteousness?"

And it was fine to see Burns sitting, weary and wasted like a ghost, at this young lady’s piano, and at her request composing better verses to a favourite tune—

"Oh, wert thou in the cauld blast,
On yonder lea, on yonder lea?"

words which were afterwards set to music by Felix Mendelssohn. And was there ever compliment paid to woman more delicately beautiful, worth hecatombs of flattery, than in the words—" Jessy,"

"Although thou mann never be mine,
Although even hope is denied:
‘Tis sweeter for thee despairing,
Than aught in the world beside - Jessy!"

And he covered goblets and sheets of paper with similar poetic expressions of regard and gratitude, all rose-edged, as he thought compliments to ladies should ever be, with the language of love. He predicted her matrimonial felicity. One of her swains, Bob Spalding, "had not as much brains as a midge could lean its elbow on—James Thomson is to be the man." And it was so. She became a happy wife, a resigned and industrious widow; and the blessing of Burns never forsook her in life, and still pursues her memory.

He lifted up for the last time his satirical pen, and wrote an "Excellent New Song" in favour of Heron, who was standing again for Parliament to represent Kirkcudbright. Burns did not live to see his triumph. In this song he had a parting blow at his old enemy, Muirhead of Urr. As the 4th of June approached, Mrs. Walter Riddell, who must have been ignorant of the real state of his health, wrote him urging him to come to a birthday assembly to show his loyalty, and seeking from him the copy of a song he had newly composed; and he replied in a most melancholy tone, asking her in turn for the song, "Let us all be Unhappy Together." Seven weeks after he wrote again to Clarke in Forfar, craving, how reluctantly! another instalment of the debt due him, and owning that the thought of his widow and little ones made him "weak as a woman’s tear." And on the 4th July, ere he started for the Brow, he wrote to Johnson humbly begging, in his wife’s name, a spare copy of the "Scots Musical Museum" to present to a young lady—probably Jessie Lewars.

To the Brow, on the Solway, ten miles from Dumfries, he went in search of health. We passed it in 1843 in the company of Thomas Aird, Dr. John Carlyle, Dr. Browne of the Crichton Asylum, and there was a brother of Tennyson’s among the party. The memory of poor Burns imposed the silence of sorrow on us all as the omnibus, in which we had been visiting Caerlaverock Castle, drove through. The Brow was then a little village; in Burns’ day it consisted of only a few houses. The principal was a small inn, kept by a Mr. Davidson, who gave the "chaumer end" of his hostelry to Burns as a lodging. There was a chalybeate spring near. The Brow was then a station between Carlisle and Dumfries, past which great herds of cattle were often pouring, southwards, their drovers (like Robin Oig and Henry Wakefield) finding a home in the hospitium, and perhaps, in their cups and quarrels, disturbing the bard’s equanimity and repose. But near him was the Solway, and to its side he would repair for solitude, if not solace. He might there have written as sweet a poem as Shelley’s "Stanzas written in dejection at Naples," although the skies here were less blue and the foam of the ocean less bright—

"Like light dissolved in star showers thrown."

But here assuredly he might feel the wish

"To lie down like a tired child
And weep away this life of care."

He had one comfort, however, beyond the noble Alastor, who could not believe the Bible. Burns could, although he might not credit all that Daddy Auld and others found in it, or thought they found. But he had taken an old pocket Bible with him from Dumfries, and spent much of his time, it is said, in reading, and we can guess what he would read in its blessed pages.

Davidson was kind to Burns; but the only two viands he could swallow were parritch and port wine. The former was easily procured, but the latter was not found in the Brow cellar; and one day the Poet of Scotland might be seen walking with great difficulty—many gasps and rests — carrying in his hand an empty bottle, a mile away to Clarencefield, to see if John Burney, who kept an inn there and was married to a daughter of Davidson’s, had not some for sale. He asked for a bottle of port wine, placing the empty bottle on the counter, but whispering to Burney that the muckle Deil had got into his pouch, and proffering his favourite seal in pledge (see it described in General Correspondence in a letter to Cunningham, March, 1793). The landlady, as Burns was unfastening the seal from the watch, stamped indignantly on the floor; and the husband, taking the poet into his arms, and giving him the wine, pushed him gently out of the door, and ended abruptly this scene of pain and shame, weeping, it is said, as he did so.

Mr. MacDougall, who tells the story very plaintively in his pleasing little work on "Burns in Dumfriesshire," intimates his belief that Burns might easily have got port wine by a word to Mrs. Riddell or any of his great friends in Dumfries, of whom he had still a few. But Burns was too proud to beg, especially in such a matter as this. He was not like a character described by Wilson in his famous lecture on the Miser, who, when the reckoning was being called for, shammed drunk, and kept his hand on his purse. Burns’ motto was usually, "I pay for all." He would have sacrificed a shopful of seals rather than have borrowed a penny to discharge his lawing. The depths of poverty only revealed in him new pride; and if this was a fault it was a fault quite inseparable from his character—it was a bit of the genuine Bums. Mrs. Walter Riddell was in the neighbourhood, and hearing of Burns being at the Brow, invited him to dinner, and sent her carriage for him. "I was struck," says this lady in a confidential letter to a friend written soon after, "with his appearance on entering the room. The stamp of death was imprinted on his features. He seemed already touching the brink of eternity. His first salutation was: ‘Well, madam, have you any commands for the other world?’ I replied, that it seemed a doubtful case which of us should be there soonest, and that I hoped he would yet live to write my epitaph.He looked in my face with an air of great kindness, and expressed his concern at seeing me look so ill, with his accustomed sensibility. At table he ate little or nothing, and he complained of having entirely lost the tone of his stomach. We had a long and serious conversation about his present situation, and the approaching termination of all his earthly prospect. He spoke of his death without any of the ostentation of philosophy, but with firmness as well as feeling, as an event likely to happen very soon, and which gave him concern chiefly from leaving his four children so young and unprotected, and his wife in so interesting a situation—in hourly expectation of lying in of a fifth. He mentioned, with seeming pride and satisfaction, the promising genius of his eldest son, and the flattering marks of approbation he had received from his teachers, and dwelt particularly on his hopes of that boy’s future conduct and merit. His anxiety for his family seemed to hang heavy upon him, and the more perhaps from the reflection, that he had not done them all the justice he was so well qualified to do. Passing from this subject, he showed great concern about the care of his literary fame, and particularly the publication of his posthumous works. He said he was well aware that his death would occasion some noise, and that every scrap of his writing would be revived against him to the injury of his future reputation: that letters and verses written with unguarded and improper freedom, and which he earnestly wished to have buried in oblivion, would be handed about by idle vanity or malevolence, when no dread of his resentment would restrain them, or prevent the censures of shrill-tongued malice, or the insidious sarcasms of envy, from pouring forth all their venom to blast his fame.

"He lamented that he had written many epigrams on persons against whom he entertained no enmity, and whose characters he should be sorry to wound; and many indifferent poetical pieces, which he feared would now, with all their imperfections on their head, be thrust upon the world. On this account he deeply regretted having deferred to put his papers in a state of arrangement, as he was now quite incapable of the exertion. "The conversation," she adds, "was kept up with great evenness and animation on his side. I had seldom seen his mind greater or more collected. There was frequently a considerable degree of vivacity in his sallies, and they would probably have had a greater share, had not the concern and dejection I could not disguise damped the spirit of pleasantry he seemed not unwilling to indulge."

Burns took tea one night at Mr. Craig’s, the parish minister. His daughter, Agnes Craig, "Clarinda’s" name-sake, was an accomplished young lady (married afterwards to Henry Duncan, the well-known minister of Ruthwell, the originator of saving banks, and author, besides other works, of three novels once popular — the "Cottager’s Fireside," the "Young South Country Weaver," and "William Douglas, or the Scottish Exile"). She took an uncommon interest in the Poet, was amused when he described himself to her as a poor plucked pigeon; and when the setting sun was shining in upon him too strongly, and she hastened to take down the blind, he cried out, "Let the sun shine in on us, my dear young lady; he has not now long to shine on me!" This story has been told of him and Jessie Lewars, when still nearer his end, at Dumfries, and the lines are attributed to him (our informant is Mr. David Clarke, Thornhill, an enthusiastic admirer of our poet)—

"Draw up the curtain, Jessie,
And lift my head a wee;
And let the bonnie setting sun
Shine in on you and mel"

Thus Rousseau desired to be lifted up in his bed, that he might look once more at the skies. Thus Mirabeau, beholding the sun in the spring heaven from his dying couch, said, "If he be not God, he is his cousin german!" All Sons of the Morning love the sun, rising, sliming, and setting in glory.

Burns, it is said, had slightly improved at the Brow. Through sea bathing his pains were lessened, though his appetite did not get better. He made one effort more to re-string his lyre. Some link of association, it might he the power of contrast, brought back to him, as he wandered along the Solway, the recollection of that happiest day of his life which he spent at the Caldron Linn; and he was impelled to enshrine the sweet sad memory of Charlotte Hamilton in the song, "Fairest Maid on Devon Banks." He speaks, as alluded to before, of her "frown" as if some jar had broken in recently on their friendship. But he anticipates seeing her angelic smile again; perhaps he means beyond the gulf of death. And thus closed the minstrelsy of the Sweet Singer of Scotland—charmingly, characteristically, and for ever. On the altar of Woman, his life-long goddess, he threw this last grain of incense with faltering hand, and then turned him to matters more severe, solemn, and imperiously pressing.

Amidst his meditations and preparations for the Great Future which was near, he is recalled rudely to the cares of this world. A letter is handed in to him, and he knows instantly, with sure presentiment, that it is from a dun. We see his hand trembling as he, with difficulty breaks the seal. It is a letter from Mr. Matthew Penn, a solicitor in Dumfries, seeking payment of a bill due to one Williamson, draper, of £7 9s., for his volunteer uniform it contained no threat, and had Burns been strong he would have felt it little; but as it was, it shook him soul and body, and he wrote two letters, one to James Burnes of Montrose, seeking £10, and the other to George Thomson, seeking £5. Both were instantly responded to; but the shock had been given, and he trembled less at a grave than at the horrors of a jail.

On the 18th of July he returned to Dumfries in a spring cart, which stopped at the foot of the Millhole Brae. When alighted he trembled like an aspen leaf, and tottered with difficulty into his own house. He was laid in the room on the south, on the second floor. A tremor, says Dr; Currie, pervaded his whole frame; his tongue was parched, and his mind sunk into delirium when not roused by conversation. According to Dr. Carruthers of Inverness, who derived his information from Maxwell, the case wits the most painful and complicated one the physician ever attended, partly through Burns’ inability to control himself, and allow the regimen and medicines fair play. This, however, might refer to him before he went to the Brow. On the day he arrived he penned his last letter to his father-in-law. Such a letter from Burns! It resembles an epistle from the dead to the dead—beginning, "My dear Sir," and ending, "Your son-in-law." Alas! the feud had never been made up, and Burns in this dread hour durst not simulate affection he could not feel. He must now be permitted to die in peace. His four little boys were sent to Leuchars’ house. Findlater, who previously forwarded him £5, came occasionally to soothe his last hours. Jessie Lewars often moistened his lips, and ministered to his other necessities, now numbered, and would be rewarded by a pressure of the hand, and a look of gratitude from those eyes of flame soon to soften into the dimness of death. Jean was in bed, owing to her peculiar condition; but she rose ever and anon and stole over to look at her expiring lord. One of the corps of Volunteers called, and the last spark of Burns’ matchless humour leaps to his eye as he says, "Don’t let the awkward squad fire over me."

The sun of July 21 has risen and kindled his beacon-red on the top of Criffel, and the bright serpent of the Nith has uncoiled in his beams, while all unconscious of the summer day the Poet is lying in deep delirium. His children are now brought in to see their Sire ere he depart. Look at him as he tosses and writhes! Is that poor pallid being, livid with long confinement, unshaven, worn to a skeleton, with black masses of hair prematurely tinged with gray, with frenzy in his gestures and fever in his eye—is that the Boy-poet of Doon; the Star of Edinburgh; the inspired author of the "Cottar’s Saturday Night;" the Rhapsodist and Dramatist; the Homer and Shakspeare of Scotland!? Even so. He has been hitherto silent; but now he speaks, and his last word reveals his last thought. And of whom is his last, thought? Is it of his long-lost and deeply-loved father? of his patron, in whose grave his heart is lying, Gleneairn? of the wife of his bosom, soon to be again a mother and a widow? of one of his many loves, the Mary of his youth? the starlike Miss Burnet? the lovely Charlotte Hamilton? his admired and adoring "Clarinda?" No, it is of the mean haberdasher who has threatened him with a jail; and the last word of this Bard of Humanity is that of the last stern prophet of Israel—Malachi—a curse! But now he swallows a cup of medicine which had been put into his hands, and throwing out his arms, as if he were plunging into an ocean visible to him alone, he falls forward from the top to the bottom of the bed, and—

"He is gone!
It once was Lara that thou lookst upon."

Conceive the wild wail of sorrow that breaks out in the chamber—the poor children crying as if they would weep out their very hearts, and the low sob of his wife, and see amidst all this, serene and silent as a spirit, Jessie Lewars approaches the bed and shuts

"The Poet’s ardent eyes."—(Roscoe).

Scarcely was he cold when the pent-in sorrow, first of Dumfries, then of Scotland, then of the world, burst out like a sea. Since to him, at least, "it could do no good on earth," it came forth the more speedily and the more generally. Had it been an instant sooner—had it but given one gleam of hope to pierce the dim haze of delirium which wrapt the dying Poet—it had been out of this world’s way, it had been something like a sin. He must die in utter darkness as to the future of his wife and children. Was this a just Nemesis persecuting him to the last gasp? We hardly think it was. But he had a glimpse in his own prophetic soul sometime before, when he told Jean he believed that, in a hundred years, he and she would be more respeckit than now. How characteristically Scotch and Burnsian was the word "respeckit " — respeckit like the love—not applauded, dosed in his dust with flattery, but "respeckit." This is what every Scotch heart loves when it comes, desiderates when it does not. "He was weel respeckit" is still the warmest encomium an honest Scotchman can pronounce over the grave of a good and honourable brother man. Dumfries had now, as her first duty, to bury him; and with true, though belated sympathy, she performed the task, and in a good spirit. He had sung, "For man is a sodger, and life‘s but a faucht;" and surely he had been a brave, if hapless, soldier himself. Carlyle says, "Edward Irving fell, if not victorious, yet unconquerable." But poor Burns was a beaten man, though vigorous and gigantic had been his struggle; and he now lay low, but mighty still. He deserved, at all events, military honours, and he was buried with them. The Volunteers, of which corps he was a member, the Fencib’e Infantry of Angusshire, and the regiment of cavalry of the Cinque Ports, offered their assistance. On the evening of the 25th July his remains were carried to the Town Hall, and on the following day— a party of the Volunteers in front with their arms reversed, the main body behind supporting the coffin, on which Burns’ hat and sword were laid; behind, a numerous body of attendants, and the Fencible Regiment lining the streets—the funeral procession moved along to the Southern Churchyard to the sublime music of the Dead March in " Saul:" and arrived there, three volleys (straggling, as the dying Poet anticipated, and as Allan Cunningham who was present, observed) attested Burns’ wedding with the grave, and the arrival of—

"The long, long silence, and the wormy shroud,
And the Amen carved on the lonely tomb."

Nineteen years afterwards, at the instance of Mr. William Grierson of Boatford, who wrote a graphic sketch of the poet’s interment (the enthusiastic father of an equally eiithusiastic and indefatigable son, Dr. Crierson of Thornhill, an eminent antiquarian, and who has collected a great nuniber of relics of Burns, some of which he has kindly furnished to us), a movement for a monument began; and when the present mausoleum was finished, the corpse of the Poet was raised on the 16th September, 1815, and found in admirable preservation— the hair still abundant, the teeth firm and white; but when a shell or case was inserted below the coffin, the head separated from the trunk, and the whole body, with the exception of the bones, crumbled into dust, which was carefully collected and placed in a new coffin, and laid beside his two boys, Maxwell and Francis Wallace, who were also buried there. The mausoleum is an elegant Grecian temple, designed by Mr. T. F. Hunt of London, adorned within by a mural sculpture by an Italian artist, Turnerelli, representing his own ideal of "Coila" finding her Poet at the plough, and casting her inspiring mantle over him. Many eminent citizens of Dumfries are buried in the same cemetery with Burns but the one approaching him most closely in genius is unquestionably Thomas Aird, who was laid in that God’s acre on the 1st of May, 1876—-a man of as true and original, if less varied, powerful, and popular genius, utterly free from Burns’ errors, but possessing a heart as warm, and a simplicity and sincerity of character proclaiming the author of the "Devil’s Dream on Mount Acksbeeh" and of the " Old Bachelor in the Old Scottish Village" not unworthy as a poet, and more than worthy as a man, to repose near the author of the "Vision" and the "Cottar’s Saturday Night."

Scotland, England, and the world almost simultaneously proceeded to do justice to Burns’ memory. Appeals were made by Lewars and Syme for the pecuniary relief of his family, and not in vain. He had, to his infinite credit, left only a little debt—not more than £30. But even this was a burden too heavy for his family to bear, and James Burnes, George Thomson, and Gilbert Burns all made efforts in different ways to clear it off. Syme, Maxwell his physician, and Alexander Cunningham of Edinburgh commenced a subscription, and projected an edition of his works and life. After some hesitation as to the choice of a biographer—Dugald Stewart being first thought of then Mrs. Walter Riddell, and then John Syme—Dr. James Currie of Liverpool, an accomplished amid warm-hearted man, was selected for the task. The subscription went on slowly. Subscriptions even for the most proper and popular objects are often failures from sheer want of pushing. The mass are usually quite passive, and the impulse to continue, as well as the initiative to start, must come from a few individuals. Sometimes one fashionaable name determines the fate of a testimonial or subscription. This for Burns at the end of a year did not amount to more than £700. The Life was more successful. Dr. Currie got into his hands, though in a confused state, a mass of valuable material, including the Thomson Correspondence, which that gentleman generously gave up to him. The book was published by subscription. It appeared in May, 1800, was received with universal approbation, and realized about £1400 to the family. Mrs. Burns was now in comfortable circumstances, and continued to live in her husband’s house. It may be mentioned here that on the morning of the poet’s funeral she was taken with the pains of labour, and about the time that he was being commnitted to the dust his posthumous child was ushered into the world —" Every moment dies a man, every moment one is born." The child was called Maxwell, after Burns’ kind and skilful physician, but did not long survive. A curious story is told that Mrs. Burns, shortly after his birth, had a dream that her husband appeared at her bedside, and said he had been permitted to return to behold his child—looked in at time mother and child, and then vanished. This probably arose in Jean’s mind from her regret that he had not lived to see this Benoni, the Son of Sorrow ; but it might he a true rendeing of his yearning even in the world of spirits for a sight of his own babe; born in circumstances so intensely peculiar and painful. Jean lived in Dumfries munch respected till March, 1834, when she died, and was buried beside her husband. It was then that a cast of the poet’s skull for a phrenological purpose was taken by Bailie Frazer, amid submitted to Mr. George Combo, who passed over it a characteristic and oracular verdict, asserting very truly that if Burns had been a nobleman, liberally educated, and employed in pursuits suited to his powers—been, in short, everything that he was not-—he would have become a very different and superior being; but where meanwhile would have been "Hallowe’en," the "Twa Dogs," "Tam o' Shanter," amid the thousand and one songs? Jean was very much pestered by visitors, many of whom called to procure relics of the Poet, till at last she is said goodhummnouredly to have told one of them that she had nothing to give him unless he took herself. She was certainly the Relic of Burns. She had some offers of marriage of a respectable kind, but she steadily refused. She felt herself wedded to the dead, and that her individuality would have been lost had she ceased to be the widow of the great Poet of Scotland.

Burns, by Jean Armour, had five sons and four daughters. Jean, the eldest daughter, was a twin, and she and her brother, Robert, born 3rd September, 1786, died in the course of fourteen months. Twin daughters, born on the 3rd March, 1788, died soon after. Elizabeth Riddell, called after Mrs. Captain Riddell of Glenriddell, was born 25th November, 1792, died at Mauchline, 1795, and was buried there, Burns being unable to attend the funeral. Of the Poet’s five sons, Francis Wallace, the second son, named in honour of Mrs. Dunlop, was born 18th August, 1789, died 9th July, 1803, aged fourteen. Maxwell, the youngest son, was born on the 26th July, 1796, and died in April, 1799, aged two years and six mouths. Robert (twin), born 3rd September, 1786, Studied three sessions in Edinburgh and Glasgow, obtained a situation in the Stamp Office, London, 1804, got in 1833 a superannuated allowance, came down to Dumfries, saw his mother, whom he had not seen for twenty-six years, and fixed his residence in the Queen of the South for the rest of his life. He remembered his father, who put the " English Poets" into his hand to read, but never mentioned to him his own verses. He was imtellectual, a capital mathematician, wrote a song—once a favourite——

"Have ye seen in the calm dewy morning?"

and resembled his father much, alike in his strength and weakness. He lies in the mausoleum. William Nicol Burns was born in Ellisland on the 9th of April, 1791, sailed to India when sixteen as midshipman, became ultimately a colonel; in 1843 retired from the army and came to reside at Cheltenham with his brother, James Glencairn, where he died in 1872, aged eighty-one. James Glencairn was born in Dumfries 12th August, 1794, sought, too, his fortunes in India, became major, and then lieutenant-colonel, returned to Britain and settled along with his brother William in Cheltenham, and died there in 1865, aged seventy-one. Both brothers, too, lie in the mausoleum. They were entertained at the great Burns Festival on the Doon in 1844. Gilbert Burns, Robert’s younger brother, went from Mossgiel to the farm of Dinning in Kithsdale; thence to the farm of Morham Muir, near Haddington thence, becoming factor to Lord Blantyre, he established his residence at Grant’s Braes, near Lethington, where he died in 1827, aged sixty-seven. He lies in Bolton Churchyard, East Lothian.

Burns had three sisters, Agnes, Annabella, and Isabella. Agnes married a Mr. Gall, and died in Ireland. Annabella died unmarried at her brother Gilbert’s house at Grant’s Braes. Isabella married a Mr. John Begg, who became a land steward in Lanarkshire; and after his death she resided first at Ormniston and then at Tranent, till she herself died in 1858, leaving a large family.

Note: You might like to check out Walks in Burns Country.


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