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The Life of Robert Burns
Burns at the Zenith


BURNS’ Glenap soothsayer was, like her of Endor, so far right and so far wrong in her vaticination. The morning was coming, and also the night. The best and the worst days of Burns were now before him. Edinburgh was to raise and to ruin him.

Gilbert Burns says that he rode on a pony, borrowed from a friend; and Robert Chambers corroborates the statement, with the additional evidence of Mr. Archibald Prentice of the Manchester Times, a relative of the late Mr. Prentice of the Glasgow Chronicle, and a most worthy man, with whom we, too, had some literary correspondence. Mr. Prentice writes a letter to Professor Wilson, published in the Edinburgh Intelligencer for March 8, 1841. In it he states that through an Ayrshire friend—George Reid of Barquharry—Burns had become acquainted with Mr. Prentice’s father, the farmer of Cevington Mains, who testified his admiration for his poetry by subscribing for twenty copies of the second edition. (It should be twelve only, as we see in the list of the subscribers’ names). It was arranged by Mr. Reid that Burns should, on his journey to Edinburgh, make the farm-house at Covington Mains his resting-place on the first night. All the farmers in the parish had read with delight the poet’s then published works, and were anxious to see him. They were all asked to meet him at a late hour ; and the signal of his arrival was to be a white sheet attached to a pitchfork, and set on the top of a corn-stack. "The parish is a beautiful amphitheatre, with the Clyde winding through it; and my father’s stack-yard, lying in the centre, could be seen from every house in the parish. At length Burns arrived, mounted on a pony borrowed from Mr. Dalrymple, near Ayr. Instantly was the white flag hoisted, and as instantly were the farmers seen issuing from their houses, and converging to the point of meeting. A glorious evening, night, morning, followed, and the conversation of the poet confirmed and increased the admiration created by his writings. Next morning he breakfasted with a large party at the next farm-house, tenanted by James Stoddart; took lunch, also with a large party, at the Bank with John Stoddart, my mother’s father; and rode into Edinburgh in the evening on the ‘pownie,’ which he returned to the owner a few days afterwards by John Samson, the brother of the immortal Tam." This is Mr. Prentice’s statement. We got a letter some years ago, when editing Nichols Edition of the Poets, from a gentleman in Carnwath, giving us a few particulars of Burns’ visit, a little different from this. He says that the sheet was hoisted from Coviiington Hill, being a spot visible from a considerable distance. Burns did call in passing at John Stoddart’s, but he did not alight. Stoddart remarked that they were in great confusion, as they had a bride in the house. "Wed, wed," said Burns, laughing ; "Heaven send the lassie good luck." Good luck accordingly followed the blessing of the bard. Time lassie became the mother of a numerous family, who all did well in the world. One daughter settled in Moscow, became milliner and dressmaker to the Empress of Russia, acquired a large fortune, and retired to her native country.

We have strong doubts if this event, of the occurrence of which there can be no doubt, took place on Burns’ first visit to Edinburgh. He is generally said to have performed that journey on foot, and to have been so fatigued with the walk that he was indisposed for some days— an indisposition to which he alludes in his letters, and which is more likely to have been produced by a long walk than by a ride, unless, indeed, the hospitalities of the Mains had been excessive; and certainly three meals in so short a compass of time, at the then rate of convivial living, was hard work. It is scarcely, however, likely that the farmers would have gathered to meet him unless they had been previously acquainted with his poems. But time circulation of his first edition had been limited, and was almost entirely confined to Ayrshire. The enthusiasm in Carnwath was more probably produced by Mr. Prentice’s extra copies of the second edition (see Chambers’, vol. i., Appendix), circulated by him among his neighbours, and Burns had afterwards occasion more than once to pass that way.

The same Carnwath gentleman (it is twenty years since he wrote us, and we regret exceedingly we have neglected to preserve his name) told us in his letter another story connected with Burns. In the spring after he died Thomas Nimmo, a native of Carnwath, having received his discharge from the army in England, was travelling home with his comrade. Passing through Dumfries, they inquired the way to St. Michael’s Churchyard, to visit the poet’s grave. Following a footpath through the wilderness, of ornamental structures which deck that famous burying-ground, they looked round for a stone to tell them where he slept. Not finding anything of the sort, they made up to a female in deep mourning who was sitting on the ground a little farther on. Nimmo thus addressed her—"Mistress, we are strangers, and would feel obliged if you would show us the grave of Burns." Pointing to the narrow mound at her feet, and bursting into tears, she said—" That, soldiers, is his grave, and I am his widow." The poor fellows apologlzed for disturbing her sorrows, and went on their way. It were a good subject for a painter—Jean Armour at the grave of Burns while no monument marked the spot.

No word or prospect of the grave on the 28th November, when the eye of Robert Burns first rested on the towers and temples, the Castle and Calton Hill, of Auld Reekie. Worn out and wearied a little by long walking he might be, but his spirits were high. "Hope rose before him like a fiery column, the dark side not yet turned," and the Sybil’s song was yet sounding in his ear. Did a sunbeam from the Day-star, setting over his beloved West, strike upon the Castle-rock as he entered, preceding and announcing the arrival of the brightest of Scotland’s sons? or did dark and ominous clouds, black with more than the gloom of November, gather on the brow of Arthur’s Seat, as the man doomed to be first the enslaver and then the victim of the proud city was slowly approaching the scene of his glory and his shame? Certain it is that he entered Edinburgh entirely unknown, and perhaps unnoticed, unless a curious townsman might ask what travel-soiled, slouching peasant, with those marvellous]y bright eyes, is that, and had ere he passed ceased even to wish for a reply. The feeling of one for the first time entering London is usually that of intense insignificance, produced by the enormous crowd of human beings. The feeling of one entering Edinburgh is wonder at the grand objects and grander associations of the place the shadow of the Castle falls on him like a thunder cloud, and he dares hardly breathe as Holyrood, with all its memories of kings and crimes which had so long dwelt in his imagination, starts up to his eye, like a bloody spectre from his low lair in the valley. Burns, it is likely, after some such solemn thoughts in his mind at the first sight of Edinburgh, had to consider the practical question, where was he to sleep, and could think of no "howff" whatever save the lodging of honest John Richmond, once a clerk with Gavin Hamilton, amid a jolly companion of the poet’s, now residing in a single room in Baxter’s Close, Lawnmarket, for which he paid three shillings a week. Joyfully does the humble clerk rise from his chair to welcome Burns, and a long night might they spend, conversing on the news of the West, ere the wearied poet retires to his bed. The next day he is unwell, and keeps it, and has no doubt many a sad and sombre thought as he now more fully realizes his solitude in the great city. It is said of Carlyle that when he first transferred himself to London, and commenced his then thankless and unappreciated literary work, he sat down with the sternest determination. And no doubt Burns would summon up his most iron resolution, too. After his brief indisposition was gone he began, as Nanty Ewart has it, a "cruise about Auld Reekie." He would visit the Castle and gaze delighted on the distant shores of Fife; time rising palatial streets of the New Town; the huge dusky masses of the Old, surmounted by the Lion of Arthur’s Seat, never looking more leonine than from this point ; to the west the Highland mountains, scarce visible through time dim light of November; and "the moors and mosses many" of his own Ayrshire he would try, like poor Harley in the "Man of Feeling," to shape to himself in the clouds, amid resign the task with a sigh. On his way from Holyrood, with its teeming and tragic stories, He found out the grave of Fergusson, and kneeling down, kissed the sod. According to Allan Cunningham, he visited the shop which had been once that of Allan Ramsay, taking off his hat as he entered; and when afterwards introduced to Creech time bookseller, that knowing worthy remembered he had been in his shop before, inquiring if that had been the shop of the author of the "Gentle Shepherd." Still was he almost entirely unknown, and had to retire, grumbling a little and dissatisfied, to his humble bed and companion in the Lawnmnarket. No doubt he felt dull enough at times, and as Crabbe, when struggling for subsistence in London, sometimes exclaims, "0, Sally (afterwards Mrs. Crabbe), for you!" so Burns may have often sighed for his Jean, to whom, if she could not soothe, he might at least whisper his sorrows.

Help, however, was near him, and it was to come, after all, from the banks of the Ayr. Worthy Provost Ballantyne was to be time Deus ex machina. He had introduced Burns to Dalrymple of Orangefield. Now, the said Dalrymple was one of three gentlemen who had married sisters, all very rich, although all sprung from a poor violer in Ayr called Hugh M’Guire, who had been kind to one MacRae, afterwards Governor MacRae of Madras. He, having no children of his own, adopted those of the humble M’Guire. Lord Giencairh married M’Guire’s eldest daughter; Lord Alva, a Lord of Session, married the second; and Dalrymple of Orangefield the third. Thus a chain of patronage was woven for our poet. Dalrymple introduced him to the Dowager Lady Glencairn, and to her amiable son, Lord Glencairn; and through a younger brother of his, who married the sister of the Earl of Buchan and the famous Henry Erskine, Burns also got into that circle, the most brilliant then in Edinburgh. Mr. Dalziel, Lord Glencairn’s factor, had spoken of Burns as the author of the Kilmarnock volume to his lordship. And also, most fortunately, Creech, the sagacious bibliopole, had been the tutor of Glencairn, and the earl introduced our poet to his notice, although, like most booksellers, he was in no hurry to close with him, saying, as an eminent and really excellent bookseller said once, "As to the merit of the book and its interest there can be no doubt; the question of sale is what I have to consider." Within a few days of Burns’ arrival in Edinburgh be seems to have met Glencairn and Dalrymple, although where and how is somewhat uncertain. His first interview with Henry Erskine is characteristic. It was at the Canongate Kilwinning Lodge of Freemasons, where Henry Erskine was Past Master. They became intimate in an instant, and although they do not seem to have met very often, their friendship never cooled. It was a singular family that of the Erskines. Lord Buchan was a fool (of some talent); Thomas (Lord) Erskine, was a fool of transcendent forensical genius, whose flights of fancy and eloquence seem absolute inspiration, rivalling those of Curran, and little inferior to Burke’s, but who, in private and domestic life, displayed the most reckless imprudence; and Henry was a man of sense, wit, learning, patriotism, and piety. Lord Buchan afterwards, when Burns had gained the shore, encumbered him with some bungling help; but Henry and Glencairn were the real architects of his fortune. Henry Erskine trumpeted his fame in every direction to which his influence as the first lawyer at the bar extended, and Lord Glencairn pledged the Caledonian Hunt, one and all, to subscribe for the second edition ; so that, by the 7th December (nine days after his arrival) Burns was able to write to Gavin Hamilton in the following style " I am in a fair way of becoming as eminent as Thomas a Kempis or John Bunyan. And you may expect henceforth to see my birthday inserted among the wonderful events in the "Poor Robins" and "Aberdeen Almanacs," along with the "Black Monday" and the "Battle of Bothwell Bridge." And his soul has prophesied truly!

Dugald Stewart, too, was working for him. He had brought his Kilmarnock copy of the poems to Edinburgh and showed it to Henry Mackenzie the "Man of Feeling," (the neglect of whose pathetic and classical works is a disgrace to our age), who from the sofa of the "Lounger," which he then occupied, flung a smile upon it, which was at that time fame. Lord Craig had previously spoken of Michael Bruce’s poems in the "Mirror" in a kindly fashion; but Mackenzie, far more eulogistic, dared to mention Burns in the same sentence with Shakspeare, and to call him by a name he has never yet lost, "the heaven-taught ploughman." We question if any Edinburgh critic before or since (always excepting Christopher North) would ever have ventured on such generous audacity. Assuredly Lord Jeffrey never would.

And now the folding-doors of Edinburgh fashionable society were thrown wide open to our Ayrshire Bard, more widely than they were to Dr. Johnson thirteen years before, more widely than (so far as we know) they were to Edmund Burke two years before. Edinburgh had then a grand cluster of literary and other celebrities within its walls. David Hume, indeed, the greatest of them, had been ten years dead; but there were still Hugh Blair, the pleasing critic and smooth sermon-writer; William Robertson, the world-famous historian and powerful Church-leader; Adam Smith; John Home, the popular dramatist; John Erskine, the manly and outspoken Calvinistic divine; John Logan, the poet and popular sermon-writer; Dr. A. Webster, the clerical humorist and founder of the Scottish Clergy’s Widows’ Fund; Dugald Stewart, the eloquent and accompished philosopher; Henry Mackenzie, the Addison of Scotland. Among the Lords of Session were Lord Kames, the astute critic ; Lord Hailes, the learned annalist ; Lord Craig, the refined essayist ; Lord Auchinleck, best known as having given life to Bozzy, even as Bozzy is best known for having confirmed the immortality of Johnson; and still keeping to a lofty platform, Adam Ferguson, the Roman historian, and Lord Monboddo— whose strange theories, after a century’s sterility, seem of late showing symptoms of vitality—dear to Burns, however, not for his original and daring speculations, but as the parent of Miss Burnet, the loveliest vision in female form and actual life which ever flashed on his enraptured eye In lower regions there were Gilbert Stuart and William Smellie, of the latter of whom we shall hear more hereafter. There were then three ladies of some literary note— Lady Ann Barnard, author of "Auld Robin Gray," Jane Elliot, author of the first, and Mrs. Cockburn, the accomplished author of the second version of the "Flowers of the Forest." These and the others we have already mentioned, Lord Glencairn, Henry Erskine, and time members of the Caledonian Hunt, were among the leading luminaries of Edinburgh society when Burns burst amongst it like a meteor, and continued there till it was discovered that a meteor, when it shines too long, is less useful in a drawing-room than an Argand lamp, and being somewhat wild and lurid withal, had better vanish.

The first impression he made was unprecedented. Within a month of his arrival in Edinburgh he had been at the routs of Jane, Duchess of Gordon, who was then the queen of fashionable society, and who said that no conversation had ever so cornpletely carried her away as that of Burns; had attended meetings of the Caledonian Hunt, where Lord Glencairn took him by the hand with an air so affable, and a smile so kind, that he seemed "to be a stronger proof of the immortality of the soul than any philosopher can furnish—a mind like his can never die’ (like Fuseli, who said once to a coxcomb who was denying human immortality, "I don’t know if you have an immortal soul, but by , I know I have"); had met with Lord and Lady Betty Cunningham; had got ten guineas anonymously from a gentleman he discovered to be Patrick Miller of Dalswinton, afterwards his landlord; had mingled familiarly with Dr. Robertson, Dr. Blair, Dr. Gregory, Mr. Frazer Tytler, Mr. Mackenzie, and Dr. Adam Ferguson, and had been once or twice at the elegant suppers of Lord Monhoddo; and while his lordship was classifying his guest as a very superior offshoot from the ape, Burns was regarding his host’s daughter as only a little lower than the angels. Returning from his first visit from Lord Monboddo’s house, he was asked, "Did you admire the young lady?" he replied, "I admired God Almighty more than ever; Miss Burnet is the loveliest of all His works!" It was at this time, when the city was all bright and joyful, and full of hope to him, that he wrote his beautiful address to Edinburgh. His honeymoon with her had not yet, but was soon to, come to a close.

There are a hundred testimonies to the power of Burns’ talk, to the modesty of his demeanour, and the regularity of his habits at this trying period. His conduct and conversation were equally admired. His manner was modest, yet thoroughly self-possessed; his talk rich, yet well regulated; and whatever he might think in his heart, he seemed always to be rather borrowing light from, than reflecting it on, the luminaries of the metropolis. This was the more edifying as, in reality, he possessed as much talent as any ten of these litterateurs, and more genius than all of them put together. Dr. Johnson, in 1774, had frightened and fluttered these Volscians in Corioli, and Burns might have done the same had he not come straight from the plough, and felt the cold shadow of the patronizer over him. And we doubt not that a certain relief from restraint, along with the sense of conscious though curbed superiority, mingled with his feelings as he returned from these splendid suppers to his humble bed in the Lawnmarket with John Richmond.

Burns’ appearance and dress at this time neither added to nor detracted much from the impression he produced. When Scott met him he was dressed like a farmer, who had put on his best to dine with his laird. And, according to other authorities, his best was a suit of blue and buff—the colours of the Whig party, afterwards transferred to the cover of the Edinburgh Review—with buckskin breeches and top boots. his hair was tied behind and spread out over the forehead; but he wore no powder, though that was the fashion of the time. We once saw on the street of Dumfries a descendant of his who was said to be a fac-simile of the poet—liker than all the portraits; and he helped us to our idea of Burns as a man of middle stature, seeming so, at least, from a stoop contracted at the plough; with broad brow, rather low and palpitating with thought and suffering; dark eyes, shivering in their great round orbs like the star Venus in the evening, west; with nostril slightly curved upwards, dusky skin (recalling Carlyle’s description of Camille Desmoulin’s face of dingy blackguardism, wonderfully irradiated with genius, as though a naphtha lamp burned within it"), thick black hair, and rather indecisive chin and cheek. Burns’ conversation will occupy our critical attention afterwards. In Edinburgh he would probably somewhat mitigate the dictatorial tone which Dugald Stewart calls its only fault, and altogether restrain its excesses of humour bordering on riot, and of daring verging on profanity. His address to females—not to ladies merely, but to the sex—was extremely deferential and winning. Probably Dr. Robertson somewhat exaggerates when he says that his conversation was a fuller outcome of his mind than his poetry, which he rated high, and than his letters, which he rated higher. Few will grant this latter statement, and we have our doubts as to the accuracy of the other. The marvel, of those literary men could not be altogether explained on the principle implied in Balaam’s supposed line addressed to his loquacious ass—

"Mon ane parle, et mme il parle bien!
"My ass speaks, and speaks well, too!"

Yet something of this feeling mingled with their appreciation of Burns’ talk. Wonderful in itself it was far more so as coming from a rustic. Perhaps, too, they never thought of measuring themselves with him, or of talking their best before him. They looked on him as a performer on the stage, to whom it was enough that they furnished a cue now and then. Dr. Robertson would as soon have thought of encountering with his eyes those of David Garrick when his transport of divine fury in "Lear" was at the highest, as those of Burns as he was reciting his "Vision" or the "Gloomy night is gathering fast." They admitted, and never thought of contesting, his superiority, just as they would have bowed before some superb specimen of an African lion or Bengalian tiger. Even Burke, the only man then living entitled to take the pas of Burns, would have paused before he sought to have a passage of arms with such a prodigy. In one point none of the Edinburgh conversers would have the slightest chance with the Ayrshire Ploughman, and would be always willing to give him his own way; and that was in feeling. Henry Mackenzie had put all his pathos in his novels; there was little ,in his talk, and the others had none. Here Burns was unaffectedly and habitually strong. He shed tears when he saw Bunbury’s print and read Langhorne’s lines, so near was his heart to his eyes; and he had the power of producing tears as easily. Tears are seldom seen in drawing-rooms, and when they do arise, it is usually to the magic of music or song. But Burns’ talk was often a sad, sweet melody, and as fraught with genius as with sorrow. It was this which carried the Duchess of Gordon off her feet, and perhaps made other ladies of susceptibility disposed to exclaim as they felt his fascination, like Ada to Cain, when Lucifer was drawing her into his weird suction—

"Save me, save me from him!"

Lockhart’s powerful description of Burns’ debut will occur to our readers. But we do not think it quite so just as it is powerful. It attributes to the Edinburgh magnates a spirit of emulation, if not of envy to Burns, which we believe the abler and better of them never felt, either then or afterwards. John Hume, alone, in one of his letters we remember, speaks of the Ayrshire Ploughman as a popular delusion or humbug, from which assuredly the public would one day awaken. In this, however, he was singular and wrong. If the public, and the Edinburgh literati, too, did turn away from Burns for a season, it was owing to other causes than change of mind as to the merits of his poetry, although in this they acted, we think, coldly and unwisely, pushing the ostracism too far. But the former fact has not, we think, been sufficiently noticed by his biographers.

It was not even yet, however, all plain sailing with Burns. He had difficulties about the printing and getting out of his second edition. There is a story told of him calling one day on a printer in Edinburgh, to inquire about the printing of a volume of poems. The printer was not at all prepossessed by his appearance and manner, which were at once plain and a little pretentious, and thought him a cracked poetaster. So he regarded him superciliously, and spoke of receiving guarantees of payment for any such undertaking. Burns went away in high dudgeon; but not till he had taken out of his pocket and poked in the man’s nose sundry coins of the realm, to show of course that he was no beggar. Soon after the typographer discovered who his visitor was; and to complete his mortification, when some rural bard from Aberdeenshire called and offered him a volume of poems, he accepted it, and it turned out a total loss.

Burns went, on December 21, to attend a meeting held to celebrate the birthday of Charles Edward. The Jacobite feeling in Scotland had in forty years nearly expired, and so it had in Burns’ bosom. He carried only embers to embers, and yet he produced an ode upon the occasion, of which Dr. Currie has preserved a few stanzas. In this incident we see a proof that Burns was already becoming known beyond the fashionable and literary circles of Edinburgh; although it is doubtful if this were altogether an enviable position. It led to encroachments on his time, probably to temptations, and certainly brought him into company not quite worthy of him. On the 13th of January, 1787, we find him at a great Mason-lodge meeting, where the Grand Master proposed his health as Caledonia’s Bard, Brother Burns; and he, trembling in every nerve, made the best return in his power, and was consoled, while sitting down amidst the vehement applause of the audience, by overhearing the loud whisper of the Grand Master, "Very well indeed!" How we wish that Wilkie or some other genuine Scottish painter had given us this scene in colours—"Burns at a Grand Mason-lodge Meeting!" Alas! that of this splendid meeting, with all its grand worshipfuls and grand officers, nobles, lawyers, squires, and merchants, that one trembling figure, Brother Burns, sitting down bashful and blushing to the toe-points, and comforted by a friendly compliment accented aloud for his ear, is the only figure that would now be recognized!

In this transition time, between his first arrival in Edinburgh and the publication of his second edition, we notice some pleasing incidents in his history and traits in his character. Still he had not forgotten his true-hearted Ayrshire friends, and might have sung, had he then produced, the beautiful and melting strain—

"Of a’ the airts the win’ can blaw,
I dearly lo’e the West."

He kept up correspondence with John Ballantyne, Gavin Hamilton, Dr. Mackenzie, and others of his bosom cronies. He wrote also to Mrs. Dunlop, who introduced him, through his writings, to Dr. Moore, famous in his day for his two novels, both of which we happen to have read. (few, we suspect, can say so now-a-days)——" Zeluco" and "Edward"— the one a kind of sulphureous Byronic tale, the other a much more pleasing and unpretending production; also, for his "Views of Society and Manners on the Continent," popular, too, once, and legible still, but who is remembered by people now chiefly as the father of Sir John Moore, and the friend of Robert Burns.

Burns gradually surrounded himself, or was surrounded, by a somewhat lower set of associates than the Caledonian Hunt or the Monboddo circle. Perhaps he did this from taste, as Dandie Dinmont preferred the society and viands of Mrs. Allan, Guy Mannering’s housekeeper, to those of the Colonel’s dining-room; or perhaps he did so to secure greater freedom in his talk and deportment. Among them were men of great ability, such as Willie Nicol of the High School, Nasmyth the painter, and Smellie the printer. Smellie was a very remarkable man, full of various knowledge, particularly in natural history,. of rough humour and sagacity—the only man of the circle quite a match for Burns in conversation and repartee. Burns used a claymore, sometimes a dirk; Smellie wielded a sledge hammer, more formidable and resistless still. In Smellie’s forgotten memoirs we find a strange story, which we may quote, as we think it is very little known. Smellie and his friend Greenlaw entered into an agreement, which was reduced to writing, signed with their blood, and formally sealed by both parties, in which they mutually engaged that whoever should die first should return, if possible, and give an account of the world of spirits, under the proviso that if the deceased did not return by the expiration of twelve months, it was to be concluded that he was not permitted to come back. Greenlaw died on the 26th June, 1744. When the year subsequent to his death had nearly expired, Mr. Smellie became exceedingly anxious about the expected visit. After losing several nights’ sleep successively in watching for the reappearance of his deceased friend, he fell fast asleep one evening in his elbow chair, when, in a dream, he saw a vision of Greenlaw attired in the usual costume of a ghost. This phantom, addressing him with an impressive solemnity of tone, informed him that he had experienced great difficulty in procuring permission to return to the earth according to their agreement; that he was now in a much better world than the one he had left; and yet that the hopes and wishes of its inhabitants were by no means satisfied, as, like those of the lower world, they still looked forward to the hope of reaching a higher state of existence. Both Smellie and Lord Monboddo, two of the ablest men of the time, were convinced of the supernatural character of this dream. We rather like the theory it implies, of future existence rising in an everlasting series of progression and improvement toward a roofless heaven.

In Smellie’s office Burns was a frequent visitor, appeared in his buckskins and buff, cracking his whip and his jests, and had one stool appropriated to him, which, as far down as 1844, was extant, and known as Burns’ stool. Sir John Dalrymple (a well known humorist of that age, author of a very clever jeu d’esprit on a "Country House") had one day unwittingly occupied it, and was requested to surrender it to Burns, who stood by unknown to the baronet. "I won’t surrender my seat to that impudent, staring fellow." "That’s Burns the Poet." "Good gracious!" said Dalrymple, "give him all the seats in the house!" Smellie introduced Burns to a club called the "Crochallan. Fencibles" (Crochahlan, from the title of a Gaelic song sung by Douglas the landlord, Chro Chalein, "Cohn’s Cattle" and "Fencibles," from certain regiments bearing his name for fighting in the American war), including Smellie, William Dunbar, W.S., Willie Nicol, and others. Dunbar gave Burns a copy of Spenser’s "Fary Queen," and he undoubtedly would lose no time jn plunging amidst the beautiful and mystic mazes of that poem, although we think he would value it less than Shakspeare or Milton, would feel more faith in than love for it, while hope especially would be required to sustain him to the close. He had been rather long in seeking out Blacklock, his generous friend; but found him at last, and greatly enjoyed the warm grasp of his hand (there is none so warm as that of a fine-hearted blind man) and the glimmer of his eyes, which never rolled so much to see the day and the poet’s face with it, as now. To Nasmyth he sat for his portrait, which Beugo engraved, and which has been so alien reproduced — unquestionably a good likeness, although Scott thinks it less massive than the original. Nasmyth once had dined with Burns; and having both exceeded the bounds of moderation, they agreed not to go to bed, but to make an expedition to the Pentland Hills. On their way, hearing a loud noise in a cottage, and entering in, they found a man who had suddenly been bereft of his reason. The effect of the cries and gestures of the lunatic upon Burns’ nerves, somewhat shattered by the revel of the previous night, was appalling. After rambling all night they returned to Roshin to breakfast, which the hostess (a Mrs. David Wilson) supplied in the old Scotch style; and Burns, in his gratitude, scrawled on the reverse side of a wooden platter the verses—

"My blessings on you, honest wife,
I ne’er was here before,
You’ve walth o’ gear for spoon and knife;
Heart could not wish for more.

Heaven keep you clear of sturt and strife,
Till far ayont four score;
And by the Lord o’ death and life,
I’ll ne’er gae by your door."

The Second Edition at last appeared in 1787. It was prefaced by a dedication to the Caledonian Hunt, and followed by a list of subscribers amounting to 1500 names, and accounting for 2800 copies. It was the first copy of Burns we ever read, when eight or nine years old, is a large thick octave, and is for the age beautifully got up and printed. We met it again lately, and find among the list of subscribers (besides those enumerated by Chambers, which are chiefly nobility and gentry) the following distinguished names :—Miss Burnet, Dr. Blair, Dr. Blacklock, Dr. Black, Mr. Brougham of Brougham Hall (Lord Brougham’s father), Rev. George Baird (afterwards Principal Baird), David Bridges, John Clerk (Lord Eldin), Dr. Carlyle, (Jupiter Carlyle of Inveresk), Dr. Cullen, Alexander Wood, Professor Dalziel, Henry Erskine, Dr. Gregory, Lord Hailes, Malcolm Laing, Adam of the High School, Dr. Adam Ferguson, historian of Rome, Dr. Robertson, historian of Scotland, Dr. Henry, historian of England, Rev. Henry Hunter, afterwards of London Wall (translator of "Paul and Virginia," author of "Sermons"), Rev. Mr. Greenfield (father of Lord Rutherford, who had to flee from Edinburgh owing to a frightful scandal, and was thought long by some the author of the Waverley Novels), Dugald Stewart, Henry Mackenzie, Adam Smith, Gilbert Burns, besides other names, some from the Colonies, the Continent, and America, a good many from England, the most from Glasgow and the west of Scotland. In this new edition Burns inserted a number of pieces, some old, but which he had not previously ventured to print; such as "Death and Dr. Hornbook," "The Ordination," "The Unco Guid," "John Barleycorn," and a few other small poems and songs. The "Brigs of Ayr," "Tam Samson’s Elegy," "A Fragment," and an "Address to Edinburgh," had been composed since his first volume appeared, but were now published for the first time in the second. It. was received with enthusiasm, and perhaps more warmly welcomed in the Modern Athens than any volume of poems had hitherto been, or was to be, till "The Lay of the Last Minstrel," eighteen years after. Burns had written some lines intended to be inserted under the Earl of Glencaira’s picture, and requested permission to print them in the new volume; but for whatever reason the lines do not appear. The price was five shillings. The Caledonian Hunt took one hundred copies at a guinea the copy; Creech took five hundred copies (for sale, of course); the Earl of Eglinton took forty-two copies; the Duchess of Gordon, twenty-one; Robert Muir of Kilmarnock, forty. Some Scottish Colleges abroad also subscribed.

Accounts of Burns’ private bearing at this time abound from various writers, ranging from Professor Walker to Sir Walter Scott. We knew Professor Walker in our boyhood, attended his Humanity or Latin class in Glasgow, and received kindness from him. He was a man of very considerable learning, classical taste, and a warm heart. He had, however, a certain degree of pedantry and petit maitreship about him, and had been rather spoiled by acting as a tutor in some noble families. To tutors, as a rule then, the frivolities and conventionalisms of the great were sure to adhere, along with a portion of the polish. His measurement of Burns at this period is more that of a martinet than of a manly critic. Hear this, for instance. "His eye was full of mind, and would have been singularly expressive under the management of one who could employ it with more art for the purpose of expression." Think of managing by art the expression of two eyes which were compared to two chariot lamps flaming on through a dark night! Manage the eye of Mars as we have seen him this year (1877), glaring fiery red and large as Jove, across a narrow gulf, at Saturn! Professor Wilson has dwelt with merciless force on some similar platitudes in Walker’s description of his interview with Burns at Dumfries. Still Walker loved Burns, and speaks of him always with respect as well as affection. He saw his faults; but he evidently regarded him as a man of sterling worth, as well as of transcendent genius, although he had not cultivated the graces under the Duchess of Athole, nor studied the humanities under the amiable and learned Josiah Walker, author of the "Defence of Order" (mercilessly mangled and reduced to chaos by Lord Brougham in the Edinburgh Review), and who was better at defending the order of his country than maintaining that of his class. Peace to his memory. We see still his big burly brow, his tall erect figure, his solemn spectacles, his formal manners, disguising an excellent disposition and a very upright character; and hear him still reading to his class (which was that morning supplemented by the presence of Thomas Campbell, then Lord Rector of Glasgow University) a lecture on "Poetry," of great polish and erudition. He wrote "The Defence of Order," a "Life of Burns," and "The Vision of Liberty." He was the Professor, Burns was the Poet, of Humanity.

Walker touches tenderly here on Burns’ frailties, although he memorizes the fact that when Burns, at Dr. Blairs table, was asked to name the public place where he had got the most gratification, he named the High Church, and Mr. Walker, the colleague of his entertainer—an excellent preacher doubtless, but whom Dr. Blair naturally rated less highly than himself. Burns probably perceived his mistake in a moment in the astonishment of the company and the silence of his host, but with admirable prudence never alluded to it till years had elapsed, when he expressed to the worthy tutor of Athole his poignant regret. On another occasion he called a clergyman a blockhead for first abusing and then misquoting Gray’s "Elegy" a piece of insolence unpardonable," quoth Christopher North, "at such an early meal as breakfast." These were lapses linguae. But Dugald Stewart, a higher authority than Josiah Walker, assures us that Burns’ conduct and conversation were all that could be wished, that his sense of religion was then very strong; and though he.did hear rumours of indulgence and low society, he saw nothing in his own experience but temperance and decorum. Indeed, Burns told him that the weakness of his stomach was such as to deprive him of all merit in his sobriety. It is curious, however, that we never hear of this weakness again till near his end, nor had heard of it before. It was probably brought on by his change of diet in Edinburgh.

Scotts description is too well known to need quotation. Langhorne, the author of the lines which made Burns weep, and which Scott recognized as his, preached in Lincoln’s inn Chapel, and besides being popular with the intellectual class among whom he Iaboured, wrote some well-known works, such as a translation of "Plutarch’s Lives" and "The Country Justice," containing the lines referred to. All that Burns said to Scott, after his modest interference, was, "Ye’ll be a man yet," but it fell like a drop of poetic baptism on his brow.

Robert Chambers thinks that Edinburgh did as much for Burns as might have been expected; and yet it amounted only to the paltry sum of 500. He said they did not appreciate Burns so highly as we do, and that the sum raised was very respectable from their point of view. We are forcibly reminded of Burns’ own words anent Fergusson—

"A curse upon your whunstane hearts,
Ye Embrugh gentry;
A tithe of what ye waste on cartes,
Wad stowed his pantry"

The Edinburgh people appreciated Burns intellectually well enough. They gave him plenty of claret and praise; but he could well have wanted a moiety of the first, and the second, even when it was not sheer flummery, did him more harm than good. But they gave him little solid cash, found for him no congenial position, and what was worse, he got accustomed while amongst them to habits and society which unfitted him for the drudgeries and companionships of a country life. To return from venison and champagne to "haggis" and "tippenny;" from the society of Dugald Stewart, Archibald Alison, and Lord Glencairn, to "sloe Jamie Smith" and rattling John Rankin; and from Eliza Burnet and the Duchess of Gordon to Jean Armour and Elizabeth Black— was a downcome. To alter what Carlyle says of Edward Irving—" Edinburgh forgot this man, who, alas I could not in his turn forget." We may apply to poor Burns the words of Cowper to the gentle savage, "Omai," who after visiting London, and being admitted to its best society, had to return to his native isles:-

‘The dream is past, and thou hast found again
Thy cocoas and bananas, palms and yams,
And homestead thatched with leaves; but hst thou found
Their former charms? and having seen our state,
Our palaces, our ladies, and our pomp
Of equipage, our gardens and our sports,
And heard our music, are thy simple friends,
Thy simple fare, and all thy plain delights
As dear to thee as once?"

There was this difference: "Omai" probably wondered that he, a simple savage, should ever have been admitted among society so superior. But Burns had learned in Edinburgh, if he had not learned before, that he was one of Nature’s nobility—equal, and more than equal, to the men he met there; and knew that they were to continue to fatten on a birthright he had lost by no fault of his as yet, while he was to be driven away to herd with an inferior grade the rest of his life. If he was too proud for a pension, was there no post they could have found for him of a semi-literary cast? no secretaryship in the then University, like that which broke the fall and made time little fortune of Alexander Smith? no teaching situation in one of their academies or schools? no position in which he might have prosecuted his studies, and obtained a competence, with the hope, too, of rising to a situation better-adapted for his extraordinary powers? Perhaps it is too extravagant to think of a plan being started and funds being raised for sending Robert Burns to College. Yet men long after his time of life (twenty-nine) have been sent there, and have profited mightily by their mature studies. Scott, who knew Edinburgh well, speaks of time efforts made to help Burns as extremely trifling. Alas! we fear that the Coleridgean chaplet of henbane, nettles, night-shade, and other dung-hill weeds and flowers of darkness, must continue to adorn

"The illustrious brow of Scotch nobility."

If this be called inconsistent with what we previously said about his Edinburgh patrons being induced to withdraw from Burns by rumours affecting his morals, it will he noticed that we stated, without wholly defending their conduct in this matter. Besides, his behaviour at first in Edinburgh was irreproachable, and it was then especially that they were called upon to do something effectual in his behalf.

Many of the friendships Burns formed in Edinburgh he believed to be very fragile, and they proved so. There was one valuable one, however — his connection, with Robert Ainslie. This gentleman survived Burns long, and became a worthy Writer to the Signet in Edinburgh, an elder in the Church of Scotland, and, we think, the author of a little religious brochure once very popular in Scotland—" A Father’s Gift to his Children." In his youthful days he was gay and gamesome as a young buck, acting as an apprentice to a Mr. Samuel Mitchelson, a writer in Carrubbers Close, an acquaintance of Smollett’s —about twenty years of age when Burns first knew him, and distinguished by his bonhomie and kind-heartedness, as well as by his young literary enthusiasm. Burns and he became very intimate. Probably they often heard together the chimes of midnight, but one anecdote is very creditable to the temperance of both. Burns called on Ainslie one spring afternoon. Ainslie produced a bottle of excellent wine. Burns exclaimed, "We don’t require any artificial stimulus to sharpen our wits," and proposed a walk to Arthur’s Seat ; and Ainslie used to declare that he never found the poet more delightful than during that walk and the sober tea-drinking which followed. Burns was now revolving a visit to the South, and Robert Ainslie, a native of Berwickshire, agreed to go along with him.


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