Robert Burns and Mrs
Dunlop Their Correspondence by
William Wallace (1898)
This is a review I found in the Scottish Review of
July 1898 of this book.
As an editor of Burns, Mr. Wallace is easily in the
first rank, if not, indeed, in the first place. His admirable edition of
the Chambers' Burns has already been noticed in the pages of this
Revieto, and there are few readers of Burns who are not by this time
more or leas acquainted with it. In the volume before us he adds another
to the many services which he has already rendered to the students of
Burns and his times. The correspondence between the Ayrshire poet and
Mrs. Dunlop has long been known to exist and has in part been published.
Carrie printed some thirty-nine of Burns's letters to Mrs. Dunlop; to
these Crorack added three, and Scott-Douglas a fourth ; but here, for
the first time, Mr. Wallace has printed the whole of the correspondence
from the Lochryan MSS., containing no fewer than thirty-eight additional
holograph letters and parts of letters from the poet to Mrs. Dunlop, and
ninety-seven letters from Mrs. Dunlop to Burns, or, as Mr. Wallace
observes, *the surplus of the collection made for Currie's use by Mrs.
Dunlop and Gilbert Burns from the MSS. which the lady had in her
possession at the poet's death.' The probability is the additions now
printed were never seen by Currie, and, according to Mr. Wallace, it is
manifest that none of them has ever been handled either by editor or
printer. 'They are all,' he tells us, ' in a state of beautiful
preservation, and include at least as fine specimens of the poet's
handwriting as any that have seen the light.' In this collection there
are also holograph MSS. of ' Tam o' Shanter,' the first draft of '
Passion's Cry,' ' The Chevalier's Lament,' ' Lament for James, Earl of
Glencairn,' and of several other pieces. As for the correspondence, it
is nearly complete. After careful examination but few places have been
found where it can be said that a letter of Burns appears to be missing,
and only nine where a letter from Mrs. Dunlop seems to be wanting. In
new biographical matter the new parts of the correspondence are rich.
For the first time we learn that Burns might have been a military
officer, and alternatively, a professor in the University of Edinburgh,
and that Adam Smith entertained the idea of making him a Salt Officer in
the Customs service, at the handsome salary of £30 a year. Burns rather
inclined to the Army, and uncommon pains were taken by Mrs. Dunlop and
Dr. Moore to get him appointed to the Chair of Agriculture in Edinburgh.
Fresh light is also thrown upon his connection with the Excise, as for
instance that he aimed from the first at a Port-Officership with its
larger emoluments. On the other hand, the letters fail to sustain the
allegation made by Gilbert Burns that his brother was indebted to Mrs.
Dunlop in a pecuniary sense. ' Her gifts to him of money,' as Mr.
Wallace remarks, 'were presents in exactly the same kind as his gift of
books and cognac to her, and in no sense dictated by charity or the
notion that he required at any time pecuniary assistance.' On the
subject of Mrs. Dunlop's 'desertion' of Burns, the new letters throw no
light, but, as Mr. Wallace sensibly remarks, 'an impartial reading of
the complete correspondence favours the hypothesis that the explanation
of Mrs. Dunlop's conduct is to be found in inadvertence, and not in a
deliberate design to break off all connection with the poet on account
of any moral or political offence he had given her. Of the way in which
Mr. Wallace has discharged his duties as editor, it is needless to
speak. He has left nothing undone to make the letters intelligible. His
notes are always illustrative and to the point. The volume is a rich
addition to Burns literature.
You can read the two volume set in pdf format
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