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The Scottish Nation
Ainslie


AINSLIE, ROBERT, writer to the signet, the friend and correspondent of Robert Burns, was born 13th January 1766. He was the eldest son of Mr. Ainslie of Darnchester, residing at Berrywell, near Dunse, the land agent for Lord Douglas in Berwickshire. He served his apprenticeship with Mr. Samuel Mitchelson, in Carrubber’s close, Edinburgh, who was a great musical amateur, and in whose house occurred the famous "Haggis scene" described by Smollett in Humphrey Clinker. In the spring of 1787, when he had just completed his twentieth year, Burns being at that time in Edinburgh, he was fortunate enough to make his acquaintance, and in May of that year, he and the poet went upon an excursion together into Berwickshire and Teviotdale, when he introduced Burns at his father’s house, and the reception he received from the family is pleasantly referred to, in his gifted companion’s memoranda on this tour.

      In 1789 Ainslie passed writer to the signet. He afterwards visited Burns at Ellisland, when the poet gave him a manuscript copy of Tarn O’Shanter, which he presented to Sir Walter Scott. He married a lady named Cunningham, the daughter of a colonel in the Scots Brigade in the Dutch service, by whom he had a numerous family, of whom only two daughters survived him. He had two brothers, and one sister, the latter of whom, whose beauty was highly spoken of by Burns, died before him. One of his brothers, Douglas, succeeded his father as land agent; and the other, Sir Whitelaw Ainslie, is known as the author of an elaborate book on the Materia Medica of India, where he for many years held the situation of medical superintendent of the southern division of India, for which work he was knighted by William IV. Mr. Ainslie died on the 11th April 1838. He was the author of two religious little works, ‘A Father’s Gift to his Children,’ and ‘Reasons for the Hope that is in Us,’ the latter comprising many of the evidences for the truth of Christianity. He was also a contributor to the Edinburgh Magazine, and others of the periodicals, for forty years previous to his death. His disposition was kind and benevolent, his manners affable and frank, and his conversation cheerful and abounding in anecdote. Many of Burns’ letters to him will be found in the poet’s printed correspondence.—Obituary at the time.—Personal recollections.


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