Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

or any Dramatic Works of the more modern Macklin, Garrick, Foote, Colman, or Sheridan. A good copy too of Moliere, in French, I much want. Any other good dramatic authors in that language I want also; but comic authors chiefly, though I should wish to have Racine, Corneille, and Voltaire too. I am in no hurry for all, or any of these, but if you accidentally meet with them very cheap, get them for me.

And now, to quit the dry walk of business, how do you do, my dear friend ? and how is Mrs. Hill ? I trust, if now and then not so elegantly handsome, at least as amiable, and sings as divinely as ever. My good wife, too, has a charming “wood-note wild;" now could we four

I am out of all patience with this vile world, for one thing. Mankind are by nature benevolent creatures; except in a few scoundrelly instances, I do not think that avarice of the good things we chance to have, is born with us; but we are placed here, amid so much nakedness, and hunger, and poverty, and want, that we are under a cursed ne. cessity of studying selfishness, in order that we inay exist ! Still there are, in every age, a few souls, that all the wants and woes of life cannot debase to selfishness, or even to the necessary alloy of caution and prudence. If ever I am in danger of vanity, it is when I contemplate myself on this side of my disposition and character. God knows I am no saint; I have a whole host of follies and sins to answer for; but if I could, and I believe I do it as far as I can, I would wipe away al tears from all eyes. Adieu

No. XCIV.

To Mrs. DUNLOP,

Ellisland, 10th April, 1790. I have just now, my ever-honoured friend, enjoyed a very high luxury, in reading a paper of the Lounger. You know my national prejudices. I had often read and admired the Spectator, Adventurer, Rambler, and World ; but still with a certain regret, that they were so thoroughly and entirely English. Alas ! have I often said to myself, what are all the boasted advantages which my country reaps from the union, that can counterbalance the annihilation of her independence, and even her very name! I often repeat that couplet of my favourite poet, Goldsmith

States of native liberty possest,
Tho' very poor, may yet be very blest."

66

Nothing can reconcile me to the common erms 66 English embassador, English court," &c. And I am out of all patience to see that equivocal character, Hastings, impeached by “ the commons of England." Tell me, my friend, is this weak

prejudice? I believe in my couscience such ideas as

my country ; ker independence; her honour; the illustrious names that mark the history of my native land ;" &c.- I believe these, among your men of the world, men who, in fact, guide for the most part and govern our world, are looked on as so many modifications of wrongheadedness. They know the use of bawling out such terms, to rouse or lead the rabble ; but for their own private use, with almost all the able statesmen that ever existed, or now exist, when they talk of right and wrong, they only mean proper and improper; and their measure

ct is, not what they ought, but what they dare. For the truth of this, I shall not ransack the history of nations, but appeal to one of the ablest judges of men, and himself one of the ablest men that ever lived-the celebrated earl of Chesterfield. In fact, a man who could thoroughly controul his vices, whenever they interfered with his interests, and who could completely put on the appearance of every virtue as often as it suited his purposes, is, on the Stanhopian plan, the perfect man; a man to lead nations. But are great abilities, complete without a flaw, and polished without a blemish, the standard of human excellence? This is certainly the opinion of men of the world; but I call on honour, virtue, and worth, to give the stygian doctrine a loud negative! However, this must be allowed, that, if you abstract from man the idea of an existence beyond the grave, then, the true measure of human conduct is, proper and improper : virtue and vice, as dispositions of the heart, are, in that case, of scarcely the same import and value to the world at large, as harmony and discord in the modifications of sound; and a delicate sense of honour, like a nice ear for music, though it may sometimes give the possessor an ecstacy unknown to the coarser or gans of the herd, yet, considering the harsh gratings, and inharmonic jars, in this ill-tuned state of being, it is odds but the individual would be as happy, and certainly would be as much respected by the true judges of society, as it would then stand, without either a good ear or a good heart.

You must know I have just met with the Mir ror and Lounger for the first time, and I am quite in raptures with them; I should be glad to have your opinion of some of the papers. The one I have just read, Lounger, No. 61, has cost me more honest tears than any thing I have read for a long time. M'Kenzie has been called the Addison of the Scots, and, in my opinion, Addison would not be hurt at the comparison. If he has not Addison's exquisite humour, he as certainly outdoes him in the tender and the pathetic. His Man of

Feeling (but I am not counsel learned in the laws of criticism) I estimate as the first performance in its kind, I ever saw. From what book, moral or even pious, will the susceptible young mind receive impressions more congenial to humanity and kindness, generosity and benevolence; in short, more of all that ennobles the soul to herself, or endears her to others-than from the simple affecting tale of poor Harley?

Still, with all my admiration of M*Kenzie's writings, I do not know if they are the fittest reading for a young man who is about to set out, as the phrase is, to make his way into life. Do not you think, madam, that among the few favoured of heaven in the structure of their minds (for such there certainly are), there may be a purity, a tenderness, a dignity, an elegance of soul, which are of no use, nay, in some degree, absolutely disquahfying, for the truly important business of making a man's way into life? If I am not much mistaken, my gallant young friend, A******, is very much under these disqualifications; and for the young females of a family I could mention, well may they excite parental solicitude, for I, a common acquaintance, or, as my vanity will have it, a humble friend, have often trembled for a turn of mind which may render them eminently happy—or peculiarly miserable!

I have been manufacturing some verses lately; but as I have got the most hurried season of excise business over, I hope to have more leisure to transcribe any thing that may show how much I have the honour to be, madam, yours, &c.

[ocr errors]

No. XCV.

From Mr. CUNNINGHAM.

My dear Burns, Edinburgh, 25th May, 1789.

I am much indebted to you, for your last friendly, elegant epistle, and it shall make a part of the vanity of my composition, to retain your correspondence through life. It was remarkable your introducing the name M Burnet, at a time when she was in such ill health; and I am sure it will grieve your gentle heart, to hear of her being in the last stage of a consumption. Alas! that so much beauty, innocence, and virtue should be nipt in the bud. Hers was the smile of cheerfulnessof sensibility, not of allurement; and her elegarce of manners corresponded with the purity and elevation of her mind.

How does your friendly muse? I am sure she still retains her affection for you, and that you have many of her favours in your possession, which I have not seen. I weary much to hear from you!

[ocr errors][merged small]

I most sincerely hope all your concerns in life prosper, and that your roof-tree enjoys the blessing of good health. All your friends here are well, among whom, and not the least, is your acquaintance Cleghorn. As for myself, I am well, as far as

will let a man be; but with these I am happy.

* * * *

* *

[ocr errors]
« ForrigeFortsett »