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When you meet with my very agreeable friend, J. Syme, give him for me a hearty squeeze, and bid, God bless him.
Is there any probability of your being soon in Edinburgh ?
To Dr. MOORE.
Sir, Dumfries, Excise-office, 14th July, 1790.
Coming into town this morning, to attend my duty in this office, it being collection-day, I met with a gentleman who tells me he is on his way to London ; so I take the opportunity of writing to you, as franking is at present under a temporary death. I shall have some snatches of leisure through the day, amid our horrid business and bustle, and I shall improve them as well as I can; but let my letter be as stupid as * * *, as miscellaneous as a news-paper, as short as a hungry grace-before-meat, or as long as a lawpaper in the Douglass cause; as ill spelt as country John's billet-doux, or as unsightly a scrawl as Betty Byre-mucker's answer to it; I hope, considering circumstances, you will forgive it; and as it will put you to no expense of postage, I shall have the less reflection about it.
I am sadly ungrateful in not returning you my thanks for your most valuable present, Zeluco. In fact, you are in some degree blamable for my ne glect. You were pleased to express a wish for my opinion of the work, which so flattered me, that nothing less would serve my over-weening fancy, than a formal criticism on the book. In fact, I have gravely planned a comparative view of you, Fielding, Richardson, and Smollet, in your different qualities and merits as novel-writers. This, I own, betrays my ridiculous vanity, and I may probably never bring the business to bear; for I am out my
fond of the spirit young Elihu shews in the book of Job-" And I said, I will also declare my opinion.” I lave quite disfigured my copy of the book with my annotations. I never take it up without at the same time taking my pencil, and marking with asterisms, parentheses, &c. wherever I meet with an original thought, a nervous remark on life and manners, a remarkably well-turned period, or a character sketched with uncommon precision. Though I shall hardly think of fairly writing
“ Comparative view," shall certainly trouble you with my remarks, such as they are.
I have just received from my gentleman that horrid summons in the book of Revelations“ That time shall be no more !"
The little collection of sonnets have some charming poetry in them. If indeed I am indebt. ed to the fair anthor for the book, and not, as I rather suspect, to a celebrated author of the other sex, I should certainly have written to the lady, with my grateful acknowledgments, and my own ideas of the comparative excellence of her pieces. I would do this last, not from any vanity of think, ing that my remarks could be of much consequence to Mrs. Smith, but merely from my own feelings as an author, doing as I would be done by,
To Mrs. DUNLOP.
8th August, 1790. After a long day's toil, plague, and care, I sit down to write to you. Ask me not why I have delayed it so long. It was owing to hurry, indolence, and fifty other things ; in short to any thing-but forgetfulness of la plus aimable de son sexe. By the bye, you are indebted your best courtesy to me for this last compliment; as I pay it from my sinta
cere conviction of its truth-a quality rather rare in compliments of these grinning, bowing, scraping times.
Well, I hope writing to you will ease a little my troubled soul. Sorely has it been bruised today! A ci-devant friend of mine, and an intimate acquaintance of yours, has given my feelings a wound that I perceive will gangrene dangerously fere it cure, He has wounded my pride!
To Mr. CUNNINGHAM.
Ellisland, 8th August, 1790. Forgive me, my once dear, and ever dear friend, my seeming negligence. You cannot sit down and fancy the busy life I lead.
I laid down my goose feather, to beat my brains for an apt simile, and had some thoughts of a country grannum at a family christening; a bride on the market-day before her marriage ;
a tavernkeeper at an election-dinner ; &c. &c.—but the resemblance that hits my fancy best is, that blackguard miscreant, Satan, who roams about like a roaring lion, seeking, searching whom he may de vour. However, tossed about as I am, if I choose (and who would not choose) to bind down with the crampets of Attention, the brazen foundation of Integrity, I may rear up the superstructure of Independence, and, from its daring turrets, bid defiance to the storms of fate. And is not this a " consummation devoutly to be wished ?"
Thy spirit, Independence, let me share;
Thy steps I follow with my bosom bare,
Nor heed the storm that howls along the sky !"
Are not these noble verses? They are the introduction of Smollet's Ode to Independence. If you have not seen the poem, I will send it to you.How wretched is the man that hangs on by the favours of the great! To shrink froin every dig. nity of man, at the approach of a lordly piece of self-consequence, who, amid all his tinsel glitter, and stately hauteur, is but a creature formed as thou art-and perhaps not so well formed as thou art-came into the world a puling infant as thou didst, and must go out of it as all men must, a naked corse*.
From Dr. BLACKLOCK.
Edinburgh, 1st September, 1790. How does my friend, much I languish to hear, His fortune, relations, and all that are dear. With love of the muses so strongly suill smitten, I meant this epistle in verse to have written; But from age and infirmity, indolence flows, And this, much I fear, will restore me to prose. Anon to my business I wish to proceed, Dr. Anderson guides and provokes me to speed : A man of integrity, genius, and worth, Who soon a performance intends to set forth;
* The preceding letter explains the feelings under which this was written. The strain of indig nant invective goes on some time longer in the style which our bard was too apt to indulge, and of which the reader has already seen so much. E.
A work miscellaneous, extensive, and free,
lume, Whilst the flow'r whence her honey spontaneously
flows, As fragrantly smells, and as vig'rously grows.
Now with kind gratulations ’tis time to conclude, And add, your promotion is here understood; Thus free from the servile employ of excise, sir, We hope soon to bear you commence supervisor; You then more at leisure, and free from controul, May indulge the strong passion that reigns in your
soul. But I, feeble I, must to nature give way; Devoted cold death's, and longevity's prey. From verses tho' languid, my thoughts must una
bend, Tho' still I remain your affectionate friend,
Extract of a letter
From Mr. CUNNINGHAM.
Edinburgh, 14th October, 1790. I lately received a letter from our friend B*** ******.- What a charming fellow lost to society !born to great expectations with superior abilities, a pure heart, and untainted morals, his fate in life has been hard indeed-still I am persuaded he is