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necessities to plead riots nightly in the same guilty trade.
Well! divines may say of it what they please, but execration is to the mind, what phlebotomy is to the body; the vital sluices of both are wonder. fully relieved by their respective evacuations.
From A. F. TYTLER, Esq.
Edinburgh, 12th March, 1791.
Mr. Hill yesterday put into my hands a sheet of Grose's Antiquities, containing a poem of yours, entitled, Tam o' Shanter, a tale. The very high pleasure I have received from the perusal of this admirable piece, I feel, demands the warmest ac knowledgments. Hill tells me he is to send off a packet for you this day; I cannot resist therefore putting on paper what I must have told you in person, had I met with you after the recent peru, sal of your tale, which is, that I feel I owe you a debt, which, if undischarged, would reproach me with ingratitude. I have seldom in my life tasted of higher enjoyment from any work of genius, than I have received from this composition ; and I am much mistaken, if this poem alone, had you never written another syllable, would not have been sufficient to have transmitted your name down to posterity with high reputation. In the introductory part where you paint the character of your hero, and exhibit him at the alehouse ingle, with his tippling cronies, you have delineated nature with a humour and naivetė, that would do honour to Matthew Prior ; but when you describe the unfortunate orgies of the witches' sabbath, and the hellish scenery in which they are exhibited, you display a power of imagination, that Shakspeare himself could not have exceeded. I know not that I have ever met with a picture of more horrible fancy than the following:
“ Coffins stood round like open presses,
But when I came to the succeeding lines, my blood ran cold within me:
6 A knife a father's throat had mangled,
And here, after the two following lines, " Wi' mair o' horrible and awfu',” &c. the descriptive part might perhaps have been better closed, than the four lines which succeed, which, though good in themselves, yet, as they derive all their merit from the satire they contain, are here rather misplaced among the circumstances of pure horror*. The initiation of the young witch is most happily described the effect of her charms exhibited in the dance on Satan himself-the apostrophe-"Ah, little thought thy reverend graunie !”--the transport of Tam, who forgets his situation, and enters completely into the spirit of the scene, are all fea. tures of high merit, in this excellent composition. The only fault it possesses, is, that the winding up, or conclusion of the story, is not commensurate to the interest which is excited by the descriptive and characteristic painting of the preceding parts. -The preparation is fine, but the result is not adequate. But for this perhaps you have a good apology-you stick to the popular tale.
* Our bard profited by Mr. Tytler's criticism, and expunged the four lines accordingly. See Apr pendix to vol. üi.
And now that I have got out my mind, and feel a little relieved of the weight of that debt I owed you, let me end this desultory scroll by an advice: -You have proved your talent for a species of composition, in which but a very few of our own poets have succeeded.--Go on-write more tales in the same style-you will eclipse Prior and La Fontaine ; for, with equal wit, equal power of numbers, and equal naiveté of expression, you have a bolder and more vigorous imagination, I am, dear sir, with much esteem,
To A. F. TYTLER, Esq.
Nothing less than the unfortunate accident I have met with, could have prevented my grateful acknowledgments for your letter. His own favourite poem, and that an essay in a walk of the muses entirely new to him, where, consequently, his hopes and fears were on the most anxious alarm for his success in the attempt; to have that poem so much applauded by one of the first judges, was the most delicious vibration that ever trilled along the heart-strings of a poor poet. However, Providence, to keep up the proper proportion of evil with the good, which it seems is necessary in this sublunary state, thought proper to check my ex. ultation by a very serious misfortune. A day or two after I received your letter, my horse came down with me and broke my right arm. As this is the first service my arm has done me since its disaster, I find myself unable to do more than just in general terms to thank you for this additional instance of your patronage and friendship. As to the faults you detected in the piece, they are truBy there : one of them, the hit at the lawyer and Vol II.
priest, I shall cut out ; as to the falling off in the catastrophe, for the reason you justly adduce, it cannot easily be remedied. Your approbation, sir, has given me such additional spirits to persevere in this species of poetic composition, that I am already revolving two or three stories in my fancy. If I can bring these floating ideas to bear any kind of embodied form, it will give me an additional opportunity of assuring you how much I have the honour to be, &c.
To Mrs. DUNLOP.
Ellisland, 7th February, 1791. When I tell you, madam, that by a fall, not from my horse, but with my horse, I have been a cripple some time, and that this is the first day my arm and hand have been able to serve me in writing; you will allow that it is too good an apology for my seemingly ungrateful silence.
I am now getting better, and am able to rhyme a little, which implies some tolerable ease ; as I cannot think that the most poetic genius is able to compose on the rack.
I do not remember if ever I mentioned to you my having an idea of composing an elegy on the late miss Burnet, of Monboddo. I had the honour of being pretty well acquainted with her, and have seldom felt so much at the loss of an acquaintance, as when I heard that so amiable and accomplished a piece of God's works was no more. I have, as yet, gone no farther than the following fragment, of which please let me have your opinion. You know that elegy is a subject so much exhausted, that any new idea on the business is not to be expected : 'tis well if we can place an old idea in a new light. How far I have succeeded as to this last, you will judge from what follows
(Here follows the elegy, &c. as in page 180, add. ing this verse.)
The parent's heart that nestled fond in thee,
That heart how sunk, a prey to grief and care: So deckt the woodbine sweet yon aged tree,
So from it ravish'd, leaves it bleak and bare.
I have proceeded no further.
Your kind letter, with your kind remembranceof your godson, came safe. This last, madam, is scarcely what my pride can bear. As to the little fellow. he is, partiality apart, the finest boy I have of a long time seen. He is now seventeen months old, has the small-pox and measles over, has cut several teeth, and yet never had a grain of doctor's drugs in his bowels.
I am truly happy to hear that the “ little floweret” is blooming so fresh and fair, and that the 6 mother-plant” is rather recovering her drooping head. Soon and well may her “cruel wounds” be healed! I have written thus far with a good deal of difficulty. When I get a little abler you shall bear farther from,
Madam, yours, &c.
To LADY W. M. CONSTABLE,
Acknowledging a present of a valuable snuff-box, · with a fine picture of Mary Queen of Scots on the lid.
Nothing less than the unlucky accident of haring lately broken my right arm, could have pre;