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liged to you for your glorious story of Buchanan and Targe! 'Twas an unequivocal proof of your loyal gallantry of soul, giving Targe the victory. I should have been mortified to the ground if you had not.
I have just read over, once more of many times, your Zeluco. I marked with my pencil, as I went along, every passage that pleased me particularly above the rest; and one or two, I think, which, with humble deference, I am disposed to think unequal to the merits of the book. I have sometimes thought to transcribe these marked passages, or at least so much of them as to point where they are, and send them to you. Original strokes that strongly depict the human heart, is your and Fielding's province, beyond any other novelist I have ever perused. Richardson, indeed, might perhaps be excepted; but, unhappily, his dramatis personæ are beings of some other world ; and, however they may captivate the unexperienced, romantic fancy of a boy or a girl, they will ever, in proportion as we have made human nature our study, dissatisfy our riper minds.
As to my private concerns, I am going on, a mighty tax-gatherer before the Lord, and have lately had the interest to get myself ranked on the list of excise as a supervisor. I am not yet employed as such, but in a few years I shall fall into the file of supervisorship by seniority. I have had an immense loss in the death of the earl of Glencairn ; the patron from whom all my fame and good fortune took its rise. Independent of my grateful attachment to him, which was indeed so strong that it pervaded my very soul, and was entwined with the thread of my existence; so soon as the prince's friends had got in (and every dog you know has his day) my getting forward in the excise would have been an easier business than otherwise it will be. Though this was a consum
mation devoutly to be wished, yet, thank heaven, I can live and rhyme as I am; and as to my boys, poor little fellows ! if I cannot place them on as high an elevation in life as I could wish, I shall, if I am favoured so much of the Disposer of events as to see that period, fix them on as broad and independent a basis as possible. Among the many wise adages which have been treasured up by our Scottish ancestors, this is one of the best, better be the head o' the commonalty, as the tail o' the gentry.
But I am got on a subject, which, however interesting to me, is of no manner of consequence to you ; so I shall give you a short poem on the other page, and close this with assuring you how sincerely I have the honour to be, yours, &c.
Written on the blank leaf of a book, which I presented to a very young lady, whom I had for merly characterised under the denomination of The Rose-bud. (See Poems, vol. iii.)
From Dr. MOORE.
London, 29th March, 1791. Your letter of the 28th of February I received only two days ago, and this day I had the pleasure of waiting on the reverend Mr. Baird, at the duke of Athole's, who had been so obliging as to transmit it to me, with the printed verses on Alloa Church, the Elegy on captain Henderson, and the Epitaph. There are many poetical beauties in the former : what I particularly admire are the three striking similes from
Or like the snow falls in the river,"
and the eight lines which begin with
“By this time he was cross the ford*,"
so exquisitely expressive of the superstitious impressions of the country.
And the twenty-two lines from
“ Coffins stood round like open presses,"
which, in my opinion, are equal to the ingredients of Shakspeare's cauldron in Macbeth.
As for the Elegy, the chief merit of it consists in the very graphical description of the objects belonging to the country in which the poet writes, and which none but a Scottish poet could have described, and none but a real poet, and a close observer of nature, could have so described.
There is something original and to me wonderfully pleasing in the Epitaph.
I remember you once hinted before, what you repeat in your last, that you had made some re marks on Zeluco, on the margin. I should be very glad to see them, and regret you did not send them before the last edition, which is just published. Pray transcribe them for me; I sincerely value your opinion very highly, and pray do not suppress one of those in which you censure the sentiment or expression. Trust me it will break no squares between us-I am not akin to the bishop of Grenada.
I must now mention what has been on my mind for some time; I cannot help thinking you imprudent, in scattering abroad so many copies of your verses. It is most natural to give a few to confidential friends, particularly to those who are conpected with the subject, or who are perhaps them.
* See Poems, vol. iii.
Of the poem
selves the subject, but this ought to be done under promise not to give other copies. you sent me on queen Mary, I refused every solicitation for copies, but I lately saw it in a newspaper. My motive for cautioning you on this subject, is, that I wish to engage you to colleet all your fugitive pieces, not already printed, and after they have been re-considered, and polished to the utmost of your power, I would have you publish them by another subscription : in promoting of which I will exert myself with pleasure.
In your future compositions, I wish you would use the modern English. You have skewn your powers in Scottish sufficiently. Although in certain subjects it gives additional zest to the humour, yet it is lost to the English ; and why should you write only for a part of the island, when you can command the admiration of the whole ?
If you chance to write to my friend Mrs. Dunlop, of Dunlop, I beg to be affectionately remembered to her. She must not judge of the warmth of my sentiments respecting her, by the number of my letters; I hardly ever write a line but on business; and I do not know that I should have scribbled all this to you, but for the business part, that is, to instigate you to a new publication; and to tell you, that when you think you have a sufficient number to make a volumé, you should set your friends on getting subscriptions. I wish I could have a few hours conversation with you-I have many things to say, which I cannot write. If I ever go to Scotland, I will let you know, that you may meet me at your own house, or my friend Mrs. Hamilton's, or both.
Adieu, my dear sir, &c.
To the REV. ARCH. ALISON.
Ellisland, near Dumfries, 14th February, 1791.
You must, by this time, have set me down as one of the most ungrateful of men. You did me the honour to present me with a book which does honour to science and the intellectual powers of man, and I have not even so much as acknowledge ed the receipt of it. The fact is, you yourself are to blame for it. Flattered as I was by your tell. ing me that you wished to have my opinion of the work, the old spiritual enemy of mankind, who knows well that vanity is one of the sins that most easily beset me, put it into my head to ponder over the performance with the look-out of a critic, and to draw up forsooth a deep learned digest of strictures, on a composition, of which, in fact, until I read the book, I did not even know the first principles. I own, sir, that, at first glance, several of your propositions startled me as paradoxical. That the martial clangour of a trumpet had something in it vastly more grand, heroic, and sublime, than the twingle twangle of a jews-harp; that the delicate flexure of a rose-twig, when the half-blown flower is heavy with the tears of the dawn, was infinitely more beautiful and elegant than the upright stub of a burdock; and that from something innate and independent of all association of ideas; these I had set down as irrefragable, orthodox truths, until perusing your book shook my faith. In short, sir, except Euclid's Elements of Geometry, which I made a shift to unravel by my father's fire-side, in the winter evening of the first season I held the plough, I never read a book which gave me such a quantum of information, and added so much to my stock of ideas, as your“ Essays on the Principles of Taste." One thing, sir, you must