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To Mr. AINSLIE.
My dear Ainslie,
Can you minister to a mind diseased ? can you, amid the horrors of penitence, regret, remorse, head-ache, nausea, and all the rest of the de hounds of hell, that beset a poor wretch, who has been guilty of the sin of drunkenness---can you speak peace to a troubled soul ?
Miserable perdu that I am, I have tried every thing that used to amuse me, but in vain : here
must I sit, a monument of the vengeance laid up in store for the wicked, slowly counting every chick of the clock, as it slowly-slowly, numbers over these lazy scoundrels of hours, who, d-n them, are ranked up before me, every one at his neighbour's backside, and every one with a burthen of anguish on his back, to pour on my devoted head-and there is none to pity me. My wife scolds me! my business torments me, and my sins come staring me in the face, every one telling a more bitter tale than his fellow.-When I tell you even
* has lost its power to please, you will guess something of my hell within, and all around me-I began Elibanks and Elibraes, but the stanzas fell unenjoyed and unfinished from my listless tongue: at last I luckily thought of reading over an old letter of yours, that lay by me in my book case, and I felt something, for the first time since I opened my eyes, of pleasurable existence.--Well-I begin to breathe a little, since I began to write to you. How are you, and what are you doing? How goes Law? Apropos, for connexion's sake do not address to me supervisor, for that is an honour I cannot pretend to-1 am on the list, as we call it, for a supervisor, and will be called out by and bye to act as one ; but at present, I am a simple gauger, ·cho' t'other day I got an appointment to an excise division of 25l. per ann. better than the rest. My present income, down money, is 701. per ann.,
I have one or two good fellows here, whom you would be glad to know.
From Sir JOHN WHITEFOORD.
Near Maybole, 16th October, 1791. Accept my thanks for your favour, with the Lament on the death of my much esteemed friend, and your worthy patron, the perusal of which pleased and affected me much. The lines address. ed to me are very flattering.
I have always thought it most natural to sup. pose (and a strong arguinent in favour of a future existence), that when we see an honourable and virtuous man, labouring under bodily infirmities, and oppressed by the frowns of fortune in this world, that there was a happier state beyond the grave; where that worth and honour which were neglected here, would meet with their just reward, and where temporal misfortunes would receive an eterual recompense. Let us cherish this hope for our de parted friend ; and moderate our grief for that loss we have sustained ; knowing that he canpot return to us, but we may go to him.
Remember me to your wife, and, with every good wish for the prosperity of you and your family, believe me at all times,
Your most sincere friend,
JOHN WHITEFOORD. Vol. IL.
From A. F. TYTLER, Esq.
Dear sir, Edinburgh, 27th November, 1791.
You have much reason to blame me for negleeting till now to acknowledge the receipt of a most agreeable packet, containing The Whistle, a ballad ; and The Lament ; which reached me about six weeks ago in London, from whence I am just returned. Your letter was forwarded to me there from Edinburgh, where, as I observed by the date, it had lain for some days. This was an additional reason for me to have answered it immediately on receiving it; but the truth was, the bustle of business, engagements, and confusion of one kind or another, in which I found myself immersed all the time I was in London, absolutely put it out of my power. But to have done with apologies, let me now endeavour to prove myself in some degree deserving of the very flattering compliment you - pay me, by giving you, at least a frank and candid, if it should not be a judicions criticism, on the poems you sent me.
The ballad of The Whistle, is, in my opinion, truly excellent. The old tradition which you have taken up, is the best adapted for a Bacchanalian composition of any I have ever met with, and you bave done it full justice. In the first place, the strokes of wit arise naturally from the subject, and are uncommonly happy. For example,
* The bands grew the tighter the more they were
* Cynthia hinted she'd find them next morn."
* Tho' fate said a hero should perish in light, So up rose bright Phoebus, and down fell the
In the next place, you are singularly happy in the discrimination of your heroes, and in giving each the sentiments and language suitable to his character. And lastly, you have much merit in the delicacy of the panegyric which you have contrived to throw on each of the dramatis persona, perfectly appropriate to his character. The compliment to sir Robert, the blunt soldier, is peculiarly fine. In short, this composition, in my opinion, does you great honour, and I see not a line or a word in it, which I could wish to be altered.
As to The Lament, I suspect, from some expressions in your letter to me, that you are more doubt.ful with respect to the merits of this piece, than of the other, and I own I think you have reason ; for although it contains some beautiful stanzas, as the first, “ The wind blew hollow,” &c. the fifth, “ Ye scatter'd birds;" the thirteenth, “ Awake thy last sad voice," &c. yet it appears to me faulty as a whole, and inferior to several of those you have already published in the same strain. My principal objection lies against the plan of the piece. I think it was unnecessary and improper to put the lamentation in the mouth of a fictitious character, an aged bard.-It bad been much better to have lamented your patron in your own person, to have expressed your genuine feelings for his loss, and to have 'spoken the language of nature, rather than that of fiction, on the subject. Compare this with your poem of the same title in your printed volume, which begins, I thou pale orb! and observe what it is that forms the charm of that composition. It is, that it speaks the language of truth and of nature. The change is, in my opinion, injudicious too in this respect, that an aged bård has much less need of a patron and protector, than a young one.
I have thus given you, with much freedom, my opinion of both the pieces. I should have made a very ill return to the compliment you paid me, if I had given you any other than my genuine sentiments,
It will give me great pleasure to hear from you when you find leisure, and I beg you will believe me ever, dear sir, yours, &c.
To Miss DAVIES.
It is impossible, madam, that the generous warmth and angelic purity of your youthful mind can have any idea of that moral disease, under which I unhappily must rank as the chief of sin. ners; I mean a torpitude of the moral powers, that may be called, a lethargy of conscience. In vain Remorse rears her horrent crest, and rouses all her snakes: beneath the deadly-fixed eye and leaden hand of Indolence, their wildest ire is charmed into the torpor of the bat, slumbering out the rigours of winter, in the chink of a ruined wall. Nothing less, madam, could have made me so long neglect your obliging commands. Indeed I had one apology-the bagatelle was not worth presenting. Besides, so strongly am I interested in miss D 's fate and welfare in the serious business of life, amid its chances and changes, that to make her the subjeet of a silly ballad, is downright mockery of these ardent feelings ; it is like an impertinent jest to a dying friend.
Gracious Heaven! why this disparity between our wishes and our powers? Why is the most generous wish to make others blest, impotent and ineffectual-as the idle breeze that crosses the pathless desart? In my walks of life, I have met with a few people to whom how gladly would I have said—“ Go, be happy! I know that your hearts have been wounded by the scorn of the proud, whom accident has placed above you or worse still, in whose hands are, perhaps, placed the comforts of your life. But there ! ascend that rock, Independence, and look justly down on their