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in joy, and their imaginations soar in transportsuch, so delighting, and so pure, were the emo. tions of my soul on meeting the other day with Miss L- B-, your neighbour, at M. Mr. B. with his two daughters, accompanied by Mr. H. of G. passing through Dumfries a few days ago, on their way to England, did me the honour of calling on me; on which I took my horse (though God knows I could ill spare the time), and accompanied them fourteen or fifteen miles, and dined and spent the day with them. 'Twas about nine, I think, when I left them; and ding home, I composed the following ballad, of which you will probably think you have a dear bargain, as it will cost you another groat of postage. You must know that there is an old ballad beginning with
“My bonnie Lizie Bailie,
I'll rowe thee in my plaidie,” &c.
So I parodied it as follows, which is literally the
unanointed, unannealed,” as Hamlet says.-See vol. i.
So much for ballads. I regret that you are gone to the east country, as I am to be in Ayrshire in about a fortnight. This world of ours, notwithstanding it bas many good things in it, yet it has ever had this curse, that two or three people who would be the happier the oftener they met togegether, are, almost without exception, always so placed as never to meet but once or twice a year, which, considering the few years of a man's life, is a very great “evil under the sun,” which I do not recollect that Solomon has mentioned in his catalogue of the miseries of man. I hope and be. lieve that there is a state of existence beyond the grave, where the worthy of this life will renew their former intimacies, with this endearing addition, that “ we meet to part no more."
6 Tell us, ye dead, Will none of you in pity disclose the secret What 'tis you are, and we must shortly be ?"
A thousand times have I made this apostrophe to the departed sons of men, but not one of them has ever thought fit to answer the question. “ O that some courteous ghost would blab it out !” but it cannot be ; you and I, my friend, must make the experiment by ourselves, and for ourselves. However, I am so convinced that an unshaken faith in the doctrines of religion is not only necessary by making us better men, but also by making us happier men, that I shall take every care that your little godson, and every little creature that shall call me father, shall be taught them.
So ends this heterogeneous letter, written at this wild place of the world, in the intervals of my labour of discharging a vessel of rum from Antigua.
To Mr. CUNNINGHAM.
Dumfries, 10th September, 1792. No! I will not attempt an apology.-Amid all my hurry of business, grinding the faces of the publican and the sinner on the merciless wheels of the excise; making ballads, and then drinking and singing them; and, over and above all, the correcting the press-work of two different publications ; still, still I might have stolen five minutes to dedicate to one of the first of my friends and fellowcreatures. I might have done, as I do at present, snatched an hour near “ witching time of night," -and scrawled a page or two. I might have congratulated my friend on his marriage ; or I might have thanked the Caledonian archers for the honour they have done me (though, to do myself jus. tice, I intended to have done both in rhyme, else I had done both, long ere now). Well then, here is to your good health ! for you must know, I have set a nipperkin of toddy by me, just by way of spell, to keep away the meikle horned deil, or any of his subaltern imps who may be on their nightly rounds.
But what shall I write to you ?-“ The voice said cry," and I said, “what shall I cry?"-0, thou spirit! whatever thou art, or wherever thou makest thyself visible ! be thou a bogle by the eerie side of an auld thorn, in the dreary glen through which the herd-callan maun bicker in his gloamin route frae the faulde !-Be thou a brownie, set, at dead of night, to thy task by the blazing ingle, or in the solitary barn, where the repercussions of thy iron fail half affright thyself, as thou performest the work of twenty of the sons of men, ere the cock-crowing summon thee to thy ample cog of substantial brose. Be thou a kelpie, haunting the ford or ferry, in the starless night, mixing thy laughing yell with the howling of the storm and the roaring of the flood, as thou viewest the perils and miseries of man on the foundering horse, or in the tumbling boat !-Or, lastly, be thou a ghost, paying thy nocturnal visits to the hoary ruins of decayed grandeur; or performing thy mystic rites in the shadow of the time-worn church, while the moon looks, without a cloud, on the silent, ghastly dwellings of the dead around thee; or taking thy stand by the bedside of the villain, or the murderer, pourtraying on his dreaming fancy, pictures, dreadful as the horrors of unveiled hell, and terrible as the wrath of incensed deity!-Come, thou spirit, but not in these horrid forms; come with the milder, gentle, easy inspirations, which thou breathest round the wig of a prating advocate, or the tete of a tea-sipping gossip, while their tongues run at the light-horse gallop of clishmaclaver for ever and ever-come and assist a poor devil who is quite jaded in the attempt to share half an idea among half a hundred words ; to fill up four quarto pages, while he has not got
one single sentence of recollection, information, or remark worth putting pen to paper for.
I feel, I feel the presence of supernatural assistance! circled in the embrace of my elbowchair, my breast labours, like the bloated sybil on her three-footed stool, and like her too, labours with nonsense. -Nonsense, auspicious name! Tutor, friend, and finger-post in the mystic mazes of law; the cadaverous paths of physic; and particu. larly in the sightless soarings of school divinity, who, leaving common sense confounded at his strength of pinion, reason delirious with eying his giddy flight, and truth creeping back into the bot. tom of her well, cursing the hour that ever she offered her scorned alliance to the wizard power of theologic vision-raves abroad on all the winds. "On earth discord! a gloomy heaven above, opening her jealous gates to the nineteen thousandtke part of the tithe of mankind ! and below, an inescapable and inexorable hell, expanding its leviathan jaws for the vast residue of mortals !!!"-O doctrine ! comfortable and healing to the weary, wounded soul of man! Ye sons and daughters of affliction, ye pauvres miserables, to whom day brings no pleasure, and night yields no rest, be comforted! “ 'Tis but one to nineteen hundred thousand that your situation will mend in this world;" so, alas ! the experience of the poor and the needy too often affirms; and 'tis nineteen hundred thousand to one, by the dogmas of ******** that you will be damned eternally in the world to come!
But of all nonsense, religious nonsense is the most nonsensical ; so enough, and more than enough of it. Only, by the bye, will you, or can you tell me, my dear Cunningham, why a sectarian turn of mind has always a tendency to narrow and illiberalize the heart? They are orderly; they may be just; nay, I have known them merciful : but still your children of sanctity move among their fellow creatures with a nostril snuffing putrescence, and a foot spurning filth, in short, with a
conceited dignity that your titled *
* * * or any other of your Scottish lordlings of seven centuries standing, display when they accidentally mix among the many-aproned sons of mechanical life, I remember, in my plough-boy days, I could not conceive it possible that a noble lord could be a fool, or a godly man could be a knave.-How ignorant are plough-boys! -Nay, I have since discovered that a godly woman may be a *****!-But hold-Here's t'ye again -this rum is generous Antigua, so a very unfit menstruum for scandal.
Apropos, how do you like, I mean really like, the married life? Ah, my friend! matrimony is quite a different thing from what your love-sick youths and sighing girls take it to be! But marriage, we are told, is appointed by God, and I shaft never quarrel with any of his institutions. I am a husband of older standing than you, and shall give you my ideas of the conjugal state (en pas sant ; you know I am no Latinist, is not conjugal derived from jugum, a yoke ?). Well then, the scale of good wifeship, I divide into ten parts :goodnature, four; good sense, two; wit, one; per. sonal charms, viz, a sweet face, eloquent eyes, fine limbs, graceful carriage (I would add a fine waist too, but that is so soon spoilt, you know), all these, one; as for the other qualities belonging to, or ata tending on a wife, such as fortune, connexions, education (I mean education extraordinary), family blood, &c. divide the two remaining degrees among them as you please; only, remember that all these minor properties must be expressed by fractions, for there is not any one of them, in the aforesaid scale, entitled to the dignity of an integer.
As for the rest of my fancies and reveries-how I lately met with miss L-B-, the most beautiful, elegant woman in the world-how I accompanied her and her father's family fifteen miles on their journey, out of pure devotion, to admire the loveliness of the works of God, in such