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Or, where the beetling cliff o'erhangs the deep,
To sum up all, be merry, I advise ;
25th, Christmas Morning. This, my much-loved friend, is a morning of wishes : accept mine-so heaven hear me as they are sincere ! that blessings may attend your steps, and affliction know you not! In the charming words of my favourite author, The Man of Feeling, “ May the great Spirit bear up the weight of thy grey hairs ; and blunt the arrow that brings them rest !”
Now that I talk of authors, how do you like Cowper? Is not the Task a glorious poem? The religion of the Task, bating a few scraps of Cal. vinistic divinity, is the religion of God and Nature : the religion that exalts, that ennobles man. Were not you to send me your Zeluco in return for mine? Tell me, how you like my marks and notes through the book. I would not give a farthing for a book, unless I were at liberty to blot it with my criticisms.
I have lately collected, for a friend's perusal, all my letters; I mean those which I first sketched, in a rough draught, and afterwards wrote out fair. On looking over some old musty papers, which, from time to time, I had parcelled by, as trash that were scarce worth preserving, and which yet at the same time I did not care to destroy; I discovered many of these rude sketches, and have written, and am writing them out, in a bound MS. for my friend's library. As I wrote always to you the rhapsody of the moment, I cannot find a single scroll to you, except one, about the commence
ment of our acquaintance. If there were any pos. sible conveyance, I would send you a perusal of
To Mrs. DUNLOP, in LONDON.
Dumfries, 20th December, 1795. I have been prodigiously disappointed in this London journey of yours. In the first place, when your last to me reached Dumfries, I was in the country, and did not return until too late to answer your letter; in the next place, I thought you would certainly take this route ; and now I know not what is become of you, or whether this may reach you at all.-God grant that it may find you and yours in prospering health and good spirits. Do let me hear from you the soonest possible.
As I hope to get a frank from my friend cap. tain Miller, I shall, every leisure bour, take
the pen, and gossip away whatever comes first, prose or poesy, sermon or song. In this last artiele I have abounded of late. I have often mentioned to you a superb publication of Scottish songs which is making its appearance in your great metropolis, and where I have the honour to preside over the Scottish verse, as no less a personage than Peter Pindar does over the English. I wrote the following for a favourite air.
December 29th. Since I began this letter I have been appointed to act in the capacity of supervisor here, and I assure you, what with the load of business, and what wi th: business being new to me, i could scarce ly have commanded ten minutes to have spoken to you, had you been in town, much less to have written you an epistle. This appointment is only temporary, and during the illness of the present incumbent ; but I look forward to an early period when I shall be appointed in full form : a consummation devoutly to be wished ! My political sins seem to be forgiven me.
This is the season (New-year's day is now my date) of wishing; and mine are most fervently of fered up for you! May life to you be a positive blessing while it lasts, for your own sake; and that it may yet be greatly prolonged, is my wish for my own sake, and for the sake of the rest of your friends! What a transient business is life! Very lately I was a boy ; but t'other day I was a young man ; and I already begin to feel the rigid fibre and stiffening joints of old age coming fast o'er my frame. With all my follies of youth, and, I fear, a few vices of manhood, still I congratulate myself on having had, in early days, religion strongly impressed on my mind. I have nothing to say to any one, as to which sect he belongs to, or what creed he believes; but I look on the man, who is firmly persuaded of infinite wisdom and goodness superintending and directing every circumstance that can happen in his lot-I felicitate such a man as having a solid foundation for his mental enjoya ment; a firm prop and sure stay, in the hour of difficulty, trouble, and distress; and a never-failing anchor of hope, when he looks beyond the grave.
January 12th. You will have seen our worthy and ingenious friend, the doctor, long ere this. I hope he is well, and beg to be remembered to him. I have just been reading over again, I dare say for the hundred and fiftieth time, his View of Society and Manners; and still I read it with delight. His humour is perfectly original-it is neither the humour of Addison, nor Swift, nor Sterne, nor of any body but Dr. Moore. By the bye, you have deprived me of Zeluco ; remember that, when you are disposed to rake up the sins of my neglect from among the ashes of my laziness.
He has paid me a pretty compliment, by quoting me in his last publication*.
To Mrs. R*****
20th January, 1796. I cannot express my gratitude to you for allowing me a longer perusal of Anacharsis. In fact I never met with a book that bewitched me so much ; and as a member of the library must warmly feel the obligation you have laid us under. Indeed, to me, the obligation is stronger than to any other individual of our society; as Anacharsis is an indispensible desideratum to a son of the muses.
The health you wished me in your morning's card, is, I think, flown from me for ever. I have not been able to leave my bed to-day till about an hour ago. These wickedly unlucky advertisements I lent (I did wrong) to a friend, and I am ill able to go in quest of him.
The muses have not quite forsaken me. The following detached stanzas I intend to interweave in some disastrous tale of a shepherd.
To Mrs. DUNLOP.
31st January, 1798. These many months you have been two packets in my debt-what sin of ignorance I have commited against so highly valued a friend, I am utterly at a loss to
guess. Alas! madam, ill can I afford, at this time, to be deprived of any of the small remnant of my pleasure. I have lately drunk deep of the cup of affliction. The autumn robbed me of my only daughter and darling child, and that at a distance too, and so rapidly, as to put it out of my power to pay the last duties to her. I had scarcely begun to recover from that shock, when I became myself the victim of a most severe rheumatic fever, and long the die spun doubtful; until, after many weeks of a sick bed, it seems to have turned up life, and I am beginning to crawl across my room, and once indeed have been before my own door in the street.
When pleasure fascinates the mental sight,
Amiction purifies the visual ray, Religion hails the drear, the untried night,
And shuts, for ever shuts ! life's doubtful day.
To Mrs. R******
Who had desired him to go to the Birth-day Assem
bly on that day to shew his loyalty.
4th June, 1796. I am in such miserable health as tu be utterly incapable of shewing my loyalty in any way. Rackt as I am with rheumatisms, I meet every Vol. II.