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To Mr. JOHN MURDOCH,
STAPLES INN BUILDINGS, LONDON.
Lochlee, 15th January, 1783. AS I have an opportunity of sending you a let. ter without putting you to that expense, which any production of mine would but ill repay, I embrace it with pleasure to tell you that I have not forgotten, nor ever will forget, the many obligations I lie under to your kindness and friendship.
I do not doubt, sir, but you will wish to know what has been the result of all the pains of an indulgent father, and a masterly teacher ; and I wish I could gratify your curiosity with such a recital as you would be pleased with ; but that is what I am afraid will not be the case. I have, indeed, kept pretty clear of vicious habits; and in this respect, I hope, my conduct will not disgrace the education I have gotten ; but as a man of the world, I am most miserably deficient. One would have thought that, bred as I have been under a father, who has figured pretty well as un homme des affaires, I might have been what the world calls a pushing, active fellow; but, to tell you the
truth, sir, there is hardly any thing more my ries verse. I seem to be one sent into the world, to see, and observe; and I very easily compound with the knave who tricks me of my money, if there be any thing original about him, which shews me human nature in a different light from any thing I have seen before. In short, the joy of my heart is to “study men, their manners, and their ways ;" and for this darling subject, I cheerfully sacrifice eve. ry other consideration. I am quite indolent about those great concerns that set the bustling, busy sons of care agog; and if I have to answer for the present hour, I am very easy with regard to any thing further. Even the last, worst shift of the unfortunate and the wretched, does not much terrify me: I know that, even then, my talent for what country folks call “ a sensible crack," when once it is sanctified by a hoary head, would procure me so much esteem, that even then I would learn to be happy*. However, I am under no apprehensions about that, for, though indolent, yet, so far as an extremely delicate constitution permits, I am not lazy; and in many things, especially in tavern matters, I am a strict æconomist; not, indeed, for the sake of the money; but one of the principal parts in my composition, is a kind of pride of stomach; and I scorn to fear the face of any man live ing: above every thing, I abhor as hell, the idea of sneaking in a corner to avoid a dun-possibly some pitiful, sordid wretch, who in my heart I despise and detest. 'Tis this, and this alone, that endears æconomy to me. In the matter of books, indeed, I am very profuse. My favourite authors are of the sentimental kind, such as Shenstone, particularly his Elegies; Thomson ; Man of Feeling, a book I prize next to the Bible ; Man of the World; Sterne, especially his Sentimental Journey; M'Pherson's Ossian, &c. these are the glorious models after which I endeavour to form my conduct,
The last shift alluded to here, must be the condition of an itinerant beggar. E.
and 'tis incongruous, 'tis absurd to suppose that the man whose mind glows with sentiments lighted up at their sacred flame--the man whose heart distends with benevolence to all the human race he “ who can soar above this little scene of things" -can he descend to mind the paltry concerns about which the terræfilial race fret, and fume, and ves themselves! O how the glorious triumph swells my heart! I forget that I am a poor insignificant devil, unnoticed and unknown, stalking up and down fairs and markets, when I happen to be in them, reading a page or two of Mankind, and “catching the manners living as they rise,” whilst the men of business jostle me on every side, as an idle incumbrance in their way.-But I dare say I have by this time tired your patience ; so I shall conclude with begging you to give Mrs. Murdoch-not my complinients, for that is a mere common-place story; but my warmest, kindest wishes for her wel. fare ; and accept of the same for yourself, from,
The following is taken from the MS. prose pre
sented by our bard to Mr. Riddel.
On rummaging over some old papers I lighted on a MS. of my early years, in which I had determined to write myself out; as I was placed by fortune among a class of men to whom my ideas would have been nonsense. I had meant that the book should have lain by me, in the fond hope, that, some time or other, even after I was no more, my thoughts would fall into the hands of somebody capable of appreciating their value. It sets off thus :
Observations, Hints, Songs, Scraps of Poetry, &c. by R. B.-a man who had little art in making money, and still less in keeping it; but was, however, a man of some sense, a great deal of honesty, and
unbounded good will, to every creature, rational and irrational. As he was but little indebted to scholastic education, and bred at a plough-tail, his performances must be strongly tinctured with his unpolished, rustic way of life; but as I believe they are really his own, it may be some entertainment to a curious observer of human nature, to see how a ploughman thinks and feels, under the pressure of love, ambition, anxiety, grief, with the like cares and passions, which, however, diversified by the modes and manners of life, operate pretty much alike, I believe, on all the species.
“ There are numbers in the world, who do not want sense to make a figure, so much as an opinion of their own abilities, to put them upon recording their observations, and allowing them the same importance which they do to those which appear in print." Shenstone.
Pleasing, when youth is long expired, to trace The forms our pencil or our pen designed ! Such was our youthful air, and shape, and face, Such the soft image of our youthful mind.”
April, 1783. Notwithstanding all that has been said against love, respecting the folly and weakness it leads a young inexperienced mind into; still I think it in a great measure deserves the highest encomiums that have been passed on it. If any thing on earth deserves the name of rapture or transport, it is the feelings of green eighteen, in the company of the mistress of his heart, when she repays him with an equal return of affection.
August. There is certainly some connexion between love, and music, and poetry; and therefore, I have al ways thought a fine touch of nature, that passage in a modern love composition,
“ As toward her cot he jogg'd along
For my own part, I never had the least thought or inclination of turning poet, 'till I got once heartily in love; and then rhyme and song were, in a manner, the spontaneous language of my heart.
September. I entirely agree with that judicious philosopher, Mr. Smith, in his excellent Theory of Moral Sentiments, that remorse is the most painful sentiment that can embitter the human bosom. Any ordinary pitch of fortitude may bear up tolerably well under those calamities, in the procurement of which we ourselves have had no hand; but when our own follies, or crimes, have made us miserable and wretched, to bear up with manly firmness, and at the same time have a proper penitential sense of our misconduct-is a glorious effort of self-coin mand,
Of all the numerous ills that hurt our peace,