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Do let me know how Cleghorn is, and remember me to him.
This should have been delivered to you a month ago. I am still very poorly, but should like much to hear from you.
MR. BURNS TO MR. THOMSON.
12th July, 1796.
AFTER all my boasted independence, curst necessity compels me to implore you for five pounds. A cruel ***** of a haberdasher to whom I owe an account, taking it into his head that I am dying, has commenced a process, and will infallibly put me into jail. Do for God's sake, send me that sum, and that by return of post. Forgive me this earnestness, but the horrors of a jail have made me half distracted. I do not ask all this gra
tuitously; for upon returning health, I hereby promise and engage to furnish you with five pounds worth of the neatest song genius you have seen. I tryed my hand on Rotbemurche this morning. The measure is so difficult, that it is impossible to infuse much genius into the lines, they are on the other side. Forgive, forgive me !
Fairest maid on Devon banks,
Chrystal Devon, winding Devon,
And smile as thou wert wont to do.
Full well thou knowest I love thee dear,
Fairest maid, &c.
Then come, thou fairest of the fair,
Fairest maid, &c.*
* These verses and the letter inclosing them, are written in a character that marks the very feeble state of their author. Mr. Syme is of opinion that he could not have been in any danger of a jail at Dumfries, where certainly he had many firm friends, nor under any such necessity of imploring aid from Edinburgh. But about this time his mind began to be at times unsettled, and the horrors of a jail perpetually haunted his imagination. He died on the 21st of this month.
MR. THOMSON TO MR. BURNS.
14th July, 1796.
MY DEAR SIR,
EVER since I received your melancholy letter by Mrs. Hyslop, I have been ruminating in what manner I could endeavour to alleviate your sufferings. Again and again I thought of a pecuniary offer, but the recollection of one of your letters on this subject, and the fear of offending your independent spirit, checked my resolution. I thank
you heartily therefore for the frankness of your letter of the 12th, and with great pleasure inclose a draft for the very sum I proposed sending. Would I were Chancellor of the Exchequer but for one day, for
Pray, my good Sir, is it not possible for you to muster a volume of poetry? If too much trouble to
you in the present state of your health, some literary friend might be found here, who would select and arrange from your manuscripts, and take upon him the task of Editor. In the mean time it could be advertised to be published by subscription? Do not shun this mode of obtaining the value of your labour; remember Pope published the Iliad by subscription. Think of this my dear Burns, and do not reckon me intrusive with my advice. You are too well convinced of the respect and friendship I bear you, to impute any thing I say to an unworthy motive. Yours faithfully.
The verses to Rotbemurche will answer finely. I am happy to see you can still tune your lyre.