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To the Earl of BUCHAN.
The honour your lordship has done me, by your notice and advice in yours of the 1st instant, I shall ever gratefully remember:
“ Praise from thy lips 'tis mine with joy to boast,
They best can give it who deserve it most.”
Your lordship touches the darling chord of my heart, when you advise me to fire my muse at Scottish story and Scottish scenes. I wish for nothing more than to make a leisurely pilgriinage through my native country; to sit and muse on those once hard-contended fields, where Caledonia, rejoicing, saw her bloody lion borne through broken ranks to victory and
fame; and, catching the inspiration, to pour the
But, my lord, in
“ I, Wisdom, dwell with Prudence. Friend, I do not come to open the ill-closed wounds of your follies and misfortunes, merely to give you pain: I wish through these wounds to imprint a lasting lesson on your heart. I will not mention how many of my salutary advices you
have despised: I have given you line upon line and precept upon precept; and while I was chalking out to you the straight way to wealth and character, with audacious effrontery you have zig-zagged across the path, contemning me to my face: you know the consequences. It is not yet three months since home was so hot for you that you were on the wing for the western shore of the Atlantic, not to make a fortune, but to hide your misfortune.
« Now that your dear-lov'd Scotia puts it in your power to return to the situation of
your forefathers, will you follow these Will-o'-wisp meteors of fancy and whim, till they bring you once more to the brink of ruin? I grant that
the utmost ground you can occupy is but half a step from the veriest poverty ; but still it is half á step from it. If all that I can urge be ineffectual, let her who seldom calls to you in vain, let the call of pride prevail with you. You know how you feel at the iron-gripe of ruthless oppression: you know how you bear the galling sneer of contumelious greatness. I hold you
out the conveniences, the comforts of life, independence and character, on the one hand; I tender you -servility, dependence, and wretchedness, on the other. I will not insult your understanding by bidding you make a choice.”*
This, my lord, is unanswerable.
I must return to my humble station, and woo my rustic muse in my wonted way at the plough-tail. Still, my lord, while the drops of life warm my heart, gratitude to that dear-loved country in which I boast my birth, and gratitude to those her distinguished sons who have honoured me 80 much with their patronage and approbation, shall, while stealing through my humble shades, ever distend my bosom, and at times, as now, draw forth the swelling tear.
* Copied from the Bee, vol. ii. p. 319, and compared with the Author's MSS.
To DR. MOORE.
Edinburgh, 15th February, 1787.
Pardon my seeming neglect in delaying so long to acknowledge the honour you have done me, in your kind notice of me, January 23d. Not many months
I knew no other employment than following the plough, nor could boast any thing higher than a distant acquaintance with a country clergyman. Mere greatness never embarrasses me: I have nothing to ask from the great, and I do not fear their judgment: but genius, polished by learning, and at its proper point of elevation in the eye of the world, this of late I frequently meet with, and tremble at its approach. I scorn the affectation of seeming modesty to cover self-conceit.
That I have some merit, I do not deny; but I see, with frequent wringings of heart, that the novelty of my character, and the honest national prejudice of my countrymen, have borne me to a height altogether untenable to my abilities.
For the honor Miss W. has done me, please, Sir, return her, in my name, my most grateful thanks. I have more than once thought of paying her in kind, but have hitherto quitted the idea in hopeless despondency. I had never before heard of her; but the other day I got her poems, which, for several reasons, some belonging to the head, and others the offspring of the heart, gave me a great deal of pleasure, I have little pretensions to critic lore: there are, I think, two characteristic features in her poetry—the unfettered wild flight of native
genius, and the querulous, sombre tenderness of 4 time-settled sorrow."
I only know what pleases me, often without being able to tell why.