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MY DEAR SIR,
You may think, and too justly, that I am a selfish ungrateful fellow, having received so many repeated instances of kindness from you, and yet never putting pen to paper to say -thank you ; but if you knew what a devil of a life my conscience has led me on that account, your good heart would think yourself too much avenged. By the bye, there is nothing in the whole frame of man which seems to me so unaccountable as that thing called conscience. Had the troublesome yelping cur powers efficient to prevent a mischief, he might be of use ; but at the beginning of the business, his feeble efforts are to the workings of passion as the infant frosts of an autumnal morning to the unclouded fervour of the rising sun: and ne sooner are the tumultuous doings of the wicked deed over, than, amidst the bitter native consequences of folly, in the very vortex of our horrors, 'up starts conscience, and harrows us with the feelings of the d*****
I have inclosed you, by way of expiation, some verse and prose, that, if they merit a place in your truly entertaining miscellany, you are welcome to. The prose extract is literally as Mr. Sprott sent it me.
The Inscription of the Stone is as follows:
HERE LIES ROBERT FERGUSSON, POET.
Born September 5th, 1751-Died, 16th October, 1774.
No sculptur'd marble here, nor pompous lay,
“ No storied urn nor animated burst,” This simple stone directs pale Scotia's way
To pour her sorrows o'er her poet's dust.
On the other side of the Stone is as follows:
By special grant of the Managers to Robert Burns, who erected this stone, this burial-place is to remain for ever sacred to the memory of Robert Fergusson.”
No. No. XXI.
Extract of a Letter from
8th March, 1787.
Am truly happy to know you have found a friend in *********; his patronage of you does him great honour. He is truly a good man; by far the best I ever knew, or perhaps ever shall know, in this world. But I must not speak all I think of him, lest I should be thought partial.
So you have obtained liberty from the magistrates to erect a stone over Fergusson's grave ? I do not doubt it; such things have been, Shakespeare says, “ in the olden-time:"
“ The poet's fate is here in emblem shewn,
He ask'd for bread, and he received a stone."
It is, I believe, upon poor Butler's tomb that this is written. But how many brothers of Parnassus, as well as poor Butler and poor Fergusson have asked for bread, and been served with the same sauce!
The magistrates gave you liberty, did they? Oh generous magistrates !
******* celebrated over the three kingdoms for his public spirit, gives a poor poet liberty to raise a tomb to a poor poet's memory! most generous ! ******* upon a time gave that same poet the mighty sum of eighteen pence for a copy of his works. But then it must be considered that the poet was at this time absolutely starving, and besought his aid with all the earnestness of hunger; and, over and above, he received a ******** worth, at least one-third of the value, in exchange, but which, I believe, the poet afterwards very ungratefully expunged.
Next week I hope to have the pleasure of seeing you in Edinburgh; and as my stay will be for eight or ten days, I wish you or ***** would take a snug, well-aired bed-room for me, where I may have the pleasure of seeing you over a morning cup of tea. But, by all accounts, it will be a matter of some difficulty to see you at all, unless your company is
bespoke a week before hand. There is a great rumour here concerning your great intimacy with the Duchess of
and other ladies of distinction. . I am really told that “ cards
to invite fly by thousands each night ;” and, if you had one,
there would also be " bribes to your old secretary.” It seems you are resolved to make hay while the sun shines, and avoid, if possible, the fate of poor Fergusson,
Quærenda pecunia primum est, virtus post nummos is a good maxim to thrive by: you seemed to despise it while in this country ; but probably some philosopher in Edinburgh has taught you better
Pray, are you yet engraving as well as printing ?--Are you yet seized
“ With itch of picture in the front,
With bays and wicked rhyme upon't ?"
But I must give up this trifling, and attend to matters that more concern myself ; so, as the Aberdeen wit says, adieu dryly, we sal drink phan we meet.*
The above extract is from a letter of one of the ablest of our Poet's correspondents, which contains some