« ForrigeFortsæt »
LETTER FROM COLONEL J. G. BURNS.
private family matters, which had been in my custody for thirty years, and which I sent to him, and after referring with approbation to the proceedings at the celebration of the centenary at Bristol, Colonel Burns
"Since our return to this country, my brother (Colonel "William Nicol Burns) and I have annually visited "Scotland, and always made a point of seeing your late "worthy aunt in Ayr, and often have I heard her lament "the heartless robbery of my father's letters to her "father."
"I had the pleasnre of meeting your father, the "Andrew dear' of one of the Poet's noblest and finest "inspirations, at a large dinner given to the Ettrick
Shepherd. After a separation of thirty-two years, my "brother and I have been spared to pass the evening of "our lives together, and have been domiciled here for 'nearly fourteen years, our house being kept by my daughter Annie. If business or pleasure shall ever "induce you and yours to visit this Queen of Watering"places, you must bear in mind most strictly, that the "grandson of Robert Aiken must not pass the door of "the Poet's sons, where there will be always room and a most hearty welcome for you. My brother joins in "kind regards to you, with
"Yours very sincerely,
"4, Berkeley Street, Cheltenham.”
"J. G. BURNS.
In July, 1859, both the brothers and Miss Annie Burns came to Clifton, on their way to the South of Ireland, and spent a day with me. Colonel James died at Cheltenham, 18th November, 1865, and Colonel William at the same place, 21st February, 1872, and both were buried in the vault below the Mausoleum in Ayrshire.
Comparative Sketch of the Poetry of Burns and Wordsworth, by Lord Neaves." Auld Lang Syne" exemplified.-Could Burns write good poetry in English?-Will the Scottish dialect, as used by him, injure his future celebrity?—These questions considered.Notices of Chaucer, Spenser, Cowley, Dryden, with quotations.--Shakspere.-Milton.-Altered state of society, customs, and manners may modify the influence of poetry written under different social conditions.
FTER I had sent the second chapter to be printed, I received a letter from Lord Cowan, an eminent Scottish Judge, who retired, about a year ago, from the Court of Session, honoured and respected, who is my oldest, best, and most valued surviving friend in Scotland. "I send you a copy of an address, delivered, a short time ago, by our friend, Lord Neaves, in which he introduces a com'parative sketch of the poetry of Burns and Words"worth. Having told him that you intended to write "about Burns, and inquired whether he had not lately "done something in that way, he directed Messrs. "Blackwood to send two copies of his 'Lecture on "Cheap and Accessible Pleasures,' one for myself, and "another for you. I think his sentiments are just and 'true, and the advice he gives to his audience really good."
AULD LANG SYNE.
This welcome lecture came opportunely. Neaves will observe that we agree in our appreciation of the merits of the two great poets whom he has so skilfully, and with such beauty of style and sentiment, compared, and his allusion to the letter from Mr. Gray will be prized by every admirer of Burns. "I regard," says Lord Neaves, "the testimony of Mr. James Gray, an old friend of my own, and a most pure-minded and trust-worthy man, as quite conclusive." "I owe it as "a debt of gratitude to Mr. Gray, who was my High "Schoolmaster, that he taught me to love and reverence "both Burns and Wordsworth at a time when the Edinburgh Review tried to lower the character of the "one and the poetry of the other."
The following sentiments will receive a warm response from many hearts:-"No piece of poetry is so popular, "or has exerted so magical a power as the song of "Auld lang syne.' At home and abroad it has melted "and delighted the hearts of Scotchmen in all ranks "and places—and no wonder. It contains, indeed, no "fine writing, no elaborate thinking; but its very sim"plicity and its shortness are part of its power, and its "natural tone has the effect of high art. The sentiment that pervades it is universal, and as strong as it is general-the happiness of early friends meeting after "a long and eventful separation."
We twa ha'e run about the braes,
But we've wandered mony a weary
We twa ha'e paidelt† in the burn,
But seas between us braid ha'e roar'd,
THE QUEEN'S drive.
Here is an appropriate illustration. In the year 1822, there passed Advocates, or as would be said in England, were called to the Bar, nineteen young men. month of July, 1873, only five of them survived, of whom one had long ceased to attend the Court of Session. Two were the eminent Judges already named; the third was the learned antiquarian lawyer, a Principal Clerk of Session, also Professor of History in Edinburgh. University, Cosmo Innes; the fourth was a veteran renegade, the writer of this narrative.
Lord Cowan kindly arranged that we four should meet at the Judge's private room, and he sent his carriage to take my youngest daughter and myself to Holyrood, thence to the Queen's Drive, around Arthur's Seat and Salisbury Crags-a favourite resort of Burns during his Edinburgh visit, and since made classic by Scott's "Waverley" and "Heart of Mid-Lothian, scenery long ago very familiar to me. Within so short a circuit there are no views in the United Kingdom more pleasing and picturesque than those seen from the Queen's Drive:-Edinburgh, Scott's own romantic town, the Firth of Forth, its islands, the Bass Rock, the coast of Fife, and, in the far north-west, the blue Grampians, of which Ben Ledi and Ben Lomond are conspicuous, suggesting visions of sequestered vallies and their streams and lakes, and tales of ancient chivalry and feudal warfare. When our party, including two members of Lord Cowan's family, arrived at the Parliament House, there happened to be a meeting of the Faculty of Advocates, and as we were about to enter one of the rooms of their very valuable and extensive library, we were suddenly stopped by the porter. Mr. Cowan said, "This gentleman is an "Advocate." The man stared, astonished, "I beg 'your pardon, Sir, for really I did na ken ye were ane "o' the Faculty." "Nae wonder, my man, for I havena "been here in Session time for near fifty years.' "And "I was just a wee bit callant then; but noo that I "do ken ye are an Advocate, I hope ye will gang into “the meeting, and astonish them." "Their astonish
"ment would not be so great as yours; besides, I have "an appointment immediately to meet two of the "Judges." "But, just to think o' my ill manners to "you, Sir." And so I had the happiness to meet the two Judges, and also Mr. Innes, whom we visited the next day at Inverleith House, his beautiful place, near Edinburgh. After our walk in his grounds, he accompanied us some way into the city, and we parted in the hope to meet again at Druid Stoke, the residence of his niece and her husband, Mr. Sykes, in Gloucestershire, my friends and neighbours, and also under my own roof; a conditional promise never to be fulfilled, for before the end of another Autumn, I heard with sorrow of the lamented death of the learned and accomplished Professor; a true gentleman, amiable, kind, courteous, of polished manners and noble mien. Thus to meet, and so to part, was a bright and pleasant but sadly transient revival of "Auld lang syne.'
On the following Monday my daughter and I dined. at Lord Cowan's, to meet Lord Neaves and a third eminent Judge, whose cordial recognition, anticipating our host's introduction, prevented me from immediately knowing whose friendly hand grasped mine; but I soon discovered him to be Lord Ardmillan, the Chairman of the Edinburgh Meeting at the Centenary, who takes his judicial title from his paternal estate in the Land of Burns. On former visits to Edinburgh, since leaving it after twelve year's residence, the Courts and the University having been in vacation, the city seemed deserted, so many of the inhabitants having left it for their country residences, or to keep holiday in various places at home or abroad. And at each successive visit it was more sadly desolate, from the numerous friends of youth that were added to the long roll of the departed. More cheerful, happy, and agreeable recollections are associated with that last visit, probably the very last.
In the valuable lecture by Lord Neaves, LL.D., F.R.S.E., already mentioned, is the following passage:"Burns, as often happens in a country where the