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It ne'er was 'wealth, it ne'er was wealth,
That coft contentment, peace, or pleasure ;
January, 1793. Many returns of the season to you, my dear Sir. How comes on your publication? will these two foregoing be of any service to you? I should like to know what songs you print to each tune besides the verses to which it is set. In short, I would wish to give you my opinion on all the poetry you publish. You know it is my trade, and a man in the way of his trade may suggest useful hints, that escape men of much superior parts and endowments in other things.
If you meet with my dear and much valued C. greet liim, in my name, with the compliments of the season,
• No. XI.
Edinburgh, January 20, 1793. You make me happy, my dear Sir, and thousands will be happy to see the charming songs you have sent nie. Many merry returns of the season to you, and may you long continue, among the sons and daughters of Caledonia, to delight them and to honour yourse!f.
The four last songs with which you favoured me, viz. Auld Rob Morris, Duncan Gray, Galla Water, and Cauld Kail, are admirable. Duncan is indeed a lad of grace, and his humour will endear him to every body.
The distracted lover in Auld Rob, and the happy shepherdess in Galla Water, exhibit an excellent contrast: they speak from genuine feeling, and powerfully touch the heart.
The number of songs which I had originally in riew, was limited; but I now resolve to include every Scotch air and song worth singing, leaving none behind but mere gleanings, to which the publishers of omnegatherum are welcome. I would rather be the editor of a collection from which nothing could be taken away, than of one to which nothing could be added. We intend presenting the subscribers with two beautiful stroke engravings ; the one characteristic of the plaintive, and the other of the lively songs, and I have Dr Beattie's promise of an essay upon the subject of our national music, if his health will permit him to write it. As a number of our songs have doubtless been called forth by particular events, or by the charms of peerless dam sels, there must be many curious anecdotes relating to them.
The late Mr Tytler of Woodhouselee, I believe, knew more of this than any body, for he joined to the pursuits of an antiquary a taste for poetry, besides being a man of the world, and possessing an enthusiasm for music beyond most of his contempo. raries. He was quite pleased with this plan of mine, for I may say it has been solely managed by me, and we had several long conversations about it when it was in embryo. If I could simply mention the name of the heroine of each song, and the incident which occasioned the verses, it would be gratifying. - Pray, will you send me any information of this sort, as well with regard to your own songs, as the old ones?
To all the favourite songs of the plaintive or pas. toral kind, will be joined the delicate accompaniments, &c. of Pleyel. To those of the comic and humorous class, I think accompaniments scarcely necessary; they are chiefly fitted for the conviviality of the festive board, and a tuneful voice, with a proper delivery of the words, renders them perfect. Nevertheless, to these I propose adding bass accompaniments, because then they are fitted either for singing, or for instrumental performance, when there happens to be no singer. I mean to employ our right trusty friend Mr Clarke, to set the bass to these, which he assures me he will do con amore, and with much greater attention than he ever bestowed on any thing of the kind. But for this last class of airs I will not attempt to find more than one set of verses.
That eccentric bard, Peter Pindar, has started I know not how many difficulties, about writing for the airs I sent to him, because of the peculiarity of their measure, and the trammels they impose on his flying Pegasus. I subjoin for your perusal the only one I have yet got from him, being for the fine air “ Lord Gregory.” The Scots verses printed with that air, are taken from the middle of an old ballad, called The Loss of Lochroyan, which I do not adnire; I have set down the air therefore as a.creditor of yours. Many of the Jacobite songs are replete with wit and humour, might not the best of these be included in our volume of comic songs ?
From The Hon. A. ERSKINE.
MR THOMson has been so owliging as to give me a perusal of your songs. Highland Mary is most enchantingly pathetic, and Duncan Gray possesses native genuine humour ; “spak o' lowpin o'er a “ linn,” is a line of itself that should make you immortal. I sometimes hear of you from our mutual friend C. who is a most excellent fellow, and possesses, above all men I know, the charm of a most obliging disposition. You kindly promised me, about a year ago, a collection of your unpublished productions, religious and amorous ; I know from experience how irksome it is to copy. If you will get any trusty person in Dumfries to write them over fair, I will give Peter Hill whatever money he asks for his trouble, and I certainly shall not betray your confidence.--I am your hearty admirer,
MR BURNS to MR THOMSON.
26th January, 1793. I APPROVE greatly, my dear Sir, of your plans; Dr Beattie's essay will of itself be a treasure. On my part, I mean to draw up an appendix to the Doctor's essay, containing my stock of anecdotes, &c. of our Scots songs. All the late Mr Tytler's anecdotes I have by me, taken down in the course of my acquaintance with him from his own-mouth. I am such an enthusiast, that, in the course of my several peregrinations through Scotland, I made a pilgrimage to the individual spot from which every song took its rise ; Lochaber, and the Braes of Bal. lenden, excepted. So far as the locality, either from the title of the air, or the tenor of the song, could be ascertained, I have paid my devotions at the parti. cular shrine of every Scots muse.
I do not doubt but you might make a very valu. ble collection of Jacobite songs; but would it give no offence? In the mean time, do not you think that some of them, particularly The sow's tail to Geordie, as an air, with other words, might be well worth a place in your collection of lively songs ?
If it were possible to procure songs of merit, it would be proper to have one set of Scots words to every air, and that the set of words to which the notes ought to be set. There is a naïveté, a pastoral simplicity, in a slight interniixture of Scots words and phraseology, which is more in unison (at least