« PreviousContinue »
THIS EDITION OF
THE LIFE AND POETICAL WORKS.
THE NATIONAL BARD OF SCOTLAND
EXPRESSLY DESIGNED FOR POPULAR CIRCULATION,
BY SPECIAL AUTHORITY OF
The Noblemen and Gentlemen of the Caledonian Hunt,
RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED BY THE PUBLISHER TO THEM,
AS WORTHY SUCCESSORS OF
THE EARLY PATRONS OF BURNS ;
IN IMPLICIT CONFIDENCE
THAT THEY, LIKE THEIR PREDECESSORS OF 1787,
" BEAR THE HONORS, AND INHERIT THE VIRTUES OF THEIR
KILMARNOCK, August, 1871.
“ A true Poet-a man in whose heart resides some efluence of Wisdom, some tone of the “Eternal Melodies,' is the most precious gift that can be bestowed on a generation: his life is a rich lesson to us; and we mourn his death as that of a benefactor who loved and taught us."-CARLYLE.
In these days when new editions of Burns are “as plentiful as blackberries in autumn,” a few words by way of preface may naturally be expected here, to account for the appearance of these volumes. · It is now more than twenty years since the present editor felt that he might opportunely say and do something regarding Burns, whose biography and writings had long been the favourite recreation and study of his leisure hours. Contented as he was to read and admire, in common with the rest of the world, the memoirs of the Bard, with relative words of wisdom and enthusiasm from the pens of Currie, Walker, Lockhart, Carlyle, Cunningham, and Wilson, he nevertheless, could not help being dissatisfied with the looseness, and abounding inaccuracies as to dates, facts, and details, uniformly exhibited by the Poet's editors, in treating of notable events in his brief career. The increasing interest everywhere felt concerning Burns, had created a strong furor for hunting up and recording petty anecdotes regarding him, and accumulating his impromptu versicles and fragmentary effusions. A host of peripatetic annotators fed the press from time to time with their gatherings, but no one seemed to set himself earnestly to the task of investigating important facts in the Poet's history, hitherto misrepresented or embellished with fiction, and of correcting palpable errors of date, as well in the details of his Life, as in the arrangement of his Correspondence.
In the course of preparing-for his own use—a chronological table of the principal events of the Poet's life and the productions of his Muse, it fell to the lot of the editor to make some remarkable discoveries in reference to what had hitherto been a very obscure and mysterious passage in the history of Burns--namely, that of his brief but tender intercourse with the “ Highland Mary” of his most impassioned and affecting lyrics. These revelations were announced to the world through the medium (first)
of Dr. Daniel Wilson, now of Toronto, and (secondly) of . Dr. Robert Chambers, of Edinburgh. The result of his
researches caused considerable commotion at the time in literary circles, and awakened the interest (among other magnates of the press) of Professor Wilson and J. G. Lockhart. Some lasting public benefit has accrued from the humble labours referred to; inasmuch as the new discoveries formed the main inducement for Chambers to edit and publish, in 1851–52, his admirable Chronological Edition of Burns, in four volumes.
So very satisfactory, as a whole, is the edition by Chambers, just referred to, that the present writer would