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Present my respectful compliments to Mrs. Burns, to my dear friend Gilbert, and all the rest of her amiable children. May the father of the universe bless you all with those principles and dispositions, that the best of parents took such uncommon pains to instil into your minds, from your earliest infancy. May you live as he did : if you do, you can never be unhappy. I feel myself grown serious all at once, and affected in a manner I cannot describe. I shall only add, that it is one of the greatest pleasures I promise myself before I die, that of seeing the family of a man whose memory I revere more than that of any person that ever I was acquainted with...
I am, my dear friend,
FROM MR. ~
Gordon Castle, 31st October, 1787.
IF you were not sensible of your fault as well as of your loss, in leaving this place so suddenly, I should condemn you to starve upon cauld kail for ae towmont at least; and as for Dick Latine * your travelling companion, without banning him wi' a' the curses contained in your letter (which he'll no value a bawbee) I should give him nought but Stra’bogie castocks to chew for sax ouks, or ay until he was as sensible of his error as you seem to be of yours.
Your song I shewed without producing the
* Mr. Nicol.
author; and it was judged by the Dutchess to be the production of Dr. Beattie. I sent a copy of it, by her grace's desire to a Mrs. M-Pherson, in Badenoch, who sings Morag, and all other Gaelic songs in great perfection. I have recorded it likewise, by lady Charlotte's desire, in a book belonging to her ladyship; where it is in company with a great many other poems and verses, some of the writers of which are no less eminent for their political than for their poetical abilities. When the Dutchess was informed that you were the author, she wished you had written the verses in Scotch.
Any letter directed to me here will come to hand safely, and, if sent under the Duke's cover, it will likewise come free; that is, as long as the Duke is in this country.
I am, Sir, yours sincerely,
THE REVEREND JOHN SKINNER.
Linsbeart, 14th November, 1787.
YOUR kind return without date, but of postmark October 25th, came to my hand only this day, and to testify my punctuality to my poetic engagement, I sit down immediately to answer it in kind. Your acknowledgment of my poor but just encomiums on your surprising genius, and your opinion of my rhyming excursions, are both, I think, by far too high. The difference between our two tracks of education and ways of life is entirely in your favour, and gives you the preference every manner of way. I know a classical education will not create a versifying taste, but itmightily improves and assists it; and though where both these meet, there may sometimes be ground for approbation, yet where taste appears single as it were, and neither cramped nor supported by acquisition, I will always sustain the justice of its prior claim to applause. A small portion of taste, this way, I have had almost from childhood, especially in the old Scottish dialect; and it is as old a thing as I remember, my fondness for, Christ-kirk o' the green, which I had by heart ere I was twelve years of age, and which some years ago I attempted to turn into Latin verse. While I was young I dabbled a good deal in these things : but on getting the black gown I gave it pretty much over, 'till my daughters grew up, who being all good singers, plagued me for words to some of their favorite tunes, and so extorted these effusions, which have made a public appearance beyond my expectations, and contrary to my intentions, at the same time that I hope there is nothing to be found in them uncharacteristic, or unbecoming the cloth which I would always wish to see respected.