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pretty well know the
pang of disappointment, the sting of pride, with some wandering stabs of remorse, which never fail to settle on my vitals like vultures, when attention is not called away by the calls of society, or the vagaries of the muse. Even in the hour of social mirth, my gaiety is the madness of an intoxicated criminal under the hands of the executioner. All these reasons urge me to go abroad, and to all these reasons I have only one answer—the feelings of a father. This, in the present mood I am in, overbalances every thing, that can be laid in the scale against it.
You may perhaps think it an extravagant fancy, but it is a sentiment, which strikes home to my very soul : though sceptical in some points of our current belief, yet, I think, I have every evidence for the reality of a life beyond the stinted bourne of our present existence ; if so then, how should I, in the presence of that tremendous Being, the Author of existence, how should I meet the reproaches of those, who stand to me in the dear relation of children, whom I deserted in the smiling innocency of helpless infancy? O, thou great unknown Power! Thou almighty God! who hast lighted up reason in my breast, and blessed me with immortality! I have frequently wandered from that order and regularity
necessary for the perfection of thy works, yet thou hast never left me nor forsaken me!
Since I wrote the foregoing sheet, I have seen something of the storm of mischief thickening over my folly-devoted head.
Should you, my friends, my benefactors, be successful in your applications for me, perhaps it may not be in my power in that way, to reap the fruit of your friendly efforts. What I have written in the preceding pages, is the settled tenor of my present resolution; but should inimical circumstances forbid me closing with your kind offer, or enjoying it only threaten to entail farther misery
To tell the truth, I have little reason for this last complaint; as the world, in general, has been kind to me fully up to my deserts. I was, for some time past, fast getting into the pining, distrustful, snarl of the misanthrope. I saw myself alone, unfit for the struggle of life, shrinking at every rising cloud in the chance-directed atmosphere of fortune, while, all defenceless, I looked about in vain for a cover.
It never occurred to me, at least, never with the force it deserv'd, that this world is a busy scene, and man, a creature destined for a progressive struggle; and that, however I might possess a warm heart and inoffensive manners, (which last, by the bye, was rather more than I could well boast :) still, more than these passive qualities, there was something to be done. When all my school-fellows and youthful compeers (those misguided few excepted, who joined, to use a Gentoo phrase, the hallachores of the human race) were striking off with eager hope and earnest intent, in some one or other of the many paths of busy life, I was “ standing idle in the market place," or only left the chace of the butterfly from flower to flower, to hunt fancy from whim to whim.
You see, Sir, that if to know one's errors were a probability of mending them, I stand a fair chance : but, according to the reverend Westminster divines, though conviction must precede conversion, it is very far from always implying
*This letter was evidently written under the distress of mind occasioned by our poet's separation from Mrs. Burns.
To Mrs. DUNLOP, or DUNLOP.
I AM truly sorry I was not at home yesterday, when I was so much honor'd with
your order for my copies, and incomparably more by the handsome compliments you are pleased to pay my poetic abilities. I am fully persuaded that there is not any class of mankind so feelingly alive to the titillations of applause as the sons of Parnassus; nor is it easy to conceive how the heart of the poor bard dances with rapture, when those, whose character in life gives them a right to be polite judges, honor him with their approbation. Had you been thoroughly acquainted with me, Madam, you could not have touched my darling heart-chord more sweetly than by noticing my attempts to celebrate your illustrious ancestor, the Saviour of his Country.
“ Great, patriot hero! ill-requited chief!"
The first book I met with in my early years, which I perused with pleasure, was, The Life of Hannibal; the next was, The History of Sir William Wallace: for several of my earlier years I had few other authors; and many a solitary hour have I stole out after the laborious vocations of the day, to shed a tear over their glorious, but unfortunate, stories. In those boyish days I remember in particular, being struck with that part of Wallace's story where these lines occur
Syne to the Leglen wood, when it was late, " To make a silent and a safe retreat."
I chose a fine summer Sunday, the only day my line of life allowed, and walked half a dozen of miles to pay my respects to the Leglen-wood, with as much devout enthusiasm as ever pilgrim did to Loretto; and, as I explored every den and dell where I could suppose my heroic countryman to have lodged, I recollect (for even then I was a rhymer) that my heart glowed with a wish to be able to make a song on him in some measure equal to his merits. D