Page images

No. XXX.


Argyle-square, Edinburgh, 4th May, 1787.


I WAS favored this forenoon with your very obliging letter, together with an impression of your portrait, for which I return you my best thanks. The success you have met with I do not think was beyond your merits; and if I have had

any small hand in contributing to it, it gives me great pleasure. I know no way in which literary persons who are advanced in years can do more service to the world, than in forwarding the efforts of rising genius, or bringing forth unknown merit from obscurity. I was the first person who brought out to the notice of the world, the poems of Ossian; first, by the Fragments of ancient Poetry, which I published, and afterwards, by my setting on foot the undertaking for collecting and


publishing the Works of Ossian; and I have always considered this as a meritorious action of

my life.

Your situation, as you say, was indeed very singular; and in being brought out all at once from the shades of deepest privacy to so great a share of public notice and observation, you had to stand a severe trial. I am happy that you have stood it so well ; and, as far as I have known or heard, though in the midst of many temptations, without reproach to your character and behaviour.


You are now I presume to retire to a more private walk of life; and I trust will conduct

yourself there with industry, prudence and honour. You have laid the foundation for just public esteem. In the midst of those employments, which your situation will render proper, you will not I hope neglect to promote that esteem, by cultivating your genius, and attending to such productions of it, as may raise your character still higher. At the same time be not in too great a haste to come forward. Take time and leisure to improve and mature your talents. For on any second production you give the world, your fate, as a poet, will very much depend. There is no doubt a gloss of novelty, which time wears off. As you very properly hint yourself, you are not to be

surprized surprized, if in your rural retreat you do not find yourself surrounded with that glare of notice and applause which here shone upon you. No man can be a good poet without being somewhat of a philosopher. He must lay his account, that any one, who exposes himself to public observation, will occasionally meet with the attacks of illiberal censure, which it is always best to overlook and despise. He will be inclined sometimes to court retreat, and to disappear from public view. He will not affect to shine always, that he may at proper seasons come forth with more advantage and energy. He will not think himself neglected if he be not always praised. I have taken the liberty you see of an old man to give advice and make reflections, which your own good sense will I dare say render unnecessary.


mention your being just about to leave town, you are going, I should suppose, to Dumfries-shire to look at some of Mr. Miller's farms. I heartily wish the offers to be made you there may answer ; as I am persuaded you will not easily find a more generous and better hearted proprietor to live under, than Mr. Miller. When you return, if you come this way, I will be happy to see you, and to know concerning your future plans of life. You will find me by the 22d of this month,


not in


house in Argyle-square, but at a country house at Restalrig, about a mile east from Edinburgh, near the Musselburgh road. Wishing you all success and prosperity, I am with real regard and esteem,

Dear Sir,

Yours sincerely,



[ocr errors]



Clifford-street, May 23d, 1787.


I HAD the pleasure of your letter by Mr. Creech, and soon after he sent me the new edition of your poems. You seem to think it incumbent on you to send to each subscriber a number of copies proportionate to his subscription money, but you may depend upon it, few subscri·bers expect more than one copy whatever they subscribed; I must inform you however that I took twelve copies for those subscribers, for whose money you were so accurate as to send me a receipt, and Lord Eglintoun told me he had sent for six copies for himself, as he wished to give five of them in presents.

Some of the poems you have added in this last


« PreviousContinue »