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find, has exposed Mr. Eton himself to warm persecution from men who disgrace not merely the names of Britons but our nature itself, by being apologists for the exercise of slavish domination over those who volunteered subjection to us. How courts and ministers treat this gentleman, whose bosom glows with feelings so worthy of a British subject in the better days of our country, we are not precisely informed : but of this he may rest assured, that, wherever his conduct and his ill-treatment are known, he will be the object of the esteem and affection of those who respect enlightened views, and who honour generous and manly conduct. We most anxiously and ardently wish him success in his praise-worthy object. If he could interest the public in the fate of fellow-men, and fellow - subjects not unworthy of sharing with us the invaluable blessings of a free government, we might anticipate a desirable result : but can we believe that those, who make a boast of setting their faces against all amelioration at home, will be found to patronize liberal and benignant institutions in a distant dependency; or that those, who foster corruption among ourselves, will encourage purity among strangers ? In the present days of national humiliation and national apathy, when commercial avarice has supplanted public spirit,-when false patriotism forbids the exercise of discrimination in regard to public men,-and when it openly maintains that honour, integrity, and ability, are intitled to no preference over servility, venality, and intrigue, and thus insures permanent rule to the latter,-- who can be sanguine enough to expect to see a wise and salutary measure adopted, at the dictates of generous feeling, and on the principles of comprehensive policy?
Art. IX. Reliques of Robert Burns ; consisting chiefly of original
Letters, Poems, and critical Observations on Scottish Songs.
the judgment is more delicate, than that which is required in the posthumous publication of the remaining works of an admired author. While, on the one hand, the fastidious critic would reject all but the finished productions of Genius ; on the other, the literary helluo would devour every scrap of composition that can be found in the ransacked portfolios of the departed. The sacredness of the last repose of merit has doubtless been too often violated by this insatiable curiosity ; and yet it is so natural a feeling to be desirous of learning all
that we can obtain of the intellectual character of distina guished writers, that perhaps more readers are pleased with the minute copiousness of Boswell in recording the daily conversation of Johnson, than with the reserve and caution which were adopted by Mason in his Memoirs of Gray. The very full and satisfactory account, however, which Dr. Currie gave us of Burns, and the ample collection of the Poet's works both in prose and verse which was presented to us by that editor*, had not prepared us to expect any undiscovered treasures from the same mine. We were agreeably surprized, therefore, by the present volume; which, although it contains several pieces that are undeserving of publication, and several which have been already printed, yet enriches our stock of poetry with some valuable gleanings, undiscovered by the less active industry of the former editor, or suppressed by the too timid nicety of his acknowleged taste.-- In the fragments of Burns's letters, and in his miscellancous observations, it affords us the still higher gratification of penetrating into the very heart and in most feelings of this extraordinary man; and on the whole we have been so much pleased with the volume, that, after a few preliminary remarks on a subject which is strongly suggested to our minds by its contents, we shall proceed to lay as much of those contents before our readers as our limits will admit.
Whence does it arise that the race of Poets are so frequently the children of imprudence and of consequent misery? --Not to adopt the illiberal remark of Johnson, « that Gilbert West was one of the few of the tuneful tribe to whom death needed not be terrible,” we may with truth and sorrow reflect how many illustrious sons of song have yielded to the wild impulse of their ungovernable feelings ; and have carried into life, and the conduct of common affairs, the same turbulence of passion that has been excited by the indulgence of those visionary hopes and fears, which agitate their bosoms in retirement. The fancy has been so inflamed by dwelling in a world of its own creation, where all is noble, generous, and fair ; the heart has been so melted by imaginary scenes of , distress ; and the inlets of real affliction have been so multiplied, if we may thus express ourselves, by the encouragement of every kind of sensibility ; that the Poet comes into the society of his fellow-creatures unguarded by caution, and unprepared to meet with any thing but sympathy; dreaming that his “ images will find a mirror in every mind, and his sentiments an echo in every bosom.” Alas ! he is miserably
See Rev, vul. xxxiv. N. S. pp. 278. 374.
deceived ;-the world has business of its own to follow, and must calculate on the means of success. Those who know mankind know that indiscretion, in words or actions, cannot be displayed without being remarked and punished. The tongue which speaks all that it thinks, and the heart that is carried in the hand, are not for Society. Often, also, it must be confessed, such an alliance subsists between a warm im agination and a vicious indulgence in forbidden enjoyments, that the Poet is answerable for his own ruin :-not but that it is accelerated by the envy and uncharitableness of too many around him ; wretches who love to help and to see the downfall of excellence which they cannot attain ; and whose ran. corous observation follows the track by which easiness of temper degenerates into immorality, with affected astonish ment, but with real self-complacency. Such men have their reward, in the profits and honours of the world.
“ Yet triumph not, ye self-adoring few!
Fire, Nature, Genius, never dwelt with you
Pleasures of Hope. What a wonderful coincidence of thought do we find in some of the desponding expressions of poor Chatterton, and in the letters of Burns ! The same ardent and sanguine minds, the same lofty confidence in their own powers, the same mixture of pride in thinking of the world and of tenderness in thinking of those whom they loved, mark both the poets. The unhappy boy, indeed, had wholly lost the guide and monitor by which Burns at times so strongly held, and which, doubtless, was the chief and effectual restraint on his conduct. The want of a fixed religious principle has assuredly been the cause of most of the miseries that have been brought on themselves, by many of the class of men whom we are now considering. In a highly impressive passage among the prose fragments of Burns, after he has confessed the great source of his unhappiness in life, (namely, “ that he has turned his eyes to behold madness and folly,”) he adds." Nay, I have, with all the ardour of a lively, fanciful, and whimsical imagination, with a warm, feeling, poetic heart, shaken hands with their intoxicating friendship ;" and he then abruptly closes his advice to
any young man, who, in the vestibule of the world, should chance to throw his eye over these pages," as follows:-*" in the first place, let my pupil, as he tenders his own peace, keep up a regular warm intercourse with the Deity!" Rox. Dec. 1809. Dd
That restlessness of disposition, or that incapability of confining the wishes and exertions to one routine of profitable employment, which has proved the destruction of so many poets, is displayed in a striking light throughout Burns's letters. For a short time, we see him carrying his best resolutions into practice; and nobly does he exclaim, though disgusted and heart-sick at his ofice of exciseman, (an office which we may almost call unnatural to him,)
“ These muvia things ca'd wives and weane,
Wad muve the very hearts o' stanes !” but with the fondest conjugal affection, irregularity of conduct in the dull discharge of business will arise, when the mind is liable to be carried away by every new and pleasing train of thought ; and, delighted with the imaginary “joys, loves cares, and even woes” which it embodies in verse, it forgets the serious and pressing duties of necessary though hateful labour. We may readily conceive how often the business of the Excise stood still, while Burns, according to his own description, was sitting and making remarks on the pleasures of a poetical genius, « in the solitary parlour of a solitary inn, over a solitary bottle of wine ;” exclaiming, with Goldsmith, to his Muse,
« Thou source of all my bliss, and all my woe,
That found'st me poor at first, and keeps't me so !" drinking the health of those whom he lov'd, or singing in the sweetest of all strains such tender melodies as the following i
4 Thoul't break my heart, thou bonie bird
That sings upon the bough:
fause love was true!"So complete a detail of the several events of Burns's life, col. lected from his own memorandums and letters, is already before the public, that our task in reviewing this volume will be only that of selecting, without regard to order, from the parts which we consider as most likely to contribute to the amusement of our readers.
We begin with those passages in proge which strongly display the heart of the writer.-- Addressing a friend, who, (like too many physical students, embarrassed by difficulties in their researches, and unreasonably doubting the existence of that object whose mode of existence they cannot discover,) had entertained sceptical principles, Burns says (page 20)-_- You have shown me one thing, which was to be demonstrated that strong pride of reasoning, with a little affectation of
singularity, may mislead the best of hearts. I, likewise, since you and I were first acquainted, in the pride of despising old women's stories, ventured in “ the daring path Spinosa trod;" but experience of the weakness, not the strength, of human powers, made me glad to grasp at revealed religion.” Would that these words, strengthened as they are by his authority and his example who wrote them, could penetrate the heart of those few (we hope) still remaining among us, who proudly limit the power of the Creator by the creature's ignorance.
At page 31. we have a most extraordinary rhapsody, in admiration of Milton's Satan !-but the expressions, we conclude, had startled Burns's correspondent, and he explains himself at page 356. very satisfactorily. No persons are so liable to be misunderstood as men of ardent feelings and imaginations ; except by those of congenial temperament. Such men always speak elliptically ; that is, leave much to the understanding of their hearers, whom they think it would insult to suppose them to be incapable of supplying the necessary and obvious links in the chain of argument. — “My favourite feature, (says Burns) in Milton's Satan, is his manly fortitude in supporting what cannot be remedied-in short the wild broken fragments of a noble exalted mind in ruins. This was all I meant by saying he was a favourite hero of mine." There is an energy of language peculiar to Burns, and indeed to all genuine poets. This energy strikes directly at the point in view ; and the cold prosing reasoner, lost in the chasm over which the poet has leapt, generously imagines that he also has tumbled into it; when, easily followed by minds of congenial ardour, activity, and strength, he is gone on to realms beyond,—realms of beauty, splendour, and noble imagination. Meanwhile, this misconception of their meaning excites the natural irritability of the race of men in question ; and from being wrongfully suspected or accused of dangerous doctrines in the first instance, they are apt in their more incautious, that is, in their more convivial, moments, to utter things from a spirit of contradiction and hostility, which after the splenetic fit is over they heartily regret. That Burns was strongly susceptible of these feelings, many passages in his life testify. An anecdote also occurs in a note (pages 80 and 81) to this volume, which is illustrative of the fact :
(From a letter which is printed in Dr. Currie's collection, it ap. pears that Burns entertained no great respect for what may be stiled technical criticism. He loved the man who judged of poetical compositions from the heart - but looked with an evil eye upon those who decided by the cold decisions of the head. This is evinced by the following anecdote.
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