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LETTER FROM COLONEL J. G. BURNS.
private family matters, which had been in my custody for thirty years, and which I sent to him, and after referring with approbation to the proceedings at the celebration of the centenary at Bristol, Colonel Burns wrote:
“Since our return to this country, my brother (Colonel “ William Nicol Burns) and I have annually visited “Scotland, and always made a point of seeing your late
worthy aunt in Ayr, and often have I heard her lament 'the heartless robbery of my father's letters to her “father.”
"I had the pleasnre of meeting your father, the “Andrew dear' of one of the Poet's noblest and finest “ inspirations, at a large dinner given to the Ettrick
Shepherd. After a separation of thirty-two years, my “ brother and I have been spared to pass the evening of
our lives together, and have been domiciled here for nearly fourteen years, our house being kept by my daughter Annie. If business or pleasure shall ever induce
yours to visit this Queen of Watering“places, you must bear in mind most strictly, that the
grandson of Robert Aiken must not pass the door of “the Poet's sons, where there will be always room and
a most hearty welcome for you. My brother joins in ““ kind regards to you, with
“Yours very sincerely,
“J. G. Burns. " 4, Berkeley Street, Cheltenham."
In July, 1859, both the brothers and Miss Annie Burns came to Clifton, on their way to the South of Ireland, and spent a day with me. Colonel James died at Cheltenham, 18th November, 1865, and Colonel William at the same place, 21st February, 1872, and both were buried in the vault below the Mausoleum in Ayrshire.
HE FORMS A PARISH LIBRARY.
Glencairn, the truly noble, lies in dust;
While at Ellisland, among the other titles to the respect and gratitude of his neighbours, Burns, at the suggestion of Mr. Riddel, of Friar's Carse, superintended the formation of a subscription library in the parish. His letters to the booksellers on this subject, writes Mr. Lockhart, do him much honour. His choice of authors (which business was naturally left to his discretion) being in the highest degree judicious. Such institutions are now common-almost universal indeed —in the rural districts of Southern Scotland; but it should never be forgotten that Burns was among the first, if not the very first, to set the example. “He was “so good,” says Mr. Riddel, “as to take the whole
management of this concern; he was treasurer, “ librarian, and censor to our little society, who will "long have a grateful sense of his public spirit and “ exertions for their improvement and information.”
One of his best known and most admired letters to Mrs. Dunlop was written on the ist of January, 1789:“This, dear Madam is a morning of wishes, and would “to God that I came under the Apostle James's des
cription, the prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” “In that case, Madam, you should welcome in a year “ full of blessings; every thing that obstructs or disturbs "tranquillity and self-enjoyment should be removed, “and every pleasure that frail humanity can taste should “be yours. I own myself so little a Presbyterian, that I
approve of set times and seasons of more than ordi“ nary acts of devotion, for breaking in on that habitual
LEITER TO MRS. DUNLOP.
“routine of life and thought, which is so apt to reduce “our existence to a kind of instinct, or even sometimes, " and with some minds, to a state very little superior to “ mere machinery. This day; the first Sunday of May;
a breezy, blue-skyed noon some time about the begin“ning, and a hoary morning and calm sunny day about
the end, of Autumn; these, time out of mind, have “ heen with me a kind of holiday. I believe I owe this “ to that glorious paper in the Spectator, “The Vision of
Mirza ;' a piece that struck my young fancy before I
was capable of fixing an idea to a word of three “syllables: ‘On the fifth day of the moon, which, “according to the custom of my forefathers, I always “keep holy, after having washed myself, and offered up "my morning devotions, I ascended the high hill of
Bagdat, in order to pass the rest of the day in medita“tion and prayer.
“We know nothing, or next to nothing, of the substance or structure of our souls, so cannot account for “those seeming caprices in them, that one should be 'particularly pleased with this thing, or struck with "that, which, on minds of a different cast, make no "extraordinary impression. I have some favourite
flowers in spring, among which are the mountain “ daisy, the harebell, the foxglove, the wild-briar rose,
the budding birch, and the hoary hawthorn, that I “ view and hang over with particular delight. I never “ heard the loud, solitary whistle of the curlew, in a
summer noon, or the wild mixing cadence of a group "of grey plover in an autumnal morning, without feel“ing an elevation of soul like the enthusiasm of devotion
or of poetry. Tell me, my dear friend, to what can “this be owing? Are we a piece of machinery, which, “ like the Æolian harp, passively takes the impression “of the passing accident? Or do these workings
argue something within us above the trodden clod ? “I own myself partial to such proofs of those awful “and important realities—a God who made all things“ man's immaterial and immortal nature—and a world “of weal or woe beyond death and the grave.”
REV. JAMES GRAY'S TESTIMONY.
These and other all-important truths he learned in his father's cottage from the “big Ha' Bible.” Those early impressions survived; and if allured by sirens to turn aside from his course, he found it difficult to be regained by striving in gloom and tempest to guide his bark aright; with what intense interest do we watch the struggle, and listen at times to the human wail of that “sad wisdom folly leaves behind ;” while heavenly harmonies resounding from his lyre inspire the longing wish and hope for final safety.
His friend, the Rev. James Gray, who knew him well, described him thus :-“ While the keen eye of Burns
was pregnant with fancy and feeling, and his voice “attuned to the very passion which he wished to communicate, it would hardly have been possible to con“ceive any being more interesting and delightful. I may likewise add, that, to the very end of his life, reading was his favourite amusement. I have never “known any man so intimately acquainted with the "elegant English authors. He seemed to have the “poets by heart. The prose authors he could quote “either in their own words, or clothe their ideas in language more beautiful than their own.
Nor was there ever any decay in any of the powers of his mind. “To the last day of his life, his judgment, his memory,
his imagination, were fresh and vigorous, as when he “composed the “Cotter's Saturday Night.' The truth “is, that Burns was seldom intoxicated. The drunkard
soon becomes besotted, and is shunned even by the convivial. Had he been so, he could not long have continued the idol of every party. It will be freely confessed, that the hour of enjoyment was often pro“longed 'beyond the limit marked by prudence; but "what man will venture to affirm, that in situations “where he was conscious of giving so much pleasure, he could at all times have listened to her voice? The “men with whom he generally associated were not of “the lowest order. He numbered among his intimate “friends, many of the most respectable inhabitants of
Dumfries and the vicinity. Several of those were
attached to him by ties that the hand of calumny, busy as it was, could never snap asunder. They
admired the poet for his genius, and loved the man " for the candour, generosity, and kindness of his nature.
His early friends clung to him through good and bad * report, with a zeal and fidelity that prove their dis* belief of the malicious stories circulated to his dis“advantage. Among them were some of the most “ distinguished characters in this country, and not a few ““ females, eminent for delicacy, taste, and genius."
When young and impetuous, he was encouraged to engage in theological disputation as a partisan and zealous controversialist. In such discussions Christian truths are often unduly exaggerated out of just proportion, and distorted so as to become error, and are set in opposition to other truths with which they should harmoniously unite, as component parts of the great scheme of salvation. The partial views thus early adopted he continued to hold with but little change; nor were they favourable to steadfast faith, strong abiding hope, comfort and peace in life's trials, troubles, and temptations. If the Christian religion, as set forth in the teaching, and exemplified in the lives of such eminent divines as Archbishop Leighton, of the Scottish Episcopalian Church, before his time, and afterwards by Dr. Chalmers, of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, had been cordially embraced by Burns, they would have yielded in him more abundantly “the peaceable fruits of righteousness." For it is not by bringing down scriptural truth from its high unerring standard to the lower level of our imperfect faith and obedience, that man can be justified, or his awakened and accusing conscience can be quieted and appeased. But to all of us, having sinned, being truly penitent, “ remission of “sins that are past is declared through the forbearance “ of God—that He may be just, and the justifier of him “that believeth in Jesus, who has died for our sins, and “risen again for our justification, that we may always 'serve Him in pureness of living and truth.” The religion of Christ and His holy life supply a per