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the following year. “The Spouter," included in the second of Mr. Grosart's volumes, seems below Wilson's average style, and may be the work of some other hand. The inimitable and ever fresh “Watty and Meg" appeared anonymously as a chap-book in 1792. Tradition of a sort has identified the two principal characters in the drama with a certain Watty Matthie and Meg Love, of Lochwinnoch; but more exact inquiry fixes upon the Seedhills, Paisley, as the exact locality, “Mungo Blue” being a certain William Mitchell, keeper of a change-house there; “Dryster Jock," a John Campbell employed in the cornmill; and “Pate Tamson," a tanner in the same place. “Watty" and “Meg" also, Crawfords by name, were well known to Wilson. Shortly after the poem appeared, “Meg" is reported to have said to her husband, “D'ye ken what lang Sandy Wilson, the poet, has done? He has 'poemed' us.” It is yet open to an artist familiar with old Paisley life to make a reputation by setting forth that exquisite street scene
Folk frae every door came lamping,
Maggy curst them ane and a';
Lost her bauchles i' the snaw.
Like many other enthusiasts, Mr. Grosart, to elevate Wilson, is somewhat less than fair to others. Hector Macneil, for instance, the author of a kindred ballad to “Watty and Meg," known as “Scotland's Skaith,” or “Will and Jean," is spoken of as a vapid, watery imitator; and this, although the common people for whom they were written, and who in such a case are the real test of popularity, are known to have purchased them gladly at the rate of 10,000 in one month. Neither should it be forgotten that Wilson himself never again came up to the mark of “Watty and Meg," while Macneil wrote such songs as “Saw ye my wee Thing?” “My Boy, Tammy,” and “Come under my Plaidie,” with none of which can any of Wilson's songs be compared. Even “The Disconsolate Wren,” his next best piece, is only in the second or third rank of Scottish ballads. The incongruous combination of "snaw” and “sawing" in the first verse of “Watty and Meg" has been frequently pointed out, and many ingenious theories started touching the kind of “sawing” in which the hero was engaged, but none fits so well as the necessity occasionally laid on poets far higher in reputation than Wilson of using words which simply rhyme or rattle without much reference to fitness in other respects. A rhyme was wanted for "blawing;" "snawing" was ready, even in seed time, and so “Watty" was left to waste his treasure on the white drift till wearied, when, if the record is to be followed, he
Dauner'd doon to Mungo Blew's.
Sometime about 1792 Wilson had resumed the loom in Paisley, but chafing under ungenial restraint, in a time of great local excitement he launched the shafts of his satire against certain well-known neighbours, described as “The Shark," “ Light Weight,” &c. The hapless poet was in consequence adjudged guilty of libel, and thrown into prison. A painful letter to his friend Brodie, marked as not printed before, reveals the sad straits to which he was reduced at this time:
“PAISLEY JAIL, 21st May, 1793. “ DEAR SIR,
"When I last wrote you nothing but absolute necessity would have prevailed on me to make the requisition I then did, and sorry I was that that necessity should ever have cause to exist. I sincerely thank you for the token of friendship which you sent me, which I will repay as soon as Providence shall open the door for my release from this new scene of misery—this assemblage of wretches and wretchedness—where the rumbling of bolts, the hoarse exclamations of the jailor, the sighs and sallow countenances of the prisoners, and the general gloom of the place require all the exertions of resolution to be cheerful and resigned to the will of fate, particularly those who have no prospect or expectation of liberty. Being perfectly unable to pay the sum awarded against me, which is in toto £12, 135. 6d., I yesterday gave oath accordingly, and had the comfort to be told that Mr. Sharp was resolved to punish me, though it should cost him a little money. However, I shall know aster a little more confinement of two days or so. Mcantime, to have a line or two from you would be an additional favour to,
Poor, discontented, looked upon as a suspicious character, and with no encumbrance beyond what he recognised as existing towards his father's household, when liberty came, Wilson turned his gaze across the Atlantic to the States where some friends had preceded him. Along with a nephew, William Duncan, he left Belfast Loch in the ship “Swift," 23rd May, 1794, with a mixed body of passengers, 350 in number, and arrived off Cape Delaware, with July. A long and affectionate letter was despatched to his father in a few days from Philadelphia. Wilson's first employment was in a copper-plate printer's office, a trade for which he is not known to have received any special training; then the pack was resumed for a short time, and finally he settled down as a schoolmaster in the township of Kingess, about four miles from the Quaker city. This fixed Wilson's career. From early life, as may be seen in his poetry, he had been fond of all feathered creatures. With the mavis and the blackbird, the robin and the wren, and pigeons of all kinds, he was on the most familiar terms. At Philadelphia was the garden of William Bartram, an experienced botanist and naturalist, and a warm friend of Wilson's to the close of life; and there, too, was Lawson the engraver, who willingly seconded his efforts at selfinstruction and drawing from nature and etching. The beginning of Wilson's great work appears to have been simple enough. In June, 1803, he writes to his old friend Crichton :-“I have had many pursuits since I left Scotlandmathematics, the German language, music, drawing, &c., and I am now about to make a collection of all our finest birds.” Henceforward, writes Mr. Grosart, Wilson devoted himself to this casually announced collection of all America's finest birds “with a consecration of intellect and heart, scrutinising observation, and beautiful enthusiasm that thrill one across half the century and more. North and south, east and west, he journeyed, gun in hand, in forest, brushwood, reeded swamp, river, lake, mountain, everywhere, with a burning passion, combined with a modest patience of research very wonderful." In the fall of 1804, he undertook a two months' pedestrian tour to Utica, making in some days forty-seven miles, and traversing in all upwards of 1,200. 1809 saw him as far south as
Carolina, during which excursion, as he wrote to his father, he visited every town within 150 miles of the Atlantic coast, from the River St. Lawrence to St. Augustine in Florida. Towns were visited chiefly from the facilities they afforded for obtaining subscribers to the “Ornithology,” not always a welcome mission to the author. One entry in his diary runs .“ Visited a number of the literati and wealthy of Cincinnati, who all told me they would think of subscribing.' They are (Wilson dryly adds) a very thoughtful people. Another thought such a book should not be encouraged, as it was not within the reach of common people, and therefore inconsistent with Republican institutions. Worse still from the Governor of Staten Island: “He turned over a few pages, looked at a picture or two, asked my price, and, while in the act of closing the book, added—'I would not give a hundred dollars for all the birds you intend to describe, even had I them alive.'» Pleasant exceptions now and then occurred to such treatment. One merits special mention, a landlord bearing the honoured name of Isaac Walton refusing to take anything for keeping either the wanderer or his horse :-“You seem (the diary records) to be travelling for the good of the world, and I cannot and will not charge you anything. Whenever you come this way call and stay with me-you shall be welcome.” The great journey to Pittsburg is referred to in a letter to his father, February 1811:
“My last route was across the Alleghany Mountains to Pittsburg, thence to the falls of the Ohio—720 miles alone in a boat—thence through the Chickasaw and Choctaw country (nations of Indians), and West Florida to New Orleans, in which journey I sustained considerable hardship, having many dangerous creeks to swim, and having to encamp for thirteen different nights in the woods alone. From New Orleans I sailed to East Florida, furnished with a letter to the Spanish Governor there, and visited a number of the islands that lie to the south of the peninsula. I returned to Philadelphia on the end of September last, after an absence of seven months. In prosecuting this journey I had sometimes to kindle a large fire; I then stripped the canes for my horse, ate a bit of supper, and lay down to sleep, listening to the owls and cheekwills, and to a kind of whip-poor-will that are very numerous. On the fourteenth day of my journey I arrived at Natchez, Mississippi, after having overcome every obstacle alone, and without being acquainted with the country, and, what surprised the boatmen more, without whisky."
During this Southern journey Wilson picked up his famous Carolina parrot, described with much minuteness in the third volume of the “Ornithology." “When at night (he writes) I encamped in the woods I placed it on the baggage beside me, where it usually sat with great composure, dozing and gazing at the fire till morning. In this manner I carried it upwards of a thousand miles in my pocket, where it was exposed all day to the jolting of the horse, but regularly liberated at meal times and in the evening, at which it always expressed great satisfaction. In passing through the Chickasaw and Choctaw nations, the Indians, wherever I stopped to feed, collected around me, men, women, and children, laughing, and seeming wonderfully amused with the novelty of my companion.” Poor Poll was drowned in the Gulf of Mexico.
HUMANITY OF WILSON.
The following reminds one of Burns' “wee sleekit, cow'rin', tim'rous beastie" :
“One of my boys caught a mouse in the school a few days ago, and directly marched up to me with his prisoner. I set about drawing it that same evening, and all the while the pantings of its little heart showed it to be in the most extreme agonies of fear. I had intended to kill it in order to fix it in the claws of a stuffed owl, but happening to spill a few drops of water near where it was tied, it lapped it up with such eagerness, and looked in my face with such an eye of supplicating terror as perfectly overcame me. I immediately untied it, and restored it to life and liberty. The agonies of the prisoner at the stake, while the fire and instruments of torment are preparing, could not be more severe than the sufferings of that poor mouse; and insignificant