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had seen human nature in a new phasis; and I engaged several of my school fellows to keep up a literary correspondence with me. This improved me in composition. I had met with a collection of letters by the Wits of Queen Anne's reign, and I pored over them most devoutly: I kept copies of any of my own letters that pleased me; and a comparison between them and the compositions of most of my correspondents, flattered my vanity. I carried this whim so far, that though I had not three farthings' worth of business in the world, yet almost every post brought me as many letters as if I had been a broad plodding son of a day-book and ledger.
· My life flowed on much in the same course till my twenty-third year. Vive l'amour, et vive la bagatelle, were my sole principles of action. The addition of two more authors to my library gave me great pleasure: Sternę and M-Kenzie-Tristram Shandy and the Man of Feeling-were my bosom favorites. Poesy was still a darling walk for my mind; but it was only indulged in according to the humor of the hour. I had usually half a dozen or more pieces on hand; I took up one or other, as it suited the momentary tone of the mind, and dismissed the work as it bordered on fatigue. My passions, wheu once lighted up, raged like so many devils, till they got vent in rhyme; and then the conning over my verses, like a spell, sootbed all into quiet! None of the ryhmes of those days are in print, except Winter, a dirge, the eldest of my printed pieces; the Death of poor Mailie; John Barleycorn; the Songs first second, and third.* Song second was the ebullition of that passion which ended the fore-mentioned school-business.
* See Book II. vol. i. p. 162.-Book III. vol. i. p. 1.-Book V. vol. ii. p. 278.-Book V. v. ü. pp. 214,
“My twenty-third year was to me an important era. Partly through whim, and partly that I wished to set about doing something in life, I joined a flax dresser in a neighbouring town (Irvine) to learn his trade. This was an unlucky affair. My ***; and, to finish the whole, as we were giving a welcome carousal to the new-year, the shop took fire, and burnt to ashes; and I was left, like a true poet, not worth a sixpence.
“I was obliged to give up this scheme; the clouds of misfortune were gathering thick round my father's head; and what was worst of all, he was visibly far gone in a consumption; and, to crown my distresses, a belle fille, whom I adored, and who had pledged her soul to meet me in matrimony, jilted me, with peculiar circumstances of mortification. The finishing evil that brought up the rear of this infernal file, was my constitutional melancholy, being increased to such a degree, that for three months I was in a state of mind scarcely to be envied by the hopeless wretches who have got their mittimus“ Depart from me ye accursed”
“From this adventure I learned something of a town life ; but the principal thing which gave my mind a turn, was a friendship I formed with a young fellow, a very noble character, but a hapless son of misfortune. He was the son of a simple mechanic; but a great man in the neighborhood taking him under his patronage, gave him a genteel education, with a view of bettering his situation, in life. The patron dying just as he was ready to launch out into the world, the poor fellow, in dispair, went to sea; where, after a variety of good and ill fortune, a litte before I was acquainted with him, he had been set on shore by an American privateer, on the wild coast of Connaught, stripped of every thing. I cannot quit this poor fellow's story without adding that
1 LIFE OF BURNS. he is at this time master of a large West-Indiaman! belonging to the Thames.
“His mind was fraught with independence, mag. nanimity, and every manly virtue. 'I loved and admired him to a degree of enthusiasm, and of course strove to imitate him. In some measure I succeeded I had pride before, but he taugbt it to flow in proper channels. His knowledge of the world was vastly superior to mine, and I was all attention to learn. He was the only man I ever saw who was a greater fool than myself, where woman was the presiding star; but he spoke of illicit love with the levity of a sailor, which hitherto I had regarded with horror. Here his friendship did me a mischiet; and the consequence was, that soon after I resumed the plough, I wrote The Poet's Welcome.* My reading only increased, while in this town, by two stray volumes of Pamela, and one of Ferdinand Count Fathom, which gave me some idea of novels. Ryhme, except some religious pieces that are in print, I had given up: but meeting with Fergusson's Scottish Poems, I strung anew my wildy-sounding lyre with emulating vigor. When my father died, his all went among the hell-hounds that prowl in the kennel of justice! put we made a shift to collect a little money in the family amongst us, with which, to keep us together my brother and I took a neighboring farm. My brother wanted my hair-brained imagination, as well as my social and amorous madness; but in good ? sense, and every sober qualification, he was far my superior.
"I entered on the farm with a full resolution, Come go to, I will be wise!' I read farming books;
* This piece, we believe, was afterwards entitled, Address to an illegitimate Child.
I calculated crops ; I attended markets; and, in short, in spite of the devil, and the world, and the flesh,' I believe I should have been a wise man; but the first year, from unfortunately buying bad seed, the second, from a late harvest, we lost half our crops. This overset all my wisdom, and I returned, like the dog to his vomit, and the sow that was washed, to her wallowing in the mire.'
I now began to be known in the neighborhood as a maker of rhymes. The first of my poetic offspring that saw the light, was a burlesque lamentation on a quarrel between two reverend Calvinists, both of them dramatis persone in my Holy Fair. I had a notion myself that the piece had some merit ; but to prevent the worst, I gave a copy to a friend who was very fond of such things, and told him that I could not guess who was the author of it, but that I thought it pretty clever. With a certain description of the clergy, as well as laity, it met with a roar of applause. "Holy Willie's Prayer next made its appearance, and alarmed the kirk-session so much, that they held several meetings to look over their spiritual artillery, is haply any of it might be pointed against profane rhymers. Unluckily for me, my wanderings led me, on another side, within pointblank shot of their heaviest metal. This is the unfortunate story that gave rise to my printed poem, The Lament. This was a most melancholy affair, which I cannot yet bear to reflect on, and had nearly given me one or two of the principal qualifications for a place among those who have lost the chart, and mistaken the reckoning of Rationality.* I gave up
* This distraction of mind arose from the misery and sorrow in which he involved Jean Armour, afterwards Mrs. Burns. She was a great favorite of her father. The intimation of a marriage was the first suggestio.
my part of the farm to my brother; in truth it was only nominally mine; and made what little preparation was in my power for Jamaica. But, before leaving my native country for ever, I resolved to publish my poems. I weighed my productions as impartially as was in my power: I thought they had merit ; and it was a delicious idea, that I should be called a clever fellow, even though it should never reach my ears-a poor negro-driver; or perhaps a victim to that inhospitable clime, and gone to the world of spirits! I can truly say, that pauvre inconnu as I then was, I had pretty nearly as high an idea of myself and of my works, as I have at this moment, when the public has decided in their favor. It was my opinion, that the mistakes and blunders, both in a rational and religious point of view, of which we see thousands daily guilty, are owing to their ignorance of themselves. To know myself, has been all along my constant study. I weighed myself alone; I balanced myself with others; I watched every means of information, to see how much ground I occupied as a man and as a poet; I studied assiduous. ly Nature's design in my formation-where the lights
he received of her real situation. He was in the greatest distress, and fainted away. The marriage did not appear to him to make the matter better. He expressed a wish that the agreement between them should be cancelled. This was communicated to Burns. He felt the deepest anguish of mind. He offered to stay at home, and provide for his wife and family by every exertion in his power. Even this was not approved of; and humble as Jean Armour's station was, and great though her imprudence had been, she was still thought by her partial parents, to look forward to a more advantageous connexion than that which now presented itself.