Abbildungen der Seite
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

WHEN you were stationed on our coast about twelve years ago, you first recommended to my particular notice the poems of the Ayrshire ploughman, whose works, published for the benefit of his widow and children, I now present to you. In a distant region of the world, whither the service of your country has carried you, you will, I know, receive with kindness this proof of my regard ; not, perhaps, without some surprise on finding that I have been engaged in editing these volumes, nor without some curiosity to know how I was qualified for such an undertaking. These points I will briefly explain.

Having occasion to make an excursion to the county of Dumfries, in the summer of 1792, I had there an opportunity of seeing and of conversing with Burns. It has been my fortune to know some men of high reputation in literature, as well as in public life; but never to meet any one, who, in the course of a single interview, communicated to me so strong an impression of the force and versatility of his talents. After this I read the poems then published with greater interest and attention, and with a full conviction that, extraordinary as they are, they afford but an inadequate proof of the powers of their unfortunate author.

Four years afterwards Burns terminated his ca. reer. Among those whom the charins of his genius had attached to him. was one with whom I have been bound in the ties of friendship from early life-Mr. John Syme, of Rypdale, This gentleman, after the death of Burns, promoted with the utmost zeal a subscription for the support of the widow and children, to which their relief from immediate distress is to be ascribed ; and in conjunction with other friends of this virtuous and destitute family, he projected the publication of these volumes for their benefit, by which the return of want might be prevented OD prolonged.

To this last undertaking an editor and biographer was wanting, and Mr. Syme's modesty opposed a barrier to his assuming an office, for which he was in other respects peculiarly qualified, On this subject he consulted me; and, with the hope of surmounting his objections, I offered hin my assistance, but in vain. Endeavours were used to procure ad editor in other quarters without effect. The task was beset with considerable dife ficulties, and men of established reputation naturally de elined an undertaking, to the performance of which, it was scarcely to be hoped, that general approbation could be obtained by any exertion of judgment or temper.

To such an office my place of residence, my aecustomed studies, and my occupations, were Bertainly little suited; but the partiality of Mr. Syme thonght me in other respects not unqualified ; and his solicitations, joined to those of our excellent friend and relation Mrs. Dunlop, and of other friends of the family of the poet, I have not been able to resist. To remove difficulties which would otherwise have been insurmountable, Mr. Syme and Mr. Gilbert Burns made a journey to Liverpool, where they explained and arranged the manuscripts, and selected such as seemed worthy of the press. From this visit I derived a degree of pleasure which has compensated much of my

« ZurückWeiter »