Letter to Margaret Chalmers, November 6 1787

My dear Madam,

I just now have read yours. The poetic compliments I pay cannot be misunderstood. They are neither of them so particular as to point you out to the world at large; and the circle of your acquaintances will allow all I have said. Besides I have complimented you chiefly, almost solely, on your mental charms. Shall I be plain with you? I will; so look to it. Personal attractions, madam, you have much above par; wit, understanding, and worth, you possess in the first class.

This is a cursed flat way of telling you these truths, but let me hear no more of your sheepish timidity. I know the world a little I know what they will say of my poems; by second sight I suppose; for I am seldom out in my conjectures; and you may believe me, my dear madam, I would not run any risk of hurting you by an ill-judged compliment. I wish to show to the world the odds between a poet’s friends and those of simple prosement. More for your information both the pieces go in.

One of them “Where braving all the winter’s harms,” is already set – the tune is Neil Gow’s lamentation for Abercairny; the other is to be set to an old Highland air in Daniel Dow’s “collection of antient Scots music;”  the name is Ha a Chaillich air mo Dheith. My treacherous memory has forgot eyery circumstance about Les Incas, only I think you mentioned them as being in Creech’s possession. I shall ask him about it. I am afraid the song of “Somebody” will come too late-as I shall, for certain, leave town in a week for Ayrshire, and from that to Dumfries, but there my hopes are slender. I leave my direction in town, so anything, wherever I am, will reach me. 

I saw your’s too – it is not too severe, nor did he take it amiss. On the contrary, like a whipt spaniel, he talks of being with you in the Christmas days. Mr.—has given him the invitation, and he is determined to accept of it. O selfishness! he owns in his sober moments, that from his own volatility of inclination, the circumstances in which he is situated and his knowledge of his father’s disposition, – the whole affair is chimerical – yet he will gratify an idle penchant at the enormous, cruel expense of perhaps ruining the peace of the very woman for whom he professes the generous passion of love! He is a gentleman in his mind and manners. tant pis!-He is a volatile school-boy: The heir of a man’s fortune who well knows the value of two times two! 

Perdition seize them and their fortunes, before they should make the amiable, the lovely – the derided object of their purse-proud contempt. 

I am doubly happy to hear of Mrs, –‘s recovery, because I really thought all was over with her. There are days of pleasure yet awaiting her. 

“As I cam in by Glenap 

“I met with an aged woman; 

“She bade me chear up my heart,

“For the best O’ my days was comin.” 

This day will decide my affairs with Creech. Things are, like myself, not what they ought to be; yet better than what they appear to be. 

“Heaven’s sovereign saves all beings but himself- 

That hideous sight-a naked human heart.”

Farewell! remember me to Charlotte. 


Published in: on November 6, 2008 at 2:40 am  Leave a Comment  
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