About 1st December 1787
(Burns attached The Banks of the Devon with this letter)
I have been at Dumfries, and at one visit more shall be decided about in that country. I am rather hopeless in it; but as my brother excellent farmer, and is, besides, an exceedingly prudent, sober man, (qualities which are only a younger brother’s fortune in our family,) I am determined, if my Dumfries business fail me, to return into partnership with him, and at our leisure take another farm in the neighbourhood. I assure you I look for high compliments from you and Charlotte on this very sage instance of my unfathomable, incomprehensible wisdom.
Talking of Charlotte, I must tell her that I have to the best of my power, paid her a poetic compliment, now compleated. The air is admirable: true old Highland.
It was the tune of a Gaelic song which an Inverness lady sung me when I was there; and I was so charmed with it that I begged her to write me a set of it from her singing; for it had never been set before. I am fixed that it shall go in Johnson’s next number; so Charlotte and you need not spend your precious time in contradicting me. I won’t say the poetry is first-rate; though I am convinced it is very well: and, what is not always the case with compliments to ladies, It is not only sincere but just.
(Here follows the song of “the Banks of the Devon. “)