Edinburgh, 30th December 1787
My dear Sir,
I have met with few things in my life which has given me more pleasure than Fortune’s kindness to you, since those days in which we met in the vale of misery, as I can honestly say that I never met with a man who more truly deserved it, or to whom my heart more truly wish’d it.
-I have been much indebted, since that time, to your story and sentiments, for steeling my mind against evils of which I have had a pretty decent share.-My will o’ wisp fate, you know: do you recollect a sunday we spent in Eglinton woods? you told me, on my repeating some verses to you that you wondered I could resist the temptation of sending verses of such merit to a magazine: ’twas actually this that gave me an idea of my own pieces which encouraged me to endeavour at the character of a Poet.
-I am happy to hear that you will be two or three months at home: as soon as a bruised limb will permit me, I shall return to Ayrshire-and we shall meet!
“And faith, I hope we’ll no sit dumb,
Nor yet cast out!”
I have much to tell you, of “Men, their manners & their ways,” perhpas a little of t’other Sex.
-Apropos, I beg to be remembered to Mrs Brown; there, I doubt not, my dear friend, but you have found substantial happiness.-I am impatient to see her, as well as you.-I expect to find you something of an altered, but not, a different man: the wild, bold, generous young fellow, composed into the steady affectionate husband, and the fondly careful Parent.-For me, I am just the same will-o’-wisp being I used to be.
-About the first, and fourth quarters of the moon, I generally set in for the trade- winds of wisdom; but about the full, and change, I am the luckless victim of mad tornadoes, which blow me into chaos.-Almighty Love still “reigns and revels” in my bosom; and I am at this moment ready to hang myself for a young Edinburgh widow, who has wit and beauty more murderously fatal than the assassinating stiletto of the Sicilian Banditti, or the poisoned arrow of the savage African. My Highland durk, that used to hang beside my crutches, I have gravely removed into a neighbouring closet, the key of which I cannot command; in case of spring-tide paroxysms.
– You may guess of her wit by the following verses which she sent me the other day-
“Talk not of Love, it gives me pain,
“For Love has been my foe;
“He bound me with an iron chain,
“And plung’d me deep in woe!
“But Friendship’s pure and lasting joys
“My heart was form’d to prove:
“There welcome win and wear the prize,
“But never talk of Love.
“Your Friendship much can make me blest,
“O, why that bliss destroy!
“Why urge the odious, one request
“You know I must deny! ”
My best compliments to our friend, Allan.-Adieu! Robt Burns