Letter to Agnes McLehose, December 20 1787

Your last, my dear Madam, had the effect on me that Job’s situation had on his friends, when “they sat down seven days and seven nights astonied, and spake not a word.” – “Pay my addresses to a married woman!” I started, as if I had seen the ghost of him I had injur’d: I recollected my expressions; some of them indeed were, in the law phrase, “habit and repute,” which is being half guilty.

– I cannot positively say, Madam, whether my heart might not have gone astray a little; but I can declare upon the honor of a Poet that the vagrant has wandered unknown to me.

– I have a pretty handsome troop of Follies of my own; and, like some other people’s retinue, they are but undisciplined blackguards: but the luckless rascals have something of honor in them; they would not do a dishonest thing.

– To meet with an unfortunate woman, amiable and young; deserted and widowed by those who were bound by every tie of Duty, Nature and Gratitude, to protect, comfort and cherish her; add to all, when she is perhaps one of the first of Lovely Forms and Noble Minds, the Mind too that hits one’s taste as the joys of Heaven do a Saint should a vague infant-idea, the natural child of Imagination, thoughtlessly peep over the fence-were you, My Friend, to sit in judgement, and the poor, airy Straggler brought before you, trembling self-condemned; with artless eyes, brimful of contrition, looking wistfully on its Judge-you could not, My dear Madam, condemn the hapless wretch to “death without benefit of Clergy?”

I won’t tell you what reply my heart made to your raillery of “Seven Years;” but I will give you what a brother my trade says on the same allusion-

The Patriarch to gain a wife
Chaste, beautiful and young,
Serv’d fourteen years a painful life
And never thought it long:
O were you to reward such cares, And life so long would stay,
Not fourteen but four hundred years
Would seem but as one day!

I have written you this scrawl because I have nothing else to do, and you may sit down and find fault with it if you have no better way of consuming your time; but finding fault with the vaguings of it Poet’s fancy is much such another business as Xerxes chastising the waves of Hellespont.

– My limb now allows me to sit in some peace; to walk I have yet no prospect of, as I can’t mark it to the ground.

– I have just now looked over what I have written, and it is such a chaos of nonsense that I daresay you will throw it into the fire, and call me an idle, stupid fellow; but whatever you think of my brains, believe me to be, with the most sacred respect, and heart-felt esteem,

My Dear Madam, your humble servant Robt Burns

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Published in: on December 20, 2008 at 9:38 am  Leave a Comment  
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Letter to Margaret Chalmers December 12 1787

I am here under the care of a surgeon, with a bruised limb extended on a cushion; and the tints of my mind vying with the livid horror preceding a midnight thunder-storm. A drunken coachman was the cause of the first, and incomparably the lightest evil; misfortune, bodily constitution, hell and myself, have formed a “Quadruple Alliance” to guarantee the other. I got my fall on Saturday, and am getting slowly better.

I have taken tooth and nail to the bible, and am got through the five books of Moses, and half way in Joshua. It is really a glorious book. I sent for my book-binder to-day, and ordered him to get me an octavo bible in sheets, the best paper and print in town; and bind it with all the elegance of his craft.

I would give my best song to my worst enemy, I mean the merit of making It, to have you and Charlotte by me. You are angelic creatures, and would pour oil and wine into my wounded spirit.
I inclose you a proof copy of the “Banks of the Devon,” which present with my best wishes to Charlotte. The “Ochel-hills,” you shall probably have next week for yourself. None of your fine speeches!

Published in: on December 12, 2008 at 11:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Letter to John Buego, December 1787

St James’s Square, Tuesday even.
My dear Sir,
a certain sour faced old acquaintance called Glauber’s salts hinders me from my lesson tonight.

-Tomorrow night I will not fail.

– Robt Burns

Published in: on December 11, 2008 at 11:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Letter to Anonymous, December 10-24 1787

Dear Sir
I am laid up with a bruised limb, and shall be glad to see you if you can call in for half a minute any time today or tomorrow.
I am yours sincerely Robt Burns

Published in: on December 10, 2008 at 11:12 am  Leave a Comment  
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Letter to Agnes McLehose, December 8 1787

St James Square No 2

I can say with truth, Madam, that I never met with a person in my life whom I more anxiously wished to meet again than yourself. Tonight I was to have had that very great pleasure – I was intoxicated with the idea – but an unlucky fall from a coach has so bruised one of my knees that I can’t stir my leg off the cushion. So, if I don’t see you again, I shall not rest in my grave for chagrin.

– I was vexed to the soul I had not seen you sooner; I determined to cultivate your friendship with the enthusiasm of Religion; but thus has Fortune ever served me.

– I cannot bear the idea of leaving Edinburgh without seeing you-I know not how to account for it – I am strangely taken with some people; nor am I often mistaken. You are a stranger to me; but I am an odd being: some yet unnamed feelings; things not principles, but better than whims, carry me farther than boasted reason ever did a Philosopher.-

Farewell every happiness be yours!
Robt Burns

Published in: on December 8, 2008 at 11:53 am  Leave a Comment  
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Letter to Margaret Chalmers, December 1 1787

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. “)

Published in: on December 1, 2008 at 11:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Letter to Miss Isobel/Isabella Mabane, December 1 1787

Satur: noon newtown,
No 2d St James’ sqr
Here have I sat, my dear Madam, in the stony attitude of perplexed study, for fifteen vexatious minutes; my head askew, bending over the mtended card; my fixed eye insensible to the very light of day poured around; my pendulous goose-feather loaded with ink, hanging over the future letter;all for the important purpose of writing a complimentary Card to accompany your trinket. Compliments, is such a miserable Greenland expression, lies at such a chilly, Polar distance from the torrid zone of my constitution, that I cannot for the very soul of me use it to any person for whom I have the twentieth part of the esteem everyone must have for you who knows you.

– As I leave town in three or four days, I can give myself the pleasure of calling for you only for a minute.

– Tuesday evening, sometime about seven, or after, I shall wait on you for your farewel commands.

– The hinge of your box I put into the hands of the proper connoisseur; but, it is, like Molly Gaw’s skate, “Past redemption.” The broken glass likewise went under review, but deliberative Wisdom thought it would too much endanger the whole fabric.

I am, Dear Madam, with all the sincerity of Enthusiasm, your very humble servant Robt Burns

Published in: on December 1, 2008 at 12:05 am  Leave a Comment  
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