Letter to Margaret Chalmers, January 22 1788

Now for that wayward, unfortunate thing, myself. I have broke measures with (Creech) and last week I wrote him a frosty, keen letter. He replied in terms of chastisement, and promised me upon his honor that I should have the account on Monday; but this is Tuesday, and yet I have not heard a word from him. God have mercy on me! a poor damned, incautious, duped, unfortunate fool! The sport, the miserable victim, of rebellious pride; hypochondriac imagination, agonizing sensibility, and bedlam passions!

“I wish that I were dead, but I’m no like to die!” I had lately “a hairbreadth ‘scape in th’ imminent deadly breach” of love too. Thank my stars I got off heart-whole, “waur fleyd than hurt.” Interruption

I have this moment got a hint. . . I fear I am something – but I hope for the best. Come, stubborn pride and unshrinking resolution! Accompany me through this, to me, miserable world!

You must not desert me! Your friendship I think I can count on, though I should date my letters from a marching regiment. Early in life, and all my life; I reckoned on a recruiting drum as my forlorn hope. ‘Seriously though, life at present presents me with but a melancholy path: but-my limb will soon be sound, and I shall struggle on.

Published in: on January 22, 2009 at 12:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Letters to Margaret Chalmers, December 19 1787

Edinburgh 19th December 1787

I begin this letter in answer to yours of the 17th current, which is not yet cold since I read it. The atmosphere of my soul is vastly clearer than when I wrote you last. For the first time, yesterday I crossed the room on crutches.

It would do your heart good to see my bardship, not on my poetic, but on my oaken stilts; throwing my best leg With an air and with as much hilarity in my gait and countenance, as a May frog leaping across the newly harrowed ridge, enjoying the fragrance of the refreshed earth after the long-expected shower!

I can’t say I am altogether at my ease when I see any where in my path, that meagre, squalid, famine-faced spectre, poverty; attended as he always is, by iron-fisted oppression, and leering contempt; but I have sturdily withstood his buffetings many a hard-labored day already, and still my motto is-I DARE!

My worst enemy is Moimeme. I lie so miserably open to the inroads and incursions of a mischievous, light-armed, well-mounted banditti, under the banners of imagination, whim, caprice, and passion; and the heavy armed veteran regulars of wisdom, prudence and fore-thought, move so very, very slow, that I am almost in a state of perpetual warfare, and alas! frequent defeat.

There are just two creatures that I would envy, a horse in his wild state traversing the forests of Asia, or an oyster on some of the desart shores of Europe. The one has not a wish without enjoyment, the other has neither wish nor fear.

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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 Margaret Chalmers, November 21, 1787

I have one vexatious fault to the kindly-welcome, well-filled sheet which l owe to your and Charlotte’s goodness – it contains too much sense, sentiment, and good-spelling. It is impossible that even you two, whom I declare to my God, I will give credit for any degree of excellence the sex are capable of attaining, it is impossible you can go on to correspond at that rate; so like those who, Shenstone says, retire because they have made a good speech, I shall after a few letters hear no more of you.

I insist that you shall write whatever comes first: what you see, what you read, what you hear, what you admire, what you dislike, trifles, bagatelles, nonsense; or to fill up a corner, e’en put down a laugh at full length. Now none of your polite hints about flattery: I leave that to your lovers, if you have or shall have any; though thank heaven I have found at last two girls who can be luxuriantly happy in their own minds and with one another, without that commonly necessary appendage to female bliss, a lover. 

Charlotte and you are just two favorite resting places for my soul in her wanderings through the weary, thorny wilderness of this world – God knows I am ill-fitted for the struggle: I glory in being a Poet, and I want to be thought a wise man- I would fondly be generous, and I wish to be rich. After all, I am afraid I am a lost subject. “Some folk hae a hantle 0′ fauts, an’ I’m but a ne’er-do-weel.” 

Afternoon
– To close the melancholy reflections at the end of last sheet, I shall just add a piece of devotion commonly known in Carrick, by the title of the “Wabster’s grace.” 

“Some say we’re thieves, and e’en sae are we,

“Some say we lie, and e’en sae do we! 

“Gude forgie us, and I hope sae will he!

–“Up and to your looms, lads.”

Published in: on November 21, 2008 at 2:47 am  Leave a Comment  
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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. 

R.B.

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