Letter to Robert Ainslie, November 25 1787

Sunday morn

I beg, my dear Sir, you would not make any appointment to take us to Mr Ainslie’s tonight.-On looking over my engagements. constitution, present state of health, some little vexatious soul concerns, &c. I find I can’t sup abroad tonight.- 

I shall be in today till one o’clock.-If you have a leisure-hour, &c.

You will think it romantic when I tell you that I find the idea of your friendship almost necessary to my existence.-You assume a proper length of face in my bitter hours of blue-devilism, and you laugh fully up to my highest wishes at my good things.-I don’t know upon the whole if you are one of the first fellows in God’s world, but you are so to me.-I tell you this just now in the conviction that some inequalities in my temper and manner may perhaps sometimes make you suspect that I am not so warmly as I ought to be 

your friend

Robt Burns

Published in: on November 25, 2008 at 2:59 am  Leave a Comment  
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Letter to Mrs Frances Anna Dunlop of Dunlop , November 24 1787


I will bear the reproaches of my conscience respecting this letter no longer.

– I was indebted to you some time ago for a kind, long letter; (your letters, the longer the better) and again the other day I heard from you, enclosing a very friendly letter from Dr Moore.

– I thought with myself in the height of my gratitude and pride of my remark that I would sit down some hour of inspiration, and write you a letter, at least worth twa groats; consequently you would have been a gainer, as you are so benevolent as bestow your epistolary correspondence on me, I am sure without the least idea of being paid in kind.

– When you talk of correspondence and friendship to me, Madam, you do me too much honor; but, as I shall soon be at my wonted leisure and rural occupation, if my remark on what I have read or seen, or any new rhyme I may twist, that is worth while, if such a letter, Madam, can give a person of your rank, information and abilities any entertainment, you shall have it with all my heart and soul. 

It requires no common exertion of good sense and Philosophy in persons of elevated rank, to keep a friendship properly alive with one much their inferior.

– Externals, things totally extraneous of the man, steal upon the heart and judgments of almost, if not altogether, all mankind; nor do I know any more than one instance of a Man who fully and truly regards “all the world as a stage, and all the men and women merely Players”, and who, the dancing-school bow excepted only values these Players, the Dramatis Personae, who build Cities, or who rear hedges; who govern provinces, or superintend flocks, merely as they act their parts.

– For the honor of Ayrshire,. this Man is Professor Dugald Stewart of Catrine.-

To him I might perhaps add another instance, a Popish Bishop [Geddes]; but I have outraged that gloomy’ Fury, Presbytereanism, enough already, though I don’t spit in her lugubrious face by telling her that the first Cleric character I ever saw was a Roman Catholick.- 

I ever could ill endure those surly cubs of “Chaos and old Night;”-these ghostly beasts of prey, who foul the hallow’d ground of Religion with their nocturnal prowlings; but if the prosecution which I hear the Erebean Fanatics are projecting against my learned and truly worthy friend, Dr McGill, goes on, I shall keep no measure with the savages, but fly at them with the faulcons of Ridicule, or run them down with the bloodhounds of Satire, as lawful game, wherever I start them.- 

I expect to leave Edinburgh in eight or ten days, and shall certainly do myself the honor of calling at Dunlop house as I return to Ayrshire.

– I have the honor to be, Madam, your oblidged humble servant, Robt Burns

Published in: on November 24, 2008 at 2:57 am  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.” 

– 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 The Literary Magnet, November 14, 1787

Sir,- l have always held it a maxim in life, that in this bad world, those who truly wish us well, are entitled to a pretty large share at least of our gratitude; that you are so obliging as to interest yourself in my most important concerns, I can easily see by your rather extraordinary letter. 

When good will to a fellow creature leads us a little out of the ordinary line, it is not only excusable, but highly laudable. Accept my thanks Sir, as sincere as your advice, and believe me to be, 

Your obliged humble servant, R. Burns

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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. 


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Letter to James Johnson, November 1787

… These lines will set [to the tune better thus] than as they are printed.- 

To the song in the first Volume, “Here awa there awa,” added this verse, the best in the song- 

“Gin ye meet my love, kiss her and clap her,

“An gin ye meet my love, dinna think shame: 

“Gin ye meet my love, kiss her and clap her,

“And shew her the way to had awa hame.” 

There is room enough on the plate for it.- 

For the tune of the Scotch queen, in Oswald; take the two first, and the two last stanzas of the Poem entitled, The Lament, in Burns’ Poems; which . . . To daunton me – 

“The blude red rose at yule may blaw,

“The simmer lilies bloom in snaw, 

“The frost may freeze the deepest sea

“But an auld man shall never daunton me, 


“To daunton me,to daunton me, 

“An auld man shall never daunton me.”- 

‘the chorus is set to the first part of the tune, which just suits it, en once play’d or sung over.-

Published in: on November 1, 2008 at 2:28 am  Leave a Comment  
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