moral and emotional causes preserved in him certain relics of more or less interdependent doctrines.

These sentences exhibit the results of a careful and conscientious study of Burns's theological environment. In text and appendix we have a précis of the principal religious documents that are known to have influenced the poet"Goudie's Bible," William Burnes's “Manual;” the most important writings of Dr. Dalrymple and Dr. M'Gill of Ayr; and a full and interesting account of the petty and protracted quarrel between Gavin Hamilton and the kirk-session of Mauchline.


Equally searching is the light which here thrown upon Burns's relations to Jean Armour and the mystery of Mary Campbell, neither of which topics can by a right reader of the man and poet be allowed to be classed under the category of "Chatter about Harriet." Mr. Wallace is forced to admit that the date of Burns's attachment to Highland Mary, and several of the circumstances connected with it "are still, to a great extent, enveloped in mystery;" also that "her story, as here given, is based on, and pieced from, various traditions, and cannot be regarded as a portion of the absolutely authentic history of Burns." In what respect then, does he leave the matter different from the state in which he found it? Well, it is something that in an authoritative biography it should be plainly stated that the identification of the Mary of Burns's poesy with Mary Campbell, who was born at Auchamore, Dunoon, and is buried at Greenock, rests solely on tradition. And it is more that the sequence of the events in this mysterious mess of love-entanglements should be as clearly stated as it is here. It was in the spring of 1786 that the poet gave Jean Armour the acknowledgement of their union, which old Armour straightway caused to be mutilated, and whica Mr. Wallace, following Dr. Edgar, doubts if a court would have recognized as constituting an irregular marriage. In March Jean took refuge in Paisley. Burns, disgusted with her conduct, and intent on matrimony, turned to Mary, nurse in Gavin Hamil

ton's family; their intimacy "ripened into love;" and in May they parted, she to go home to the Highlands for a short time, to arrange for her marriage. He had made up his mind to emigrate in order to make a living for Jean; he now persevered in his project for the purpose of providing for his wife-to-be, Mary Campbell. Yet, as Mr. Wallace, founding on documentary proof, coldly puts it, “within a very few weeks after his parting from her, we find him, in a letter to a friend, speaking of Jean as still holding sway over his affections." Short indeed was the blossoming time of Burns's "white rose," that "grew up and bloomed in the midst of his passionflowers." However, we must pass from dates and their sequelæ, to note that Mr. Wallace will not allow that the Paisley incident in Jean Armour's life offered the slightest foundation for R. L. Stevenson's slander of her as a "facile and empty-headed girl;" and that by a beautiful catena of reasoning from facts which he has himself to a large extent unearthed, he demolishes the "strong presumption," which Mr. George A. Aitken, editor of the third "Aldine," fathered, that Mary Campbell, instead of being a "white rose" was a very tarnished flower indeed, worthy the rude attentions of Adam Armour and his rough mates; and further disposes effectively of the secondary, but equally ugly "Highland Mary" myth founded on Joseph Train's manuscript notes of what John Richmond told “a Mr. Grierson." It is not the least of Mr. Wallace's services to the Burns cult that, while vindicating the "dear, departed shade," he does justice to the character of the poet's faithful, magnanimous and honorable helpmeet, who was "always his warmest defender," and made his married life happy and morally remunerative.

Turn we now to the Edinburgh episode. Stevenson, with that local patriotism which he could never shake off, spoke of the "Edinburgh magnates" who patronized Burns. Carlyle took a truer measure of the literary society of the Scottish capital at the end of the eighteenth century. The editor of the

new "Chambers" has rightly restated the relation between Burns and his patrons thus:

The period was, however, the evening of the first heydey of Edinburgh letters. A few years before, Burns would perhaps have found an even warmer welcome and a more just appreciation; he would certainly have met at least one man intelle. tually his peer in the Select Society and the Poker Club. But David Hume had. in 1786, been dead half a score of years; Lord Kames was gone, and the majority of their more or less brilliant contemporaries were long past their prime. Adam Smith was too ill to see Burns. William Robertson had only seven years to live; Tytler and Lord Hailes even less. It was, in short, the interregnum between Hume and Scott. Burns himself was the man of the age. It strikes us of this day as almost

ludicrous that he should have been patron

ized by men of the undoubted though second-rate capacity of Dugald Stewart, Hugh Blair, and Henry Mackenzie.

Again, summing up the testimony as to Burns's conduct in Edinburgh, Mr. Wallace says:

He saw from the first that his reputation, so far as society in Edinburgh was concerned, must be evanescent, and he acted accordingly. His second Common place Book proves that he measured himself deliberately against the men he met. He perceived his own superiority to them in natural force; he did not repine at their better fortune. It is morally certain that had Burns visited Edinburgh in the days of the literary supremacy of Scott and Jeffrey, a vigorous and successful effort would have been made to secure for him a position which would have permitted free exercise of his extraordinary faculty. . Burns, however, asked nothing from his Edinburgh friends; when they helped him to a farm and a position in the Excise, believing, as they apparently did, that they were thereby gratifying his own wishes he made no complaint, but cheerfully prepared himself for the necessarily uncongenial career which alone appeared open to him.

Burns was but twenty-seven years of age when he came to Edinburgh from Ayrshire. Of few men of warm temperament and exceptionally endowed by nature with those strong passions which are sources at once of selfishness and unself


ishness, can it be said with truth that "the battle between the flesh and the spirit" which ends in the ruin or the consolidation of character had been fought out so early in life. His sociable temperament, his eager willingness to observe all sorts and conditions of men, inevitably led him into "scenes of life," the survey of which meant the enlargement of experience, but not-at least immediately-tha enrichment of motive. But it is as certain that he never lost command of himself, amidst the Crochallan festivities, as that he acquitted himself with modesty and manliness at the tables of professors and senators of the College of Justice.

Mr. Wallace's revision of the Edinburgh episode is thorough and broad. He has pursued every incident of itthe Clarinda liaison, the Masonic bardship, the tours, the flirtations, the relations with Creech, etc.-with the pertinacity of a sleuthhound. It is impossible to go into details here, but students of Burns will be grateful for many misconceptions removed, many mysteries as to dates cleared up, and generally for the numerous vivid touches he has introduced into Chambers's generally accurate picture of the poet as he lived and moved at this period.

Equally valuable is the reconstruction of the Ellisland epoch. There is no stick or stone left of the house that Burns built on the farm which he described as "the very riddlings of creation." As the Rev. Richard Simpson, minister of Dunscore, who is the authority on the history and topography of the who protest district, testifies, those against the rebuilding of the present farmhouse as desecration of the rooftree of Burns, are more than eighty years too late, and even the famous window with its inscription is of more than doubtful authenticity. Mr. Wallace presents us with a picturesque description of Ellisland, and-what is of even greater interest-he brings the tenant of 1788-1791 into at least geographical touch with others whose memories are rooted in Dunscore. Thus:

Its glens are steeped in the story of the War of Independence of Wallace, of Bruce, and of Bruce's friend and "mak siccar" lieutenant, Kilpatrick, to whose

family Ellisland once belonged. The hillsides of Dunscore recall the more recent memories of the Covenanters. The tower of Lag, the prototype of Redgauntlet Castle, and the home of Sir Robert Grierson, "the persecutor," whose name was more feared and hated in Galloway than that of John Graham himself, still stands in one of the glens. Travelling up the valley, we come to Thornhill, with Tynron Doon, recalling the memories of the Ettrick Shepherd, Drumlanrig Castle, etc. The extreme eastern point of Dunscora parish is Ellisland; the extreme western point in Craigenputtock, looking out on the moors of Galloway, where Carlyle wrote "Sartor Resartus" and his essay on

Burns. It was on the slopes of Craigenputtock Hill that Carlyle, conversing with Emerson, put the Iliad of "this mysterious mankind" into a nutshell"Christ died on the tree; that built Dunscore kirk yonder; that brought you and me together. Time has only a relative existence."

On this epoch of the poet's existence, as on all the others, a vast amount of editorial labor has been spent. On point of research, pure and simple, there is nothing more valuable in any of the four portly volumes than the results displayed of a fresh investigation into Burns's connection with the "London newsmen." Peter Stuart, the pioneer of Metropolitan journalism, tried to secure the poet as a paid contributor to his newly-established Star in 1788. Burns refused enrolment, but sent contributions, including the ode on Mrs. Oswald, the "Ode to the


Regency-Bill," and probably also the (prose) "Address of the Scottish distillers to the Right Honble. William Pitt." He called the Star "a blasphemous party newspaper." He helped to justify the description by a satire he sent to it on the "solemn farce of pageant mummery," the public thanksgiving for the recovery of the king. This production, unearthed now from the files of the Star, is dated, Kilmarnock, April 30th, and takes the form of a psalm, said to have been composed for and sung on the occasion.

Burns's note to Stuart, of April, 1789; "Your polite exculpation of me in your paper was enough," has not hitherto

been understood. It referred to an episode in his connection with the Star, which is expiscated in the new "Chambers" for the first time. In March, 1789, Stuart, in the pleasant polemical manner of the day, struck a blow at that eminent Pittite, the Duchess of Gordon, by publishing a set of coarsish verses about her, which, "a correspondent asfrom the pen of sured him," were Burns, describing her Grace's performance at an Edinburgh ball. Burns hastened to repudiate the whole thing. The Gazetteer had copied from the Star a still more disrespectful stanza to the duchess. Burns denied the authorship, with heat, in both journals, and it was doubtless for the "exculpation" from "The two most damning crimes of which, as a man and as a poet, I could have been guilty-ingratitude and stupidity," that he thanked Stuart in April. Henley and Henderson in "The Centenary Burns," having evidently not pursued their researches far enough, accept the duchess pasquinade as genuine, although internal evidence is convincing against its authenticity. The most interesting discovery, however, which Mr. Wallace chronicles in connection with the affair is this note, which the editor of the Gazetteer appends to Burns's letter:

Mr. Burns will do right in directing his petulance to the proper delinquent, the printer of the Star, from which paper the stanza was literally copied into the Gazetteer. We can assure him, however, for his comfort, that the Duchess of Gordon acquits him both of the ingratitude and the dulness. She has, with much difficulty, discovered that the jeu d'esprit was written by the Right Honorable the Treasurer of the Navy, on her Grace's Findlater; this has been found out by the dancing at a ball given by the Earl of industry and penetration of Lord Fife. The lines are certainly not so dull as Mr. Burns insinuates, and we fear he is jealons of the poetical talents of his rival, Mr. Dundas.

Burns, as everybody knows, hated the Dundases because Robert, the solicitorgeneral, slighted his poem on the death of the lord president. We have not here absolute proof that the skit on the gay

Gordon was written by Henry Dundas, "the great dispenser of patronage," or that, even if it were, he had anything to do with the attribution of the lines to the "ploughing poet," but one cannot help suspecting that in this piece of literary horseplay there is a clue—if only it could be followed up-to the neglect which Burns suffered at the hands of Dundas and his compeers.



We must, however, take leave of the particulars which the editor of the new "Chambers" has added to Burnsiana, merely noting the illumination he throws on the origin of "Scots wha hae," as thus: "Under cover of a fourteenthcentury battle song he (Burns) really liberating his soul against the Tory tyranny that was opposing liberty at home and abroad, and, moreover, striking at the comfort of his own fireside;" the wealth of biographical, bibliographical, and linguistic information he has collected about "Tam o' Shanter," "Auld Glen," "A man's a man for a' that," etc., and the tracing of such allusions as "the daring path Spinoza trod." And at least a word of commendation is due to the editor's scathing analysis of the Globe Inn and other malignant legends; to the great mass of valuable notes he has collected, including the identification of every individual, contemporary or historical, mentioned in the poems; and to the vast improvement he has made in the glossary. The indexes are exceptionally complete, indeed unique in their reach and peculiarity.

add, in every case that we have tested,
with correct taste and nice apprecia-
tion of language. There is little that is
new in the notes as to facts or persons.
Their special worth lies in the precision
and fulness with which they trace the
history of the poems in manuscript and
print, and in the originality of the re-
sults they body forth of investigation
into the "origins" of the poetical forms
used by Burns. One could wish that
the editors had put otherwise the motive
of these annotations, whose purpose,
they say, is "to emphasize the theory
that Burns, for all his exhibition of some
modern tendencies, was not the founder
of a dynasty, but the heir to a flourish-
ing tradition, and the last of an ancient
line; that he is demonstrably the out-
come of an environment, and not in any
but the narrowest sense the unnatural
birth of Poesy and Time, which he is
sometimes held to be. However, an
editor must be allowed his theory, and
Messrs. Henley and Henderson's bold
and uncompromising assertion of theirs
is welcome as an antidote to the theory
or the "Common Burnsite" who, in more
or less mythical form, is their bête noir.
Only, their prefatory statement that
their notes are meant to emphasize their
theory offers a needless, and, it must
be said, a risky challenge to criticism.
Three volumes of "The Centenary
Burns" are now before the world, and
presumably the editors have brought
forward the bulk of their proofs. These
are extensive, scholarly, the fruit of
learned and critical research. They
stand by themselves without the sup-
port of any preconceived theory what-
Do they demonstrate Messrs.
Henley and Henderson's proposition or
propositions? Unquestionably they do

As has been said, the work of Messrs. Henley and Henderson is still incomplete. At present we can only indicate, by means of one or two details, the quality of it. The text of "The Centenary Burns" is as excellent as the-up to a certain point. They provetypography in which it is displayed is what was not disputed-that "Burns beautiful; it has been compiled after was the heir to a flourishing tradition, collation of as many manuscripts as reand the last of an ancient line," that he search and industry could command, "derives from a numerous ancestry;" and of the various "authors' editions;" but they do not prove that he was "not and, to the great profit and pleasure of the founder of a dynasty," and, rightly scholars, the source of every reading interpreted, they do not minimize his adopted is plainly stated in the notes, "modern tendencies." They prove that along with the various readings Burns borrowed not only form jected by the editors-rejected, we may matter from his Scotch predecessors,



[ocr errors]

that he wrote in their manner, on subjects similar to theirs, but not that he looked at the world as any one of them did. In short, while emphasizing the debt Burns owed to his "forebears,' they also unwillingly emphasize the gulf that separates him from the best as well as the last of them-which gulf is made not only by genius (for Dunbar had genius too), but by modernity.

No poet, not even Shakespeare, has been so minutely, lovingly studied as Burns. No editor has ever approached the text in so truly critical a spirit or treated it in so scholarly and classical a fashion as Messrs. Henley and Henderson. It is impossible to convey in a brief notice an adequate impression either of the bulk or of the quality of their work. Take for example their treatment of "The Kirk's Alarm." Their note embraces a summary of the M'Gill persecution, which is a model of conciseness and completeness, and an account of the production of the poem, to which they contribute a quotation from the unpublished Dunlop manuscripts at Lochryan: "I have just sketched the following ballad, and as usual send the first rough draft to you." Their "study of the origin" is as follows: "This copy (Mrs. Dunlop's) was originally entitled "The Kirk's Lament," a ballad: Tune, "Push about the Brisk Bowl;" but in the manuscript Lament is deleted for Alarm. Probably, therefore, the idea of the lesque was suggested by a certain broadside, "The Church of Scotland's Lamentation concerning the setting up of Plays and Comedies, March, 1715," the work of an anonymous writer, of which there is a copy in the Roxburghe Collection." Then they describe the various manuscripts and versions, including the broadside published in 1789 with the title "The Ayrshire Garland," an excellent new song: tune, "The Vicar and Moses," of which Mr. Craibe Angus is the proud possessor of the only copy known to exist. Burns's tunes do not, it seems, fit the verses. The stave of "The Kirk's Alarm" was used in Pitcairne's "Roundell on Sir Robert Sibbald," 1686, and by Congreve, and


was popular in England throughout the eighteenth century. But "as a matter of fact "The Kirk's Alarm" was modelled directly on a political squib which appeared in the Glasgow Mercury, December 23-30, 1788, and was current at least six months before Burns wrote his first draft.” This is admirable work. It is the kind of critical editing that the student has long desired, and it is free from all suspicion of a straining of the facts to suit the editors' theory. But too high praise cannot be accorded to Messrs. Henley and Henderson's studies of origins throughout. Thus the six-line stave in rime couée, built on two rhymes, of the "Address to the Deil," is traced from the work of the first-known troubabour, William IX., Count of Poitiers and Duke of Guienne (1071–1127), through Hilary, a Paris monk of the twelfth century, through an anonymous English love-song of the thirteenth century, through the "York Plays" and the "Towneley Mysteries" of the fifteenth century, down to its first use by a Scotsman, Sir David Lyndesay. So by Fergusson's time it hau "become the common inheritance of all such Scotsmen as could rhyme." Again, the metrical structure of "The Holy Fair" is traced back to the thirteenth century romance of "Sir Tristrem," and "docked of the bob-wheel, that never-failing device of the medieval craftsman, the "Sir Tristrem" stave is identical with one which, imitated from a monkish-Latin original, was popular all through the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and long afterwards." Burns himself avowedly derived the metre of the "Epistle to Davie" from Montgomerie. Messrs. Henley and Henderson ascribe to Montgomerie, with the utmost probability, the invention of this peculiar quatorzain; they trace its history to Ramsay's revival of it in "The Vision," and elsewhere, and claim it as exclusively Scottish, both in derivation and in use. In like manner they trace back "The Death and Dying Words of Poor Mailie" to Hamilton of Gilbertfield's (1665?— 1757) "Last Dying Words of Bonny Heck."

« ElőzőTovább »