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The same judgment and discretion which dictated the memoirs of the poet, presided also in the selection of his writings in the edition by Dr. Currie; of which it may justly be said, that whilst no production of Burns could be withdrawn from it without diminishing its value, nothing is there inserted which can render his works unworthy of the approbation of manly taste, or inconsistent with the delicacy of female virtue.
But although no reduction can be made from the published works of the poet, it will, it is hoped, appear from the following pages, that much
may be added to them, not unworthy of his genius and character. Of these pieces many had from various causes never occurred to the notice of Dr. Currie ; whilst others have been given by him in a more imperfect state than that in which they will now appear.—These productions of the Scottish Bard extend from his earliest to his latest years; and may be considered as the wild-flowers of his muse, which, in the luxuriant vigour of his fancy, he scattered as he passed along. They are the result of a most diligent search, in which I have used the utmost exertions; often walking to considerable distances, and to obscure cottages in search of a single letter. Many of them have been obtained
from the generous confidence and liberality of their
possessors; some from the hands of careless indifference, insensible to their value; others were fast falling to decay, their very existence almost forgotten, though glowing with the vital warmth which is diffused through every line that the hand of the immortal bard has ever traced.-In this pursuit I have followed the steps of the poet, from the humble Cottage in Ayrshire in which he was born, to the House in which he died at Dumfries. I have visited the farm of Mossgiel where he resided at the period of his first publication; I have traversed the scenes by the Ayr, the Lugar, and the Doon. Sacred haunts !
"- Where first grim nature's visage hoar
Struck his young eye;"
-And have finally shared in the reverential feelings of his distinguished biographer,* over
* The above passage has a reference to a letter from Dr. Currie to Messrs. Cadell and Davies, which has been communicated to the Editor, and of which the following is an extract.
June 13, 1804. “ On my late excursion I visited Mrs. Burns at Dum« fries. She continues to live in the house in which the
the hallowed spot where the ashes of the bard are deposited.*
It must not bowever be supposed that the present volume contains the whole, or nearly the whole of the writings of Burns, which have come under my eye, or fallen into my hands; much
“ poet died, and every thing about her bespoke decent
competence, and even comfort. She shewed me the “ study and small library of her Husband nearly as he left
By every thing I hear she conducts herself irreproachably.
“ From Mrs. Burns's house my Son and I went to the “ Church-yard at no great distance, to visit the grave of “ the poet. As it is still uninscribed, we could not have “ found it, had not a person we met with in the Church“ yard pointed it out. He told us he knew Burns well, “ and that he (Burns) himself chose the spot in which he is “ buried. His
is on the north-east corner of the “ Church-yard, which it fills up; and at the side of the
grave of his two sons, Wallace and Maxwell, the first of “ whom, a lad of great promise, died last year of a con“ sumption, the last immediately after his father. The
spot is well situated for a monument, for which there is
money collected, but the subscribers, I understand, can“ noť agree as to a design.”
* On this little pilgrimage I was accompanied by Mr.
less have I thought it justifiable to reprint those exceptionable pieces, in prose and verse, which have been surreptitiously published, or erroneously attributed to him, and which in every point of view ought to have been consigned to oblivion. Notwithstanding the vigour which characterizes all his productions, perhaps there is no author whose writings are so difficult to select with a view to publication as Burns; and the very strength and exuberance by which they are marked, are in no small degree the cause of this difficulty. Whatever was the object, or the idea, of the moment, he has delineated, or expressed it, with a force and a veracity that brings it before us in all its beauty, or all its deformity. But the subjects of his pen were almost as various as nature herself; and hence it follows, that some of his compositions must be discarded, as inconsistent with that decorum which is due to the public at large. In his early years, Burns had imbibed a strong attach
James M-Clure, a man who by his punctuality, his integrity, his benevolence, and the uniform uprightness of his character, confers respectability on the humble situation of a lettercarrier. He was the constant and faithful friend of the poet, and since his death has been most active and successful in bis endeavours to promote the interests of the family.
ment to the unfortunate House of Stuart, which he seems to have cherished as a patriotic feeling; and as whatever he felt, he felt strongly, his prejudices occasionally burst forth in his writings; and some compositions of his yet remain, the publication of which, although in these days perfectly harmless, might render the Editor obnoxious to the letter, though not to the spirit of the law. If the affections of Burns were ardent, his animosities were scarcely less so; and hence some of his pieces display a spirit of resentment, the result of the moment, which it would be unjust to his memory, as well as to the objects of his satire, to revive. These and various other causes, on which it would be tedious to dwell, have imposed difficulties upon me from which I have endeavoured to extricate myself according to the best of my judgment. If on the one hand, with the example of the former Editor before my eyes, I have rejected whatever I conceived might in any point of view be improper for the public eye, I have on the other hand, been anxious not to deprive the author, through too fastidious an apprehension of indecorum, of those peculiar marks, and that masculine freedom of thought and expression, which so strongly characterize his works. Nor have I in this respect trusted wholly to my own judgment and feelings. Several persons, some of them most near