Skip to main content
Robert Burns and the Mkdk^vl Profession.
^ ,^i^ *"
Dr. JOHN MACKENZIE
liy William Findlay, after an Oil Painting, by James Tannock, at present in the
possession of the Misses Mackenzie, Edinburgh.
The Medical Profession
WILLIAM FINDLAY, M.D,
Author of "In My City Garden" and "Avrshihe Idylls'
WITH THIRTEEN FULL- PAGE PORTRAITS
Publisher to Her Majesty the Queen
PAISLEY; and PATERNOSTER SQUARE, LONDON
Y- 5 j^
I WAS asked, some time ago, at a Burns Anniversary Celebra-
tion, to reply to the toast of the iVIedical Profession ; and in
casting about in my mind what to say in justification of
the honour, it occurred to me that the name of the Bard was
associated with the medical faculty in a much more intimate
manner than at first sight appeared, or was even generally
understood ; and that it was, therefore, a not inappropriate
toast to be proposed at a gathering of Burns admirers.
Afterwards, pursuing the same train of thought, and going
deeper into the subject, I soon became convinced of the
accuracy of my conjectui'e — that, indeed, the field, if some-
what circumscribed, was so rich in materials and interest,
that justice could not be done to it within the prescribed
limits assigned either to an after-dinner toast or in a reply to
the same. A lecture, or even a book, as the matter grew
under my hand, seemed the likelier and the truer destination
to which its dimensions should reach. This solution of the
business, I may say, became still more apparent as I pro-
ceeded on my way, and came to tackle those controversial
points which have, more particularly of late years, gathered
around Dr. Currie's biographical achievement ; and which
have so long, and, I venture to think, so harmfully, in-
Tolved tlie good name of the Poet. Sadi an nnforbmate
e^ct, moseoTer, has been mainlj bioo^t about bj Tiitne
ci the biographesPs tczj omsckiitioiKiiess (over-ri^teoas-
ness) in discbazgii^ tbe datjf icbidli he conadeied he
owed to tbe memoiT ci h^ sobject, to the public, and to
himself; c(Ki£aiin^ thear^j, a sort <^ classicism on his
pnmooncenKnt of Bmnsls ecnnrs and chaiacteiisatHML, which,
from the wanntii of appro^ witb which the doctor's judg-
ment had been qnoted by so many dislingai^ied anthontiK
and £rani so manj di^xent qoarfcexs, came to be looked
vpagk as possessing the stamp (^ finalitir, and, thezcfore,
endowed witb a oane^Mmdii^j long lease of life.
In the esemtion of m j ta^ the matoials f<Mr whicb aze,
in manj iietances, difficult to find, and not alwajs accessible,
I hare tried to state the case tampezatelT and feiilj for all
conc e rned. How far I baxe succeeded, the reader most be
That ibese pages are a pexfect or complete statement of
the inqniij, Robert Bums and ^ke Jfr J' ^ P ^"csakm, I do
not fer a moment amtend. In my it- T^ ~.s
Infaliagiaphies, lifaraij catalogoes, and c:
<^-tbe-way nooks and covnexs v£ book-^ieiTes, it k pror. .
that I have rnkspd out some omtribation: bat tbe stater. ::
is as cffin|dete as, witiii care and labocr. I „ =en ab.
I Imme to acknowledge my indditedness to Dr. Alexander
BaitezsoD, Glasgow, for his kindness in aHowing me free
access to his extensive and most valuable Bumsiana libran" ;
and to Dr. James Finlayson, Hon. librarian to the Faculty
of Physicians and Surgeons, Glasgow, for many important
bibliogiaphical notes beai-ing on the subject of my inquiry.
I have also to thank ]Mr. F. T. Barrett and his assistants, of
the IMitchell Libran% Glasgow, ]Mr. D. ]M'Xaught, the dis-
tinguished editor of the Anmud Burns Chronicle, Dr. H.
Vevers of Hereford, ]Mr. James Smith, Raemoir, Ayr, IMr.
Alexander Anderson of the Edinburgh University Librai'v,
]\Iessrs. Thomas Rennie and William Reid, Glasgow, j\Ir,
James Carment, Dumfiies, and others, for their obliging help
and assistance in ftu-nishinsr me Avith numerous hints and
points of information, or otherwise aiding me towards the
successful completion of my task. I have likewise to express
my acknowledgments to Col. J. ^Maxwell Witham, Kirk-
counell, Newabbey, Dumfriesshire, for kindly permitting me
to photograph the oil painting, in his possession, of his
celebi^ated relative, the late Dr. William IMaxwell, Dumfries ;
and to John ]^Iackenzie, Esq., W.S., Edinburgh, for furnish-
ing me with a photograph of his grandfather, the late Dr.
John ]Mackenzie of ^lauchline, from which the drawing for
the present work was made.
W TTJTA AT FINDLAY.
I. Dr. John Mackenzie, Mauchline, 9
II. Diis. Gregory, Wood, Adair, etc., Edinburgh, .. 22
III. Dr. John Moore, London, 35
IV. Drs. Maxwell, Thomson, Mundell, etc., Dum-
V. James Currie, M.D., F.R.S., Liverpool, . 69
VI. Dr. David Macbeth Moir (Delta), and the
Grand Alloway Festival, 91
VIL Drs. Fr. Adams, 0. W. Holmes, etc., .. .. 100
VIII. Dr. John Brown and Others down to the end
of the Eighties, Ill
IX. A Decade of Medical Burnsites, including
Dr. James Adams, Glasgow, 124
Sources of Information for this Inquiry, .. 135
Subscribers' Names, .. .. 151
LIST OF PORTRAITS.
DR. JOHN MACKENZIE,
PROFESSOR JAMES GREGORY, M.D., .
DR. ALEXANDER WOOD, ..
DR. JOHN MOORE,
DR. WILLIAM INLAXWELL,
JAMES OURRIE, M.D., F.R.S.,
DAVID MACBETH MOIR, M.D. (DELTA),
FRANCIS ADAJ.IS, M.D., LL.D., ..
DR. OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES,
DR. JOHN BROWN,
JAMES ADAMS, M.D., F.F.P.S.G.,
to face page 22
Robert Burns and the Medical Profession.
Dk. JOHN MACKENZIE, MAUCHLINE.
The association of the name of Burns, })articailarly in his
lifetime, with the learned professions is matter of commonest
familiarity to the most ordinary reader of his works. In his
" I've been at drunken writers' feasts,
Nay, been bitch-fou 'mang godly priests,"
he has focused for us, in his own pithy style, the close and
bibulous character of that communion ; though he, doubt-
less, intended us to receive the declaration with a pinch of
salt — to take from the lines the usual liberal discount ac-
corded to the man of humour, who is generally also a man of
It might have been better for Burns, especially in the be-
ginning of his poetical career, while farming at iNIossgeil
with his brother Gilbert, had he been less intimate with
lawyers and new-licht ministers, all of whom, C'arlyle de-
clared, would require to be sleeping in their graves before
10 Burns and the Medical Profession.
the world would be able to see their quondam champion
and boon-companion aright. It is questionable if their
society did the Poet any good ; the probability rather is
that it did him harm ; and it was certainly owing to his
friendliness with the new-lichts, together with the fact that
he was their daringly clever and candid mouthpiece and
most brilliant fighting man, that the auld-licht party, not
only in his lifetime, but long after his death, was so bitterly
hostile to him.
If his relationship to the most rigidly orthodox section
of the clergy was, in those days, marked by scathing satire
on his side, and by hatred and denunciation of his charac-
ter and poetry on theirs, continued down to our own time
by the narrower and more intolerant descendants of the
auld-lichts, no such dishonourable wordy-warfare and slander
distinguishes his intercourse with the medical faculty, with
whom he was always on the best of terms, though he has
never employed his muse to celebrate their particular virtues,
as he has those of some lawyers and ministers.
In the followiiig encjuiry, then, I propose to trace this
honourable connection of his with members of the medical
profession ; for there are next to no materials in the works
of Burns themselves, out of which might be woven a piece of
literary fabric, with some such title as Medicine and the
Kindred Arts in Burns. There are none of those riches, like
what we have in Shakspere, for instance, from which might be
made such a wealthy contribution, or even the poor pretence
of such, as Medicine and the Kindred Arts in the Plays of
Shakspej-e, by the late Dr. John Moyes, edited by his friend,
Dr. James Finlayson. With the exception of a few allusions,
scattered here and there throughout his poems, which, doubt-
Dii. JoHX Mackenzie. 11
less, show some knowledge of medical nomenclature, as well
as acquaintance with the symptoms of disease and the art of
healing, there are practically no materials at all for a similar
undertaking, even of the most limited kind. That his medical
knowledge, so far as it went, was not without both soundness
and point, is proven by its truthfulness to nature and skilled
experience, as well as by the easy familiarity with which he
handled it for the purposes of humourous satire. The man
of poetical genius, to be sure, arrives at a good deal of his
knowledge by intuition. That line, for instance, in "The
Farmer's Ingle,'" by Burns's great exemplar, Ferguson —
" The mind's ay cradled when the grave is near,"
is a very good illustration of the doctrine in question. It
might have been written by an old man who had been witness
to an hundred death beds, instead of by a mere youth of
twenty who had probably never once seen a human being die,
so Shakesperian is it in character. In the same way Burns,
however he came by his medical knowledge — whether by the
royal road of intuition, or the more prosaic one of obser-
vation and reflection — had the gift of employing it with
equal effect, of which there are some striking specimens,
though in a different vein from Fergusson's, in some of the
verses of his " Epistle to John Goldie in Kilmarnock.'"
" Poor, gapin, glowrin Superstition !
Wae's mo, she's in a sad condition :
Fye ! bring Llack Jock, her state physician,
To see her water :
Alas, there's ground for great suspicion
She'll ne'er get better.
12 Burns axd the Medical Profession,
Enthusiasm's past redemption,
Gane in a gallopin consumption ;
Not a' her quacks, wi' a' their gumption,
Can ever mend her ;
Her feeble pulse gies strong presumption,
She'll soon surrender.
Auld Orthodoxy lang did grapple,
For every hole to get a stapple ;
But now she fetches at the thrapple,
An' fights for breath ;
Haste, gie her name up in the chapel,
' Near unto death. ' "
And in " Death and Dr. Hornbook," there is a highly
humorous inventory of the wares of the would-be village
" 'And then a' doctor's saws an' whittles,
Of a' dimensions, shapes, an' mettles,
A' kinds o' boxes, mugs an' bottles,
He's sure to hae ;
Their Latin names as fast he rattles
As A B C.
Calces o' fossils, earths, an' trees ;
True sal-marinum o' the seas ;
The farina o' beans an' pease
He has't in plenty ;
Aqua-fontis, what you please,
He can content ye.
Forbye some new, uncommon weapons,
Urinus spiritus of capons ;
Or mite-horn shavings, filings, scrapings,
Distill'd per se ;
Sal-alkali o' raidge-tail-clippings,
And mony niae.' "
Dr. John Mackenzie. 13
I never read Death's description of Hornbook-s little stock-
in-trade without calling to mind that famous inventory of
the contents of another apothecary''s shop in Mantua.
" And in his needy shop a tortoise hung,
An alligator stuff'd, and other skins
Of ill-shaped fishes ; and about his shelves
A beggarly account of empty boxes,
Green earthen pots, bladders and musty seeds,
Remnants of pack-thread and old cakes of roses,
Were thinly scatter'd, to make up a show."
Not that there is any very genuine resemblance to give
countenance to the coincidence. On the contrary Shakspere's
picture is intensely realistic, while Burns*'s is almost riot-
ously humorous, and even bordering on the farcical. Neither
is it possible, without running the risk of finding oneself in
the classification of the wittv Elia's " true Caledonian," to
take this satire, as in any sense, pointing its shafts at
quackery. Burns is not righteously indignant at the mis-
chief this foolish schoolmaster and grocer is working on the
bodies and health of village simpletons, but is provoked
rather to intolerable mirth by the vanity and conceit of his
assumed doctorship. It is splendid fun he is after — not
reformation. And it probably never entered into his calcu-
lations that its effect would be to compel this self-appointed
village apothecary— this man " o'' saws an' whittles " to
abandon, not only liis doctorship, but his schoolmastership
and small grocery as well, and even to forsake his native
Tarbolton and seek his fortune in the western metropolis,
where a grandson of his is a practitioner of the healing art at
the present day, showing that the fatal proclivity towards
14 Burns axd the Medical Pkofessiox.
physic, so conspicuous in the Hornbook grandfather, must
have run in the blood after all.
Since, then, the works of Burns afford no scope for linking
his name with medicine and the kindred arts in any substan-
tial sense, my task must, therefore, of necessity confine itself
to his connection with those individual members of the medi-
cal profession who have been more or less distinguished as his
intimates, correspondents, biographers, and critics and pane-
gyrists of his life and writings. The materials for such an
undertaking, if somewhat limited in extent, are exceedingly
rich in character ; and, as I said before, alike honoiu'able, in
the main, both to Burns and his medical friends and admirers.
If the doctors, in his own day and since, never boggled over
his frailties, like the clergy, but have always been honourably
distinguished by a wise toleration and charity, and the high-
est regard and enthusiasm in estimating the poet and his
work, it is not, I trust, because the question of right conduct
in man or woman is a less vital matter with them, but rather,
I am inclined to believe, because of the difference of their
point of view. This larger and more inseeing vision, which
they generally bring to bear on all questions of human nature
and conduct, they owe, I think, to their peculiar education
and to their intercourse with disease, which makes them ac-
cjuainted, in a most near-hand way, with the infirmities of
their fellow creatures. The lawyer is chiefly conversant with
the more equivocal side of hinnan nature ; the minister with
the affected side — with mankind on their best behaviour ; but
the doctor knows us as we are — in undress, and that in )nore
senses than the literal one. In a matter, therefore, of seeming
moral declension the clergyman only sees xchaf.s' done, not
zohafs resisted. The medical man, on the other hand, sees
Dii. John Mackenzie, 15
whafs (lone too, but he also discerns what was perhaps irre-
sistible, through some organic frailty, flaw, or imperfection,
hereditary or acquired, in the unfortunate constitution of
the delinquent, more sinned against, it may be, than sinning,
hence his frequently greater charity and toleration,
IJurns^s first intimacy with a member of the medical faculty
is a matter of some doubt. Cliambers says that, althougli
Burns was taken little notice of while flax-dressing in Irvine,
it would appear that he was not unknown to the family of
the provost, Mr, Hamilton of Craighlaw, whose house still
stands at the corner where Glasgow Venncl and High
Street meet — the immediate locality of the Foefs " heck-
ling "-shop. His son, Dr, Hamilton, was one of the ac-
quaintances of Burns who became security to the printer of
the Kilmarnock edition. This, I presume, is the same
gentleman, Dr, Hamilton of Kilmaniock House, whom the
historian of Kilmarnock mentions when speaking of John
Goldie, Major Parker, Ur, William Moore, Thomas Samson,
Rol)ert Muir, and others of the famous band of the Poet's
From this statement of Chambers, it would, therefore,
appear more than probable that he may have been acquainted
with Dr. Hamilton prior to his intimacy with Mr. John
Mackenzie, a Mauchlinc surgeon, which began when he was
twenty-four years of age, after his return to Lochlea, Tar-
bolton, and during his father''s last illness, about the end of
1783. In an account of the good doctor's impressions of this
remarkable Lochlea household, supplied to Josiah Walker,
Es([,, we learn something of the esteem in which he held its
members. For the father and mother, and two eldest sons,
Robert and Gilbert, he entertained the highest regai'd, and
16 Burks and the Medical Professiox.
was struck by the amount of general culture and intelligence,
considering their sphere of life, shown by his patient and two
sons ; and especially by the brilliant conversational gifts of
the Poet, of the extent of whose talents, he says, no person
could have a just idea who had not had an opportunity to
liear him converse.
The intercourse between doctor and bard, thus begun in
the sick chamber of Lochlea, continued and ripened into
genial friendship after the old man's death and the family's
removal to jNIossgiel. We have noteworthy testimony of
this in a versified epistle Bm-ns sent to his brother mason,
inviting him to be present on the 24th June, 1786 (St. John's
Day), at a grand procession of the St. James' Lodge, Tar-
bolton, and of which he himself was Depute Master.
" Friday first's the day appointed
By the Right Worshipful anointed,
To hold our grand procession ;
To get a blad o' Johnie's morals,
And taste a swatch o' Hanson's barrels
I' the way of our profession.
The Master and the Brotherhood
Would a' be glad to see you ;
For me I would be mair than proud
To share the mercies wi' you.
If Death, then, wi' skaith, then,
Some mortal heart is hechtin,
Inform him, and storm him,
That Saturday you'll fecht him.
" It is not very clear," says Wm. Scott Douglas, " who was
the ' Johnie ' thus expected to dilate on morals : Professor
Walker tells us it was John Mackenzie himself, whose
favourite topic was ' the origin of morals.' "
])r. John Mackenzie. 17
We also catch an interesting glimpse of their friendship on
a September Sunday some three months later. Burns was on
his way to church and had looked in on his friend Gavin
Hamilton, whose house was contiguous to the church, ex-
pecting that he might accompany him thither. Gavin, how-
ever, declined, but told him to bring a note of the discourse
in four stanzas. A bet was made between them on the point,
and accordingly at the end of the forenoon service, Burns
presented him with four of the verses of " The Calf," over
which he had been musing in his pew, strange to say, at the
very time that Jean Armour was giving birth to twins, but
of which interesting event he was ignorant till later in the
day. Dr. ^Mackenzie, happening to call at Gavin Hamilton's
at the time that Burns was reading his performance, was so
tickled with the verses that he extracted from him the pro-
mise of a copy, which he sent the same Sunday night,
accompanied by a brief note, telling him that the fourth and
last stanzas were added since he saw him that day.
Very vivid and human is the peep into this Sabbath nook
of Mauchline life upwards of a hundred years ago, than
which no other spot of Burns ground contains within such
small compass so many memorials of those personages and
dwellings celel)rated in his poems and nearly associated with
his own life-history. There is the sacred quiet of the
two or three village streets, with the pensive colouring of
the woods and fields all around. The old church, sitting
dreamily amid its slanting tombstones, and overlooked from
three different points — Nanse Tannock's, Gavin Hamilton"'s,
and Poosie-Nansie's, has " skailed,"" and dotting the uneven
surface of the churchyard are the sober forms of some
of the lingering worshipjiers in " runkled blacks." On
18 Burns axd the Medical Profession.
the lawyer^s parlour floor we recognise the three woi'thies,
as distinctly as if the event -were a thing of yesterday,
Gavin Hamilton, Burns, and the village doctor, their heads
together, and their risible faculties in full exercise as the
verses of "The Calf" are being recited. Meanwhile the
youthful minister, the Rev. James Steven, has descended from
the pulpit and entered the session-house, or betaken himself
to the manse, all unconscious of the three merry comrades in
the lawyer's parlour, one of whom has given such poetical
shape to his conceits, as will safely carry the young preacher
down to posterity — a service he was not very likely to have
done for himself.
Some six or seven weeks further on in the autumn, October
23rd, 1786, and three months after the publication of the
Kilmarnock edition of his poems, we find Burns, with his
doctor friend, a guest at the dinner-table of Professor Dugald
Stewart, who was then staying at his country seat near
Catrine, and to whose notice he had been introduced by the
Mauchline surgeon. How he enjoyed himself at the Pro-
fessor's dinner-table, that
" Ne'er to be forgotten day,
Sae far he sprachled up the brae,
He dinner'd wi' a Lord,"
arid the high opinion he formed of great folks and their
simple dignity and unaffected manners, he tells us in a
letter to the doctor a week after the event, enclosing a copy
of verses, entitled, " Lines on Meeting with Lord Daer " —
that young nobleman happening to be one of the dinner
party on the eventful occasion.
The Mauchline surgeon not only introduced Burns to Pro-
fessor Dugald Stewart, the philosopher, who, we know, from
Du. JoHx Mackenzie. 19
that and subsequent interviews with him in Edinburgh,
formed a very high opinion of his great intellectual and
poetical gifts, his estimate in that respect somewhat re-
sembling Carlyle's, but he also introduced him to his patient,
Sir John AVhitefoord, before that gentleman left Ballochmyle
for the capital ; and to the Hon. Henry Erskine, both of
\vhoni became his patrons and friends in Edinbui'gh. He
likewise had the pleasure of making his works known to Dr.
Blair, when that distinguished divine was on a visit to Bar-
skinniiing, by showing him "The Holy Fair," in which
poem, by the by, Mackenzie is himself said, by Cham])ers,
to be mentioned under the name of " Common-Sense," he
having written on some controversial topic under that title
" In yuid time comes an antidote
Against sic poisoned nostrum ;
For Peebles, frae the Water-fit,
Ascends the holy rostrum ;
See, up he's got the Word u' God,
And meek and mim has viewed it.
While Common- Sense has ta'en the road,
And aff and up the Cowgate,
Fast, fast that day."
It so happened that Mackenzie on this day of " The Holy
Fair" was engaged to join Sir John Whitefoord of Balloch-
myle, and go to Dumfries House, in Auchinleck parish, in
order to dine with the Earl of Dumfries ; so, after attending
church, and listening to some of the out-door harangues, he
was seen to leave the assembly and go off along the Cowgate,
on his way to Ballochmyle, exactly as Peebles ascended the
20 Burns and thk Medical Profession.
The subsequent history of this worthy and genial doctor
may be briefly stated, as follows. On leaving Mauchline,
with which he was doubly associated, inasmuch as he was
married to one of its " six proper young belles," Miss Helen,
daughter of John Miller of Millockshill, he commenced prac-
tice in Irvine. After a long and honourable career in that
ancient and royal burgh, in the course of which he not only
attained the highest honours of the magistracy, but, towards
its close, in 1824, received from his Alma Mater the degree
of M.D. for a thesis on " De Carcinomate," he retired in
1827 to Edinburgh, where he died, January 11th, 1837, at
an advanced age. The well-known literary and antiquarian
collector — the late John Whitefoord Mackenzie, W.S., Edin-
burgh, M'as his son.
And as a convincing proof that the doctor's interest in
Burns had not cooled in the long interval since he left the
atmosphere of Mauchline and its neighbourhood, it is re-
corded of him that, on the founding of the Irvine Burns
Club in 1827, the year of his retiral, he presided at the
opening dinner on January 25th, with the well-known Mr.
David Sillar, " a brither poet " (Epistle to Davie), as vice-
It is a singular circumstance and, therefore, worthy of
notice here, before finally passing from Mauchline to trace
the Poefs medical intimacies in Edinburgh, that another of
these belles, the witty Miss Smith, should likewise have
secured for a husband a medical man, who was also a valued
friend and correspondent of Burns : I refer to his old school-
fellow at Dalrymple and Ayr,
Mr. James Candlish.
Dk. Johx Mackenzie. SI
It would appear that young Candlisli was originally in-
tended by his parents for the Church, but, on account of
creed scruples, drifted into medicine. Towards the close of
his medical curriculum at Glasgow University he taught
languages at Mauchline, and while there formed the inti-
macy of Jane Smith, his future wife, who became the mother
of the celebrated divine, Dr. Candlish of Edinburgh. As he
was never robust, and diffident and shy almost to painful-
ness, he eschewed general practice, and settled in Edinburgh
about 1788, as a teacher of medicine, in which he won well-
merited distinction. Here he was made known to many of
its leading personages by Burns, who had just bidden his final
adieu to the city. In a letter to Mr. Peter Hill, written
from Ellisland about March, 1789, accompanying the gift of
a ewe-milk cheese, the Poet, in enumerating their common
friends who might be permitted to taste it, names Mr. Can-
dlish in the following enthusiastic terms : — " Candlish, the
earliest friend, except my only brother, that I have on earth,
and one of the worthiest of fellows that ever any man called
by the name of friend, if a luncheon of my best cheese would
help to rid him of part of his superabundant modesty, you
would do well to give it him.'"''
He died somewhat suddenly of a brain affection on April
29th, 1806, at the early age of forty-six, having been born
the same year as Burns — 1759.
Diis. GREGORY, WOOD, ADAIR, Etc., EDINBURGH.
In little more than a month after dining at Catrine House
Burns had bidden farewell, for a season at least, to the rural
life around Mauchline, and the congenial society of his
friends, Gavin Hamilton and Dr. Mackenzie, and betaken
himself to the gay capital. Thither Professor Stewart had
gone before him, to commence his winter session at the
University, in the beginning of November, carrying with
him a copy of the humble Kilmarnock volume to introduce
it to the notice of his friend, Mr. Henry Mackenzie, the
author of The Man of Feeling, who gave it a generous and
highly appreciative criticism in The Lonnger, a periodical
work published in Edinburgh by Mr. Creech. By this means
the PoeFs fame may be said to have, in a great measure,
preceded him, so that on his arrival in Fair Edina he was at
once installed as the intimate and associate of its aristocratic
leaders of fashion, its men of science, and its brilliant rem-
nant of Scottish literati who adorned the latter half of the
eighteenth century, and who then formed such a conspicuous
element of the best Edinburgh society, immbering, as it did,
amongst its circle such names as Dr. Robertson, Dr. Blair,
Dr. Gregory, Dr. Adam Ferguson, Mr. Mackenzie, and Mr.
It was at the hospitable table of Lord Monboddo, who
was then as remarkable for his classic suppers as for the
Pki>kessok JA.MES GREGORY, M.D.
From an Engraving, by the kind permission of James I.. Caw, Esq., of ihe
Scottish National Portrait Gallery.
Dr. James Gregory. 23
beauty of his daughter, that Burns made the acquaintance of
Dr. James Gregory, the Professor of the Practice of ]Medi-
cine in Edinburgh University, the scion of a family distin-
guished for generations for their great learning, and himself,
not only the leading member of his profession in Edinburgh,
but the witty and humorous associate of the men of letters
and fashion in the capital, and a brother of the Cannongate
Kilwinning Lodge of Eree Masons.
The following incident is related by Chambers as happen-
ing at the table of Lord Monboddo between Burns and the
doctor at the beginning of their acquaintanceship. " Dr.
Gregory, who, feeling some interest in the psychology of such
a prodigy of genius, began to question Burns about his
family history. The Bard had been dining with Mr.
Howden, jeweller. Parliament Square, and was much in
a humour for waggery. ' Well, Burns,' said the learned
physician, ' What sort of man was your father ? — a tall
man.^' 'Yes, rather.'' 'A dark-complexioned man .^ '
' Yes." ' And your mother ? "" ' My mother was not a man
at all, sir.' By this grammatical quip the doctor was sadly
discomfited ; and Burns next day made his friend Howden
laugh heartily at the joke in his shop in Parliament Square."
Li spite of this somewhat inauspicious-looking connnence-
ment, the intimacy thus begun soon ripened into genuine
friendship, which is all the more remarkable considering
the difference in their education and position ; but perhaps,
as Chambers suggests, " their common liability to the saeva
iridignatio when their feelings were offended by foolish or
sordid conduct," had contributed towards it. That Burns,
at any rate, on his part, was deeply impressed from their first
meetings at Lord Monboddo's " with the large intelligence,
24 BURXS AND THE MeDICAL PROFESSION'.
vigorous thought, and high-minded benevolence of the
learned author of the Conapectus Medichia:^'' we have his
own testimony to prove, written on the blank page of an
English translation of Cicero's Select Orations (London,
1756), presented to him by the doctor.
" Edin., 23rd April, 1787.
" This book, a present from the truly worthy and
learned Dr. Gregory, I shall preserve to my latest hour, as
a mark of the gratitude, esteem, and veneration I bear the
Donor. So help me God !
" Robert Burns,'"
Three weeks after penning the above characteristic declara-
tion, we find him paying the doctor a compliment in verse.
The literary set who were in the habit of meeting at Lord
Monboddo's also frequented in the mornings the house in
High Street of Mr. Wm. Creech, the publisher, and that to
such an extent that the meeting used to be called Creech's
Levee. It happened, however, about this time, that the
continuity of these gatherings was broken for a little through
the absence of jSIr. Creech on a visit to London, and Burns
took the occasion to indite to his publisher a humorous
lamentation, in the following couple of stanzas of which he
has enshrined not only the doctor, but the entire literary
" Nae raair we see his levee door
Philosophers and poets pour,
And toothy critics by the score,
In bloody raw !
The adjutant o' a' the core,
Willie's awa !
Dr. James Gregory. S5
" Now worthy Gregory's Latin face,
Tytler's and Greenfield's modest grace ;
Mackenzie, Stewart, sic a brace
As Rome ne'er saw ;
They a' maun meet some ither place,
Willie's awa ! "
When the Poet was confined to his lodgings for several
weeks with his sprained knee (during which period transpired
the famous Clarinda and Sylvander correspondence) Dr.
Gregory attended him in the capacity of physician, while
Mr. Alexander Wood officiated as surgeon. During the
visits of the learned author of the Conspectus Medicinae, who
in his day and place was looked upon as a prince of critics,
he was in the habit of submitting not only his own verses, but
Clarinda^s as well, to the doctor's critical inspection. In one
of his epistles to that lady he tells her that a gentleman for
whose character, abilities, and critical knowledge he had the
highest veneration had just called in, " and I read," he says,
" to this much-respected friend several of my own bagatelles,
and, among others, your lines, which I had copied out. He
began some criticisms on them as on the other pieces, when I
informed him they were the work of a young lady in this
town, which, I assure you, made him stare. My learned friend
seriously protested that he did not believe any young woman
in Edinburgh was capable of such lines ; and if you know
anything of Professor Gregory, you will neither doubt his
abilities nor his sincerity."
But this same able and sincere critic, who had been so
lenient and complimentary towards the versicles of Clarinda,
could, we shall see, be just as severe on occasion to the com-
positions of her Sylvander. From Ellisland Burns had sent,
26 Burns and the Medical Profession.
for the doctoi"'s criticism, a short poem " On Seeing a Fellow
Wound a Hare with a Shot, April, ITSO," and criticise it he
did with a vengeance. To begin with, he acknowledges that
the verses have real poetic merit, such as fancy and tender-
ness, and some happy expressions ; so much so, indeed, that
they are the more deserving of careful revisal and the utmost
polish ; and he cites, as an example of Avhat correctness and
high polish can do in enhancing such compositions, the two
last pieces of Mrs. Hunter's poetry that he had given him.
The Mrs. Hunter here referred to, by the by, is the wife of the
celebrated surgeon, John Hunter, and the authoress of that
beautiful song, " My mother bids me bind my hair." It is,
therefore, highly gratifying that, if we cannot link the name
of the father of British medicine with that of Burns in our
enquiry, we can employ his wife's in that connection. Dr.
Gregory appears to have been a great admirer of Mrs.
Hunter's poetry, though on the appearance of her volume
in 1802 it met with but little mercy at the hands of Francis
Jeffrey, who said, " Poetry does not appear to be her voca-
tion, and rather seems to have been studied as an accomplish-
ment than pursued from any natural propensity." There
were other critics, however, who, it is but fair to say, admired
her poetry equally with Dr. Gregory, who, in the letter we
are commenting on, requests Burns to furnish him with
another and amended edition of his verses on The Wounded
Hare to send to Mrs. Hunter, who, he feels sure, will have
much pleasure in reading it. " Pray give me likewise for
myself," he asks, " and her too, a copy — as much amended
as you please — of the Watei'-Fotvl on Loch Tu7-rit. Let me
see you," he adds, " when you come to town, and I will show
you some of Mrs. Hunter's poems."
Dr. James Guegoky. 27
To return, however, to his criticism of The Wounded Hare.
" As you desire it," he says, " I shall, with great freedom,
give you my most rigvroiis criticisms on your verses. The
Wounded Hare is a pretty good subject ; but the measure,
or stanza, you have chosen for it, is not a good one ; it does
not How well ; and the rhyme of the fourth line is almost
lost by its distance from the first ; and the two interposed,
close rhymes. If I were you I would put it into a different
" Stanza I. — The execrations in the first two lines are
strong or coarse ; but they may pass. ' Murder-aiming '' is a
bad compound epithet, and not very intelligible. ' Blood-
stained,"* in stanza III., line 4, has the same fault : Bleeding
bosom is infinitely better. You have accustomed yourself to
such epithets, and have no notion how stiff and quaint they
appear to others, and how^ incongruous with poetic fancy,
and tender sentiments. Suppose Pope had written, ' Why
that blood-stained bosom gored,"* how Avould you have liked
it ? Form is neither a poetic, nor a dignified, nor a plain,
common word : it is a mere sportsman's word ; unsuitable to
pathetic or serious poetry. ' Mangled "* is a coarse word.
' Innocent,"* in this sense, is a nursery word ; but both may
Stanza 4. — ' Who will now provide that life a mother only
can bestow," will not do at all : it is not grammar — it is not
intelligible. Do you mean ' provide for that life which the
mother had bestowed and used to provide for ? "*
There was a ridiculous slip of the pen, 'Feeling' (I sup-
pose) for ' Fellow,'' in the title of your copy of verses ; but
even fellow would be wrong : it is but a collocpiial and vulgar
word, unsuitable to your seirtiments. 'Shot" is improper too
^8 Burns and the Medical Profession.
— On seeing a person (or a sportsman) wound a hare ; it is
needless to add with what weapon ; but if you think other-
wise, you should say, with a foxcUng-piece.''''
More rigorous, blunt, and unceremonious, in view of the
above quotation, he could hardly have shown himself had he
been a schoolmaster correcting a pupiPs English composition
exercise. Dr. Currie, in a foot note to this letter says, and
with truth, " It must be admitted that this criticism is not
more distinguished by its good sense, than by its freedom
from ceremony. It is impossible not to smile at the manner
in which the Poet may be supposed to have received it. In
fact, it appears, as the sailors say, to have tlu'own him quite
a-back: In a letter which he wrote soon after, he says, ' Dr.
G is a good man, but he crucifies me.' And again, ' I
believe in the iron justice of Dr. G ; but like the devils,
I believe and tremble.' However, he profited by these criti-
cisms, as the reader will find, by comparing this first edition
of the poem, with that published afterwards."
Alexander Wood, Surgeon, Royal Exchange, Edinburgh,
whom we saw attended Burns in conjunction with his col-
league. Dr. Gregory, though not the Johnsonian personality
in literary circles that the learned author of the Conspectus
Medicinae was, nevertheless, by virtue of his intimacy and
friendship with the Poet, deserves a notice to himself. Lang
Sandy Wood, as he was usually styled, on account of his
lengthy lanky figure, " was,"" says Chambers, " a man after
Burns's own heart — kind, quaint, fond of childi'en and
animals ; he even resembled the poet so specifically, as to
Dr. ALEXANDER WOOD
By the kind perniissioii of A. W. Iiiylis, Esq., of (Ueiicorse.
Dk, Alexander Wood. 29
have had at one time a pet sheep, which, hke Burns's Mailie,
' trotted by him ' through all the town on his professional
visits — a trait of eccentricity that strongly recalls the simple,
cordial days of our grandfathers." This highly gifted, active,
benevolent, simple, and warm-hearted surgeon, was a member
of the C.K. Lodge of Free Masons, at one of the meetings of
which he is said to have first made the acquaintance of the
Poet, for whose genius he entertained the general share of
admiration. He afterwards, as before remarked, attended
him for his bruised limb, while Burns was chafing at the
enforced confinement his injury entailed, and conducting the
romantic Sylvander and Clarinda correspondence. Clarinda,
herself the daughter of a Glasgow physician, in one of these
remarkable epistles, wrote, " I am glad to hear Mr. Wood
attends you ; he is a good soul, and a safe surgeon. I know
him a little. Do as he bids, and I trust your leg will soon
be quite well."
Lord President Dundas, of the Court of Session, dvinsr
somewhat suddenly about this time, 13th December, 1787, it
is stated that Mr. Charles Hay, Advocate, pressed Burns to
compose some elegiac verses on the occasion, and that Dr.
Wood warmly seconded the proposal, suggesting that the
poetic compliment might lead to some beneficial results,
through the powerful political influence of the Dundas family.
There appears, however, to be some discrepancy regarding
these statements ; for in a letter to Charles Hay, Esq.,
Advocate, enclosing a copy of the elegiac performance, while
Burns still gives that gentleman the credit of suggesting the
subject to him, he, in another epistle to Alex. Cunninghame,
says, " My very worthy and respected friend, Mr. Alexander
Wood, Surgeon, urged me to pay a compliment in the way
30 Burks and the Medical Proeession.
of my trade to his Lordship's memory," a task in which he
does not appear to have had very much heart. Whichever
of the two gentlemen was the proposer, and whichever the
seconder, it was certainly Dr. Wood who carried the elegy,
together with a letter, (written, the Poet confesses, in
his very best manner, whatever the quality of the verses) to
Mr. Solicitor Dundas, the dead Lord's son, "And not finding
him at home, left the parcel for him. His Solicitorship,
however, ne^'er took the smallest notice of the letter, the
poem, or the poet." The following note subjoined to a copy
of the elegy shows how the Bard felt the treatment of the
great Dundas family. " The foregoing poem has some
tolerable lines in it, but the incurable wound of my pride will
not suffer me to correct or even peruse it. I sent a copy of
it with my best prose letter, to the son of the great man, the
theme of the piece, by the hand, too, of one of the noblest
men in God's world, Alexander Wood, Surgeon, when behold
his Solicitorship took no more notice of my poem, or me,
than I had been a strolling fiddler, who made free with his
lady's name over the head of a silly new reel ! Did the
gentleman think I looked for any dirty gratuity ? "
If this proposal of the kind and simple surgeon, in the
interest of his poet-patient, turned out a melancholy failure,
he was more fortunate in another matter he took in hand. I
refer to his exertions in recommending Burns to the Com-
missioners of Excise, and on which recommendation his en-
X'olment as an officer followed.
Dr. M. Fyfe. 31
Du. James M'Kittrick Adaih.
A young relative of Mrs. Dunlop and the son of a physician
in Ayr, to whom Burns had before been introduced by the
Rev. Mr. Lawrie, minister of Loudoun, falls also, most con-
veniently to be noticed here, as it was from Edinburgh that
the doctor and he, sometime in October, 1787, and im-
mediately after the Poet's second visit to the capital, set out
together on a short tour, by Stirling, Devon, Clackmannan,
and Dunfermline, the highly interesting and piquant details
of which he afterwards communicated to Dr. Currie for his
memoir. In the vale of Devon, where they were storm-
stayed for a week, they were the guests of Mrs. Hamilton of
Harvieston, and the young doctor fell in love with the eldest
daughter, Charlotte, sister of Burns's bosom friend, Gavin
Hamilton of Mauchline, which lady, two years later, he
married, and settled down to medical practice at the
Pleasance, Edinburgh. Subsequently he removed to Harro-
gate, where he died in 1802, at the early age of thirty-seven.
His widow survived him four years, dying at Edinburgh at
the age of forty-three.
M. Fyfe, Surgeon,
with whose name, as a fitting close to the present paper,
I shall now bid farewell to the Edinburgh faculty ; and I
cannot do so more appropriately than in the Poefs own
words, addressed to his friend. Dr. Fyfe, half-an-hour before
turning his back on the palaces and toxcers of Edhia, where
his marvellous personality had so bewitched its society, and
where, at a price, I fear, infinitely above its value, he had
bought such a variegated human experience.
32 BURXS AND THE MeDICAL PROFESSION.
" Saturday morn : six ©""clock.
My Dear Sir, — My loins are gii'ded, my sandals on my
feet and my staff' in my hand ; and in half-an-hour I shall set
off" from this venerable, respectable, hospitable, social, con-
vivial, imperial Queen of cities, Auld Reekie. My compli-
ments to Mr. M'Cartney, and I have sent him that engraving.
' Now, God in heaven bless Reekie's town
With plentj', joy, and peace !
And may her wealth and fair renown
To latest times increase ! ! ! — Amen.'
L'lst of Medical Suhscrihers to First Edinhirgh Edition^
Mr. James Arrot, Surgeon Edinburgl
Dr. Aitken, Edinburgh.
Mr. John Andrew, Surgeon, Linlithgow.
Dr. Joseph Black, Professor of Chemistry, Edinburgh.
Broughaji, of Brougham Hall, Esq.
BoRTHBY, Esq. : 4 copies.
Dr. Blaw, Edinburgh.
Mr. Benjamin Bell, Surgeon, Edinburgh,
Mr. J. Brown, Surgeon, Douglas.
Dr. Buchanan, Edinburgh.
Mr. Brown, Surgeon, Dunbar.
Mr. John Bell, Surgeon, Edinburgh.
Mr. Wali-er Colquhoun, Surgeon, Dumbarton.
Dr. John Calder, Furnivars Inn, Edinburgh.
Robert Carswell, M.D., Paisley.
List of Medical Subscribers. 33
Dr. Henry Cullek, Edinburgh.
Dr. JoHK Campbell, Ayr.
Dr. George Charles, Ayr.
Dr. Andrew Duncan, Edinburgh.
Dr. James Deans.
Mr. Forrest Dewar, Surgeon, Edinburgh.
Mr. Andrew Frodie, Surgeon, Dysart.
Dr. Charles Fyfe, Carohna Cofiee-house, London.
Dr. Gregory, Edinburgh.
Dr. Nathan Heron, London : 2 copies.
Dr. James Hamilton, Edinburgh.
James Hunter, M.D., Edinburgh.
Mr. Thomas Hart, Surgeon, Edinburgh.
Mr. Thomas Hay, Surgeon, Edinburgh.
Mr. William Inglis, Surgeon, Edinburgh.
Mr. Robert Kerr, Surgeon.
George Kirkaldie, M.D.
Mr. Charles Kerr, Surgeon to the 37th Regiment.
Mr. James Law, Surgeon, Edinburgh.
Dr. LoRiMER, Charlotte Street, Portland Place, London.
Mr. Hugh Longan, Surgeon, Edinburgh.
Mr. Peter Liddle, Surgeon, Westmains.
Dr. Alexander Monro, Edinburgh.
Dr. Moore, London : 4 copies.
]\Ir. Ha:milton M'Clure, Surgeon, Edinburgh.
Dr. Alexander M'Dougal.
INIr. R. Montgomery, Surgeon, Beith : 6 copies.
Mr. John M'Kenzie, Surgeon, Mauchline : 2 copies.
Andrew Morris, M.D., Glasgow.
Mr. John Rae, Surgeon, Edinburgh.
34 Burns and thk Medical Profession.
Dr. Stenhouse, St. James''s Square, London.
Mr. P. Sandilands, Surgeon, Royal Navy.
Dr. Wilson, Kelso.
Dr. Williamson, Physician, Nevis.
Mr. John White, Surgeon, Paisley.
Mr. Alexander Wood, Surgeon, Edinburgh.
Mr. Andrew Wood, Surgeon, Edinburgh.
Dr. JOHN MOORE
By the kind permission of Messrs. Blackie & Son
Dr. JOHN MOORE, LONDON,
WAS the son of an Episcopal clergyman at Stirling, where he
was born in 1730. He studied at Glasgow and Paris, served
as a surgeon in the army, and practised in Glasgow. He
had his residence first in Donald's Land, Trongate, opposite
the Tron Steeple (where his son. Sir John, the hero of
Corunna, was born), and afterwards in Dunlop Street. He
was a great friend of Smollet, the author of Roderick
Random, who, a few years his senior, was at this time being
initiated into the mysteries of pharmacy and minor surgery
in Dr. Gordon's dingy little apothecary, situated in Gibson's
Land, at the north corner of Salt Market and Prince's Street,
where Moore had also been an apprentice before setting up
as a surgeon in the Trongate. From 1772 to 1778 he
travelled on the Continent with Douglas, eighth Duke of
Hamilton, and afterwards settled in London as a man of
letters. He wrote Zelnca, a novel ; A Vkto of Society and
Manners in France ; Edzoard, a novel, etc.
He would be some few years resident in London, when
Burns, during the early part of his Edinburgh career,
entered into a most interesting correspondence with him,
which extended over a period of fully four years, and con-
tinued down almost to the end of the Ellisland days. The
Poet wrote eight letters in all, including the famous auto-
biographical one, dated Mossgeil, August 2nd, 1787, which
36 BUHXS AXD THE INIeDICAL PROFESSION.
he penned on his return home after his first visit to Edin-
burgh, and which has formed the basis of all his future
biographies ; while Moore, on the other hand, wrote six.
The immediate occasion of this correspondence was Mrs.
Dunlop sending to Burns certain passages extracted from
the doctor's letters to herself, containing flattering notices of
his poems, and suggesting that he would not be unwilling to
open a correspondence with him. These extracts he received
on the 30th December, 1786, and it was the 16th or 17th
January, 1787, before he mustered courage to write to Dr.
Moore, the reason he assigned to Mrs. Dunlop for this delay
being, that he wanted to write in a manner at once worthy of
such a celebrated author and his own character.
These two conditions, I should say, are amply fulfilled in
the opening letter of this correspondence. It is modest and
deferential, as became it, to the great literary magnate he
considered he was addressing ; and it is dignified and honest,
as it should be, coming from a peasant poet who, while per-
fectly well aware that the novelty of his character had by far
the greater share in the learned and polite notice he had
lately received — that, indeed, the hope to be admired for
ages, even for authors of repute, was often " an unsubstantial
dream,"" — nevertheless knew that he had some ability, and
had, moreover, claims to depict the humbler rural national
life of which his poems treat, he being himself, in birth,
education, and feeling, one of themselves.
The doctor, in his well-bred reply, January 23rd, 1787,
may be said to be equally happy. He compliments the Poet
on his disposition and temper, of which he takes a favourable
impression from his works — regrets he did not see him last
summer when in Scotland, which he certainly would have
Dr. Johx ]MooiiE. S7
done had he only seen his poems earher, and which poems he
gi'eatly admires, not so much for those original and brilliant
poetical beauties so lavishly scattered through them, as for
the love of his native country — that feeling of sensibility to all
objects of humanity which they display, and the independent
spirit which breathes through the whole.
In his second letter, February 15th, 1787, Burns is still
more deferential to the great literateurs, of whom he looked
upon Moore as one; and contrasts the time, when he followed
the plough and could boast of nothing higher than a distant
acquaintanceship with a country clergyman, with his present
situation, when genius, polished by learning, and at its
proper elevation in the eye of the world, is his frecpent
associate, making him, whom mere greatness could never
embarass, tremble at its approach. That he has some merit,
he repeats, he will not deny, and again emphasises his belief,
which he has arrived at with frequent wringings of heart,
that it is the noveltv of his character, and the honest
national prejudice of his countrymen, more than his poetic
abilities, to which he owes his present elevation among great
The doctor in his reply, February 28th, 1787, and ap-
parently on the strength of his correspondent's over-generous
compliments to the Edinburgh literati in tlie contrast he
draws between his past and present, remarks, a little un-
graciously, I think, "It is not surprising that you improve in
correctness and taste, considering where you have been for
some time past." This taking of Burns so completely at his
word shows just the least touch of Caledonianism in the
doctor, who, hoAvever, has shrewdly enough read his poetic
character, to dare swear that there is no danger of his
38 Burns axd the Medical Phofession
admitting any polish which might weaken the vigour of his
native powers. He is also obliging enough to say that he is
glad to perceive that he disdains to decry his own merit as a
poet, which, to do, would be to arraign the fixed opinion of
About two months after this, April 23rd, 1787, Burns
again writes, in terms of most grateful warmth, to thank the
doctor for his present of Vieza of Society^ a gift he values even
more as a mark of the author's friendly esteem than for its
own intrinsic worth. He talks of leaving Edinburgh soon,
and again comments on the fact, as if the subject haunted
him with a kind of grudge, that the intimacies and friend-
ships which he has formed among the rich, the great, the
fashionable, and the polite, are all of too tender a construction
to bear carriage 150 miles — that, having no equivalent to
offer, he is afraid his meteor appearance will by no means
entitle him to a settled correspondence with any of those
who are the permanent lights of genius and literature.
Moore, in his acknowledgment of this letter. May 23rd,
1787, takes no notice of his correspondent's harp, harping
upon the old string — that the seeming friendship between
the Edinburgh celebrities and him must sooner or later come
to an end. His studious silence on the subject rather, I
should say, accentuates its point in the mind of the Poet ; as
does also that passage where he begs that he will not give
himself the trouble of writing to him when it is inconvenient,
and that he will make no apology, when he does write, for
having postponed it, but to be assured, nevertheless, that he
will always be happy to hear from him. Like a polite and
shrewd man of the world, and his correspondent's elder in
affairs literary, he takes up the safer role of critic and general
Dr, Johx Moohe. 39
adviser. He has just received the new edition of poems
through Creech, and points out to the author that it is not
incumbent on him to send copies to each subscriber propor-
tionate to his subscription money, most subscribers only
expecting one copy, no matter how many they may have
subscribed for. He thinks highly of some of the poems
added to the new edition, particularly the Wniter Night, the
Address to Edinburgh, Green Grow the Rashes, and the two
songs immediately following, the latter of which. The Gloomy
Night is Gathering Fast, is exquisite. And here the doctor
shows his critical insight and discrimination by pointing out
to Burns that he has a peculiar talent for such lyrical com-
positions, which he ought, therefore, to indulge, as no kind
of poetry demands more delicacy or higher polishing. He is
of opinion, however, that there is nothing added equal to his
Vision and Cotters Saturday N^ight, as in these are united
fine imagery, natural and pathetic description, with sublimity
of language and thought. Seeing he possesses such great
variety of expression and command of the English language,
he advises him to deal more sparingly for the future in the
provincial dialect. " ^Vhy should you," he asks, " by using
that, limit the number of your admirers to those who under-
stand the Scottish, when you can extend it to all persons of
taste who understand the English language ? " He proposes
to him to plan some larger work than he has yet attempted,
and to study first, with a view to its proper execution, the
best English poets, and a little more of history, such as the
Greek and Roman stories (abridged); also heathen mvthology
for the charmingly fanciful allusions contained therein, and
modern history of France and Great Britain, from the be-
ginning of Henry the Seventh's reign. He asks a sight of
40 Burns axd the Medical Puofession,
his unpublished satirical and humorous poems, in which he
thinks him very strong, and pawns his word to give no copies;
understands he intends to take a farm, but hopes the business
of husbandry won't prevent him from making occasional
addresses to the Muses. Virgil, before him, proved to the
world that there is nothing in the business of husbandry
inimical to poetry, and trusts his correspondent may afford
an example of a good poet being a successful farmer.
Finally, he winds up by saying that if he is ever in Scotland
he will make a point of seeing him, and, on the other hand,
should Burns ever have occasion callino; him to London he
promises him a cordial welcome from his family.
Since receiving this letter the Poet had made that pil-
grimage over some of the classic ground of Caledonia, Cowden
Knowes, Banks of Yarrow, Tweed, etc., which he told the
doctor in his last epistle he was about to set out upon, and
had returned home again to his family and friends at Mauch-
line. It was during his brief sojourn at Mossgiel that he made
a stolen visit, in the end of June, to the Western Highlands,
the calf-country of Mary Campbell ; and returning by Dum-
barton and Paisley made the acquaintance of another doctor.
He was standing in one of the streets of the latter town with
his friend, Alex. Pattison, bookseller, when Dr. John Taylor,
happening to be passing, and at once recognising Burns from
his portrait, introduced himself, and proposed that the Poet
and his friend should accompany him home, which they did (at
first with reluctance, but afterwards, as the " crack " became
good, seemed in no hurry to depart), and spent a most agree-
able afternoon in conversation ; for the doctor, if not exactly
a poet like every tenth Paisley body, possessed the tempera-
ment of that erratic class in a high degree. And it was also
Dr. John Moore. 41
during his .short stay at Mossgiel (for he was soon off to
Edinburgh again, and to his northern tour with Nicoll), that,
being confined, as he says, with some hngering complaints of
a gastric origin, and to divert his spirits a httle from this
miserable fog of enmil, he penned his autobiographical letter,
August 2nd, 1787, to Dr. Moore, wliich, as I said before, has
formed the basis of all his subsequent biographies.
The doctor's reply, 8th November, 1787, if packed, as
usual, with good and serious advice, about the advisability of
his using the Doric more sparingly in future, planning some
larger and more important work, and looking forward to a
further publication of his pieces, carefully collected, revised,
and polished, is also exceedingly cordial and happy, parti-
cularly in his parodying of Othello's defence in acknowledg-
ing the merits of the Poefs own account of himself, "and
the admirable manner in which
" Yon run it tlirough even from your boyish days
To the very moment that you kindly tell it.
Your moving accident in the harvest field
With her whose voice thrill'd like th' j^olian Harp.
Your hairbreadth 'scapes in th' imminent deadly breach,
The process raised by holy cannibals
Who such devour as follow Nature's law,
Your wild and headstrong rage for matrimony,
Your redemption thence, whereof by parcels
I had something heard, but not distinctly."
Burns had spent his second winter in Edinburgh, with its
Highland and other tours ; its Clarinda fever, and other
dissipations, revelries, and hospitalities ; and had been in-
stalled for a feAv months at Ellisland when he next, Jaimary
4th, 1789, addressed Dr. Moore. It is rather singular to
4^ Burns and the Medical Profession.
observe how he never seems to get away from his first idea of
the doctor's greatness when he begins to write to him. The
very thought of doing so, which has suggested itself to him
three or four times every week these last six months, he says,
" gives me something so like the idea of an ordinary-sized
statue offering at a conversation with the Rhodian Colossus,
that my mind misgives me, and the affair always miscarries
somewhere between purpose and resolve." Now that he has
started, however, he writes a pretty long letter, in the open-
ing paragraph of which he again declares that, though
willing to look upon himself as having some pretensions from
nature to the poetic character, he knows a great deal of the
late eclat was owing to the singularity of his situation, and
the honest prejudice of Scotsmen. Proceeding, he makes
some very acute observations on the Muses' trade, the apti-
tude to learn which, he acknoAvledges, is a gift from Heaven,
while excellence in it is the fruit of industry and pains. He
is not going to be in a hurry publishing again, but is, never-
theless, determined to pursue the vocation of poetry with the
utmost vigour and enthusiasm. The worst of it is that when
the poet finishes a piece, what with viewing and reviewing it,
he loses in some measure his critical discrimination. Then
he wants a friend, with a touch of kindness as well as can-
dour ; and he proposes to engage the doctor in that capacity
by sending him an essay in poesy, which, as if disposed to
take advice about abandoning the provincial dialect, is an
experiment in English, and not, it must be confessed, by any
means a happy one. This poetical epistle, in the style of
Pope's Moral Ej/ntles, is addressed to INIr. Robert Graham of
Fintry, and has to do with his aspirations to be appointed
Excise officer of the division of the district in which he
Dr. JOHN l\rOORK
From an Oil Painting by Sir T. Lawrence, P.R.A. With the kind permis
James L. Caw, Esq., of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.
Dr. John Moore. 43
resides ; for, though he has taken a farm, and a wife too, he
has about as much reason to be disappointed with the former
as he has to be abundantly satisfied with the latter. That,
however, it was neither unskillful husbandry, nor the want of
personal industry, which was the cause of his dissatisfaction
and farm-failure, we have the testimony of his own thrifty
and managing Jean, and also that of his man-servant,
AVilliam Clark, who lived with him in the winter of 1789-90.
Indeed, to keep down expenses he for a time did the work of
two or three men, riding, on an average, two hundred miles
a week as an exciseman, and both ploughing and sowing
whenever his excise duties would allow him. The farm,
declares Chambers, was really a bad bargain, and something
might have been made of it with more capital, but Burns
could not brook the idea of recalling his loan to his brother,
and found his own prosperity by ruining the Ayrshire house-
Some three months after unbosoming himself of these,
among other, personal confidences, including some rather
outspoken observations concerning Mr. Creech, his publisher,
from whom he seems to despair of ever getting a settlement,
he takes occasion to write the doctor again, March 23rd,
1789, introducing a neighbour, the Rev. Mr. Neilson, who is
on his way to France, in order that he might instruct his
Reverence how best to get thither after crossing the Channel.
He encloses an ode, which, he says, " is a compliment to the
memory of the late Mrs. Oswald of Auchincruive *" (a lady
whom he thinks the doctor knew personally, an honour of
which he himself could not boast), whose funeral cortege
arriving at the little Sanquhar inn on a wild wintry night,
where he was intending to rest himself and his jaded Pegasus
44 Burns and the Medical Profession.
till morn, compelled him to again face the blast and travel
twelve miles further on, through the wildest moors and hills
of Ayrshire, to New Cumnock, the next inn. Here, after a
good fire had so far recovered his frozen sinews, he sat down
and wrote his ode. Like his epistle to Graham of Fintry, it
is an experiment in English, and a very indifferent experi-
ment, it must be admitted, it is. Moreover, it is the pro-
duct of a bit of bad temper, which circumstances, doubtless,
made excusable ; but there can be no excuse for the worse
than bad taste which not only makes him hold up to execra-
tion the memory of a lady, whom Chambers considers not
fairly liable to any such censure, but circulates the libel
among the lady's friends. " I was at Edinburgh lately," he
adds in the tail of his letter, " and settled finally with Mr.
Creech ; and I must own that, at last, he has been amicable
and fair Avith me."
In the next epistle he receives from Moore, June 10th,
1789, he thanks him for the different communications of his
occasional productions in manuscript ; all of which have
merit, and some of them merit of a different kind from what
appears in published poems ; but he takes no notice of his
injudicious lampoon on the late Mrs. Oswald. These occa-
sional productions he advises him to carefully preserve, with
a view to publication either in Edinburgh or London, and
promises him all the assistance in the matter he can. Then,
returning to his pet subject, he urges him to abandon his
Scottish stanza and dialect, and use the English, as Scottish
stanza is fatiguing to English ears, and, he thinks, cannot be
very agreeable to Scottish. All fine satire and humour in
Holy Fair is lost to the English people, and could so easily
be turned into English. He also suggests to him that he
Du. JoHX Moore. 45
should carefully collect and polish his occasional pieces, with
a view to publication, a labour which would not interfere
with his business as a husbandman, in Avhich he understands
he is very learned. And, finally, he presents him with a
copy of his novel Zcluco, and shall be glad to have his
opinion of it, because he knows he is above saying what he
does not think.
In returning thanks for the present of Zeliwo, a year later,
14th July, 1790, Burns must have whetted the doctors appe-
tite to a tantalising degree by his report of how he had dis-
figured its pages with annotations, as " I never take it up,"
he says, " without at the same time taking my pencil, and
marking with asterisras, parentheses, etc., wherever I meet
with an original thought, a nervous remark on life and
manners, a remarkable, well-turned period, or a character
sketched with uncommon precision." He has gravely planned,
he tells him, a comparative view of himself. Fielding,
Richardson, and Smollett, in their different qualities and
merits as novelists, but it does not appear that he ever
brought the business to bear.
His eighth and last letter, enclosing copies of his Tarn 6'
Shunter, Elegy on Captain Henderson, and the ballad on
Queen Manj, is dated still from Ellisland, 28th February,
1791, some nine or ten months before removing to Bank
Street, Dumfries, and discourses, among other things, upon
the wisdom of cherishing the memories of our departed
friends, the value of which, however problematical to the
dead, is of infinite service to the living. He hjis just read
over once more of many times his Zeliiro, marking with his
pencil, as he went along, every passage that pleased him
particularly above the rest, and one or two of which, with
46 Burns and the Medical Profession.
humble deference, he is disposed to think unequal to the
merits of the book ; but, so far, he has not gratified the
doctor\s curiosity by transcribing them, as he half-promised
and intended. As to his private concerns, he is going on as
a mighty tax-gatherer before the Lord, and has lately had
the interest to get himself ranked on the list of Excise as a
supervisor, though not yet employed as such. He laments
the death of his kind patron the Earl of Glencairn, not so
much because he recognises that his getting forward now in
the Excise will be all the more difficult, as on account of the
grateful attachment he felt towards him, pervading his very
soul and entwining itself with the very thread of his exis-
tence. However, he wont despair so long as he can live and
rhyme, and provide worthily for the maintenance and the
education of his family without parting with any of his in-
If Moore's reply, November 29th, 1791, to this letter,
criticising Tarn o' Shanter and Matthew Henderson, is not so
enthusiastic as might have been expected, his advice on
another point is full of good sense : I refer to his warning
him against his imprudence in scattering abroad so many
copies of his verses. His motive for this caution is, that he
wishes him to collect all his fugitive pieces, not already
printed, and, after they have been reconsidered and polished
to the utmost of his power, to publish them by subscription,
in which enterprise he promises to exert himself with
pleasure. In his future compositions he again wishes he
would use the modern English. " You have," he says,
" shown your powers in Scottish sufficiently. Although in
certain subjects it gives additional zest to the humour, yet it
is lost to the English ; and why should you write only for a
Dr. John Moore. 47
part of the island, when you can command the admiration of
the whole." He reminds him again, too, that he has never
yet transmitted those marginal annotations of Zehico, which
he spoke of in a former communication, and begs him to do
so now, assuring him, at the same time, that whatever their
nature, they will break no squares between them. And,
lastly, he asks him, if he chances to MTite to his friend Mrs.
Dunlop, to excuse his silence to her, as he hardly ever pens a
line but on business, " which apathy of friendship the devil
take ! " exclaimed Burns when he conveyed the doctor's ex-
cuse to Mrs. Dunlop the next time he wrote to her. And
his business now, he says, in writing to him is to instigate
him to a new publication, and to tell him that, when he
thinks he has a sufficient number of pieces to make a volume,
he should set his friends on getting subscriptions. He has
many more things to say, which would be easier spoken than
written, and if ever he goes to Scotland, he will let him know,
that he may meet him at his own house, or at his friend Mrs.
Hamilton's, or both.
As it tm-ned out, however, neither he nor the doctor ever
looked upon each other in the flesh. And if they held no
further correspondence with each other, it was not because
Burns, at least, had exhausted his interest in, or respect for,
his old correspondent, as is manifest from a letter written
three years afterwards to Mrs. Dunlop, while that lady was
on a visit to London. " You will have seen," he says, " our
worthy and ingenious friend the Doctor (Dr. Moore) long
ere this. I hope he is well, and beg to be remembered to
him. I have just been reading over again, I daresay for the
hundred and fiftieth time, his Vieza of' Socict// and Mamiers ;
and still I read it with delif^ht." But whether this feat is to be
48 Burns and the Medical Profession.
credited as a tribute to the reader, or the author, who, I fear,
is hardly ever read at all now unless by the curious, it were
difficult to say. " His humour," he adds, " is perfectly
original — it is neither the humour of Addison, nor Swift, nor
Sterne, nor of anybody but Dr. Moore," which is making out
a good case for the individuality of his author, if the critic
was not known to have the goodj'ault of being more generous
than discriminating in the praise of his contemporaries.
And, as might have been anticipated, considering the
Poet's circumstances, and what is still more unrcckonable as
a factor of destiny, his characterisation, none of the doctor's
advice, so frequently and so earnestly profeiTed, seems ever
to have been acted upon. Burns's persistence in sticking to
the vernacular showed him to be wiser in his day and genera-
tion than IMoore, whose advice on this point is entirely out
of harmony with the best of later-day criticism. He instinc-
tively felt that, for him at least, there were infinite possibili-
ties of expression in the Scottish which were not in the
English. Neither could he, to his latest day, ever be got to
look upon literature as a business — its commercial side had
no charms for him. There was, moreover, in his mind, per-
haps just the fear that a second edition of his poems, similar
to the first, might not be received by the critics with the
same favour ; and his sensitive spirit shrank from an experi-
ence of that kind. Nor is there any wonder that he did not
show more confidence in his own pov^'ers, when it never
occurred to such a high literary authority as Dr. Moore that
another edition could be a success on any other terms than
those of subscription and a beating up of friends. In the
light of all that has transpired since, this timidity seems a
little strange. In this respect, however, Moore is not worse
Dr. Johx Moore. 49
than his contemporaries. It was as difficult for them, with
their education and hterary canons, to grasp the full signi-
ficance of Burns's appearance in tlieir midst, as it was for
Burns, the victim of his surroundings and education, to
realise that his star was destined to kill the light of theirs —
that he, being nearer Nature, was inaugoirating a new era in
literature that would not only be alive and healthy when
theirs was as detid as last year"'s leaves, but would be as
modern, aye more so, a hundred years hence, than to-day.
And yet he was not without an " inkling " of something of
this sort either, if we consider his reply to Mr. Ramsay when
that gentleman asked him whether the Edinburgh literati
had mended his poems by their criticisms. " Sir," said he,
" these gentlemen remind me of some spinsters in my country,
who spin their thread so fine that it is neither fit for warp
It is not so remarkable, therefore, that, in the highly in-
teresting correspondence which we have been summarising,
he never seemed able to forget that he was addressing a very
lofty literary personage, whose Zeluco and Vieio of' Society
and Manners were as far aljove his homespun performances
as a highly polished and cultivated lady is above a plain
rustic maiden ; hence he is never familiar, abandoned, or
exactly at his ease, though always dignified and frank, as he
discusses his literary and other affairs, and present and future
projects. He does certainly, and that more than once, claim
for himself that he has some poetic ability ; and the doctor
not only readily admits it, but commends him for his honest
avowal and for not exhibiting any mock-modesty. And, as
an example of his own saneness in grasping a situation, even
in the moment of its most pleasing intoxication, he empha-
50 Burns and the Medical Profession.
sises, as we saw, over and over again, as if its contemplation
were a sore point, the fact that he is not to be taken in by
all this Edinburgh homage and applause — that it is as a
phenomenon more than as a poet that he is a nine days'*
wonder ; and that when this vulgar period of marvelling has
come to an end, he will have to go his way back to the rural
shades he has so lately emerged from, the great literary and
society personages and he, for the most part, bidding farewell
to one another.
Dr. Moore, though in the main taking Burns at his own
valuation, is not only more than moderately enthusiastic and
discriminating in his praise both of the man and the poet,
but rejoices at his Edinburgh good fortune ; and, like a true
friend, exerts himself to promote his interests. It was
through him bringing the merits of Burns, as a poet, before
Lord Eglinton that his Lordship sent him a subscription of
ten guineas for two copies of his next edition. If he takes
Burns at his own valuation, he also takes himself at the
Poet's estimate, viz., that he is a very superior person, of a
very superior literary set, and is, therefore, as lavish (a shade
more so, perhaps) of his advice as his praise.
In all this correspondence, however, with its presents and
acknowledgments of books and poems, its criticisms and
advice and exchanging of views, its confidences and gossip,
and its discussions of present and future plans, it never seems
to have entered the doctor's mind that the young peasant-
poet he was praising, patronising, and advising, was the
marvellous genius that posterity has claimed him to be —
that he and all his literary tribe, whom Burns, in his great
veneration, almost spoke of with bated breath, were to be
indebted for their immortality more to contact with the Ayr-
shire peasant than to their own works.
Uk. WILLIAM MAXWELL
From an Oil Painting in the possession of Colonel J. Maxwell Withani,
Drs. maxwell, THOMSON, MUNDELL, Etc.,
Dumfries, in Burns's time, was a somewhat gay and fashion-
able garrison town, \\'hose officers, together with the county
gentry, gave an aristocratic tone to its society. It was
famous for the entertainments of the hunting, races, balls,
assemblies, and theatre, by the Caledonian and Dumfries and
Galloway hunts ; and for its convivial dinner and supper
parties by the leisured and prosperous burgesses, the well-to-
do professional men, and those living in retirement on com-
petencies ; the latter, a not inconsiderable class at that
period, resident in the pleasant dwelling place 'by the banks
of the Nith.
In politics it was no longer Whig, but rank Tory, and,
therefore, eminently, even ostentatiously, loyal to the govern-
ment of the day. Jacobitism was as good as dead, or only
lingered passively in the minds of a few, Burns's and his
friend Dr. Maxwell's being among the number. There was,
doubtless, a good deal in the Poet's characterisation to
account for this kindly leaning ; while Maxwell, though
possessing similar sympathies to Burns, had a hereditary
tendency towards Jacobitism, he being the son of the gallant
Kirkconnell Maxwell who went out with Prince Charles in
1745, and became the historian of the expedition.
52 Burns and the Medical Profession.
As an illustration of this blood taint, it is popularly re-
ported of him by Chambers that, while studying at the
medical schools in Paris during the heat of the Revolution,
he had acted as one of the National Guard round the scaffold
of Louis XVI., and had dipped his handkerchief in the royal
blood. The truth and falsehood of this romantic little
episode are set forth in A Paper on the Subject of Biirns's
P'tstols, read before the Society of Scottish Antic^uaries, in
April, 1859, by the Right Rev. Bishop Gillis, Roman
Catholic Bishop of Edinburgh, into Avhose possession the
pistols came through the daughter of Dr. Maxwell.
The Bishop, who knew the doctor and his family well,
being a member of the household in Edinburgh to which
Maxwell removed from Dumfries in 1834, and under the roof
of which he died in October of the same year, readily admits
his bias towards Revolutionary principles in his youth, and
also his being " present in Paris as one of the National Guard
around the scaffold of the virtuous and unfortunate Louis
XVL But,"" he says, " if for no other reason than because he
was at the time under arms ; none but he who would cast a
general slur on the character of an English gentleman, will
believe that ' he then dipped his handkerchief in the royal
blood,' — no one, especially who ever enjoyed the privilege of
Dr. Maxwell's acquaintance, and had an opportunity of
appreciating the high breeding of the man, his exquisite
sense of propriety, and the deep and noble feelings of his
generous and tender heart, can ever for a moment connect
liis memory with the perpetration of an act so exclusively
within the province of savage brutality.'''' The Bishop
further declares that, in after life, he never spoke " of the
awful sublimity of the event without the tears welling up
Dr. Maxwell. 53
into his eyelids," he having been so close to the scaffold as
not only to see the face of the royal martyr, but to hear the
words, " Fils tie Saint Louis, Montez au del !'''' addressed to
him by the Abbe Edgeworth.
Until I read the good Bishop's defence of his friend I had
interpreted the act imputed to him, not as one of savage
hrntality, but rather as an exhibition of a rare and beautiful
sentimentalism, of the same character as Mark Antony in-
stances when he says : —
" They would go and kiss dead Caesar's wounds,
And dip their napkins in his sacred blood ;
Yea, beg a hair of him for memory ; "
or as Dumas in Txoenty Years After relates of Athos at the
beheading of Charles, " At last he rose, and taking his hand-
kerchief, steeped it in the blood of the martyred king."
However, be this little story fact or fiction, certainly Max-
well, before returning to his own country and commencing in
Dumfries to lay the foundations of that medical practice
which was by and by to reach a very high professional level,
caught the revolutionary spirit which was rampant in Paris
in 1793, and ever afterwards retained the impression which it
produced on his ardent and youthful mind.
Accordingly he was considered a kind of head centre of the
Liberal party in Dumfries ; and both he, and Burns, with
Syme, and other Liberals and opponents of the government
were in the habit of holding occasional symposia, at which
they spoke their minds freely, with locked doors, a circum-
stance not unlikely to set the popular imagination to work.
These democratic tendencies, therefore, together with his
other genial and companionable (pialities, and his gift of
eloquence, you may be sure, greatly commended his friend-
54 Burns and the Medical Profession.
ship to Burns, over whom his mascuhne intellect, it is said,
exerted considerable influence. On the contrary they ren-
dered both Burns and Maxwell objects of distrust to the
ultra-loyal Dumfriessians, who held the French Democracy in
horror. Now, Burns did not only not deplore the French
Revolution, but, in his heart, sympathised with it ; and his
nature was too open and candid and independent in its char-
acter to conceal from the world what he felt on the subject.
Indeed, it was his very outspokenness, along with his foolish
presentation of cannon to the French nation, that got him
into trouble. Nor was his friend Maxwell one whit behind
him in his imprudent enthusiasm for liberal principles, which,
coupled with his residence in Paris during the early days of
the Revolution, brought forth the well-known denouncements
of him and his presumed designs, by Burke, in the House of
Commons, giving him thereby a permanent place in the politi-
cal history of the country, as his connection with Burns, as his
friend and physician, has conferred upon him a literary one.
But for all their rash words and indiscreet actions, inspired,
doubtless, by a love of freedom, and sympathy with the
oppressed and down-trodden of Avhatever country, they were
both loyal enough at heart ; and when the war broke out
between Great Britain and France in 1793 they both, with
their friend Syme, joined a volunteer company that was
formed in Dumfries for the defence of the fatherland.
Burns, indeed, became the laureate of the corps, and by his
" Does haughty Gaul invasion threat 1
Then let the louns beware, sir !
There's wooden walls upon our seas,
And Volunteers on shore, sir :
Dii. Maxwell. 55
The Nith shall run to Cursinson,
The Criffel sink in Solivay
Ere we permit a foreign foe
On British ground to rally !
We'll ne'er permit a foreign foe
On British ground to rally ! "
says Lockhart, " did more good service to the government of
the country, at a crisis of the darkest alarm and danger, than
perhaps any one person of his rank and station, with the
exception of Dibdin, had the power or the inchnation to
One of the few poetical compliments Burns ever paid to
the medical faculty is in the form of an epigram to Dr.
Maxwell on the recovery from a fever of Miss Jessie Staig,
daughter of the Provost of Dumfries, the heroine of the song,
Lovely Young' Jessie, composed about eighteen months be-
fore the illness referred to. Writing to Mrs. Dunlop, Sep-
tember, 1794, in sympathetic terms of the indescribable
nature of the feelings of parents concerning the well-being
of their children, he describes the whole circumstance in
detail, which I beg to quote entire, as it contains a warm
eulogium on the skill and character of his friend Dr. Maxwell.
" I sympathised much," he says, " the other day with a
father, a man whom I respect highly. He is a Mr. Staig,
the leading man in our Borough. A girl of his, a lovely
young creature of sixteen, was given over by the Physician,
who openly said she had but few hours to live. A gentleman
who also lives in town, and who had studied medicine in the
first schools — the Dr. Maxwell whom Burke mentioned in
the House of Commons about the affair of the daggers —
was at last called in ; and his prescriptions, in a few hours,
56 Burns and the Medical Profession.
altered her situation, and have now cured her. Maxwell is
my most intimate friend, and one of the first characters I ever
met with ; but on account of his Politics is rather shunned
by some high aristocrats, though his Family and Fortune
entitle him to the first circles. I addressed the following
epigram to him on the occasion : —
Maxwell, if merit here you crave,
That merit I deny :
You save fair Jessie from the grave ! —
An angel could not die ! "
Whatever part his skill played in the recovery of " Lovely
Young Jessie," it was of no avail in the case of poor Burns,
whom, as all the world knows, he attended in his last illness,
with a kindness and assiduity entirely worthy of their warm
and close friendship. Nor was Burns unappreciative of his
physician's disinterested zeal. " What business," said he to
Maxwell one day in a humorous reference to his poverty,
" has a physician to waste his time on me ? I am a poor
pigeon not worth plucking. Alas ! I have not feathers
enough upon me to carry me to my grave."
As a, further memorial of his gratitude he, on his deathbed,
presented the doctor with a pair of pistols — the same which
we saw came into Bishop Gillis's possession, and which he
afterwards presented to the Society of Antiquaries, 24'th
January, 1859; also the Poet's youngest child Maxwell, born
July 25th, 1796, the day of his father's funeral, and who died
25th April, 1799, was so named as an additional mark of
respect for Dr. Maxwell. And, as it turned out, he proved
himself quite worthy of so much good feeling. Sharing, as
he did, strongly in the interest caused by the death of his
illustrious patient, he, with Syme, and Cunninghame of
Dr. Maxwell. 57
Edinburgh, entered at once, and with the greatest cordiaHty,
into the project for the benefit of the Poet's family. He
also corresponded with Gilbert Burns, who entrusted him
with the negotiations for procuring from Mrs. Dunlop his
brother's letters for publication. The Poet's eldest son,
Robert, while employed in the Stamp Office, Somerset House,
London, likewise corresponded with his father's old friend and
physician, the terms of which show him to have been, in some
respects, a chip off the old block.
It v.as Maxwell who supplied Currie with the particulars,
or rather, want of particulars, as Scott Douglas very
pertinently puts it, of the Poet's illness and death; and which
information the same excellent authority considers far from
satisfactory. A patient's diseases, both in the eye of the law
and in medical etiquette, are deemed a sacred confidence be-
tween him and his physician ; and if this obligation rests
with the medical attendant while his patient is still alive, it
is surely equally binding upon him after his death. Though
Burns's body, as the mere mortal instrument through which
mankind could only come to the knowledge of his marvellous
lyric music, and even the diseases which silenced it for ever in
death, must always have a precious and significant interest
for his countrymen, he is surely entitled to the same treat-
ment from the medical profession, in this respect, that the
law and good taste allow to commoner mortals.
Now, this is just what Scott Douglas complains that he
did not get. There exists evidence to show, he says, that
certain particulars were reluctantly confided by Maxwell to
Currie, which proves the latter, in commenting upon the
errors of Burns, to have been unworthy of such a sacred
trust. At the same time, if Currie sinned, it must, we feel,
58 Burns and the Medical Profession.
have been with his head, not his heart ; for he was on his
guard, he confesses himself, to touch this thing with great
tenderness, since touch it he felt it his duty to do. But, it
may reasonably be asked, medical man and all as he was, was
he qualified to receive MaxwelFs confidence at all, or to touch
it with the necessary impartiality ; for " it should be borne
in mind," says Scott Douglas, " that Dr. Currie, in his
medical works, took every opportunity to advocate the duty
of abstinence from alcoholic liquors ? " Perhaps not ;
generally speaking, such an office, in my experience, would
be too great a temptation for the impartiality of any tee-
totaler, even, I may admit, the kind, sensible, and able Dr.
Currie ; and so he wrote these thirteen words, " He who
suffers the pollution of inebriation, how shall he escape other
pollution ? " which brought down upon his unfortunate head
the righteous censure of Wordsworth and a host of others
who saw in them a kind of blasphemy against Burns ; and
which even the reverse of squeamish Scott Douglas wishes he
had omitted, even although the omission might have rendered
his picture incomplete. But enough for the present, I shall
have to ask you to look a little closer into this and kindred
matters when treating more in detail of Dr. Currie's bene-
volent achievement and the attitude of the critics towards it.
It would have been strange had the skill of the doctor, and
he still comparatively young, attending upon such an illus-
trious and universally lamented patient, remained unchal-
lenged. Certainly (to leave out of account the taste or the
justice of such a proceeding), no useful purpose can be served
by opening up such an enquiry at this date, for the very
sufficient reason that there is neither clinical nor pathological
evidence upon which to found a judgment. Still, if only as
Dr. John Thomsox. 59
an illustration of how doctors (though, in the main, all in
agreement on the gi'eat question of the Poefs morals,) differ
as to the nature of his bodily diseases, it may be worth while
glancing for a little at the appendix to a work, written fifty
or more years ago, and after Maxwell had been dead some
ten years, by
John Thomson, M.D.,
entitled. Education: Man's Salvation from Crime, Disease,
He must have been a very singular personage this Dr.
Thomson, of whose history a few particulars are to be gleaned
from Notes and Queries, Sept. and Oct., 1868, which, by
throwing some rays of light on the extraordinary statements
in the Vindicatory Appendix referred to, help us the better
towards a correct estimate of their worth. Dr. C. J. Ramage
tells us that, " At the death of Burns in 1796, Mr. John
Thomson, about sixteen years of age at that time, was usher
to Mr. Gx-ay, the Rector of Dumfries Academy, where the
eldest son of the Poet was in attendance. The families of
Thomson and Burns are said to have been on intimate terms,
so much so was this the case that Dr. Thomson told my in-
formant, to whom he was related, that he used to meet Burns
between five and six o'clock in summer mornings in Dock
Park, rented by Thomson's father, for the purpose of improv-
ing his knowledge of the French language, with which
Thomson was well acquainted. This intimacy will account
for any information he may give regarding the Poet's last
moments. Mr. Thomson subsequently became tutor in the
family of the celebrated Dr. Gregory, Professor in the Univer-
sity of Edinburgh, and thereby was able to pursue his medical
60 Burns and the Medical Puofession.
studies. He graduated there in June, 1809, and practised
for a short time in Deal, and some years after for a short
time in Dumfries. He retired to Edinburgh, however, and
died there in November, 1847, at the age of sixty-seven."
Another correspondent "F. M. S." had apparently informed
the public that Dr. Thomson was the author of an account
of Burns''s death, which that gentleman had special facilities
for forming a correct opinion about ; and " C," a third cor-
respondent, writes to say that it " would gratify many lovers
of literature if F. M. S. were to publish Dr. Thomson"'s
account of Burns's death. From Dr. Ramage's statement it
appears that Dr. Thomson attended the poet in his last ill-
ness merely as a friend of the family, not as a medical practi-
tioner. A Mr. Brown, surgeon, and Dr. Maxwell were the
medical attendants. The late Joseph Parkes had a note of
Burns's, addressed to Mr. Brown, asking for some more medi-
cine, which he irreverently styled ' extreme unction.*' Jessie
Lewars (Mrs. Thomson) was present at the Poet's death, and
she said that Burns, though tortured with rheumatism, was
calm and resigned."
F. M. S. replies to C's. request as follows : — " I hardly like
to publish Dr. Thomson's description of the state of Burns's
mind at the near approach of death, but I may at least say
that it is very, very different from the accounts given by the
poet's biographers. The gentleman, in whose MSS. I find it
was a clergyman, for whose strict and undeviating trutliful-
ness I can personally vouch. He states that having met Dr.
Thomson when on a voyage to London by sea, and having
long resided in the neighbourhood of many of the scenes im-
mortalised by Burns, he asked Thomson, ' particularly, with
a view to have impartial testimony as to the state of Burns's
Dr. Johx Thomson. 61
mind at the near approach of Death.'' Thomson, he says,
' solemnly affirmed "" the truth of his statement. From Dr.
Ramage's obliging note, it appears that although Dr. Thom-
son was not Burns's medical attendant, he was at least one
who must have known the circumstances well."
Now that the special kno\\'ledge here hinted at, of which
this undeviating and truthful clergyman was the sacred
custodian, was something over and above what the doctor
himself lias revealed in his Vindicatory Appendia.\ I take the
liberty to doubt, as the Appendix was written some twenty-
four years before the transpiration of the correspondence in
Notes and Queries, and three years before the doctor''s own
death. But, granted that all was disclosed in the Appendix
that he had to tell, one cannot help asking what wise purpose
he intended to serve by writing such a document at all, un-
less it was simply to let off steam, an operation he had
evidently been performing at intervals for the last fifty years.
Nor would I be warranted now in resurrecting his nonsense,
but, as I said, by way of a little variety, and as an illustration
of the proverb that doctors differ^ if not about the Poefs
morals, then about his diseases. Moreover, had this difference
of medical opinion been about John Smith's liver it would not
have mattered to the world a brass farthing, but the fact
that it was about Burns's makes a great alteration.
The doctor's literary style, as shown in his treatise on
Education, is somewhat Quixotic, going out to challenge all
who differ from him in opinion, much as the knight of La
Manclia went forth to combat with wind-mills, or to the
championship of distressed damsels. And yet, on second
thoughts, his extravaganza reminds one more of the Ancient
62 Burns and the Medical Profession.
Pistol of Boar^- Head tavern-renown, than the immaculate
Spanish gentleman and professor of knight errantry.
He separates education into two divisions, Primation and
IMaturation, the first being that which we get from the
schoolmaster, and the second that which we give ourselves.
In the unfolding of his ideas he, in regular swash-buckler
style, tilts against everything and everybody — priestcraft,
church establishments, women's usurpation of the functions of
the lords of creation, Scottish and American notions of the
profanation of the Sabbath by railway trains, medical educa-
tion (hospital and other) ; commending finally his own Help-
me-up doctrine as the only genuine panacea for crime,
starvation, etc., etc.
In his Appendix to this work, which I beg to quote entire
on account of its pure Burnsonianism, he, in full view of the
approaching festival (held in honour of the sons of Burns at
Alloway in 1844), flings down the gauntlet, in true Pistolian
terms and spirit, to all in that coming congregation whom it
" Before sending forth these fugitive pages, I am anxious
to say that the Avord ' help-me-up ' is no coinage of mine ; —
that Scotia's immortal poet, Robert Burns, supplied me with
that word. Particular circumstances brought me into very
intimate intercourse with him during the closing months of
his most eventful life. In youth's ' extatic hour ' I enjoyed
the ineflable happiness and benefit of his society; — for months
I met him almost every morning at five o'clock on the banks
of the Nith. My opinion and positive belief that ' man shall
progress,' were there and then often discussed, and the
channel of progression here briefly described ; he called my
Dr. Johk Thomson. 63
" Reader, permit me to pass from nomenclature to an
infinitely more important and holy concern, to vindicate the
memory of Robert Burns from the blackest stain which Fame
has affixed, diabolically affixed, to his splendid escutcheon.
Fame, prompted by priests, yes, countenanced by friends, has
promulgated an untruth that Robert Burns died, prematurely
died, dissipation's martyr. From personal correct knowledge,
I proclaim that Robert Burns died the doctor's martyr ; and,
as a very few years must sweep away all living testimony
upon that point, I avail myself of the approaching Festival,
and challenge the contradiction of all his living co-tempor-
aries who may there congregate.
" The truth stands thus — The physician of Robert Burns
believed that his liver was diseased, and placed him under a
course of mercury. In those days a mercurial course was
indeed a dreadful alternative. I know well that his mercurial
course was extremely severe. In addition to this severity, his
physician believed that sea-bathing was the best tonic after
salivation. Thus he was sent to the Brow for sea-bathing.
In the course of, I think, three weeks he returned home from
sea-bathing, inflated, black with dropsy, and soon died.
Among the last words I ever heard him speak were, ' Well,
the doctor has made a finish of it now.''
" Such I affirm to be the truth. ' Wha then dares battle
wi' me ? ' ' Come forth, thou slanderer.' Robert Burns
thus stands forth Maturation's sublimest specimen. Prima-
tion had small, very small, claim upon him. I carefully
examined his early — I believe the only schoolmaster he ever
had — and found that at the age of thirteen he read imper-
fectly, but had never learned to write. He died Scotia's first
poet, extensively acquainted with general literature, an
64 BURXS AND THE MeDICAL PrOFESSIOX.
excellent French scholar, and, what few know, could relish
and appreciate the classic odes of Horace. Maturation may
indeed triumphantly claim him as her sublimest specimen/"'
If the belligerent doctor's opinion as to the true condition
of Burns's liver is on a par with his statement regarding his
proficiency in reading and writing at the age of thirteen, I
fear it is of very little value ; for Mr. Murdoch, who was not
the only schoolmaster, bat the first he ever had, seems from
his written testimony to hold an entirely contrary view.
Besides, what could the opinion of a mere lad of sixteen,
without a particle of medical knowledge or experience, even
though present at the poet's death-bed, be worth ? Nothing
at all ! He v^ould hear the talk of others at the time, and it
was most probably this which got crystallized into a notion of
his own when he became possessed of medical knowledge.
But to leave Dr. Thomson, and turn for a little to another
a retired navy surgeon practising in Dumfries, whose intimacy
with Burns, though not of so close a character as Maxwell's,
rests on something more than his own testimony. In a
characteristic letter from Ellisland, dated February, 1790, the
Poet writes : — " Dear Doctor. — The bearer, Janet Nievison,
is a neighbour, and occasionally a labourer of mine. She has
got some complaint in her shoulder, and wants me to find her
out a Doctor that will cure her, so I have sent her to you.
You will remember that she is just in the jaws of matrimony,
so for heaven's sake get her ' hale and sound ' as soon as
possible. We are all pretty well ; only the little boy's sore
mouth has again inflamed Mrs. B 's nipples. — I am, yours,
Dr. Mundell. 65
It was he, too, along with Syme and Maxwell, who was
invited by the Poet to dine at his house, to meet two honest
Midlothian fanners and Jean Lorimer and her father. In
writing, January, 1796, to one of these Midlothian friends,
Mr. Robert Cleghorn, Saughton INIills, enclosing " The
Lassie o' my Heart," just after bare recovery from a rheuma-
tic fever, which he (Burns) says kept him bedfast for many
weeks, and brought him to the borders of the grave, he
reminds his friend that the bearer of the letter, Mr. Mundell,
surgeon, is one of tiie gentlemen he will remember to have
seen at his house. And very likely it was this same Dr.
Mundell who, on retiring from professional service in the
Royal Navy, started, in company with some other gentlemen,
a cotton factory, which flourished for a number of years, till it
was injured by the war with America, and whose "ox" the Poet
refers to in a letter to the lady of Woodley Park — " There is
a species of the human genus that I call the g-in horse-class ;
what enviable dogs they are ! Round and round, and round
they go — MundelFs ox that drives his cotton mill is their
exact prototype — without an idea or wish beyond their circle ;
fat, sleek, stupid, patient, quiet, and contented, while here I
sit, altogether Novemberish, a d — mnd melange of fretfulness
and melancholy ; not enough of the one to rouse me to
passion, nor of the other to repose me in torpor ; my soul
flouncing and fluttering round her tenement, like a wild finch
caught amid the horrors of winter, and newly thrust into a
It ought also to be mentioned, in connection with the pro-
fession in Dumfries, that it was one of the surgeons of the
town, Mr. Archibald Blacklock, who was present at the
exhumation of the Poefs remains when the mausoleum was
66 Burns and the Medical Profession.
opened for the interment of his widow in 1834 ; and that he
drew up, in the interest of the science of phrenology, a
description of the condition and appearances of the bones of
the skull, which were declared to be in a high state of preser-
vation, and of which a plaster of Paris cast was accurately
taken after every particle of sand or foreign body had been
carefully cleaned and washed away.
Before taking farewell of Burns and the medical profession
in and connected with Dumfries, permit me to record a very
beautiful reminiscence from Dr. James Finlayson"'s biography
of Dr. Robert Watt, an ex-President of the Faculty of
Physicians and Surgeons, Glasgow, and author of the Biblio-
theca Britannica, which, for its charming Burns allusion,
deserves a niche all to itself in this collection, though Watt
was not a doctor at the time, but a young man barely out of
his " teens,"" engaged in making part of the line of road from
Sanquhar to Dumfries. On arriving at Dumfries, he was
boarded for a few weeks on the farm of Ellisland, in the old
house which the Poet and his family had recently occupied.
During the summer he spent in Dumfriesshire, he had
frequent opportunities of seeing Burns, but cannot recollect
of having formed any opinion of him, except a confused idea
that he was an extraordinary character. Wliile there, the
voracious young book-worm read Burns's poems ; and, from
an acquaintance with some of his relations, he occasionally got
from the Poefs library a reading of other works of the same
kind. With these he used to retire into some of the con-
cealed places on the banks of the Nith, and pass his leisure
hours in reading, and occasionally in trying his hand in
writing rhymes himself. From this period he dates the
commencement of his literary pursuits, and who shall say
Dii. Samuel Hughes. 67
that Burns's generosity to the young road-maker did not play
an important part in it ?
Of equal interest, and worthy to be bracketed in this Dum-
fries leave-taking with the passage of romance in the life of
young Watt, is an incident in which another medical man,
Dr. Samuel Hughes, of Hereford,
has secured immortality through contact with Burns, When
or where the doctor first made the acquaintance of the Poet
it were difficult to say, but, as he graduated at Edinburgh in
1795, it is not improbable that he may have known him while
prosecuting his medical studies there, which was also the
period when Burns was undergoing his lionising in the Scot-
tish capital. Whether or not, however, he had been intimate
with him in Edinburgh, we know for a certainty from the
doctor's own testimony, written on a blank portion of a
manuscript copy of " Bruce's Address to his Troops at Ban-
nockburn " presented to him by the author in his own hand-
writing, that he met Burns in Dumfries in the autumn of
1795. Dr. Hughes' own words are, " a beautiful poem given
me by the author, Mr. Burns, the celebrated Scottish Poet
when at Dumfries, Saty., Augt. 8th, 1795.
Written again, immediately below this, is the following,
in the handwriting of his daughter-in-law : " Given to my
father-in-law, Dr. Hughes of Hereford, by Burns.
This manuscript, which is now the property of the Munici-
pal Museum of Edinburgh, having been presented to it by
Mr. John Kennedy of New York, 29th July, 1890, has accom-
68 Burns axd the Medical Profession.
panying the poem, on the same sheet of paper, and also in
Burns's handwriting, a short prose account of the historic cir-
cumstances upon which the song was founded. The Poefs
reason, doubtless, for accompanying the verses with an ex-
planatory historical sketch, being, that the medical gentleman
to whom he was presenting it, was an Englishman, and might,
therefore, not be supposed to be too conversant with Scottish
Dr. Hughes subse(]uently settled in the city of Hereford,
where he was a capable and highly respected physician during
the greater part of the first half of the present century, and
where, as early as 1812, he was chosen to fill the distinguished
position of Mayor, when he gave a banquet to one hundred
and thirty of the citizens and neighbours, including the
Bishop of the Diocese, the Dean of Hereford, and the nobility,
gentry, and clergy, at which, it is recorded " mirth, festivity,
and good humour, continued to enliven the hosjoitable board
till a late hour."
JAMES CURRIE, .M.D., F R.S.
JAMES CURRIE, M.D., F.R.S., LIVERPOOL,
Whom Carlyle calls Burns's fir.st and kindest biographer, was,
like the seer of Chelsea himself, a native of Annandale, Dum-
friesshire, and settled in active practice as a physician in the
city of Liverpool at the period of the Poet's death. He was,
not only a distinguished member of his own profession, being
a pioneer in thermometry and the treatment of fever by cold
affusion, and the author of numerous papers on medico-
philosophical subjects read before the learned societies of
Liverpool and Manchester, but he was in the forefront of
every good work which had for its object the amelioration of
the sick and unfortunate poor, and the social, intellectual, and
moral improvement of his adopted fellow-citizens. He was a
liberal in politics, of the rational and moderate type, and a
staunch advocate for the abolition of slavery. He also enjoyed
a somewhat dubious fame as the supposed author of Jasper
Wilsojis Letter to Mr. Pitt, a pamphlet in which the war, in
connection with the French Revolution, was deprecated with
an eloquence and energy far from pleasing to the government ;
and which produced an extraordinary sensation on its first
publication, three editions being sold in London in two
months (not to mention others which Avere published in Scot-
land and Ireland), besides being copied into the periodical
publications of America, and translated into the languages of
Germany and France. He was, moreover, possessed of de-
To Burns and the Medical Profession.
cided literary ambition ; his tastes and talents in this direc-
tion bringing him into intimacy with the well-known
biographer of the Lorenzo cle Medici, Mr. William Roscoe.
" Few strangers of eminence," says Dr. Currie*'s son, " arrived
at Liverpool without an introduction to Mr. Roscoe and Dr.
Currie ; and their houses were the resort of men of learning
and ability from all quarters.""
Dr. Currie was, therefore, as may be readily understood, a
great admirer of his fellow countryman's poems, a volume of
which he had received so long ago as 1787 from Dr. Moore,
the well-known author of Zchico ; and his interest in which
was, doubtless, enhanced by the fact that he had a casual in-
terview with their author in Dumfries in 1792. Accordingly,
on hearing of Burns's death, he opened up a lengthy and pro-
tracted correspondence with his old college friend, Mr. John
Sjme of Ryedale (whom we saw was engaged with Dr. Max-
well of Dumfries and Cunninghame of Edinburgh in raising
a subscription for the benefit of the widow and family), in-
quiring, among other things, Avhat he died of, as a report was
going about that it was from the effects of habitual di'inking ?
He also expressed a strong interest in the intended subscrip-
tion, and in the preparation of a Life and an edition of the
posthumous works of the Poet, in such terms as amounted to
an offer of his own literary assistance to any extent that
might be desired. Within a month he had himself collected
in Liverpool forty or fifty guineas towards the relief fund, but
before the list was closed he managed to bring it up to
There appears to have been some uncertainty at first as to
the selection of an editor and biographer. Professor Dugald
Stewart was thought of. So was Mrs. Walter Riddell. Dr.
Dk. James Cliume. 71
Currie, Avho discountenanced the idea of the lady of Woodley
Park engaging in such an enterprise, pressed Synie to take the
matter up. Indeed, he gives as one of the chief reasons for
offering his own services — that, setting aside the disadvantage
of httle personal acquaintance, it seemed to him that he was
fitter for the task than a lively female, who, though she might
feel the brilliancy, might not be able to sustain the force or
support the weight, of his character. In the end, however,
after much epistolary debating for and against the propriety
of Dr. Currie taking the affair in hand; and in which, it must
be confessed, prompted, doubtless, by literary ambition, as
well as an honest desire to serve the widow and her family, is
revealed on the doctor's part a distinct hankering after the
task, it was, at the earnest solicitation of Mrs. Dunlop and
other friends of the Poet, finally agreed in September that he
should discharge the onerous duty himself.
Without fee or reward, then, and out of pure love for the
theme, if the honourable gi'atification of literary ambition be
excluded, this kind-hearted physician undertook the task,
because nobody else among the Poefs many literary friends
could be got to do it, " men of established reputation," he
tells us in his dedication, "naturally declining an undertaking,
to the performance of which it was scarcely to be hoped that
general approbation could be obtained, by any exertion of
judgment or temper." He undertook it, moreover, at a time
when he was over head and ears in a large and lucrative
practice, and when he was busy preparing for the press a
medical work, embodying his views and researches on the
chief professional employment of his life — the treatment of
fever by cold affusion, and might, therefore, well have excused
himself. Besides, his health was anything but robust, four
72 BuilXS AXD THE MeDICAL PhOFESSIOX.
of his seven sisters having died of consumption, inherited
from their mother. He knew the fatal family tendency was
in his o-vvn constitution, and he had not only to be watchful,
but to absent himself from his practice for brief periods every
now and then, in order to prevent a breakdown, or to recover
from the effects of an alarming illness. In spite of all pre-
cautions and care, however, the much-dreaded malady ulti-
mately developed, and, together with heart disease, carried
him off at the early age of forty-nine, his immense labours as
the editor and biographer of Burns, it is said, greatly ac-
celerating the sad event.
Some conception of the Herculean nature of the task he
undertook may be gathered from his own words, on receiving,
in February, 1797, from his friend Syme the mass of materials,
letters, fugitive poems, etc., which he had been busy collect-
ing for the last two or three months. " I received," he says,
" the huge and shapeless mass with astonishment ! Instead
of finding, as I expected, a selection of his papers with such
annotations as might clear up obscurities — of papers perused
and approved of by his friends as fit for publication, or fur-
nishing the materials of publication — I received the complete
sweepings of his drawers and of his desk (as it appeared to
me), even to the copy-book on which his little boy had been
practising his writing. No one had given these papers a
perusal, or even an inspection : the sheep were not separated
from the goats; and — what has, perhaps, not happened before
since the beginning of the world — the manuscripts of a man
of genius, unarranged by himself, and unexamined by his
family or friends, were sent, with all their sins on their heads
to meet the eye of an entire stranger."
Overwhelmed by the hugeness of a task, the materials of
Dr. James Cuerie. 73
which were so scattered and pecuhar, and depending so much
for the success of the enterprise on the taste, the delicacy,
and the judgment with which they were handled, there is
little wonder if he declares to Syme that, " in this situation
you will not be surprised that I feel an anxious wish to de-
cline the undertaking, if any other person can be found to
engage in it.*"
Negotiations, moreover, of a peculiarly delicate character,
had to be conducted with various persons in possession of
documentary material necessary to satisfactorily complete the
publication. Mrs. Dunlop, as the result of these delibera-
tions, gave up her letters in exchange for her own to Burns :
Clarinda kept hers, but promised to transcribe and transmit
passages from them, provided her own to Burns were re-
turned : while Thomson readily parted with the sixty songs
Burns had sent him for his Melodies of Scotland ; also the
valuable and delightfully spontaneous correspondence which
passed between them anent the same.
Currie was engaged in arranging and editing this miscel-
laneous mass of materials, and in writing the Life,, for over a
period of three years ; and the only assistance he received
was when, under a threat of flinging the whole thing up,
Gilbert Burns and Syme came down to Liverpool and stayed
a fortnight under the doctor's roof. It was in the summer of
1800 that the work, in four volumes, at last appeared. Two
thousand copies were printed at 31s. 6d. each, which realised
=£?1,400 — for the benefit of the Poefs family. Its appearance
was greeted with universal favour, for the tact and delicacy,
and the skill and discretion with which, under difficult cir-
cumstances, he had accomplished his task. At least, nothing
to the contrary ever reached his ear, and he died some five
74 Burns and the Medical Profession.
years after at Sidmouth, whither he had travelled from Bath,
under the grateful impression that his benevolent exertions
had been crowned with entire success. A year before his
death, while searching for health at Moffi\t, he called at
Dumfries to see INIrs. Burns, and, with characteristic unsel-
fishness, selected a single volume out of the Poet's library, as
a memorial of his exertions on behalf of herself and family.
Though Currie died in blissful ignorance of any serious
adverse criticism of his benevolent achievement, he had pro-
bably too much connnon-sense not to know that posterity
might not endorse the same favourable view of his perfor-
mance, as his friends and contemporaries had done ; the
particular form and extent that such adverse criticism might
take he was perhaps not qualified, by virtue of his very limi-
tations, to guess. It never entered into his, or any other
person's calculations, that in the coming future the most in-
significant detail of the Poet's life would be so treasured and
criticised as it has been. Nor was it to be expected that that
same posterity, in pronouncing judgment upon Currie, would,
in a spirit of extenuation, consider the very exceptional cir-
cumstances under which he performed his difficult task. In
a business of this kind it was perhaps not right that it should.
At anyrate, as a matter of fact, it didn't. In the long inter-
val that has elapsed since the beginning of the present century
numerous indictments have, from time to time, been brought
against him. The most serious are his unnecessary candour
about the faults of Burns — his apologetic treatment of his
character — and his deliberate suppression and alteration of
questionable passages and dates in his poems and letters ;
though, in this connection, it must be borne in mind that he
points out, in one of his communications to Syme, that " not
Dr. James Currie. 75
one of the copies of his own (Burns's) letters is dated ; and,
therefore, a stranger cannot arrange them in the order of
time, so as to make them convey a history of his mind."
But, even before the work was half through the press, there
were murmurs from unexpected quarters, unheard, doubtless,
by Currie, but destined to reach the ear of the world by and
by. Both Lamb and Wordsworth, especially the latter, as I
shall have occasion to show a little further on, felt very sore
on the point of Currie's over-righteous treatment of his
theme. The former, in writing to Coleridge, August or Sep-
tember, 1800, asks, " Have you seen the new edition of
Burns — his posthumous works and letters ? I have only been
able to procure the first volume, which contains his life — very
confusedly and badly written, and interspersed with dull
pathological and medical discussions. It is written by a Dr.
Currie. Do you know the well-meaning doctor ? Alas !
ne sutor ultra crepidam.''''
There is, it must be confessed, a good deal of truth in the
witty Elia's description of the life, and it is very clever of him
to hit the " well-meaning doctor '"' with a weapon out of the
Aesculapian armoury. You have but to run over the different
departments, and their arrangement, in the life, to see how
pat the words, " dull pathological and medical discussions "
are as applied to them.
1st. It opens with a prefatory essay on the character and
condition of the Scottish peasantry, that the reader, and par-
ticularly the English, may the better understand the Poet's
life, surroundings, and work.
2nd. The Poefs own autobiographical letter to Dr. Moore.
3rd. His brother Gilbert's narrative.
4th. His teacher, IVIr. Murdoch's narrative.
76 Burns and the Medical Profession.
5th. Comparative examination of these different narratives,
with other particulars of his Ayrshire hfe, by the editor.
6th. Professor Dugald Stewart's narrative,
7th. Other particulars of his Edinburgh life, including
notes of his tour through the South of Scotland.
8th. Dr. Adair's account of his tour with Burns to Stirling,
Vale of Devon, Clackmannan, and Dunfermline.
9th. His Highland tour with Mr. Nicol.
10th. Other incidents of his Edinburgh life previous to
going to Ellisland.
11th. His Dumfries life to his death.
12th. His character — reflections on. An examination of
the poetic temperament — its incompatibilities with the more
practical aspect of life. Sensibility — genius, the possessors
of them generally strangers to true tranquility and happiness
unless kept right by the regular exertion of all the faculties
of body and mind ; hence the peculiar temptations and
dangers to which the poetic constitution is liable, as opium
in the East, and alcohol in Western Europe and Great
13th. Memoir respecting Burns, by a lady — Maria Riddell.
14th. An inquiry into his literary merits, preceded by a
survey of the state of letters, particularly Scottish, anterior
to Burns — from Dunbar to Ramsay and Fergusson.
15th. The lyric productions of Burns, prefaced by an in-
quiry into the history and philosophy of the song and ballad
In spite of Elia's strictures and fun, perhaps the dull
pathological and medical-discussion method was the only one
open to Currie ? At anyrate, I am not sure that he did not
do the best thing for Burns by this method. And, whatever
Dr. James Currie. 77
its defects in form and structure, suggesting, it may be, to
the reader some feeling of confusion and want of literary
unity, it has certainly the merit of fulness and thoroughness ;
while the learned culture it displays, the critical discrimina-
tion, the wide and varied knowledge of human character, the
sound common-sense, the high purpose, and even the exceed-
ingly competent literary expression, are a more than sufficient
refutation of the fitness of the proverb, ne siitor ultra crepi-
dam, which Lamb applied to the well-meaning doctor's par-
But let us leave Elia, who is speaking as much in his reputed
character of humourist, and, therefore, of exaggeration, as
serious critic, and come to the heavier metal of "Wordsworth.
It would be some nine years after Currie's death, and fourteen
after the publication of his edition of Burns's works, that the
publishers, anxious to maintain, on the expiry of the copy-
right, a preference in the market for their own impressions,
bethought them of an edition with notes and emendations by
the Poefs surviving brother, Gilbert. He very willingly fell
in with the idea, more particularly, since he had now been
convinced by two of his brother's surviving intimates, Mr.
Gray of the Dumfries Academy, the teacher of the Poefs
children, and Mr. Findlater, his superior oflRcer in the Excise,
that Dr. Currie had done injustice to his brother's memory.
It was at this point that Wordsworth took up the cudgels
by issuing a pamphlet, in the form of a letter to Mr. Gray,
and intended at first for Gilbert's edition, discussing the
whole question of the biographer's duty to his subject,
especially in regard to the extent to which it was proper to
go in laying bare faults and failings. He avowed his indig-
nation at the revelation of the "infirmities" of Burns made
78 Burns and the Medical Profession.
by Dr. Currie, and professed a desire to see this evil corrected.
Gilbert, though feeling annoyed at Wordsworth*'s interfer-
ence, resolved to follow his suggestion. This action of his
brought forth an indignant protest from Mr. Roscoe against
the imputation of faults to his friend, Dr. Currie, whose
woric had been approved of by none more heartily, at its
publication, than by Gilbert Burns. Gilbert defended him-
self by declaring that when Currie's book came out (the
proof-sheets of which neither he nor Syme ever saw), lie
supposed that the biographer had spoken of his brother's
errors upon good information, he himself having, for the last
few years of the Poet's life, lived fifty miles off, had no
opportunity of knowing how the case really stood ; he, there-
fore, approved of Dr. Currie's memoir at the time, but
afterwards, from what he had learned from Mr. Findlater, he
became convinced that the statements had been exaggerated.
This protest of ]\Ir. Roscoe and defence of Gilbert Burns,
led to a most elaborate and protracted correspondence, as is
seen from the Earnoch MSS. in Annual Burns Chronicle for
1898, in which Roscoe, in the interest of his friend Dr.
Currie's honour, and that of the Currie family, fights most
tenaciously for the propriety of leaving things as the doctor
left them in his memoir ; and in which Gilbert Burns con-
tends as strenuously as it was possible for a man to do,
overweighted as he always was by a sense of the greatness of
the obligation the Burns family owed to Currie, for the
vindication of his brother's honour. At tliis date, the
solicitude of Currie's friends for his honour at the expense of
Burns's, seems neither just nor wise. Messrs. Gray and
Findlater's evidence, published by Alexander Peterkin in
1814, was already before the world, and the public would
Dr, James Currie. 79
draw their own conclusions whether Gilbert Bin-ns spoke out
holdhj, or allowed himself to be gagged, or his statement
whittled down to next to nothing. Mi-. Roscoe's attitude,
moreover, is all the more remarkable since he admits in one
of his letters that the evidence of these two gentlemen might
have influenced the final opinion of Dr. Currie.
That the conviction of Gilbert Burns, that Currie''s state-
ments had been exaggerated, is the reasonable belief of all at
the present day who have taken the trouble to examine this
matter for themselves, nobody, I think, will deny. And Dr.
Currie, had he lived, would have been the first to honourably
atone in some of the subsequent editions for his exaggera-
tions. Wordsworth himself, in his letter to Mr. Gray, admits
as much when he says that the author of these objectionable
passages, " If he were now alive, would probably be happy to
But does Dr. Currie deserve the severe censure that has
been meted out to him in this affair .'' It must be borne in
mind that he did not belong to that Tennysonian class of
biographers who think they have nothing to do with a poefs
loudnesses. Neither was he of Wordsworth's way of thinking,
who considers that a biographer has nothing to do with the
private life of a poet, unless he has also been a public man
and borne a certain part in the affairs of the world, when such
knowledge might then be necessary to explain his public
actions. " Nothing of this," he says, " applies to authors,
considered merely as authors. Our business is with their
books, to understand and to enjoy them. And of poets more
especially it is true that, if their works be good, they contain
within themselves all that is necessary to their being compre-
hended and relished."
80 Burns and the Medical Profession.
Burns^s xvildnesses, however, could not have been ignored,
even if his biographer had held similar views to those of
Tennyson and Wordsworth ; they were so much a part of the
man, and the man was his poems and songs, in a sense
altogether different from either of the cases of the two gi'eat
artists mentioned, or indeed almost any other poet. Besides,
Burns was himself contiimally drawing attention to them, and
sometimes in humorous moods and sometimes out of the
depths of remorse, colouring them with the hues of exaggera-
tion, little thinking that he would be taken absolutely at his
word, but expecting rather the usual deduction charitably
yielded in cases of self-depreciation, whether of poets or
Now, if Gilbert Burns, M'ho surely knew his own brother
better than anybody, and living, as he declared in his defence
to Mr. Roscoe, during the last few years of the Poet's life
only fifty miles away from him, credited Dr. Currie's state-
ment of his errors, there was surely still greater excuse for Dr.
Currie, living five times that distance from him, accepting, as
he doubtless thought from reliable and respectable sources,
that evidence which formed the substance of his accusations
against Burns's character. If he erred, and I think he did, it
was in not going further afield for his information, more
especially as his own personal knowledge of how the case
stood was ml. He informs us himself, in a footnote to the
Life, that Dr. Maxwell furnished him with the particulars of
the Poet's last illness and death, and it is not too much to
presume that Syme was the chief informant on the subject of
his errors. It is, indeed, recorded in black and white that he,
in the beginning of the undertaking, questioned Syme on
these very points, and he would, doubtless, receive an answer.
Dr. James Currie. 81
Later, again, after the publication of the L\fe^ he, in a letter
to the same correspondent acknowledging the assistance of his
observations in estimating the character of Burns, asks whether
he has touched the Bard with a rough or lenient hand, and
whether the portrait he has drawn resembles the original, two
points on which he seems to feel a certain amount of sensi-
tiveness, like a man not altogether sure of his own action,
and, therefore, for his own peace of mind, standing in need of
It has been argued that Syme knew Burns well — none
better, and loved him too sincerely to give his friend away —
all which may be conceded, and yet the wisdom of the
biographer questioned who w'ould rely on this one man's
evidence alone, though it seemed to confirm a report to the
same effect which had reached his ear in Liverpool prior to
the Poefs death. But the truth of such an argument, I
should think, would depend not so much on the informant's
good intention as on his characterisation. He was certainly
not without cleverness, and was named, as we saw, among
the Poet's possible biographers ; but his character was not
distinguished for seriousness, and we know he was given
somewhat to romancing. As an instance of his loose and
unreliable style, he is said to have declared that Burns was
" burnt to a cinder "" ere Death took him ; and Henley, who
is unscrupulous enough to lay hold on anything that will
work into his unseemly picture of the defamation of the
Poet's memory, has seized upon this phrase to demonstrate
" that Burns had damaged himself with diink." Now, this
is not a scientific phrase : it is simply a figure of speech ; and
if it means anything definite at all, it might as well signify
that, as a spiritual force, he was bui'nt out — that he had
82 Burns and the Medical Profession,
lived too fast in an intellectual and emotional sense, and so
was an extinct force. It woidd be going out of any unbiased
critic''s way to interpret the words as conveying, from him, a
layman, at least, the idea of atrophy of certain internal
organs through the burning effects of alcohol. Besides,
Syme was the last man that should have talked as Henley
interprets him to have done. I suppose he did as much
drinking, if not more, than Burns ; and he was the older
man, and should have protected him against excesses, and
not encouraged him, as we know he did, if he recognised the
value of his life to the nation.
Perhaps, too, Currie should have known, as a student of
human nature and as a man of the world, that there is a dis-
position, even among well-meaning friends, to exaggerate
the drinking propensities of a man of genius, as conferring an
additional glorification to the sum of his achievements, just
as vulgar people, to whom the marvellous and wonderful
appeal strongly, are prone to associate extraordinary clever-
ness with excessive drunkenness, thereby giving it the char-
acter of a dogma of every-day life. What part the doctor's
own bias in the direction of temperance doctrines may have
played in the matter it is impossible to say, but, judging
from his own words, he seems to have been alive to such
temptation in striving to do the right. Wordsworth Avon-
ders how the affecting passage, where the poet himself pleads
for those who have transgressed : —
" One point must still be greatly dark,
The moving ivhy they do it,
And just as lamely can ye mark
How far, perhaps, they rue it.
Dr. James Currie. 83
Who made the heart, 'tis he alone
Decidedly can try us ;
He knows each chord — its various tone,
Each spring, its various bias.
Then at the balance let's be mute,
We never can adjust it ;
What's done we partly may compute,
But know not what's resisted."
Wordsworth wonders how the recollection of this affecting
passage " did not check so amiable a man as Dr. Currie,
while he was revealing to the world the infirmities of its
author." He seems, however, to have had just such a guard
on himself, from the following words, " It is, indeed," he
says, " a duty we owe to the living, not to allow our admira-
tion of great genius, or even our pity for its unhappy destiny,
to conceal or disguise its errors. But there are sentiments of
respect, and even tenderness, with which this duty should be
performed ; there is an awful sanctity which invests the
mansions of the dead ; and let those who moralise over the
graves of their contemporaries, reflect with humility on their
own errors, nor forget how soon they may themselves require
the candour and sympathy they are called upon to bestow."
It must be conceded, I think, that a biographer, working in
the spirit of this solemn ideal, if he trespass against his sub-
ject's memory, must do it more from mistaken duty than
from malice. Besides, Currie felt that if he did not touch
this matter, which he believed was of such a clamant char-
acter, somebody else would, and not so tenderly or so kindly.
Lockhart, in traversing this knotty part of the Burns pro-
blem, considers that the truth may probably be found to lie
between Currie's statement and those of Messrs. Gray and
84 Burns and the INIedical Profession.
Findlater, as something ought perhaps to be deducted from
the latter on the score of personal friendship. But, it might
be asked, may there not be another, simpler, and even more
reliable way of arriving at an opinion ; and the wonder is that
Currie did not think of it, only it was perhaps too soon "^ Is
it necessary to found a judgment at all on hearsay evidence,
however authoritative and respectable, in a grave matter of
this kind ? It has always seemed to me that, during the last
four years of the Poet's life in Dumfries, against which the
charge of excessive indulgence in alcohol is mainly brought,
he had no time for excessive drinking, far less for recovering
from its effects, which he ^\'ould have required to have done
before being capable of renewed intellectual effort. And we
know that he was not a good drinker. He confessed to Pro-
fessor Dugald Stewart that there was no merit in his abstin-
ence, as he had to pay too dearly for the slightest indulgence.
The habitual drunkard is, as a rule, incapable of any serious
work, good or bad : even the periodical "boozer" relinquishes
all labour till he has done with hi^ "booze" and fairly recovered
from its effects. Now Burns, besides performing his Excise
duties, which we noAv know for a ftict he did very well,
wrote some one hundred and fifty pieces of verse. AVith the
exception of a few odd sonnets, epigrams, monodies, ballads,
theatrical addresses, and rhyming epistles, they were nearly all
songs — his very best too. " And only the man," says a writer
in the Glasgow Herald for Jan. 29, 1898, "who has attempted
to follow him through the songs which he read and refined can
understand the severitv of his labours — labours to which the
throwing off of such extraordinary pieces of the nature of a
tour dejorcc as ' Tam O' Shanter ' or ' The Jolly Beggars '
Avas a trifle, because it was really an exquisite pleasure." He
Dr. James Ci'krie. 85
also wrote some one hundred and thirty letters, including the
fifty-six to George Thomson in connection with the songs he
was sending him for his Musical Melodies — letters too, which,
for distinct literary quality, were even more of a marvel to
some of the Edinburgh literati than his verse. He corrected,
moreover, the proof sheets of two different publications —
Johnsons Museum, and a two-volume edition of his poems.
And he did all this at his very highest literary water-mark,
and with not the remotest hint of the drunkard in a single
line, or even word, during the brief space of four years, while
struggling with honest poverty, and while discharging the
duties of a volunteer, regularly attending masonic meetings,
and generally taking part in those festivities and social and
public functions which his fame had imposed on his citizen-
ship ; and while, like his worthy father before him, superin-
tending the education of his children, and building up their
character by conversation and selected readings from the
This four years record of work, which must surely have
swallowed up the greater part of his leisure, and left a very
small margin for indulgence in those excesses to which Currie
is blamed for giving a too ready credence, is all the more
remarkable when his indifferent health, during a considerable
part of the time, is taken into account. For upwards of a
year before his death — from early summer of 1795 — ^his health
began to give way. This, however, was not the first of his
illness ; for in a letter to Mrs. Dunlop, June 25, 179'i, speak-
ing of his poor health, he says : — " My medical friends
threaten me with a Hying gout, but I trust they are mistaken.""
In the autumn of that same year, 1795, he was so greatly
prostrated by the death of his little girl at Mauchline, whose
86 Burns and the Medical Puofession.
burial he was too unwell to attend, that he was compelled to
abandon all literary work for a time. This is also the period
of the story of the accidental complaint — from October, 1795,
till January following — which Currie states he was confined
with, but which Burns himself indignantly denied when his
friend Crombie, shortly before his death, inquired of him as
to its truth. In commenting on this accidental complaint
story, Mr. William Wallace, editor of the new Chambers'"
edition, says : — " Currie undoubtedly deserves censure for
having made, in public, charges against the moral character
of Burns, which, from their nature, can only be discussed in
camera^ The same distinguished Burns scholar and trenchant
critic considers further that Currie, in virtue of the exagger-
ated view he took of the Poet's errors, did not give him
sufficient credit for honestly struggling to overcome his faults
and do well. In harping, as he did, on the weakness of his
will he forgot to make allowance for the strength of his pas-
sions. Mr. Wallace inclines rather to hold with Carlyle —
that he had an iron resolution, and believes that, had death
not cut him off prematurely, or accidentally for that matter,
for we have no medical statement of authority, or even at all,
as to the possibilities of prolonged life that were in him, the
chances were in favour of his resolution, in the very exercise
of a continual strife to do well, being ultimately rewarded
I am reminded here, in the mention of the name of Carlyle,
that his strictures, which proceed on somewhat different lines
from those of the others, have still to be considered. They
don't deal so much with Dr. Currie's mistakes and errors of
judgment in treating of his subject, as with the larger ques-
tion of capacity for a great and distinguished treatment of
Dr. James Cuurie. 87
the subject. ^Vhile acknowledging that " Currie loved the
Poet truly, more perhaps than he avowed to his readers, or
even to himself, he objects to his " everywhere introducing
him with a certain patronising and apologetic air, as if the
polite public might think it strange and half unwarrantable
that he, a man of science, a scholar and gentleman, should do
such honour to a rustic. In all this, however, we readily
admit that his fault was not want of love, but weakness of
faith, and regret that the first and kindest of all our Poefs
biographers should not have seen further, or believed more
boldly what he saw."
Now, it is all very well for Carlyle to blame Currie for
weakness of faith — for lack of prophetic vision ; in which
he was no greater a sinner than his contemporaries ; but he
forgets that he performed his task immediately after the
Poefs death, which is altogether another matter. Nathaniel
Hawthorne, America's greatest man of letters, in Our Old
Home, says, and says very truly, in discussing this very sub-
ject, " It is far easier to know and honour a poet when his
fame has taken shape in spotlessness of marble, than when the
actual man comes staggering before you, besmeared with the
sordid stains of his daily life. For my part, I chiefly wonder
that his recognition dawned so brightly while he was still liv-
ing. There must have been something very grand in his im-
mediate presence, some strangely impressive characteristic in
his natural behaviour to have caused him to seem like a demi-
god so soon."
It was, however, quite another affair when Carlyle himself
came to write his essay, which, for general grasp, keenness of
insight, tenderness, generosity, daringness, and even righteous-
ness, is still the greatest treatment of the theme, and could
88 Burns and the Medical Puofessiox.
gauge a truer opinion, and recognise that the peasant bard, in
his Hfetime, was, not only a true British poet, but " one of
the most considerable British men of the eighteenth cen-
tury." Moreover, Carlyle and other adverse critics over-
look the very important fact that the task Currie, like
a shrewd sensible man, set before himself, was to write
a life and edit an edition of the Poet's works ostensibly
for the benefit of his widow and orphan children. It was the
immediate success of the present that perplexed and stimu-
lated him more than the verdict (praise or blame) of the
future. He, therefore, felt it his duty to publish nothing to
the world that would jeopardise in the slightest that project,
hence his suppressions and alterations of text and his tamp-
erings with dates, which have brought down on his unlucky
memory, especially of late years, the heavy censure of the
critics. I would even include within the scope of this same
category those deliberate alterations of the dates of the letters
of his relative, Mrs. Dunlop, to Burns during his latter
years, in order to conceal from the public that that lady
withdrew from him her friendship for a time ; which,
I think, unpardonable action, on Currie's part, might be read
as much in the light of a mistaken kindness to Burns as
towards his own relative.
He was also of opinion that more was to be gained from
that public, to which he was appealing, than lost by stating,
with the utmost kindness and discretion he could command,
what he considered to be the truth about the Poet's declen-
sions, which, he believed, from the most trustworthy informa-
tion supplied to him, were of such a nature that they could
not be ignored ; and that, if he did not touch them, somebody
else would, with a far unkinder hand.
JAMES CURRIE, .M.D., F.R.S.
Dr. James Cuiirie. 89
Looked at in this light, then, which, after all, is the only
fair one, Dr. Currie did his work very well, like an honest
Burns worshipper ; and the Burns world owe him a signal
debt of gratitude ; for, much as has been written on the
theme since, it is marvellous how very little past his very
thorough performance we have really got, or can get.
Medical Subscribers to Currie''s First Edition, 1800.
Adair, J. M., M.D., Harrogate.
BiDDOEs, Dr., Bristol.
BosTocK, John, IM.D., Liverpool.
Cairncross, Axd., Esq., Surgeon, London.
Caldwell, Robt., Esq., Surgeon, 6th Fencible Regiment.
Carson, William, M.D., Birmingham.
Charles, George, Esq., M.D., Ayr.
Clark, Robt., M.D., Dublin.
Clark, James, Esq., Surgeon.
Cromfpon, Peter, M.D., Eton House, near Liverpool.
Currie, William, M.D., Chester.
Currie, Jajles, M.D., F.R.S., Liverpool.
Elliot, IMr. Thos., Surgeon, London.
Goldie, jNIr. Joseph, Surgeon, LiNerpool.
Graham, Thos., Esq., Surgeon, Royal Navy.
Hojie, Dr. James, Professor, Edinburgh.
McIxtosh, Dr. William, late of Jamaica.
Millar, Dr. Richard, Glasgow.
Moore, John, M.D., Cliiford Street, London.
ISIoRRis, Dr. Hugh, Glasgow.
Percival, Thos., M.D., F.R.S., Manchester.
Rattray, Dr., Coventry.
90 Burns and the Medical Profession.
Saumarez, Mr., Surgeon, Newington Butts.
Small, Dr., Dundee.
Tait, Dr. William, Edinburgh.
Taylor, Dr., Manchester.
Towers, Mr. James, Surgeon.
Urie, Mr. Archd., Assistant Surgeon, 58th Regiment.
Wood, Alexr., Esq., Surgeon.
DAVID ^[ACBETH MOIR, M.D.
By the kind permission of Messrs. Blackie & Son.
DR. DAVID MACBETH MOIR (Delta),
AND THE GEAXD ALLOWAY FESTIVAL.
In the long interval of forty-four years, between the publi-
cation of Currie's edition of the Life and Posthumous Works
of Burns, in 1800, and the holding of the Grand Alloway
Festival in 18-i4, there were issued from the press upwards of
two hundred different editions, including some French and
German translations. During that interval there also ap-
peared numerous other collateral publications treating of the
Burns theme. Only a few, however — the productions of
medical men — require a passing notice in this collection.
Robert John Thornton, M.D., London
(the son of a member of the medical profession, and well-
known wit, humourist, and man of letters, who died in 1768,
when the subject of the present sketch was quite a child), was
also, like his father, possessed of extensive literary acquire-
ments. He was the author of a work, notable in its day, on
Tlie Philosophy of Medicine, published in 1798, in four volumes.
He also wrote The Philosophy of Politics, published a year
later, in three volumes. And early in his career he ruined him-
self in a gigantic literary speculation — the publication in
1799-1804 of a work of extraordinary size on Botany (a
science to which he was, from his youth, passionately devoted,
92 Burns and the Medical Profession.
and upon which he wrote voluminously), entitled, Tlie Temple
of Flora ; or, Garden of the Botanist, Poet, Painter, and
Philosopher ; with plates very splendidly coloured after
nature by celebrated artists.
In addition to all this scientific literary activity, he found
time, in his busy practice, and amid that poverty, which
his devotion to Botany had brought down upon his luckless
head, to tread, for once at least, the flowerier paths of litera-
ture, I refer to that little treatise he wrote, which is
his justification to a notice in this inquiry, entitled A School
Virgil, London, 1813, and Illustrations to the same, London,
1814 ; and which is a kindly, sympathetic, and appreciative
notice of Burns ; with severe reflections on George Thomson.
These reflections, however, especially in the light of Mr.
Hadden's recent biography of Thomson, are now understood
to be quite unfounded.
W. AiNSLIE, M.D.,
is the author of the following lines, written on seeing Mr,
Thom's sculpture of Tarn o' Shanter and Souter Johnny,
which appeared in the Morning Post, 1829 : —
" That the great bard — what need to tell the name ? —
In after times, should still more mighty be,
At Heaven's command, behold a Garrick came,
And both were crowned with immortality !
So to the earth, in these our later days,
Was Thorn, with his soul-breathing chisel, sent ;
That Burns, enwreath'd in everlasting bays,
Might speak again in living adamant."
Dr. R. R. Madden. 93
R. R. Madden, M.D,
a native of Ireland, was educated in Dublin, and after study-
ing medicine in Paris, Naples, and London, travelled for
some years in the East. Returning to England, he practised
for a time as a surgeon in Curzon Street, Mayfair. After-
wards, in 1833, he went out to Jamaica as one of the special
magistrates appointed to administer the statute abolishing
slavery in the plantations, but, getting into trouble, he took
a toui to America. He also visited Africa and Western
Australia in public and official capacities ; and in 184?8 he
returned to Ireland, where he died in 1886.
Dr. Madden was a true Irish patriot, a man of affairs, a
journalist, a medical practitioner, and a most extensive mis-
cellaneous writer; being, among numberless other publica-
tions, the author of Lrfe and Martyrdom of Savonarola,
Travels in Turkey , The Musselman (a novel), Literary Life
and Correspondence of the Countess Blessington, and The
Ijijirmities of Genius, illustrated by referring the anomalies in
the Literary Character to the Habits and Constitutional
Peculiarities of Men of Genius, London, Saunders and Otley,
1833. This latter work, \\Titten when practising medicine in
Mayfair, and before going out to Jamaica, contains a chapter,
the twentv-first, on Burns. I
As was to be expected, in view of such a title as The
Infrmities of Genius, the doctor, in this Burns essay, deals
solely with the poet — the man, and not with his poetry ; and
if he does so in a more or less scientific spirit, it is neither
narroAv, unkindly, nor unsympathetic. It is questionable,
indeed, how far, if at all, he knows the poems of Burns ; and
he appears to have come by his knowledge of the man chiefly
94 Burns axd the Medical Profession.
from Dr. Currie's biography of the Poet, which he quotes
largely and approvingly. He is not of Lamb's opinion, that
it is very confusedly and hadly xcriUen, and interspersed with
dull pathological and medical discussions. He holds rather
that it deserves to be considered one of the best specimens of
biography in the English language, not only for the philo-
sophical spirit in which it is written, but for its noble effort
to vindicate the character of genius.
Dr. Madden is inclined to lay the blame of Burns's errors
at the door of his dyspepsia — the literary malady, which he
traces as present in his constitution from his earliest days,
and which, doubtless, was responsible for his liypochondriacal
melancholy, his nervous headaches, his palpitations and sink-
ings of the heart, etc., etc. The dejection consequent on
this hypochondria, in his early years, he points out, was
soothed by the excitement of the tender passion. In later
life he employed other means to alleviate it — alcohol, which
had the dangerous effect of aggravating the disease. He
quotes Currie as to the fatal defects in his character consist-
ing in his comparative weakness of volition and in the acute-
ness and strength of his sensibility ; while the occupations of
a poet are as little calculated, in the one case, to strengthen
the governing powers of the mind, as they are, in the other,
to weaken that sensibility which requires perpetual control ;
which deliverance he characterises as worth all that has
ever been said on " the poetic temperament." " Indolence,""
again, "the baneful attendant of morbid sensibility,"" he
considers, and I cannot help thinking in culpable ignorance
of the amount of genuine work Burns did during the very
years in question, as I tried to show in the preceding chapter
— Idleness he considers the next factor in the production of
Dr. R. R. Maddex. 95
that train of symptoms which heralded a premature death, as
it aggravated his hypochondria, for the rehef of which he
had recourse to the seductive use of stimulants, which had to
be increased to meet the failing strength of body, and conse-
quently of volition, and the proportionate increase of sensi-
bility caused by the soothing and gi*atification of the diseased
Speaking of the Poefs last rheumatic illness, which had so
shattered his already enfeebled constitution, the doctor has
some significant observations. "In June he was recommended
to go into the country ; ' and impatient of advice,' says his
biographer, ' as well as of every species of control, he deter-
mined for himself to try the effects of bathing in the sea.'
Burns, however, distinctly says in two of his lettei-s, this ex-
traordinary remedy for rheumatism was prescribed by his
physician ; ' The medical men,' he wrote to Mr. Cunningham,
' tell me that my last and only chance is bathing and country
quarters, and riding.' For the sake of the faculty, I trust
that Burns was mistaken in the matter, for no medical man
of common-sense could think that a patient sinking under
rheumatism, and shattered in constitution, was a fit subject
for so violent a remedy as the cold bath. No medical man
can consider, without shuddering, the mischief it must have
produced in the case of Burns."
In spite of the fact of the remarkable fruitfulness of the
press in the multiplication of new editions and other colla-
teral Burnsiana matters during these forty-four years, the
Scottish nation may, nevertheless, be said, generally,
to have regarded its Poet with a feeling of apathy since lay-
ing him with so much pompous ceremonial in the churchyard
96 Burns and the Medical Profession.
of St. Michael. And the Grand Festival held in honour of
his sons, at their father's birthplace, may be described as, not
only the first symptoms of an awakening from its unworthy
attitude of indifference, but the dawn of a new state of
things, out of which was to emerge the materials for the
building up of a progressive Burns cult, and the founding of
a real, salutary hero-worship.
Lord Eglinton presided on the eventful occasion ; and there
were present such notabilities as Henry Glassford Bell, Esq.,
Sheriff Substitute of Lanarkshire, Professor Wilson of Edin-
burgh (Christopher North), Archibald Alison, Esq., Sheriff
of Lanarkshire, and author of the History of Europe, Colonel
Mure of Caldwell, author of Travels in Greece, William
Ay ton, Esq., Advocate, and a whole host of others, more or
less celebrated in war, diplomacy, the senate, public life, and
at the bar. There was, however, among the distinguished
company, one celebrity, specially invited to attend, though
not in evidence. I refer to
Dr. David Macbeth Moir, of Musselburgh,
better known by his pen-name A (Delta) of BlacJizvood, the
friend and intimate of that gifted literary brotherhood, which
included Wilson, the Blackwoods, Ferrier, Simpson, Dr.
Robert Macnish, Christison, Robert Chambers, Dr. John
Brown, and Thomas Aird, his biographer.
Dr. Moir, as is well-known, was a hard-working and most
capable medical practitioner all his too brief life, to which
his Outlines of the Ancient History of Medicine, published in
1831, bear excellent testimony ; so also does his heroic
attendance, night and day, upon the plague-stricken inhabi-
Dr. David Macbeth Mom. 97
tants of Musselburgh during that fearful visitation of cholera
which swept over Europe at this time ; and his Practical
Observations on the same malignant theme, published in
1833, which was followed by Proofs of its Contagiousness in
184'3. But he was, besides, a most distinguished poet and
man of letters, finding time, in the midst of his busy practice,
for the gratification of his literary passion, mostly when
other folks were busy sleeping. He is, indeed, one of the
solitary examples, not only of the compatibility of medicine
with letters, but of their entirely successful union in his own
remarkable person. Out of a very considerable out-put (at
least for one of his busy years), of prose and verse, and all of
a highly meritorious character for workmanship and polish,
the two works possessing the greatest amount of immortality
are, doubtless, his Mansie Waucli and Cassa Wappy. And
if the former has been provocative of more innocent mirth
and healthy laughter than perhaps any other work of a
similar kind, the latter has contributed towards the shedding
of more medicinal tears, by bereaved fathers and mothers,
than any other child's poem in the language.
Though Dr. Moir did not take any public part in the day"'s
proceedings at the grand Alio way banquet in 1844, he did
perhaps a far greater service to the occasion, and, certainly,
to posterity, by composing his Commemorative Burns Poem,
published in Blackioood at the time. In writing to his friend
Aird of Dumfries, a month or two thereafter, he says, " My
days, and sometimes my nights, are absorbed in professional
hurry ; and often for a \veek at a time I cannot answer a
single letter — my opportunity for reading at these times being
a book in my phaeton. ^Vith the exception of the lines to
Burns, and another piece, I do not remember another product
98 Burns and the Medical Profession.
of my muse for the last twelve months. Apropos of the lines
to Burns, they have been popular probably beyond any other
thing that I have ever written, and have been republished in
fifty different quarters."
And they deserved to be, for his stanzas are not only
penned in the genuine spirit of hero-worship, but he writes
like a man who knows his subject down to the bottom, as
well as all round. The following lines are a good example of
his exceeding sanity on that portion of the Burns theme
which has proved a stumbling-block to so many of the smaller
order of minds, and is a pronouncement distinctly in advance
of his own day.
" Judge not ye, whose thoughts are fingers,
Of the hands that witch the lyre —
Greenland has its mountain icebergs,
^tna has its heart of fire ;
Calculation has its plummet ;
Self-control its iron rules ;
Genius has its sparkling fountains ;
Dulness has its stagnant pools ;
Like a halcyon on the waters,
Burns's chart disdained a plan —
In his soarings he was Heavenly,
In his sinkings he was man."
It is a singular and noteworthy coincidence that, with a
view to recruit his declining health by rest and change of
scene, he should have been on a visit, accompanied by his
wife and little son, to the land of Burns where he met the
illness which was so soon to prove fatal to him. On his re-
turn to the inn after a short drive to the cottage where Burns
was born and the other objects of interest in that celebrated
locality, which he was desirous of showing his wife and son,
Dr. David Macbeth Moir. 99
he was seized with a violent spasm. The next day he was a
little better and determined to return home, taking Dumfries
on the way. He, however, never reached Musselburgh ; his
illness quickly developing into an acute peritonitis after
arriving at Dumfries, where he died in a few days, at the age
of fifty -three.
DRS. FR. ADAMS, O. W. HOLMES, Etc.,
AND THE 1859 CELEBRATIONS.
Between the Alloway Festival and the next most important
event of the Burns cult — the Centenary Celebration — it falls
to me to notice the name of
James R. McConochie, M.D., Louisville, Ky.,
who was the author of a little work, Leisure Honrs^ partly
poetical and partly prose, written in the spare moments of
his busy professional life, and published in 184*8. There is a
prose sketch in the little volume, called. Recollections of
Robert Burns, a subject upon which he considers himself well
qualified to speak, being not only a native of Dumfries, where
his father was a minister, but educated there, at the same
school as Burns''s son, both boys sitting on the same form.
He remembered the Poet well, and would be some seven or
eight years of age when he was first pointed out to him, one
evening at the Dock, the general resort of the Dumfriesians
at the close of the labours of the day.
The doctor, however, does not tell us anything new con-
cerning Burns. His presentment is the usual stereotyped one,
about his great genius, and equally great errors, but apprecia-
tive and kindly withal. It could hardly be expected that a
Dk. Alexander M. Walker. 101
lad of seven years old could have formed any opinion of his
own on such a subject. He has, moreover, fallen into a good
many mistakes, such as, that Jean Armour's father was a
tailor, which render his Recollections, especially from the per-
sonal point of view, comparatively worthless. Indeed, the
likelihood is that he penned them more from reading and the
remembrance of hearsay evidence heard fifty or sixty years
ago, than from personal Recollections.
A tribute of a very different character to the one just
recorded is that of a Lecture, published in 1858, by
Alexander M. Walker, M.A., M.D.,
071 the Private and Literary Life of Burns, which he had, by
request, delivered a few years previously, before some of the
Metropolitan Literary and Scientific Institutions. In the
preface to his lecture he solicits the patronage of the nobility
and gentry and tradesmen of the town and vicinity, as the
proceeds from the sale of the little publication are to be
devoted to the purchase of some of the best standard authors
for the library of the Useful Knoidedge Institidion, of which
the doctor was honorary secretary.
Two years later again, in 1860, he published a second
Lecture on the Poems and Songs of Burns, which had also, he
informs us in the preface, been previously delivered before the
above mentioned Metropolitan Societies ; and, in issuing
which, he once more solicits the patronage of his neighbours
and fellow-townsmen, the proceeds of the sale in the present
case being for the benefit of the Chapel of Ease School.
The delivery and publication of these two lectures is unique,
especially when it is considered that the lecturer was an Irish-
102 Burns and the Medical Profession.
man practising as a physician in a south of England fashion-
able watering place — Tunbridge Wells. But had he not
disclosed his nationality, it could have been easily discovered
from his text that he had never been either in Ayi'shire or
Dumfriesshire, which he speaks of as though they w^ere the
highlands of Perthshire. If, however, he was ignorant of the
topographical character of these two counties, which were
mainly identified with the life and work of Burns, his ac-
quaintanceship with both the spirit and letter of the Poet's
Private and Literary Life, and with his Poems and Songs, is
thorough and sound. His first lecture is a most eloquent,
enthusiastic, and generous tribute to the character of the
Scottish Bard, but thoughtful and discriminating withal, being
of opinion, considering his circumstances and the time, that
he was fairly well equipped, educationally and otherwise, for
the work his hand found to do, because he supplemented what
he lacked from the teaching of his schoolmaster and his own
father, by the most assiduous self-culture, in order that the
product of his art might not suffer through poverty of know-
ledge, or its expression be unworthy of the theme he was
singing through want of cultivation.
His second lecture is an equally able, warm, and scholarly
criticism of the Poems and Songs, showing, by his comparative
analysis, not only fine insight into his subject, but wide
culture and knowledge of the world's greatest masters in
literature. And, like all the performances of medical men,
both lectures are conspicuous for the spirit in which they
touch upon the Poefs failings — a spirit which he commends
as one of the signal merits of Dr. Currie's memoir.
In the great centennial celebrations of 1859, which pro-
duced so many tributes, both at home and abroad, to the
FRANCIS ADAMS, M.D., LL.D.
From Marble Bust in Aberdeen University, by permission of the Principal,
Sir W. Geddes.
Dr. Francis Adams. 103
beloved memory of Scotland's Bard, the medical profession is
worthily represented. On the one hand, as far north as
Francis Adams, M.D., LL.D.,
commemorates the event by a Centenary Discourse on the
Writings of Burns ; and, on the other, across the wide
Atlantic, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes sounds his lyre to the
same popular strain ; though these two conspicuous examples
do not, by any means, exhaust the list. In every other town
and village in Scotland, and in England and Ireland, and in
America and the Colonies, medical men were not only present
at the celebrations, but, in numerous instances, they presided
and proposed the toast of the Immortal Memory, in a man-
ner entirely worthy of the best traditions of the profession.
This circumstance of the veteran Kincardine doctor's essay
into the dangerous field of Burns speculation and criticism is
all the more remarkable, because, though like Dr. Moir, a
notable example of the successful union of medicine and
letters, his walk of literature was not in the realms of poesy
and humorous fiction, but amid the severer classicism of
Grecian lore. Like Delta, too, his literary achievements
were the product of hard-earned and scanty leisure, and what
he could steal from his sleep, as he was all his life a hard-
working " Country Doctor." — " It is a noticeable fact," says a
writer in a cutting from the Scotsman, May 1857, with this
heading, which I came across the other day in the IVIitchell
Library, pasted by some loving hand on the title-page of a
small volume, in which Dr. Adams's centenary lecture is
bound up with Carlyle's celebrated essay and other pamph-
lets ; and from its style and contents, I should say, is from
104 Burns and the Medical Profession.
the pen of the author of Rah and His Friends, Dr. John
Brown, who writes so charmingly of the Deeside practitioner
in his Horae Stibsecivae — " It is a noticeable fact, and some-
thing to be proud of, that the most learned physician in
Britain, and probably in Europe, is at this moment a country
surgeon in a small village on Deeside — Dr. Francis Adams,
of Upper Banchory, the editor and translator of Hippocrates,
Paulus ^gineta, and Aretaeus. We well remember finding
this great scholar at his careless jentacidum, diverting himself
with doing an ode of Horace into Greek verse ; being then,
and we daresay still, at the call of any shepherd's 'crying
wife ■" up in the solitudes of Clochnabane, and living such a
life as we all remember Scott describing in the ' Surgeon's
Daughter."" In any other country, such a man would not
have been permitted to remain long in such a position —
Scotia is assuredly leonum arida riutrix. Our lions are very
drily nursed — they are perhaps all the more lively and leonine
— but small thanks to their mother."
After this highly interesting introduction to Dr. John
Brown's " Country Doctor," who was familiarly known as
Francie Adams in the district, where he was considered the
best surgeon and the worst equestrian, and who, while
" fighting for a livelihood, educating his family, and in-
volved in his multifarious and urgent duties," found time
to become the author of upwards of a score of publica-
tions — surely " one of the most signal instances of the
pursuit and mastery of knowledge under difficulties, to be
found even among our Scottish Worthies," the reader may be
made acquainted with the fact, that his admiration for the
Writings of Bnrns was both high and enthusiastic. His
Discourse, indeed, which shows both fullness and knowledge
Dr. Francis Adams. 105
of his subject, is a -well-reasoned, judicious, and generous
tribute to the marvellous genius of Burns as a poet, setting
him high above all other lyric singers, of whatever country or
clime, either before his day or since. Nor is his treatment of
the man a whit less large-minded and charitable, which is
saying a good deal, when it is remembered that his discourse
was delivered in the Church (the shops in the town being
shut that day), and that it required more sincerity of convic-
tion and bravery to write as Dr. Adams did forty years ago
than now. Speaking of his religion and morality, he says,
" Never can it be said of Burns that (to use the solemn language
of a great moralist) ' he tortured his fancy and ransacked his
memory only that he might leave the world less virtuous than
he found it, might intercept the hopes of the rising generation,
and spread snares for the soul with greater dexterity."" O,
no ! Burns was not the man to call right wrong, and wrong
right. Those who judge harshly of Burns are generally cold-
blooded formalists in religion, and these are not the persons
to sit in judgment on him to whom (assuredly for some noble
purpose) his Creator had given
' The thrilling frame and eagle spirit of a child of song.' "
Again, " My own estimate of Burns''s moral conduct during
' the few and weary days of his sojourn here below "* may be
given in a few words. He had his sins and his follies ; alas !
who is amongst us that has not ? But it is my deliberate
opinion that, to the best of his ability, he always did justice,
loved mercy, and walked humbly with God ; that if he saw a
fellow-creature an hungered, none could be more prompt to
give him food — if athirst, to give him drink — or if in prison,
to,minister to him. Is not this the true spirit of Christianity ?
106 Burns and the Medical Profession.
Let us join then in the prayer of Wordsworth, who himself
had a deep sympathy with Nature and the poet of Nature —
* Sweet Mercy ! to the gates of Heaven
This minstrel lead, his sins forgiven ;
The rnefal conflict, the heart riven
With vain endeavour,
And memory of earth's bitter leaven
Effaced for ever.
But why to him confine the prayer,
When kindred thoughts and yearnings bear
On the frail heart the purest share
With all who live ?—
The best of what we do and are,
Just God, forgive ! ' "
Talking of the Poefs coarseness in certain of his poems,
particularly in his satires, he has also a sensible word. Had
Burns lived in our day he would, doubtless, have written
differently ; and he readily admits that the usages of the
present day in these respects are preferable. But he could
hardly help himself; he simply did what every writer in the
same line did, viz., copy the example of the great masters of
comic satire who had preceded him. And, after all, as Dr.
Adams very pertinently reminds us, " Coarseness in speaking
or in writing was a thing that concerned the manners rather
than the morals, and merely affected the surface of character.
In this respect it was akin to filthiness in personal habits.
It did not follow because a man had a foul skin or spoke
coarsely at times, that he was corrupt to the core. In short,
the heart might be clean, although the skin or mouth was
Dr. OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES
From Vol L of the Riverside Edition of " The Writings of O. W. Holmes.'
By the kind permission of Messrs. Sampson, Low, IMarslon, & Company.
Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes. 107
Turning now from the hardy north, where this learned
" Country Doctor " thought so kindly and spoke so sanely of
Bums, the poet and the man, I would ask you to glance for
a little to the other side of the Atlantic, where, from the city
Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes
sent forth his Centenmal Poem in honour of the 1859 celebra-
Dr. Holmes has bulked so largely and so long in the eye
of the reading world as a man of letters that it is not gener-
ally known how distinguished an ornament he was of his own
profession ; though nobody acquainted with medicine can
read his works without, as his friend and correspondent, Pro-
fessor Sir W. T. Gairdner, of Glasgow, says, being struck
" Avith the large grasp of contemporary thought, combined
with medical and physiological illustration, as a quite new
phenomenon alike in literature and medicine.'" " I have
passed," he humorously remarked himself a few years ago, in
a conversation with the late editor of the British Medical
Journal, " the best years of my life as a doctor, and I hope
they are not ashamed of me, and do not reproach me for
choosing to tread the flowery path of very light literature."
As a matter of fact Dr. Holmes, like Moir and Adams, was,
and had been, a hard-working practitioner in the city of
Boston M'hen he wrote his Centennial Poem on Burns: In
1843, when he was only thirty-four years of age, he published
his great controversial Essay on the Treatment of Puerperal
(child-bed) Fever, which, in its splendid prescience, antici-
pated the marvellous bacteriological discoveries of our own
108 Burns and the Medical Profession.
day. He was appointed in 1847 to the chair of Anatomy
and Physiology at Harvard University, a post he held with
great acceptance and distinction for the long period of forty
years. While performing his professional duties, he still
canned on his practice in Boston ; finding time in the midst
of it all to woo the Muse, and even to deliver lectures to
" lyceum assemblies."
It was in the very thick of this busy time, then, 1857 to
1859, when his Breakfast Table papers were running in the
Atlantic Monthly^ and apprising the reading world that a
new and original star had arisen on the literary horizon, that
he threw his centennial
" pebble on the cairn
Of him, though dead, undying ;
Sweet Nature's nursling, bonniest bairn
Beneath her daisies lying."
But the whole poem, which is a beautiful tribute to the
genius and humanity of Burns, is also distinguished by that
wise charity for which, I contend, doctors are proverbial, as
the following lines show : —
" We love him, not for sweetest song,
Though never tone so tender ;
We love him, even in his wrong, —
His wasteful self-surrender.
We praise him, not for gifts divine, —
His Muse was born of woman, —
His manhood breathes in every line, —
Was ever heart more human 1
Dr. Oliver "NVexdell Holmes. 109
We love him, praise him, just for this :
In every form and feature,
Through wealth and want, through, woe and bliss,
He saw his fellow creature !
No soul could sink beneath his love, —
Not even angel blasted ;
No mortal power could soar above
The pride that all outlasted !
Ay ! Heaven had set one living man
Beyond the pedant's tether, —
His virtues, frailties. He may scan
Who weighs them altogether."
The following charming little incident, recorded thirty
years after, shows that this evergreen doctor"'s heart still
remained unchanged to its first love. In replying to my
friend, Dr. John Dougall, Glasgow, who had sent him some
daisies gathered from the field at Mossgiel, after first pressing
them between the leaves of a copy of The Meditations of
Marcus Aurelius, and afterwards in the pages of a copy of
The Autocrat of the Brealxfast Table ^ he says, "The daisies
from Mossgiel remain as when you sent them, except that I
gave one of them to a lady, who, I know, would value it
highly. I feel much obliged to you for send'ng them, and
they are not less welcome for the plea.sant letter that comes
Avith them. I am proud to think that my book found itself
in the company of Marcus Aurelius, and that it should hold
between its leaves the modest flower which Burns has in-
vested with a tender beauty it never drew from the soil or
air in which it grew. You need not be surprised that
Americans are frequent pilgrims to the places made dear to
110 BURXS AXD THE MeDICAL PllOFESSIOX.
tliem, and to all that read his songs, by the poetry of Burns.
He ought to have passed ten years of his life — or five at least
— in America, for those words of his —
' A man's a man for a' that,'
show that true American feeling belonged to him as much as
if he had been born in sight of the hill before me as I write —
Dr. JOHN P.ROWX
(Kab and his Friends.)
DR. JOHN BROWN AND OTHERS, DOWN TO
THE END OF THE EIGHTIES.
It is a supreme satisfaction to be able to link in the present
inquiry the name of Dr. John Brown, the celebrated author
of Rah and His Friends and a whole host of other, the
most delightful, essays and papers and sketches, comprised in
his Horae Siihsecivae. The writings in these volumes,
exhibiting, as they do, a most captivating and beautiful
individualism, wide culture, great purity of style, and
elevated thought, have justly become English classics.
Their ripe wisdom, moreover, and soundest of common-sense-
teaching on medical subjects, on art, and on the great
verities of human life and religion, make them a library in
themselves, the knowledge alone of which would be an educa-
tion in itself to any young man, and, in particular, I often
think, to any young medical man ; for, though Dr. Brown
was not, in the same sense perhaps as Holmes (whom in other
respects he strongly resembles), a medical pioneer himself, he
understood, none better, the history and philosophy of
medicine and medical teaching, and became, with shrewdest
insight, the historian and critic of some of the great medical
movements and the men chiefly concerned in them.
While the whole world was ringing with the centennial
celebrations of Burns, this sweet-blooded Edinburgh physician
112 Burns and the Medical Profession.
and most lovable of all men of letters was preparing for the
press his Horae Subsecivae^ which contains some interesting
bits of Barnsiana.
In the lieading to that most charming paper, " Oh, I'm
wat, wat," he relates a very pretty little incident in the
youtliful life of Burns, illustrative of his, even then, gift of
humour. I give it in the doctor^s own words : —
" The Father of the Rev. Mi: Steven of Largs zvas the son
of a ^farmer, xcho lived next Jarm to Mossg kl. When a hoy
of eight, he Jonnd '•Robbie^ xcho was a great friend of his,
and of all the children, engaged digging a la?ge trench in a
Jield, Gilbert, his brother, with him. The boy pausing on the
edge of the trench, and looking down upon Burns, said,
' Robbie, whafs that ye're doin ? ' ' HoxcMn'' a miicMe hole,
Tammie.' 'What for?' 'To Imry the Deil in, Tammie!"
(one can fancy how those eyes would gloiv). ' jV but, Robbie^
said the logical Tammie, 'hod' re ye to get him in?'' ^ Ay^
said Burns, ' thafs it, hoo are we to get him in I ' and went off
into shouts of langhter ; and every nozo and then during that
summer day shouts would come from that hole as the idea came
over him. If one could only have daguerreotyped his day^s
fancies ! "*'
In a finely imagined analysis of the old song, " Aye
Waukin"*, O ! " he contrasts the version of it in Chambers''
Scottish Songs with Burns's amended reading of the same ;
and very much, it must be confessed, provided his view of
Burns's version is the correct one, to the disadvantage of the
latter. At the same time, he admits that Burns, in almost
every instance, not only adorned, but transformed and
Dr. John Bnowx. 113
purified whatever of the old he touched, breathing into it his
own tenderness and strength. And he describes, as the chief
charm of the love songs of Burns, that the Poet is not
making love, but in it. " Certainly," he says, " of all love
songs except those wild snatches left to us by her Avho flung
herself from the Leucadian Rock, those of Burns are the
most in earnest, the tenderest, the ' most moving, delicate,
and full of life.'' Burns makes you feel the reality and the
depth, the truth of his passion : it is not her eye-lashes, or
her nose, or her dimple, or even
' A mole cLnque-spotted, like the crimson drops
I' the bottom of a cowslip,'
that are ' winging the fervour of his love ; ** not even her
soul ; it is herself. This concentration and earnestness, this
perfervor of our Scottish love poetry, seems to me to contrast
curiously with the light, trifling, philandering of the English;
indeed, as far as I remember, we have almost no love songs in
En^rlish, of the same class as this one, or those of Burns.
They are mostly either ot ^he genteel, or of the nautical
(some of these capital), or of the comic school. Do you
know the most perfect, the finest love-song in our or in any
language ; the love being affectionate more than passionate,
love in possession, not in pursuit ?
' Oh, wert thou in the cauld blast
On yonder lea, on yonder lea,
My plaidie to the angry airt,
I'd shelter thee, I'd shelter thee :
Or did Misfortune's bitter storms
Around thee blaw, around thee blaw,
Thy bield should bo my bosom,
To share it a', to share it a'.
114 Burns and the Medical Profession.
Or were I in the wildest waste,
Sae black and bare, sae black and bare.
The desert were a paradise,
If thou wert there, if thou wert there :
Or were I monarch o' the globe,
Wi' thee to reign, wi' thee to reign,
The brightest jewel in my crown
Wad be my queen, wad be my queen.' "
The inspiration for this, among the last, if not the very
last, of the love-songs the Poet ever wrote, was supplied by
Jessy Lewars, she who tended him on his deathbed, playing
over and over on the piano the air of that old song,
" The robin cam' to the wren's nest,
And keekit in, and keekit in."
Dr. Brown, in a passage in that beautiful paper on " Arthur
H. Hallam," further emphasises this affectionate character of
the love in Burns's songs. " We can," he says, speaking of
In Memonam, " recall few poems approaching to it in this
quality of sustained affection. The only English poems we
can think of as of the same order, are Cowper's lines on seeing
his mother''s portrait : —
* O that these lips had language ! '
Burns to ' Mary in Heaven ; ' and two pieces of Vaughan —
' thou who know'st for whom I mourn ; '
and the other,
' They are all gone into the world of light.' "
Dr. Robert Dick. 115
Following close upon the recent celebrations, and probably
inspired by them, I have also to chronicle the name of
James Strachan, Surgeon, Blackford,
author of A Voyage to the Arctic Regions^ a gentleman who
was in active country medical practice for upwards of thirty-
five years, and in the autumn of his days published a little
volume of poetry, entitled, Mural Pieces in Rhyme and Blank
Verse, Edinburgh, 1860. His treatment of the various sub-
jects of his muse, which, as their title indicates, are mostly of
a religious and moral character, is slight and short, the
execution not being always equal to, or worthy of the theme.
In an Ac7'0stic on Burns, an Episode, and Tarn o' Shanter,
he refers to Burns, and sings his praises, perhaps with more
warmth of heart than poetic skill. He is inclined to over-
look the debauchery in Tarn o' Shanter in consideration of
its other merits.
" Gif you or me fiud fault, we're unco bauld
Wi' him who wrat sae much for our enjoy,
An' fley'd sae muckle grief frae our employ."
And likewise, as appearing very soon after, if not, indeed,
actually belonging to the centenary category, I ought to in-
clude the name of
Robert Dick, M.D., CM.,
who graduated at Glasgow University in 1834 ; practised in
London and Edinburgh ; and died at the latter city in 1878.
He was as prolific with his pen, as he was extravagant in the
subjects which it handled, being, among other works, the
116 Burns and the Medical Pkofession.
author of, Derangements of the Organs of Digestion, 1840 ;
A New and Catholic Liturgy, 1846 ; Physiology, its Physical,
Moral, Political, and Hygienic Teachings ; an Essay in
Blank F(?/-«', 1849 ; The Literary Aurora, 1858; Marriage
and Pojndation, their Natural Laws, 1858 ; The Spiritual
Dunciad, 1859 ; and the Autobiography and Poetical Com-
positions, including Tartarns, Elysium, Elijah, and the Paulo-
post of Man ; or, the Land ; Rent, and Food-Free, and
Concrete Air — Nitrogen Milleniimi, 1863 ; which remarkable
work contains an Ode on the Centenary of Burns'' s Birthday.
However insane the company, judging from the foregoing
titles, in which this ode finds itself, there is nothing of mad-
ness in its matter. It sets out by sketching the character,
particularly in its sterner aspects, of our Scottish scenery,
amid which the Poet was nurtured ; and describes a snow-
" But ah ! full soon Toil came to claim the boy ;
Leaving too narrow phase
Of happy, vacant days,
'To paidle i' the burn and rin about the braes,'
His frame, while still unknit, the plough, the scythe employ,"
Then it notes how his " manly sire " took careful heed for
the education and culture of his mind ; how he suddenly
awoke to fame ; went to " Edina's regal seat " and received
the homage of the learned and the great. " But," it signifi-
cantly asks —
" Was he happier then,
Even in the proudest hour.
Than when he told his tale of love,
In hawthorn-scented bower ? "
Dr. Robert Dick. 117
and answers in the neijative —
" No I for ambition, glory are apart
From man's true nature, never fiU'd his heart ;
But love, pure, holy, homely,
Of woman, modest, comely,
Is still the heavenliest gift
Of which lost Eden's outcast is unreft ;
And this. Burns, natheless all his errors, knew,
When link'd to long-lov'd Jean, at last in wedlock true ! "
It next conducts his reluctant footsteps from that Edin-
burgh, which, it has been wisely said, " took so much out of
him and put so little back in its place."
" From dulcet-mingled wiles
Of man's applause and woman's smiles ;
From pleasure, dazzling success, beauty,
To humble rustic duty,
Unmann'd in nought the Bard returns,
More jjurely, brightly burns
The light of Genius in him ;
His fancy every theme adorns ;
Temptations rarely win him.
Then struck his lyre those chords,
Even henceforth to be
A nation's deathless 'household words,'
His lay of ' Auld lang syne,'
And other minstrelsy ;
Which Scot with Scot will chorus,
While lasts the land that bore us.
Drop we the veil o'er Bnrns's after-story.
For us, for him too soon.
His sun went down at noon ;
Fault and mischance dimming its parting glory.
118 Burns and the Medical Profession.
He left Ids name
Amid his country's constellations,
In the poetic sky,
To sparkle on with brightest corruscations.
In comic and pathetic alternations."
It usually happens after great events, like the 1859 Cele-
brations, that enthusiasm exhausts itself and a period of
reaction sets in. But the press was as active as ever in
issuing new editions. Monuments too, were being erected,
one after another, all over the country. There were, besides,
other collateral Burnsiana publications constantly making
their appearance, as the ever-increasing bibliographies be-
wilderingly inform us. And if the adage has any application,
it must be to the medical profession ; for there is a gap of
thirteen years between the tiny tributes of Strachan and Dick
and the delivery of a lecture on, Robert Burns, the Poet, by
David Sime, M.D., Inellan,
before the good people of that little Clyde watering place,
where he was the resident medical practitioner, and which
was afterwards, at the special request of his audience, pub-
lished by Maclehose & Sons, Glasgow. Eight years later,
April, 1881, the same lecture (if not exactly word for word,
at least thought for thought) appeared as an article in the
Catholic Presbyterian, under the title of the Poetry of
Robert Burns. His point of view here is precisely that
of the original lecture, only, if anything, a little more
pronounced. He treats his subject from the aspect of the
poet rather than the man, as the latter might long since
have been, and is, indeed, being, forgotten, but for the mar-
Dk. David Simk. 119
vellous genius of the former keeping him alive. And though
he adopts this course advisedly, because he is of opinion that
the sooner the man, with his struggles and his errors, is
forgotten, the better — that, indeed, it is of no consequence
he should be remembered since we have his works, he cannot
altogether escape glancing at the man, whose frailties he
touches with the same generous hand that we have seen
characterises his medical brethren generally.
All the same, Dr. Sime does not appear to have been
attracted by the man, Robert Burns, in the same degree that
he has been by his poetry ; and the reason probably is (for
he holds the usual stereotyped view of his errors), that he has
not studied his life as deeply as he seems to have done his
works. He is not one of those who feel that we ought to be
as grateful for his life as his poetry — that, in fact, we could
not have had the special kind and quality of poetry he has
given us, without, at the same time, his special characterisa-
tion, with all its moral riskiness, which produced it; and that
if we esteem the product a good and wholesome thing, then
we must loyally accept the other. It does not seem to have
occurred to Dr. Sime, as it did to "Wordsworth, that " many
peculiar beauties which enrich his verses could never have
existed, and many accessory influences, which contribute
greatly to their effect, would have been wanting, unless it
were felt that he was a man who preached from the text of
his own errors ; and whose wisdom, beautiful as a flower that
might have risen from seed sown from above, was in fact a
scion from the root of personal suffering." Nor does he, like
Oliver Wendell Holmes,
" love him, even in his wrong —
His wasteful self-surrender."
120 Burns and the Medical Puofession.
This larger and Words worthian view — that the Poet's loss
is our gain ; that through his sorrows and his errors we are
the nearer blessing and wisdom ; and that, therefore, we
ought to accept his life, broken as it is, with humble thank-
fulness and reverent pityfulness, is quite foreign to Dr. Sime's
conception. He has not considered that the enthusiasm of
the Scottish people for their Bard has its origin in, and draws
its very sustenance from, his personality ; and that to strike
it out of the bargain would be to give the death-blow to our
Burns worship, which has grown up around the man, even
more than his work. If it were possible, which it is not, to
view Burns purely as a literary artist, like Shakspere and
Scott, there could be no more anniversary celebrations, which
the doctor perhaps might not consider an unmixed blessing.
But if Dr. Sime, in the plan of his paper, deliberately
chooses to ignore the man, he devotes himself all the more
enthusiastically to a masterly analysis of his poems and songs,
which shows him to be possessed of considerable culture, rare
insight, and a very distinctive literary gift, which, I under-
stand, he is exercising with success at the present day in
London, being already the author of In Manhurij City, a
novel, and The Literary Charm of the Pilgrim'' s Progress.
There is a further lapse of nine years, as far as I have been
able to inform myself, between Dr. Sime's very admirable
performance and that of a much less ambitious character,
which only merits notice here, as being from the pen of
John M'Cosh, M.D., Edin., F.R.C.S.E., H.E.I.C.S., and
Dr. John M'Cosh. 121
He was a native of Kirkmichael, Ayrshire ; studied at Glas-
gow from 1827 to 30, in which latter year he became a
Licentiate of the R.C.S.E. ; then probably entered into the
Government Service of India, the experience gained in that
field forming the subject of his thesis, On the Prospects and
Practice of a Bengali Medical Officer, with which he graduated
M.D. in Edinburgh in 1841. He also published several
other works relating to India and the East, as Topography
of Assam, Calcutta, 1837 ; Medical Advice to the Indian
Stranger, London, 1841 ; Advice to Officers in India, London,
1856. He was likewise the author of Nuova Italia, and the
volume which is the subject of the present notice, published
in 1882, and entitled, Sketches in Verse at Home and Abroad,
and from the War of the Nile, in Ten Cantos. In the fourth
canto of this work, which ranges over a wide field of contem-
porary subjects and events, he takes the reader a ramble
through the Land of Burns, his visit to Auld Ayr, in par-
ticular, he tells us, being a case of the scenes of youth
" Full fifty years have passed away
Since in auld Ayr we had our stay,
And now return in sad dismay,
At change of names and places."
He pays the most reverent homage at the shrines of the Poet
in Alloway and Dumfries, moralises on liis chequered career
in the latter town, and on the ungrateful neglect of its
inhabitants towards their Bard, for the offspring of whose
muse he predicts, the world o''er, a never dying fame.
122 Burns and the Medical Profession.
I shall close this chapter with a contribution of a slightly
more noteworthy character, published four years later, 1886
— Poems, Songs, and Sonnets, by
William Stenhouse, M.D.,
who Avas a Glasgow graduate, and practised in Dunedin,
N.Z. (being honorary physician to the hospital there), and in
London. Some three years before the publication of his little
book of poems he was compelled to have his foot amputated ;
and was just contemplating resuming his professional labours
with renewed energy when he received a serious injury to his
spine through a carriage accident, which entirely laid him
aside from active practice. It was, he tells us in his preface,
written from Fitzroy Square, London, during the sleepless
nights, consequent on his long and serious illness, that he
wrote his book of poems, which treat mainly of the social,
moral, and political questions of the day, questions which,
however much they may be considered by some to be without
the range of poetry, are, nevertheless, he assures us, bound up
with the welfare of the race.
His January Tzoenty-Fifth, however, the poem which
entitles him to a notice here, is surely not in that category —
beyond that pale, being one of those much berhymed sub-
jects, which, if we are to judge by the frequency with which
it is chosen, lends itself most admirably to poetical treatment.
If Dr. Stenhouse's performance is not one of the very best, it
is certainly not one of the worst ; and, particularly in that
charity which covereth a multitude of sins, artistic as well as
moral, is in harmony with the general pronouncement of his
Dr. William S'I'exhouse. 123
" So good and ill are mixed
By the Creator's will,
With enmity betwixt
That good may evil kill.
But in this contest stern
The strongest often fail,
And through their failure learn
At last how to prevail.
Thus David and his son
Oft in this contest fell,
And were but all undone,
As sacred writ can tell.
Was Shakspere without stain.
Or Goethe the profound.
That some should so complain
Our Burns was unsound ?
He sinned and suffered much,
And, by experience taught,
He warned us that such
Is with grave perils fraught,
As gentle as a maid.
He was as woman weak —
Ere tempted to upbraid
Let his sweet merit speak."
A DECADE OF MEDICAL BURNSITES, INCLUDING
DR. JAMES ADAMS, GLASGOW.
Coming down to still more recent times — the nineties, when
Burns-worship, no longer a synonym for Bacchus-worship,
is gradually dissociating itself from the unworthy orgies
common to the devotees of this jovial god, and becoming
crystallised into a sort of ritual of its own — a more or less
shapely organisation, with high and worthy purposes, such as
the institution aniong school children of prize competitions
in singing and recitation, with the object of encouraging the
study of the works of Burns in their native Doric ; the
establishment of homes for the indigent, like those at Moss-
giel ; exhibitions of the relics, manuscripts, and editions of
Burns ; and such like kindred projects.
The Burnsites, throughout the Avorld, are no longer a
heterogeneous mass of atoms, whose enthusiasm is only ap-
parent on the twenty-fifth of January, on which night it
evaporates even more completely than the steam of the toddy
circulating round the table. They are now a coherent and
highly influential body of federated clubs, which boasts an
organ of its own — The Annual Burns Chronicle, devoted
to the interests, aims, and purposes of the Burns cult. Nor
can I see any reason why our Burns-worship should not be-
come more and more practical every year ; and that too,
in spite of the character usually ascribed to our patron saint
JAMES ADAMS, M.D., F.F.P.S.G.
Dr. James Adams. 125
— that he was not practical, which I hold is a gross libel ;
for in every community in which he lived he was among the
foremost in starting any good work which had for its object
the moral and intellectual improvement of his fellows, notably
his passion for founding libraries.
I don't know whether it wavS these improved times among
Burns's adherents which found out
Dr. James Adams,
a veteran Glasgow practitioner, or he who found out them ?
I should rather think it was the latter — that he discovered
himself at this period ; for there is the fullest evidence in his
writings that he has been an ardent and enthusiastic Burns
scholar all his life, and is only now, in his aged retire-
ment, giving the world of his ripeness. His Btirnss ^Clilor'is'
a Remmiscence, which appeared in August, 1893, is an ex-
ceedingly readable little book, being written in a vigorous,
direct, and freshly-piquant style ; and is as creditable to his
heart as his head. In speaking of his own modest perfor-
mance he is, he says, "encouraged to think there may be some
of the mind of Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, who said that he
admitted a sheep's head dressed for dinner was not a very
bonny dish, ' but, man, there's a heap o' gude, confused
feedin' aboot it.' " I admit the heap o' feedin', without the
confusion ; for, so full is his knowledge, he rather brings
order out of confusion.
» Ostensibly, the little book is a vindication of the character
of Jean Lorimer (Burns's "Chloris") — " the lassie wi' the lint-
white locks," from the unworthy slanders and base inuendos
of Allan Cunninghame, whom the writer, in certain passages
of righteous indignation and trenchant criticism, which are as
126 Burns and the Medical Profession.
refreshing and invigorating as the nor'land breezes, does not
spare. Though this is his ostensible purpose, he necessarily
travels over a great deal of highly-interesting Burns ground,
showing a most intimate acquaintance with the entire theme ;
and winds up with an earnest and eloquent appeal for a
people's (family) edition of Burns — a Burns that might be
read by a father to his sons and daughters, and from which
every coarse and unworthy word would be eliminated ; and
he bases the wisdom, and justice, and generosity of his appeal
upon the dying words of Burns himself.
" Chloris," he tells us, in her later Edinburgh days, was a
patient of his worthy father ; and he relates, in a most
charmingly-realistic way, how, as a boy, on his w^ay home
from school, he went, by his father's instructions, to her house
to receive a packet containing some Burns manuscripts, with
which the grateful old lady insisted on presenting the doctor,
as he would take no fee for his professional attendance upon
her. From this " Reminiscence " he proceeds to the trium-
phant vindication of the character of " Chloris," whom he
proves, up to the hilt, only to have been a " white-flower
love " of the Poet, and whose only sin was her misfortune.
Indeed, he shows, by evidence of the most conclusive char-
acter, that there never was, or could have been, anything
between the pair but what was entirely honourable to Jean
Lorimer either as a young girl or deserted wife, and to Burns
as a married man and her lyric artist admirer. He points
out, moreover, that " Chloris" was as much a friend of Mrs.
Burns as of the Poet himself, all their intercourse being
above board, and participated in, and approved of by her.
Pflrs. Burns, indeed, to her dying day, never entertained
any other notion about poor " Chloris," but that she was an
Dr. Ja^ies Adams, 127
innocent, though unfortunate woman in her early marriage
with a scamp, who immediately thereafter deserted her.
Besides, the Lorimers and the Burnses were not only on terms
of great intimacy, but were in^the habit of visiting at each
other's homes, which is incredible had the Poefs relationship
to his model not been of the worthiest. As illustrating
the honourable terms of intimacy existing between the two
families. Dr. Adams quotes a letter from Burns, August,
1795, inviting Mr. Lorimer and his daughter Jean to dine
with him at his house in Dumfries, to meet Mr. Robert
Cleghorn and two Midlothian farmers, friends of the Poet.
" Mrs. Burns," he says in his note to Mr, Lorimer, " desired
me yesternight to beg the favour of Jeanie to come and par-
take, and she was so obliging to promise that she would."
Drs. Maxwell and Mundell, he likewise informs him, are to
be of the dinner-party, at which Mrs, Burns, all unconscious
of jealousy or like feeling, sang, to the great delight of her
guests, one of the " Chloris " songs, " O, Thafs the Lassie o'
Dr. Adams even further demonstrates, if further demon-
stration were necessary, how Burns, after "Chloris's"" desertion,
with a beautifully-tender consideration on his part, chose his
themes in song, with a view to show his sympathy for her,
and to help her to retain her self-respect in the midst of her
misfortunes, w'hen, doubtless, there were in the little School
for Scandal round about her, plenty of askance looks, and
Mrs. Grundy-whisperings and head-shakings.
Having finally disposed of Allan Cunninghame*'s worse
than base fictions, our author then plunges into the subject of
" Chloris " and the thirty songs inspired by, or dedicated to
her, and this he does with a fulness of knowledge and insight,
128 Burns and the Medical Profession.
and a subtlety of criticism, which shows that he knows his
subject thoroughly, not only as a literary historian, but as a
true critic of lyric art.
Dr. Adams has published several other valuable contribu-
tions to Burnsiana literature — The Pot Boiler — an Impeach-
ment and Defence ; Deity and Dirt — a Review of an old
Controversy on Robert Burns ; Burns as an Exciseman ;
Glimpses of Clarinda in Edinhurgh Sixty Years since —
all written in the same racy, terse, and piquant style, just,
I fancy, as the doctor would talk ; and showing, by his wealth
and aptness of quotation, that he knows his Shakspere as well
as his Burns, but his " Chloris" is his chef d'ocuvre.
In liringing this inquiry, Robert Burns and the Medical
Profession^ to a close, I have now briefly to chronicle, as
belonging to the same period of Burns Renaissance in which
the name of Dr. Adams so worthily figures, the following
contributions from members of the medical faculty at home
and abroad, and my task is finished.
Poem on Robert Burns, by
Dr. John M, Harper,
written on the Occasion of the Poefs Anniversary, and read
before the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec, of
which the author is Vice-President.
Robert Burns, a Lecture delivered in Investigator Hall,
Paine Memorial, before the Ingersoll Secular Society, by
Dr. W. Symington Brown.
In this able, sympathetic, and well-written lecture, the doctor
traces the secret of the Poet's popularity ; though, as might
Dr. William P'indlay. 129
be expected, considering the audience before whom it was
delivered, he uses his name somewhat unfairly as a text to
preach secularistic and agnostic ideas. Nevertheless, as he
travels through his life-story, he lays his finger on a good
many sensible things, one or two of which are worth quoting.
" Burns must have been a very industrious man, who set a
proper estimate on the value of time, and worked while it was
day with all his might." " It is evident that no habitual
drunkard could have produced such an amount of good
literary work in so short a time."
In speaking of his intimacies with Highland Mary, Jean
Armour, and Mrs. Maclehose, which, however inexplicable,
unjustifiable, and even discreditable, were, nevertheless, he
affirms, the inspirers of some of his very best songs, which,
" it is safe to say would never have been written if Burns had
been a model youth, after the Sunday School pattern. You
take your choice whetlier it would have been better to lose
the poetry or the passion."
Lines on the Burns Statue at Albany^ N.Y., by
D. M. Henderson, M.D., Baltimore.
The Epistles of Noah (Glasgow, 1883), contains " Burns :
from a Showman's Pint o"' View," by
William Findlay, M.D. (Geo. Umber), Glasgow.
In Ross's Burnsiana (Paisley, 1894), " Lamb and Burns," by
the same author ; in Burns'' s Highland Mary (Paisley, 1894),
" Highland Mary in Fact and Fiction ; " in In My City
Garden (Paisley, 1895), " A Bairns' Burns's Anniversary ; "
and in Ayrshire Idylls (Paisley, 1896), "A Ride in a Carrier's
Cart " through a famous nook in the Land of Burns.
130 BUKXS AXD THE MeDICAL PROFESSION.
Anniversary Poem (January 25th, 189Jf.) on Robert Burns,
Dii. Bexjamin F. Leggette,
Author oi A SheaJ' of Song, A Tramp tlirougli SxvitzerJand,
Verses on Robert Burns, by
Dii. A. M. M'Clelland, Toronto, Canada.
The late, much esteemed, and highly popular east-end
George R. Mather, M.D.,
was a noted lover and collector of the Fine Arts, particularly
the examples of Bough and Chalmers, in which his collection
was very rich ; and the enthusiastic memorialist of the
brothers, Drs. William and John Hunter, under the title of
Two Great Scotsmen, published by Maclehose & Sons in
1892. He was also the author of a paper on the Genius
and Character of Burns, originally delivered as an address
before the Dennistoun Burns Club (of which he was President)
on January 25th, 1892 ; and sometime after his sudden and
startlingly tragic death at a Faculty dinner while replying
to the toast of the Army, Navy, and Volunteers (of one of
the corps of which latter body he was the popular surgeon),
published by his widow, along with other of his literary
fragments, in a neat memorial volume, from the press of
R. Robertson, Glasgow. 1896.
If the burly doctor, who was, at all times, distinguished
for the geniality and warmth of his feelings, as well as for the
Dll. C. C],ARK BuilMAX. 131
eloquent and manly expression of what he felt, sheds no
fresh hght on the well-worn theme, or enriches it with no new
or subtle thought, certainly no warmer, heartier, or more
generous tribute, than this in the glowing and robust words
of Dr. Mather, was ever paid to the " Genius and Character
of Burns,"" whose " poems," he tells us, " are full of the most
generous sentiments, the interfusion of which tends to bind
men brothers over the world ; they kindle anew feelings of
patriotism, which make us proudly revere the gi'eat and
glorious past, and resolve to guard at sacrifice of heart's
blood what our fathers won for us ; they preserve under con-
secrating light the memories of home — its duties, its joys,
and its sorrows ; they soothe us in the hour of heart-wreck,
when all is dark and drear ; and they cheer us as no jovial
songs of any time have ever done, in our hours of sociality,
when innocent mirth rules high."
A 71 Account of' the Art of Typography^ as practised in
Alnxoick from 1781 to 1815^ with biographical notes of all the
publications during that period^ by
C. Clark Buiimax, L.R.C.P. and S., Edin., Alnwick :
Printed by the Ahiivick and County Gazette, and Steam
Printing Co., Ltd., 21 Bondgate Within, Alnwick, 1896.
The above learned and able paper was read by Dr. Burman,
a medical practitioner in Alnwick, before the Young Men's
Mutual Improvement Association of that town, on February
12th, 1896, and afterwards published ; the author's en-
thusiastic admiration of the marvellous powers of Thomas
Bewick a.s an engraver on wood, he tells us in his " Foreword,"
inducing him to illustrate a few special copies with examples
132 Burns and the Medical Profession,
of wood -cuts executed bj the celebrated Newcastle engraver
exclusively for Alnwick printers. Among the wood-cuts
furnished are eight vignettes from Biirns's Poems, and sixteen
of the tail-pieces from the same work, all printed, he informs
us in interesting detail, from the original blocks which were
specially supplied by Mr. Bewick from designs by Mr.
Thurston for the famous 1808 Alnwick edition of the Poetical
Worlis of Robert Burns, Avith his life, in two volumes ; and
which blocks are now in the doctor's own collection.
All about Highland Mary, is the title of an article in Dr.
Ross's, All about Burns, 1896, by
Theodore F. Wolfe, A.M., M.D.
It was " prepared,'"' he tells us, "during a sojourn in 'The
Land of Burns ' — while it adds a little to our meagre know-
ledge of Mary Campbell, aims to present consecutively and
congiiiously so much as may now be known of her brief life,
her relations to the bard and her sad, heroic death," — which
is a very good description of his purpose and achievement.
SOURCES OF INFORMATION FOR THIS INQUIRY.
CuRRiE (Dr. Jajles), " The Complete Works of Robert
Burns ; with an Account of his Life, and a Criticism of his
Writings, to which are prefixed some Observations on the
Character and Condition of the Scottish Peasantry." 1 vol.
Burns (Robert), " Poems chiefly in the Scottish Dialect."
1 vol. Edinburgh, 1787. (List of Subscribers consulted).
CuRRiE (Dr. James), " The Works of Robert Burns ; with
an Account of his Life, and a Criticism of his Writings," etc.,
etc. 4 vols. London, 1800. (List of Subscribers con-
Douglas (William Scott), "The Works of Robert Buitis,"
6 vols. London, 1891.
Chambers (Dr. Robert), " Life and Works of Robert
Burns,"' Revised by William Wallace. 4 vols. Edinburgh
and London, 1896.
GiBsox (J.), " Bibliography of Robert Burns." Kilmar-
M'Kay, (Archibald), " History of Kilmarnock." Kilmar-
nock, 1880. P. 184.
Carlyle (Thomas), "Essay on Burns." Edinburgh Reviexv,
Marshall (James), " A Winter with Robert Burns."
M'DowALL (William), "History of the Burgh of Dumfries."
Edinburgh, 1867. Also " Burns in Dumfriesshire." Edin-
FiNLAYsoN (Dr. James), " Biography of Dr. Robert Watt."
London, 1897. Pp. 5-7.
Notes and Queries for September and October, 1868.
GiLLis (Right Rev. Bishop), " A Paper on the Subject of
Burns's Pistols." Edinburgh, 1859.
Chambers (Robert), " Lives of Illustrious and Distin-
guished Scotsmen from the Earliest Period to the Present
Time, arranged in alphabetical order." 4 vols. Glasgow,
Thomson (Dr. John), " Education : Man's Salvation from
Crime, Disease, and Starvation ; with Appendix vindicating
Robert Burns." Edinburgh, 1844.
Anderson (Alexander), of Edinburgh University Library,
searched Matriculation Album of the Edinburgh University,
1795, for date of Dr. Samuel Plughes' graduation.
" Bruce's Address to his Troops at Bannockburn." Ex-
amined Manuscript in Edinburgh Municipal Museum.
Annual Burns Chronicle. No. 1, 1892, till No. 7, 1898.
" The Chronological Summary of the Life and Writings of
Robert Burns, abridged from ' Kilmarnock Edition "" — Life
and Notes — W. Scott Douglas ;'''' and the "Earnock MSS.,"
by the Editor, D. M'Naiight ; also the Bibliographies, chiefly
Rogers (Dr. Charles), "The Book of Robert Burns."
Printed for the Grampian Club. Edinburgh, 1889.
KiLPATRiCK (James A.), " Literary Landmarks of Glasgov.."
Glasgow, 1898. ("Smollett's Back Attic," and "The
Bohemia of Burns.")
CuRRiE (William Wallace), " Memoirs of the Life, Writ-
ings, and Correspondence of James Currie, M.D., F.R.S.,
Liverpool." London, 1831.
Wordsworth (V>^illiam), " A Letter to a Friend of Robert
Burns : occasioned by an intended Republication of the
Account of the Life of Burns by Dr. Currie." London, 1816.
Henley (W. E.), " Burns's Life, Genius, xVchievement."
Edinburgh and London, 1898.
Wallace (William), " Robert Burns and Mrs. Dunlop."
AiRD (Thomas), " Poetical \Vorks of David Macbeth Moir,
M.D. (Delta)." 2 vols. Edinburgh, 1852.
Adams (Frakcis, M.D., LL.D.), " Centenary Discourse
on the Writings of Burns." Aberdeen, 1859.
Madden (R. R., M.D.), "The Infirmities of Genius, illus-
trated by referring the Anomalies in the Literary Character
to the Habits and Constitutional Peculiarities of ]\Ien of
Genius."— Chapter XXL, Burns. London, 1833.
Ross (John D.), " Round Burns's Grave." Paisley, 1892.
Biiowx (Dr. JoHx), " Horae Subsecivae." 3 vols. Edin-
burgh, 1882. (" Dr. Adams of Banchory," " Oh, I'm wat,
wat," and " Arthm- H. Hallam.")
British Medical Journal, October 13th, 1894. ("Dr.
OHver Wendell Holmes.'^)
FuLLARTOx (A. & Co.), " Chronicle of the Hundredth
Bh'thday of Robert Burns." London, 1859.
Walker (A.M., M.A., M.D.), "Lecture on the Private
and Literary Life of Robert Burns." Tunbridge Wells,
1858 ; and " Lecture on the Poems and Songs of Burns."
Tunbridge Wells, 1860.
SiME (Dr. David), " Robert Burns, the Poet : a Lecture,"
Glasgow, 1873 ; and " The Poetry of Robert Burns." In
Catholic Prcsbi/terian for 1881, vols. V. and \T.
MuNK (AViLLiAM, M.D., F.S.A.), " The Roll of the Royal
College of Physicians of London." Vol. III., 1801 to 1825.
Addison (W. Ixnes), " Roll of the Graduates of the Uni-
versity of Glasgow." Glasgow, 1898.
Adams (Dr. James), " Burns's ' Chloris ' : a Reminiscence."
Ross (John D.), " Burnsiana." Parts 1 to 6. Paisley,
Strachax (James, Surgeon, Blackford), " Moral Pieces in
Rhyme and Blank Verse.'' Edinburgh, I860. (Contains
" Acrostic on Burns," P. 99, and " Tam o' Shanter.")
Dick (Robert, M.D.,C.M.), " Autobiography and Poetical
Compositions, including Tartarus, Elysium, Elijah, and the
Paulo-post of ]Man ; or the Land, Rent, and Food-Free, and
Concrete Air-Nitrogen Millennium." London, 1863. (Con-
tains " Ode on the Centenary of Burns's Birthday," — to be
seen in Faculty of Advocates Library, Edinburgh.)
M'CosH (John, M.D.), " Sketches in Verse at Home and
Abroad." London, 1882.
SiTiXHOusE (William, M.D.), "Poems, Songs, and Sonnets."
Glasgow, 1886. (Contains " January 25th.")
BuRMAN (C. Clark, L.R.C.P. and S., Edinburgh), " An
Account of the Art of Typography, as practised in Alnwick
from 1781 to 1815." Alnwick, 1896.
" Catalogue of the Glasgow Burns Exhibition." Glasgow,
Mather (George R., INl.D.), " In ]\Iemoriam." Glasgow,
1896. (Contains address on the " Genius and Character of
M'CoNACHiE (James R., ]\1.D., Louisville, Ky.), "Leisure
Hours." 1846. (Contains " Recollections of Robert Burns,"
Ross (John D., LL.D.), " All About Burns." New York,
1896 ; and " Burns's Highland Mary." Paisley, 1894.
Adair, Dr. James McKittrick,
B.'s fellow-traveller in vale of
Adams, Dr. Francis, Banchory,
" the most learned physician in
B.'s religion and morality by,
His coarseness by, 106.
Adams, Dr. James, Glasgow, vin-
dication of "Chloris" bj', 125-
Other Burnsiana contributions
Ainslie, Dr. W., 92.
Aird, Thomas, Dumfries, friend
of "Delta," 96, 97.
Alison, Sheriff Archibald, 90.
Alloway, Grand Festival at, in
Armour, Jean, 17, 43.
Her opinion of " Chloris," 126,
Auld-licht party, 10.
Ayton, William, advocate, 96.
Bell, Henry Glassford, 96.
Blacklock, Archibald, surgeon,
Blair, Rev. Dr., Edinburgh, 19,
Brown, Mr., surgeon, Dumfries,
Brown, Dr. John, " Deeside
Country Doctor" (Fr. Adams)
B.'s love songs, opinion of by,
their earnestness and affec-
tionate character, 113, 114.
General estimate of, as physician
and man of letters, 111.
Brown, Dr. W. Symington, on in-
compatibility of habitual drink-
ing and good literary work, 129.
Burman, Dr. C. Clark, Alnwick,
Burns, Gilbert, 57
Defence of his brother by, 77-80.
Visit to Liverpool of, 73.
Burns, Mrs., 74, 126, 127.
Burns, Robert, medical know-
ledge of, 11, 12.
Critical strictures by Dr. Greg-
ory on " Wounded Hare " of,
Dr. John MacKenzie, Mauch-
line, his friendship for, 15-19.
"The Calf," circumstances uu-
der which it was composed,
Dumfries life of, and record of
literary and other work
accomplished during that
Dundas family, their treatment
of, 29, 30.
Ill-health of, in Dumfries, 85.
Incident at table of Lord Mon-
boddo between Dr. Gregory
Infirmities and errors of, and
Currie's treatment of the
same challenged, 77.
Loyal Dumf riesians' distrust of,
on account of his liberal prin-
ciples and revolutionary sjun-
pathies, and his friendship
with Maxwell and Syme,53-4.
Novelty of character more tlian
poetic abilities responsihle for
Edinburgh reception of, 36,
On the Muses' trade, observa-
tions of, 42.
Relationship to Edinburgh
literati of, and general sane-
ness of point of view of,
regarding the same, 4t), 50.
Wood, Dr. A., friendship for,
Zeluci), criticisms on, by, 45.
Burns, Robert, Poet's eldest son,
correspondence of, with Dr.
Bui-ness, William, Poet's father,
deathbed of, 15.
"Calf, The." 17, 69.
Candlish, Dr. James, B. 's old
Dalrymple school-fellow, 20, 21.
Candlish, Rev. Dr., Edinburgh,
son of Dr. James, 2 .
Carlyle, Thomas, 9, 19, 69, 86,
Clarinda (Mrs. Maclehose), Edin-
burgh, 25, 29, 73, 129.
Clark, William, B.'s man-servant
at EUisland, testimony of, 43.
Cleghorn, Robert, Saughton Mills,
Coleridge, Samuel T. , 75.
Cowper, the poet, 114.
Creech, William, publisher, Edin-
burgh, 24, 43, 44.
Crombie, Alexander, 86.
Cunninghame, Alexander, W.S. ,
Edinburgh, 56,70, 95.
Cunninghame, Allan, Dr. Adams'
castigation of, for slandering
Currie, Dr. James, Liverpool, 28,
Adverse criticism of, for his
treatment of Poet's errors,
Death and universal approval
of biographical achievement
Difficulties of the task of, 72, 73.
Life and labours of, 69.
Mistake of, in not going further
afield for his information, 80.
Offer of literary services of, and
selection of, to Avi'ite Life,
Particulars of B.'s last illness
and death supplied by Max-
well to, 57, 58.
Praise of, for his biographical
achievement, 94, 102.
Strictures against, further ex-
amined, and character vindi-
Daer, Lord, 18.
Dick, Robert, M.D., CM., Lon-
don and Edinburgh, literary
enterprises of, and " Burns
Birthday Ode" by, 116-118.
Doctors, charity and toleration of,
Dougall, Dr. John, Glasgow,
Mossgiel daisies sent to O. W.
Holmes from, 109.
Douglas, eighth Duke of Hamil-
Douglas, William Scott, 16, 57, 58.
Dumfries, Earl of, 19.
Dumfries, character and politics
of, in B.'s day, 51.
Death of "Delta" at, 99.
Life and work of Poet in, 84.
Dundas, Lord President, 29. 30.
Dunlop, Mrs., 31, 36, 47, 55, 57,
71, 73, 85, 88.
Eglinton, Lord, 50, 90.
Erskine, Hon. Henry, 19.
Ferguson, Dr. Adam, Edinburgh,
Fergusson, Robert, the poet, 11.
Findlater, Mr., Poet's superior
officer in the Excise, 77, 78.
Findlay, Dr. William, Glasgow,
Burnsiana contributions of,
Finlayson, Dr. James, Glasgow,
Gairdnar, Sir W. T., Professor of
Practice of Medicine in Glasgow
University, on O. W. Holmes
as scientist and man of letters,
Gillis, Right Rev. , Roman Catho-
lic Bishop of Edinburgh, vin-
dication of Maxwell by, 52.
Glencairn, Earl of, Poet's grateful
attachment to, 46.
Goldie, John, Kilmarnock, 11, 15.
Gordon, Dr., Glasgow, Moore and
Smollett apprentices to, 35.
Graham, Robert, of Fintry, 42,
Gray, Mr., Dumfries Academy,
Greenfield, Rev. Prof., Edin-
Gregory, Prof. James, M.D.,
Edinburgh, B.'s friend, physi-
cian and critic, 22-28, 59.
Hamilton, Mr., of Craighlaw, 15.
Hamilton, Mrs., Harvieston, 31.
Hamilton, Charlotte, wife of Dr.
Hamilton, Gavin, Mauchline, 17,
Hamilton, Dr., Kilmarnock, 15.
Harper, Dr. John M., Quebec,
Hay, Charles, advocate, Edin-
burgh, 29, 30.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel, 87.
Henderson, Dr. M., Baltimore,
Henley, W. E., 81, 82.
Hill, Peter, bookseller, Edin-
Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, 125.
Holmes, Dr. Oliver Wendell, 103.
As doctor and man of letters,
Burns Centennial Poem by, its
all-wise charity, 108.
Dr. John Brown compared
Mossgiel daisies sent by Dr.
Dougall to, 109.
Poet loveable even in his
Hornbook, Dr., 12, 13.
Howden, Mr., jeweller, Edin-
Hughes, Dr. Samuel, Hereford,
Hunter, John, the celebrated sur-
geon ; and his wife, authoress
of "My mother bids me bind
my hair," 26.
Jeffrey, Francis, reviewer of IMrs.
Hunter's poems, 26.
Kennedy, John, New York, 67.
Lamb, Charles, strictures on Cur-
rie by, 75-77.
Land, Donald's, Dr. Moore's
Trongate residence, 35.
Land, Gibson's, Dr. Gordon's
surgery in, 35.
Lawrie, Rev. Mr. Loudoun, 31.
Human nature as viewed by, 14.
Leggette, Dr. Benjamin F. , 130.
Lochlea, 15, 10.
Lock hart, John Gibson, 55, 83.
Lorimer, Jean (Chloris), character
Jean Armour's opinion of, 126.
Lorimer, Mr., 127.
MacKenzie, John, surgeon,
MacKenzie, John Whitefoord,
W.S., Edinburgh, 20.
MacKenzie, Henry, Edinburgh,
Macnish, Dr. Robert, Glasgow,
friend of " Delta," 9G.
Madden, Dr. R. R., a true Irish
patriot, traveller, and miscel-
laneous writer. " Infirmities
of Genius " by, 93-95.
Mather, Dr. George R., Glasgow,
Mary, Highland, 129, 132.
Mauchline. churchyard of, 17.
Maxwell, Dr. William, Dumfries,
Attendance of, in Poet's last
illness, 56-60, 65, 78, 80.
Jacobitism of, 51.
Presence of, at dinner in B.'s
with the Lorimers, 127.
Residence in Paris of ; revolu-
tionary tendencies of ; de-
noTincement of, by Burke in
House of Commons for sedi-
tious liberalism ; and patriot-
ism of, as a volunteer, 53-55.
McClelland, Dr. A. M., Toronto,
McConochie, Dr. James R. , Louis-
ville, Ky., Burns recollections
McCosh, Dr. John, Land of B.
revisited by, 120, 121.
Medicine in Shakspere, 10, 13.
Medicine in Burns, 10.
Miller, Helen, one of the six
Mauchline belles, married to
Dr. MacKenzie, 20.
Miller, John, Millockshill, 20.
Ministers, short-sightedness of,
Mofl'at, visit of Dr. Currie to, 74.
Moir, Dr. David Macbeth (Delta),
medical and literary achieve-
ments of, and presence of, at
Grand Alloway Festival, 96.
B. Commemoration Poem by,
Visit to Land of B. by, and sud-
den illness and death of, 98.
Monboddo, Lord, Edinburgh, 22,
Moore, Dr. John, London, 35-40.
Advice to B. by, to abandon
Scottish stanza, 44.
Autobiographical letter from B.
Caution to B. by, against giving
away too many copies of hia
verses ; also advising him to
collect fugitive pieces for
fresh publication, 46-48.
Mental attitude to B. of, 49,
Observations by B. on the
Muses' trade to, 42, 43.
Strictures by B. on "Zeluco"
Moore, Sir John, hero of Cor-
IMoore, Dr. William, Kilmarnock,
Indigent Homes at, 124.
Short stay at, before returning
to Edinburgh, during which
he penned autobiographical
letter to Dr. Moore, 41.
Moyes, Dr. John, 10.
Muir, Robert, Kilmarnock, 15.
Mundell, Dr., Dumfries, 64, 65,
Mure, Col, of Caldwell, 96.
Musselburgh, Dr. Moir of, 96.
Neilson, Rev. Mr., introduction
to Dr. Moore of, 43.
Nicol, William, High School,
^ievison, Janet, Dumfriesshire,
New-licht ministers, 9.
Oswald, Mrs., of Anchiucruive,
funeral cortege of, 43.
Lampoon on, 44.
Parker, Major, Kilmarnock, 15.
Parkes, Joseph, 60.
Peebles, Rev. William, minister
of Newton-upon-Ayr ('' Water-
Peterkin, Alexander, publisher,
Pamage, Dr. C. J., 59, 60.
Ramsay. John, of Ochtertvre, 49.
Riddell,' Mrs. Walter, 65, 70.
Robertson, Rev. Dr., Edinburgh,
Roscoe, Mr. William, Liverpool,
friend of Dr. Currie, 70, 78-80.
Samson, Thomas, Kilmarnock, 15.
Shakspere, medicine in, 10, 13.
Sidmouth, death of Currie at, 74.
Sillar, David (" a brither poet "),
Sime, Dr. David, Innellan and
London, on the Poet versiis the
Smith, Jane, the witty Miss, one
of the six Mauchline belles,
married to Dr. Candlish, 20.
Smollett, friend of Dr. Moore, 35.
Staig, Miss Jessie, Dumfries, cure
of, by Dr. Maxwell, 55, 56.
Stenhouse, Dr. William, Dunedin,
N.Z., and London, 122, 123.
Steven, Rev. James, "The Calf,"
Stewart, Prof. Dugald, Edin-
burgh, 18, 25, 70, 84.
Strachan, James, surgeon, Black-
Subscribers (medical), list of, to
first Edinburgh edition, 32-34.
Subscribers (medical), li.st of, to
Currie's first edition, 89, 90.
Syme, John, Ryedale, 53, 54, 56,
65, 70, 73, 80-82.
Taylor, Dr. John, Paisley, 40,
Tennyson, 79, 114.
Thomson, Mrs. (Jessie Lewers),
Thomson, Dr. John, vindication
of B.'s character by, 59-64.
Thomson, George, Edinburgh, 73,
Thornton, Dr. Robert, John,
botany and Burns by, 91, 92.
Tytler, Alexander Frazer, Edin-
burgh, 22, 25.
Vaughan, Dr. Henry, 114.
Walker, Dr. Alexander M., Tun-
bridge Wells, on the Man aud
the Poet, 101, 102.
Walker, Prof. Josi;ih, 15, 16.
Wallace, William (editor. Cham-
bers Bxcrns), censure of Currie
Watt, Dr. Robert, 66.
Wilson, Professor (Christopher
Whitefoord, Sir John, 19.
Wolfe, Dr. Theodore F. . historio-
grapher of Highland INIary, 132.
Wood, Alexander, surgeon, Edin-
burgh, 25, 28, 30.
Wordsworth, William, 58, 75.
B. , a preacher from the text of
his own errors, by, 119.
Defence of B.'s character by,
77-79, 82, 106.
Fredk. Vasey Adams, F.F.P.S.G., 10 Queen's Crescent,
Jaimes a. Adams, M.D., 5 Woodside Place, Glasgow.
Alex. Aitken, Church Street, Stranraer.
J. R. Allan, Bintang, Dalkeith Avenue, Dumbreck, Glasgow.
James W. Allan, M.B., 18 India Street, Glasgow,
William Allan, M.P., Scotland House, Sunderland.
James Montgomerie Alston, M.D., L.R.C.S.Edin., Eastbank,
Jas. Wallace Anderson, M.D., 1 Annfield Place, Dennis-
Grant Andrew, M.B., F.F.P.S. G., 13 Woodside Ten-ace,
W. Craibe Angus, 81 Renfield Street, Glasgow.
James Armstrong, M.B., 84 Rodney Street, Liverpool.
Rev. Wm. ARNorr, 27 Roslea Drive, Dennistoun, Glasgow.
William F. Baillie, Free Library, Kidderminster.
M. Bain, J.P., C.C., Woodside, Mauchline.
James Moores Ball, M.D., 3509 Franklin Avenue, St. Louis,
Geo. Granville Bantock, M.D., F.R.C.S. Edin., 12 Granville
Place, Portman Sc[uare, London, W.
John Barclay, M.D., Sealield House, Banff.
T. C. Barras, M.B., CM., 5 Seton Terrace, Dennistoun,
W. G. Barras, M.D., L.S.Sc, Westbourne, Bellahouston,
JoHV Barrie, M.D., 2 Haselrigge Road, C'lapham, London.
F. Faithfuix Begg, M.P. Bartholomew House, London, E.C
JoHX Stothart Bell, M.B., CM., The Green, Lockerbie.
Joseph Bell, F.R.C.S. Edin., 2 Melville Crescent, Edinburgh.
Allan INIohrisgk Black, 148 Cathcart Street, Kingston,
Malcolm Black, M.D., 5 Canning Place, Glasgow.
George P. Boddie, M.B., 147 Bruntsfield Place, Edinburgh.
David Brouie, M.D., c/o Miss Brodie, Coningsby Place, Alloa.
George Arbuckle Brown, M.B., CM., 2 Oswald Place,
W. I>. Brown, L.R.CP., L.R.C.S. Edin., 8c L.F.P.S. G.,
24 Percy Circus, King's Cross Road, London, W.C.
John Bruce, M.B., Lauriston, Grimsby.
Alex. Buchanan, 33 Roslea Drive, Dennistoun, Glasgow.
Jas. R. Buchanan, L.F.P.S. G., 7 Broompark Drive, Dennis-
John Burns, F.F.P.S., 15 Fitzroy Place, Glasgow,
Wm. M'Gregor Burns, M.R.C.S. Eng., etc., 13 Annfield
Rev. John Cairns, Holm Manse, Kilmarnock.
Gilbert Campbell, M.B., 12 Hamilton Crescent, Partick,
Rev. RoBT. Campbell, 4 Craigpark, Dennistoun, Glasgow.
W. Campbell, 3 Dundas Street, City, Glasgow.
Gordon Carnachan, L.F.P.S. G., Laurel Lodge, Clynder,
David Carruthers, Solicitor, Kilmarnock.
James Bell Carruthers, M.D., 4a Melville Street, Edinburgh.
Prof. John Chiexe, Pres. R.C.S. Edin., 26 Charlotte Square,
James Clark, 79 W. Regent Street, Glasgow.
Charles F. Clarke, ?,1.R.C.S., 24 Park Road, Plumstead,
T. S. Cloustox, M.D., F.R.C.P. Edin., Tipperhnn House,
James Coats, Jr., Ferguslie House, Paisley.
Prof. Joseph Coats, M.D., 8 University Gardens, Glasgow.
William Core, M.D., Barnhill Hospital, Glasgow.
David Couper, M.D., 1 Oakley Terrace, Dennistoun, Glasgow.
Ja:\ies Couper, 599 Duke Street, Glasgow.
James Craig, L.R.C.P.S. Edin., 6 Annfield Place, Dennistoun,
Rev. John Craig, B.D., The Manse, Lanark.
David Crichtox, R.N. M.J.N. A., 6 Duncan Street, Newing-
David M.-R. Crichtox, M.B., CM. Edin., 6 Duncan Street,
W. Crowther, Free Public Library, Derby.
William Cullex, IM.B., CM, 9 Grafton Place, Glasgow.
James Dick, Armathwaite, 41 Newark Drive, Pollokshields.
Fraxc. Gibb Dougall, 10 Broompark Terrace, Dennistoun,
Prof. John Dougall, M.D., 6 Behnar Terrace, Pollokshields,
Wm. Dougax, M.D., 2 Sandyford Place, Glasgow.
John Drew, M.D., Rudeeroft, Stirling.
DuxDEE Burns Club, Dundee.
Prof. James Dunlop, M.D., 16 Carlton Place, Glasgow.
James Dunlop, M.B., CM,, 5 Wester Craigs, Dennistoun,
Rev. Thomas Dunlop, 6 St. Alban's Square, Bootle, Liverpool.
Geo. Henry Edington, M.D.,M.R.C.S. Eng., 14 Buckingham
Terrace, Glasgow, W.
James Erskine, M.A., M.B., 351 Bath Street, Glasgow.
Peter Ferguson, Invereden, PoUokshields, Glasgow.
Joseph A. Ferguson, 16 Leven Street, PoUokshields, GlasgoM^
John Fixdlay, Townhead House, Low Fenwick, Ayrshire.
Mrs. M. A. Fisher, 3 Richmond Street, Glasgow.
J. Steel Fisher, M.A., 18 Burnbank Terrace, Glasgow.
J. A. Fitz-hugh, M.D., 158 Main Street, Amesbury, Mass.,
Robert Ford, 142 Ingleby Drive, Dennistoun, Glasgow.
Thos. Forrest, M.B., CM., F.F.P.S. G., 12 Royal Terrace,
John W. Eraser, 168 W. George Street, Glasgow.
Wm. Frew, M.D., CM. Edin., Walmer, Kilmarnock.
Andrew B. Fulton, M.B., CM., Irondale House, Muirkirk.
Sir Wm. T. Gairdner, K.C.B., M.D., LL.D., F.R.S., 9 The
Fred. S. Genney, M.B., CM., Marchmont House, Lincoln.
William F. Gibb, M.D., CM., St. James Place, Paisley.
John Gill, M.B., CM., Langholm.
Prof. John Glaister, M.D., F.R.S. Edin., 4 Grafton Place,
Grafton Square, Glasgow,
J. T. GouDiE, Oakleigh Park, Pollokshields, Glasgow.
Andrew Graham, M.D., L.R.C.S. & P.E., Curriebank, Curiie.
Robert Greenhill, M.B., CM., 556 Dalmarnock Road,
Robert Grieve, L.R.C.S. Edin., 52 Holmhead St., Glasgow.
James Hamilton, M.D., F.F.P.S. G., 1 Royal Crescent,
James Harvey, M.B., CM., 7 Blenbeim Place, Edinburgb.
William Harvey, 5 Bruce Street, Stirling.
Rev. Robert Hislop, 12 Royal Terrace, Glasgow.
Archd. Hood, 6 Bute Crescent, Cardiff.
John A. Hope, M.B., CM., Barnbill Hospital, Glasgow.
Tnos. Hunt, R.S.W., 227 West George Street, Glasgow.
Geo. Skeen Illingworth, M.B., CM., 86 Nitbsdale Road,
W. F. Kay, Edinburgb.
J. K. Kelly, IM.D., 14 Somerset Place, Glasgow.
Ja:\ies Killin, Beecbgrove, Compton Road, Wolverbampton.
Thomas Killin, 168 W. George Street, Glasgow.
James F. King, 81 W. Regent Street, Glasgow.
Andw. J. KiRKPATRiCK, 179 ^V. Gcoi'ge Street, Glasgow.
Rev. David Lambie, 3 V'iewfortb Place, Blackness Avenue,
Alex. Lamont, 10 Ardgowan Terrace, Sandyford, Glasgow.
R. Cowan Lees, M.B., CM., F.F.P.S. G., 1 Woodside Place,
Alex. Lesslie, Viewbank Terrace, Dundee,
Thos. Livingstone, M.D., CM., J.P., Stanhope, Durham.
J. ]M. LocniiEAD, The Laurels, Paisley.
C. W. LocKYEu, M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P., T St. Julian's Farm
Road, W. Norwood, London, S.E.
James Louttit, 55 Renfrew Street, Glasgow.
William M'Alister, M.B., The Elms, Kilmarnock.
William IMcCall, 6 Seton Terrace, Dennistoun, Glasgow.
David McCowan, 7 Lynedoch Crescent, Glasgow.
Charles C. Macdonald, 352 Duke Street, Glasgow.
Peter MacEwan, Ph.C, F.C.S., 42 Cannon St, London, E.G.
Johnstone Macfie, j\I.D., 45 Ashton Terrace, Hillhead,
J. R. Macgregor, Lonend, Paisley.
James M'Hardy, L.F.P.S. G., Bellfield, Banchory, N.B.
Wm. McIiavraith, 13 George Street, Woherhampton.
Geo. IM'Intyre, M.B., 6 Whitehill Gardens, Dennistoun,
John Macintyre, M.B., F.R.S. Edin., 179 Bath Street,
David Mackay, Provost, Portland House, Kilmarnock.
Prof. John G. M'Kendrick, M.D., LL.D., F.R.S., University,
Alex. ]\I'Kenzie, St. Catherine''s, Paisley.
John MacKenzie, W.S., 16 Royal Circus, Edinburgh.
Adam M'Kiji, 136 Trongate, Glasgow.
Charles R. M'Lean, L.F.P.S. G., L.R.C.P. E., 15 Annfield
Place, Dennistoun, Glasgow.
Alex. INIcLelland, M.B., L.R.C.S. Edin., Ardenlee, Alex-
QuiNTix INI'Lenxan, M.B., 191 Pitt Street, Glasgow.
Edwd. M'Millax, L.R.C.S. Edin., Rannochlea, 1 St. Andrew's
D. C. McVail, M.B., L.R.C.P.E., 3 St. James's Terrace,
John C. McVail, M.D., 32 Balshagray Avenue, Particle,
Walter M'Vey, 34 Granby Terrace, Hillhead, Glasgow.
J. N. Marshall, M.D., 7 Battery Place, Rothesay.
Mrs. George Mather, 14 Annfield Place, Glasgow.
JoHX Melvix, 6 Old Irvine Road, Kilmarnock.
Thomas Mexzies, F.E.I.S., Hutcheson's Grammar School,
Alex. Miller, L.R.C.P. Edin., L.F.P.S. G., 1 Royal Terrace,
AxDREw RoxALD MiTCHELL, M.B., CM., 15 Montcith Row,
Mitchell Library, Glasgow\
R. Moir, M.B., 46 South Street, St. Andrews.
William Moore, M.B., CM., 1 Eglinton Terrace, Ayr,
James Morton, Gowan Bank, Darvel.
Wm. Muir, M.B, cm., F.F.P.S. G., 16 Monteith Row,
W. L. Muir, L.R.C.P. E., L.F.P.S. G., 1 Seton Terrace,
Hermaxx MiJLLER, Miiiclng Lane, London.
JoHX Falcoxer Murlsox, M.D., 22 Monteith Row, Glasgow.
Hugh Murray, F.R.C.S. E., F.F.P.S. G., 1 Wellesley Place,
The Crescents, Glasgow, W.
James Murray, 30 Bellgrove Street, Glasgow.
Archd. Neilson, L.R.C.P. Edin., L.F.P.S. G., 10 Somerville
Percy Newth, M.B., 3 Sillwood Place, Crowborough, Sussex.
Geo. Newton, 2 Onslow Drive, Dennistoun, Glasgow,
Jas. H. Nicoll, M.B., 4 Woodside Place, Glasgow.
Prof. Oliver, M.D., 7 Ellison Place, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
Henry O'Neill, M.D., 6 College Square, East, Belfast.
Robert Paterson, Schoolhouse, Invergowrie, Dundee.
Wji. Patrick, M.D., 143 Greenhead Street, Bridgeton,
Alex. Pa'iterson, M.D., E.R.C.S.E., 22 India Street, Glasgow.
Geo. C. Peachey, L.R.C.P., Brightwalton, Wantage, Berks.
Robert Peden, Helena, Galston, Ayrshire.
Robert Pollok, M.D., CM., Laurieston House, Pollokshields,
John Porter, M.B., CM., 10 Annfield Place, Glasgow.
Alfred Theodore Rake, M.B., B.S., F.R.CS., 8 Sheriff
Road, West Hainpstead, London, N.AV.
A. Maitland Ramsay, M.D., 15 Woodside Place, Glasgow.
Alex. Rankin, M.D., CM., 38 Abbotsford Place, SS.,
Alex. Rankin, 30 Hope Street, Glasgow.
James Rankin, L.F.P.S. G., L.M., 18 Dundonald Road,
Walter L. Rankin, L.R.C.S. Edin., Old Edenkill, Strath-
Rev. D. A. Reid, B.D., The Manse, Monkton.
Wm. Reid, M.A., 61 Grant Street, Glasgow.
Thomas Rexnie, 156 Buccleuch Street, Glasgow.
Andrew H. Riddell, i\lelbourne.
Daxiel Riddell, Old Manse, Parkhead, Glasgow.
David Riddell, 9 Roslea Drive, Dennistoiin, Glasgow.
David Riddell, Junr., 9 Roslea Drive, Dennistoun, Glasgow.
Rev. John Riddell, B.D., Levenside Manse, Renton.
Alex. Robeutsox, M.D., F.F.P.S. G., 11 Woodside Crescent,
Andrew B. Robertson, Harriet Cottage, Kilmarnock.
John Robertson, M.D., Benview, Dumbarton.
Tom Robertson, 178 George Street, Glasgow,
J. Maxwell Ross, M.A., F.R.C.S. Edin., County Medical
Willia:m Row at, St. Margarets, Paisley.
James B. Russell, B.A., LL.D., M.D., 23 Montrose Street,
Arthur Sanderson, Edinburgh.
F. R. Sanderson, Edinburgh.
John Scott, Governor, H.M. Prison, Ayr.
Robert Scotf, 8 Buchanan Street, Glasgow.
Robert M'Cowan Service, M.D., 3 Annfield Place, Dennis-
Gordon Sharp, M.D., 3 St. George's Terrace, Camp Road,
A. Wood Smith, M.D., F.F.P.S. G., 11 Woodside Terrace,
Charing Cross, Glasgow.
Captain David Sneddon, Dean Cottage, Kilmarnock.
Rev. T. SoMERviLLE, M.A., 11 Westercraigs, Glasgow.
J. Nigel Stark, M.B., F.F.P.S. G., 4 Newton Place, Charing
John Lindsay Steven, M.D., FF.P.S. G., 16 Woodside
John Findlay Stevenson, L.R.C.P. Edin., 176 Castle Street,
John Stewart, M.B., Beith.
James Stirling, M.B., CM., 41 j\lain Street, Bridgeton,
Geo. E. Symington, Endjne, Paisley.
J. Cockburn Syson, INl.D., 11 Annfield Place, Glasgow.
George Taggart, Killycarran, 11 Onslow Drive, Glasgow.
R. D. Tannahill, F.S.I., Dunimarle, Kilmarnock.
Wm. Taylor, L.D.S., F.P.S. G., 290 Duke Street, Glasgow.
Sir Charles Tennant, Bart., The Glen, Innerleithen.
J. Maxtone Thom, M.B., CINI., D.P.H., H.M. Prison, Bar-
A. B. Todd, Breezyhill, Cumnock.
John Tullis, Inchcape, Dennistoun, Glasgow.
Rev. John Turnbull, Barlinnie, Glasgow.
Hugh Turner, L.F.P.S. G., 2 Bellgrove Street, Glasgow.
Henry Vevers, M.R.C.S., Highmore House, Hereford.
Rev. Wm. T. Walker, 7 Onslow Drive, Dennistoun, Glasgow.
Jaivles Wallace, S.D., Braehead, Paisley.
John Wallace, Factor, Ballochmyle, Mauchline.
John Veitch Wallace, L.R.C.S. Edin., 290 Langside Road,
Jajles L. Waters, ^M.B., South Boulevard, Hull.
John Watson, 10 Belhaven Terrace, Kelvinside, Glasgow.
Rev. J. Anderson Wait, Hopemount, Dennistoun, Glasgow.
William Whitelaw, M.D., D.P.H., J.P., Kirkintilloch.
J. A. AViLsoN, M.D., D.P.H., Auburn, Hill Street, Spring-
Alex, Wood, Thornly, Saltcoats.
Joseph Wright, Elmbank House, East Kilbride.
Geo. Yeamax, ]M.1)., 6 India Street, Glasgow.
D. YouxG, M.D., Parkhcad, Glasgow.
JoHX Ada:m, Aberdeen.
J. AxDERsox & Son, Dumfries.
J. Arxot, Edinburgh.
A. Baxexdixe, Edinburgh.
Thos. Boyd, Oban.
James H. Browtc, Edinburgh.
W. Bryce, Edinburgh.
Bryce Si Murray, Glasgow.
Miss Chisholm, Glasgow.
Douglas & Foulis, Edinburgh.
J. Duxx, Edinburgh.
A. Elliot, Edinburgh.
R. GiBsox & Soxs, Glasgow.
J. R. GoRDox, Banff'.
R. Graxt & Sox, Edinburgh.
W. & R. Holmes, Glasgow.
R. W. Hltcter, Edinburgh.
D. Johxstoxe, Edinburgh.
W. Love, Glasgow.
J. M'Callum & Co., Glasgow.
M'Geachy & Co., Glasgow.
J. R. M'Intosh, Edinburgh.
J. Mackay, Edinburgh.
A. M'KiM & Co., Glasgow.
J. N. M'KiXLAY, Glasgow,
Maclehose & Son, Glasgow.
A. W. Macphail, Edinburgh.
J. M'Raith, Glasgow.
J, Millar, Beith.
John Molyneaux, Edinburgh.
MoRisoN Bros., Glasgow.
W. MrRDoc'.H, Kilmarnock.
Thos. p. Nicoll, Aberdeen.
Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh.
G. Petrie, Dundee.
P. Ritchie, Edinburgh.
W. S. SiME, Glasgow.
J. Smith & Son, Glasgow.
John R. S^niith, Aberdeen.
T. Smith, Edinburgh.
J. Thin, Edinburgh.
Thomson Bros., Edinburgh.
J. Thompson, Belfast.
D, AVyllie & Son, Aberdeen.
liY THE SAME AUTHOR.
Ayrshire Idylls of Other Days.
With four Illustration.'i, Crown Svo, Cloth Antique^
^41 Pcigcs, price 5!-, post free.
"This book does not belong to the category of cheap pathos and rather
obvious sentiment of the modern Scottish novel. It is frankly original,
and contains suitable first impressions of a North-country idealist who has
no need to harp on 1 orrowed strings. Let those who still possess their
souls in misgiving read 'A Ride in a Carrier's Cart,' or 'Between the
Preachings,' and we venture to predict that they will want to know more
about Mr. 'George Umber' than we are able to tell them." — T]ie Speaker.
" Graceful in diction and kindly in tone, the sketches are studded with
passages which show familiarity with English literature, as well as with
the humble side of life in Ayrshire half-a-century ago."— 2'/(e Scotsman.
"There is a pleasant vein of retrospection in Aijrsklre Idylls of Other
Days. . . . Whether the author describes his loiterings at the ' Old
Cross Bookstall,' or his journeys 'in a Carrier's Cart,' he has always some
pleasant remiuisceuce to record — a little incident that illustrates the life of
the people in his early days, or some quaint character that remains
impressed upon his mind." — Daily News,
" 'George Umber' evidently has an alert eye for real life and a whole-
hearted love of books, as well as a very competent literary gift wherewith
to give utterance to his own fancies and impressions." — Glasyoiv Herald.
" Those Ayrshire Idylls of Other Days are all alive with tenderness and
truth. Jlany as they read will feel themselves young again and moving
about the countryside that is so dear to them." — Dundee Advertiser.
" The personal element is for us the greatest charm of the book, for from
its presence the dozen sketches acquire a real living force that nothing else
could give, and is the source of that keen pleasure— whether of spirit, or
mind, or intellect, localise it where you may — which every reader of these
genial sketches must experience." — W. B. Daily Mail.
"The treatment throughout is characterised by keen insight, observa-
tion, and a line spirit of sympathy," — Glasgow Evening Citizen.
"It is a book worthy of the author of hi My City Garden, who has, we
feel sure, other good things in store for us." — The. Daily Record.
" It is not every day one finds a book so capable of stimulating the better
feelings and perceptions as the present, and it may be hoped that as this is
not the first, it may not be the last of such genial and artistic writings from
the pen of so capable an author." — Dundee Courier.
ALEXANDER GARDNER, PAISLEY axd LONDON.
BY THE SAME AUTHOR.
In My City Garden.
W/fh tzoelve Illustrations, Croicn Svo, Cloth Antique,
34-0 Pages, priee 0/-, post free.
"Alongside of Barrie-like touches are delightful transcripts of human
life and experience, and tine bits of genial wisdom." — Glcmfoio Herald.
"It is a thoughtful book, beautifully written and illustrated. From its
charming pages there exudes a fragrance as from some homely flower. It
is almost too good to be popular ; but those who read it once will read it
again, and give it an honoured place on their library shelves." — Dundee
"We were most strongly moved by ' Uncle Venuer's Reminiscence,' and
'The Kitchen Meeting,' the latter almost equalling Barrie at his best;
while the whimsical humour of ' A Bairn's Burns Anniversary ' is delightful
from whatever point of view it is regarded." — Daily Mail.
"The volume is one that will be treasured by all who know a really
good book when they find it, and it is manifestly from the pen of an author
who does not write for mere writing's sake." — Diuidee Courier and Dundee
"There is a quiet wisdom about 'George Umber's ' pages which irre-
sistibly attracts the reader." — I he British Weekly.
"In My City Garden is a book in which fact and fancy are pleasantly
blended. "- - The Speaker.
" And it is a very pleasant and homely book he writes of his City Garden
—surely, in his case, as magic an inspirer of meditation as Thoreau's
' Walden,' or the savage solitude of a Crusoe. The illustrations are admir-
able." — Glasgow Avenin(/ Neivs.
" //) My City Garden may be described as a prose poem. The illustra-
tions are clever and original." — The Bailie.
" On the whole, Dr. Findlay has accomplished his difficult task — that of
idealising and giving interest to the commonplace incidents of suburban
life- -with great success, and at places his style, we think, is equal to that
of Barrie or Watson. ' The Kitchen Meeting ' and ' Uncle Venner's
Ilemiuiscence ' are as good as anything of the kind we have read." — IVie
Glasf/ow Medical Journal (April, 1S96).
"The author, whoever he is, is apjiarently a physician, and also a man
of wide culture and large experience in human ways and human life." —
Scottish Eeview (January, 1896).
ALEXANDER GARDNER, PAISLEY and LONDON.
This book is DUE on the last date stamped below.
F52 Kobert Burns and
the medica l pro-
^^ 000 368 164