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"The sight of human affairs deserves admiration 
and pity. They are worthy of respect, too. And 
he is not insensible who pays them the undemon- 
strative tribute of a sigh which is not a sob, and 
of a smile which is not a grin." 







'*The sight of human affairs deserves admiration 
and pity. They are worthy of respect, too. And 
he is not insensible who pays them the undemon- 
strative tribute of a sigh which is not a sob, and 
of a smile which is not a grin." 


IN the most forbidding tragic mask one finds 
lines of mirth, and the loudest laughter has its 
origin in the pain of somebody it may be, the 
laugher's own; for Comedy and Tragedy are 
like the Siamese Twins, inseparably united and 
sharing the same springs of life. The represen- 
tation of them as two distinctly individual sisters 
is one of the pretty inventions with which we 
have tried to soften and embellish the stark face 
of nature. This book is for those who are not 
afraid to look in that face as it is, and beyond it 
to the spirit that underlies its beauty and its ugli- 
ness, its laughter and its tears. Here is a story 
on an old theme "infinite passion and the pain 
of finite hearts that yearn." You may pity the 
people who enact it, you may despise them, you 
may laugh at them, and probably will, at the 
moments when they take themselves most seri- 
ously, for this is a crude draught of reality, not 
strained through the prejudices of an interpreter. 
It is for each reader to understand the man and 
the woman who spread more or less of their hearts 



on paper in the letters that follow, as one con- 
jectures about a similar happening among one's 
acquaintance. Did she have all of him that she 
cared to take, considering the cost of more ? Or 
was the old resident of Edinburgh right when 
he said "The puir auld donnert leddy body spoke 
o' her love for the poet just like a bit hellicat 
lassie in her teens, an' while exhibitin' to her 
cronies the faded letters from her Robbie, she 
would just greet like a bairn. Puir auld crea- 
ture, she never till the moment of her death jal- 
oused or dooted Robbie's love for her; but sir, 
you ken he was just makin' a fule o' her, as his 
letters amply show." Do they show it so amply? 
or do they show the man whose wooings usually 
strode so swift and heavy-footed toward one sim- 
ple brutal goal, for once offering reverently the 
worship of his mind and spirit, while the body he 
had so pitifully squandered stands humbly aside, 
all but silent in its hopeless desire? Do not be 
discouraged by the grotesqueries of stilted lan- 
guage in Dick Swiveller's vein remember that 
these are not puppets of a writer's imagination, 
veined with verses and with adjectives for blood, 
but a real man and woman of the eighteenth cen- 
tury, creatures of high-running passion for all the 
pompous phrases of their time, who lived far 


more than they wrote. This strange sudden love 
of theirs was it mere fancy, or was it, for one 
of them at least, that rare apotheosis of sex which 
comes suddenly from the darkness upon human 
beings, wrestles with them as did the angel with 
Jacob, and leaves them transfigured or broken, 
but never unchanged? Decide for yourself, 
reader. I know what I believe, but 1 will not 
try to impose my opinion upon you. I will only 
bring you to the beginning of their story, on a 
winter night of 1787 

No. Had that been indeed the beginning, the 
end would have been quite other than it is. 
Rather did their story begin twenty-eight years 
before, with the birth of this man and this 
woman who came toward each other from such 
different social spheres, trailing not clouds of 
glory but the rags of sordid experience and 
ruined hope. Life had already marred them both 
and for all that is to follow, let the first stone 
be cast by the one who is near enough divinity 
to make into holy stigmata the scars of his own 
sin and folly. Only, a stone would never come 
from such a hand. 

Let us look at them, then, as they were at their 
meeting, with a glance at the past which has left 
its print on them. You will find them in Edin- 



burgh. The bleak December sunset is over ; twi- 
light has given the grim grey city the rich colour- 
ing of old tapestry. The tall gaunt buildings are 
mellowed to amethyst, and the Castle, high on its 
rock above them, gathers to itself all the blue of 
the parting day till it glows like a sapphire under 
the first stars. With the darkness, Edinburgh 
becomes a firmament of lighted windows. In one 
of these little planets of sociability that sends its 
ray out into the cold street, the estimable spinster 
Miss Nimmo is giving a tea-party for the special 
purpose of bringing together two gifted friends 
of hers, Mrs. Agnes M'Lehose and Mr. Robert 
Burns. Mrs. M'Lehose has been anxious to meet 
this astonishing young man who has captured not 
only the fashionable mind but the popular heart 
at once a more difficult and a more enduring 
conquest but he has been so extravagantly the 
fashion that it could not be arranged till this eve- 
ning, when his stay in town is nearly at an end. 
Mrs. Cockburn writes to a friend, "The man will 
be quite spoiled, if he can spoil ; but he keeps his 
simple manners, and is quite sober. No doubt he 
will be at the Hunters' Ball to-morrow, which has 
made all women and milliners mad. Not a gauze- 
cap under two guineas many ten, twelve." 
Even in the face of the gauze-caps, Mr. Burns 


holds his own. Although he still has the appear- 
ance of a handsome young farmer dressed in his 
best to dine with the laird, he has learned the 
manners of the world without losing his own. He 
no longer skirts the edge of the room to avoid 
treading on the carpets. Socially he is self-pos- 
sessed and modest, popular among the men as a 
thoroughly good fellow who can tell a racy story 
and sing a rattling song, and a great favourite 
among the ladies in spite of his glaring record as 
a rural Don Juan. In spite of it? Dante was 
not the first nor the last poet to appeal with 
success to "Donne che avete intelletto d'amore." 
If the gentle creatures are not intelligent in love, 
they like to think they are. In the case of Burns, 
the ladies who read "The Lament" and sighed 
over the pathos of that destroyed marriage certifi- 
cate, must have accorded him all the prestige of 
a martyr. Of the ugly consequences of his 
"eclatant return to Mauchline," society in general 
probably knew nothing. But as the woman with 
whom we are concerned certainly did know, and 
loved him with all her knowledge, she must have 
seen the matter from his point of view, a point 
of view that we must try to get if we are to un- 
derstand him, or her. It is unquestionable that 
Burns was very much in love with his Jean, and 


that her acquiescence in her father's high handed 
annulment of their tardy marriage was a harsh 
blow not only to his pride but to his heart. His 
pain seems to have festered into resentment, 
made all the worse by finding that his change in 
fortunes brought a corresponding change in his 
treatment by the family. Old Armour preferred 
his daughter's dishonour to her marriage with 
Burns? Very well. If these were the terms of 
father and daughter, Burns would abide by them 
when he found himself, as the fashionable and 
successful poet, quite the welcome visitor. There 
is no passion more cruelly unreasoning than hurt 
pride. He did not realise that the meek tender- 
ness which made Jean yield to him would make 
her submit also to the imperious will of her fa- 
ther. Embittered, he saw her patient generosity 
only as slavish weakness ; and strange as it is, we 
may believe that when he left Mauchline in June 
of 1787 he actually did feel no moral obligation 
to the girl who for a second time faced through 
him the long agonising ordeal of an unsanctioned 
motherhood. As he saw it, he had not wronged 
her, this time he had only accepted the status 
that had formerly been forced upon him. Doubt- 
less he went his way with his head high, feeling 
that he had shown himself a man not to be trifled 


with the pity of it! Once back in Edinburgh, 
little time was given him for thought, or for re- 
gret, had he been so inclined. When he went to 
Miss Nimmo's tea-party, he was surely a little 
tired, and probably a little dazed, a little intoxi- 
cated with his round of city gaieties, although we 
are told that he had kept his head impeccably. 
Well, the time is near when he is to lose it and 
how much more, I will not try to say. He hardly 
suspects this, I think he is so sure of himself as 
"an old Hawk at the game," as he gazes with 
his usual impressive manner into the eyes of the 
rosy little beauty whom he had been invited to 
meet. He has wonderful eyes, this clod of Ayr- 
shire clay shot with fire from Heaven or Hell? 
both, maybe great dark eyes that glow as from 
an inward consuming flame. An interesting ac- 
quaintance for a lady who likes to play with com- 
bustibles, but rather dangerous. Mrs. M'Lehose, 
however, has a right to some confidence in her 
own skilful handling of high explosives. She is 
a lady of experience, which she did not get 
cheaply. Daughter of a comfortable Glasgow 
doctor, the pretty Miss Nancy was a recognised 
toast when still only a child. At fifteen, she went 
up to Edinburgh that six months of metropolitan 
palish mjght be applied to a sketchy smattering 

* xiii i 


of genteel accomplishments that can hardly be 
called an education even by courtesy. Mr. M'Le- 
hose, a young law agent who had vainly sought 
an introduction to the little belle, made the bold 
play of booking all the seats except the one re- 
served for Miss Craig. Fair lady and heart by 
no means faint, a day's journey with a long noon 
halt, could courtship have a more auspicious be- 
ginning? In spite of the dissuasions of her fam- 
ily and friends, who hoped for a more brilliant 
match, the pretty Miss Nancy celebrated July of 
1776 with a little Independence Day of her own 
the last she was to know, poor child. This 
seventeen-year-old bride soon made the not un- 
precedented discovery that an audacious and 
charming suitor may develop into an excessively 
disagreeable husband. The annual babies, poor 
sickly mites, were no proof of domestic harmony ; 
on the contrary, the M'Lehose household was the 
scene of such rapidly and constantly increasing 
incompatibility that a separation took place after 
four stormy years. Doctor Craig took his daugh- 
ter home again, but only lived to shelter her two 
years. He did his canny best for her by leaving 
her inheritance in the form of an annuity entirely 
beyond her husband's reach. This, while suffi- 
cient for herself, would not provide for the three 


surviving children they were all delicate, and 
only one lived to manhood. Mr. M'Lehose, whose 
liberality seems to have exhausted itself in his 
one monumental extravagance and upon whom 
responsibilities sat lightly, refused to contribute 
to their support, and presently sailed for Jamaica 
at the earnest request of his relatives, who were 
tired of paying his debts. A small annual sub- 
scription was raised for the young pseudo-widow 
among the Glasgow writers, and another among 
the surgeons, but even so her establishment in 
Edinburgh was very largely dependent on the 
contributions of benevolent friends, chief among 
whom was her cousin, Lord Craig. She was a 
very popular little lady, for trouble did not rob 
her of her beauty nor of her spirits. At twenty- 
eight, she is even more attractive than the pretty 
miss for whose bright eyes Mr. M'Lehose bought 
up the coach. To begin with, she has wisely 
spent much time in study of no very profound 
character, to be sure, but highly ornamental in its 
results. She has read the best English authors 
and can quote from them tellingly, for she has a 
natural taste for letters, and indeed can herself 
turn a musical verse. With all her brilliancy, 
a little hard well, is it strange that she has 
grown hard, as she has found life to be? Four 



children of a worthless husband in as many years 
tend to do away with a woman's fine generosities 
as well as with her illusions. When she gave 
life its full price, it cheated her. She does not 
mean to be caught that way again; her future 
bargains with this shifty dealer must be on her 
own terms. She has arranged the outward cir- 
cumstances of her little world as nearly to her 
satisfaction as she can; but she is the type of 
woman who cannot live on her own resources. 
She must have stimuli from without. Her poor 
little heart is lonely in her comfortable, albeit 
somewhat shaky structure of worldly security. 
She wants to find a guest who will accommo- 
date himself to its cramped quarters and warm 
them with the right Promethean fire, one who 
will enter ardently, and yet with a tread dis- 
creet enough for the none too secure floors to 
bear. She wants, in short, a lover who will offer 
his passionate devotions at her shrine in the de- 
cent name of a Friendship which shall offend 
none of her benevolent friends. And it is Robert 
Burns of all men! whom she chooses. 






December 6, 1787. 

MADAM, I had set no small store by my tea- 
drinking to-night, and have not often been so 
disappointed. Saturday evening I shall embrace 
the opportunity with the greatest pleasure. I 
leave this town this day se'ennight, and probably 
I shall not return for a couple of twelvemonths ; 
but I must ever regret that I so lately got an 
acquaintance I shall ever highly esteem, and in 
whose welfare I shall ever be warmly interested. 
Our worthy common friend, Miss Nimmo, in her 
usual pleasant way, rallied me a great deal on 
my new acquaintance ; and, in the humour of her 
ideas I wrote some lines, which I enclose you, as 
I think they have a good deal of poetic merit;* 

* It is a pity that these lines of Burns have been lost, as he was 
not in the habit of praising his own work. 


and Miss Nimmo tells me you are not only a 
critic but a poetess. Fiction, you know, is the 
native region of poetry; and I hope you will par- 
don my vanity in sending you the bagatelle as a 
tolerable offhand jeu-d' esprit. I have several po- 
etic trifles which I shall gladly leave with Miss 
Nimmo, or you, if they were worth house-room; 
as there are scarcely two people on earth by whom 
it would mortify me more to be forgotten, though 
at the distance of nine-score miles. I am, 
Madam, with the highest respect, your very hum- 
ble servant, 


Thursday Evening. 

Ao ' 



December 8 } 1787. 

I can say with truth, Madam, that I never 
met with a person in my life whom I more anx- 
iously wished to meet again than yourself. To- 
night I was to have had that very great pleasure 
I was intoxicated with the idea ; but an unlucky 
fall from a coach has so bruised one of my knees, 
that I can't stir my leg off the cushion: so if 
I don't see you again, I shall not rest in my grave 
for chagrin. I was vexed to the soul I had not 
seen you sooner; I am determined to cultivate 
your friendship with the enthusiasm of Religion; 
but thus has Fortune ever served me. I cannot 
bear the idea of leaving Edinburgh without see- 
ing you. I know not how to account for it I 
am strangely taken with some people; nor am I 
often mistaken. You are a stranger to me; but 
I am an odd being; some yet unnamed feelings 
things, not principles, but better than whims 
carry me farther than boasted reason ever did 
a Philosopher. Farewell! every happiness be 
yours 1 


Saturday Evening, 

St. James Square, No. 2. 



Enured as I have been to disappointments, I 
never felt more, nay, nor half so severely, for one 
of the same nature! The cruel cause, too, aug- 
ments my uneasiness. I trust you'll soon recover 
it; meantime, if my sympathy, my friendship, 
can alleviate your pain be assured you possess 
them. I am much flattered at being a favourite 
of yours. Miss Nimmo can tell you how ear- 
nestly I had long pressed her to make us ac- 
quainted. I had a presentiment that we should 
derive pleasure from the society of each other. 
To-night I had thought of fifty things to say to 
you; how unfortunate this prevention! Do not 
accuse Fortune; had I not known she was blind 
before, her ill-usage of you had marked it suffi- 
ciently. However, she is a fickle, old, envious 
beldame, and I'd much rather be indebted to 
Nature. You shall not leave town without seeing 
me, if I should come along with good Miss 
Nimmo and call for you. I am determined to 
see you; and am ready to exclaim with Yorick, 
"Tut! are we not all relations?" We are, in- 
deed, strangers in one sense; but of near kin in 
many respects: these "nameless feelings" I per- 
fectly comprehend, tho' the pen of a Locke could 



not define them. Perhaps instinct comes nearer 
their description than either "Principles or 
Whims." Think ye they have any connection 
with that "heavenly light which leads astray?" 
One thing I know, that they have a powerful ef- 
fect upon me ; and are delightful when under the 
check of reason and religion. 

Miss Nimmo was a favourite of mine from the 
first hour I met her. There is a softness, a name- / 
less something about her that, were I a man, old \ 
as she is, I would have chosen her before most 
women that I know. I fear, however, this lik- 
ing is not mutual. I'll tell you why I think so, 
at meeting. She was in mere jest when she told 
you I was a Poetess. I have often composed 
rhyme (if not reason), but never one line of po- 
etry. The distinction is obvious to every one of 
the least discernment. Your lines were truly po- 
etical ; give me all you can spare. Not one living 
has a higher relish for poetry than I have; and 
my reading everything of the kind makes me a 
tolerable judge. Ten years ago, such lines from 
such a hand would have half -turned my head. 
Perhaps you thought it might have done so even 
yet, and wisely premised that "Fiction was the 
native region of poetry." Read the enclosed, 


which I scrawled just after reading yours.* Be 
sincere, and own that, whatever merit it has, it 
has not a line resembling poetry. Pardon any 
little freedoms I take with you ; if they entertain 
a heavy hour, they have all the merit I intended. 
Will you let me know, now and then, how your 
leg is? If I was your sister, I would call and 
see you; but 'tis a censorious world this, and (in 
this sense) "you and I are not of this world." 
Adieu. Keep up your heart, you will soon get 
well, and we shall meet. Farewell. God bless 

A. M. 

* These verses also have been lost. ./ 




Dec. 12, 1787. 

I stretch a point indeed, my dearest Madam, 
when I answer your card on the rack of my 
present agony. Your friendship, Madam! By 
heavens, I was never so proud before. Your 
lines, I maintain it, are poetry, and good poetry; 
mine were indeed partly fiction, and partly a 
friendship which, had I been so blest as to have 
met with you in time, might have led me God of 
love only knows where. Time is too short for 

I swear solemnly in all the tenor of my for- 
mer oath to remember you in all the pride and 
warmth of friendship until I cease to be I 

To-morrow, and every day, till I see you, you 
shall hear from me. 

Farewell! May you enjoy a better night's 
repose than I am likely to have. 




Sunday Noon, Dec. 16, 1787. 

Miss Nimmo and I had a long conversation 
last night. Little did I suspect that she was of 
the party. Gentle, sweet soul! She is accusing 
herself as the cause of your misfortune. It was 
in vain I rallied her upon such an excess of sensi- 
bility as I termed it. She is lineally descended 
from "My Uncle Toby"; has hopes of the devil, 
and would not hurt a fly. How could you tell 
me that you were in "agony"? I hope you will 
swallow laudanum, and procure some ease from 
sleep. 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. When I meet you, I 
must chide you for writing in your romantic 
style. Do you remember that she whom you ad- 
dress is a married woman? or Jacob-like 
would you wait seven years, and even then per- 
haps be disappointed, as he was? No; I know 
you better: you have too much of that impetu- 
osity which generally accompanies noble minds. 
To be serious, most people would think, by your 
style, that you were writing to some vain, silly 
woman to make a fool of her or worse. I have 



too much vanity to ascribe it to the former mo- 
tive, and too much charity to harbour an idea of 
the latter; and viewing it as the effusion of a 
benevolent heart upon meeting one similar to 
itself, I have promised you my friendship : it will 
be your own fault if I ever withdraw it. Would 
to God I had it in my power to give you some 
solid proofs of it ! Were I the Duchess of Gor- 
don, you should be possessed of that indepen- 
dence which every generous mind pants after; 
but I fear she is "no Duchess at the heart." 
Obscure as I am (comparatively) I enjoy all the 
necessaries of life as fully as I desire, and wish 
for wealth only to procure "the luxury of doing 

My chief design in writing to you to-day was 
to beg you would not write me often, lest the ex- 
ertion should hurt you. Meantime, if my scrawls 
can amuse you in your confinement, you shall 
have them occasionally. I shall hear of you 
every day from my beloved Miss Nimmo. Do 
you know, the very first time I was in her house, 
most of our conversation was about a certain 
(lame) poet? I read her soul in her expressive 
countenance, and have been attached to her ever 
since. Adieu! Be patient. Take care of your- 
self. My best wishes attend you. A. M. 




Thursday, Dec. 20, 1787. 

Your last, my dear Madam, had the effect on 
me, that Job's situation had on his friends, when 
"they sat down seven days and seven nights as- 
tonished, and spake not a word." "Pay my ad- 
dresses to a married woman!" I started as if I 
had seen the ghost of him I had injured. I recol- 
lected my expressions ; some of them indeed were, 
in the law phrase, "habit and repute," which is 
being half guilty. I cannot possibly say, 
Madam, whether my heart might not have gone 
astray a little ; but I can declare, upon the honour 
of a poet, that the vagrant has wandered un- 
known to me. I have a pretty handsome troop 
of follies of my own; and, like some other peo- 
ple's, they are but undisciplined blackguards : but 
the luckless rascals have something like honour in 
them; they would not do a dishonest thing. 

To meet with an unfortunate woman, amiable 
and young, deserted and widowed by those who 
were bound by every tie of duty, nature, and 
gratitude, to protect, comfort, and cherish her; 
add to all, when she is perhaps one of the first of 
lovely forms and noble minds the mind, too, 
that hits one's taste as the joys of Heaven do a 



saint should a vague idea, the natural child of 
imagination, thoughtlessly peep over the fence 
were you, my friend, to sit in judgment, and the 
poor, airy straggler brought before you, trem- 
bling, self-condemned, with artless eyes, brimful 
of contrition, looking wistfully on its judge you 
would not, my dear Madam, condemn the hapless 
wretch to death "without benefit of clergy"? 

I won't tell you what reply my heart made to 
your raillery of "seven years," but I will give you 
what a brother of my trade says on the same allu- 
sion : 

"The patriarch to gain a wife 

Chaste, beautiful and young, 
Serv'd fourteen years a painful life 
And never thought it long. 

O were you to reward such cares, 
And life so long would stay; 

Not fourteen but four hundred years 
Would seem but as one day!" * 

I have written you this scrawl because I have 
nothing else to do, and you may sit down and 
find fault with it, if you have no better way of 
consuming your time ; but finding fault with the 

* Tom d'Urfey. 



vagaries of a poet's fancy is much such another 
business as Xerxes chastising the waves of 

My limb now allows me to sit in some peace; 
to walk I have yet no prospect of, as I can't mark 
it to the ground. 

I have just now looked over what I have writ- 
ten, and it is such a chaos of nonsense that I dare 
say you will throw it into the fire, and call me an 
idle, stupid fellow; but whatever you may think 
of my brains, believe me to be, with the most 
sacred respect and heartfelt esteem, My dear 
Madam, your humble servant, 





On Burns Saying He "Had Nothing Else To 


When first you saw Clarindas charms 
What rapture in your bosom grew ! 

Her heart was shut to Love's alarms, 
But then you'd nothing else to do. 

Apollo oft had lent his harp, 

But now 'twas strung from Cupid's bow; 
You sung it reach'd Clarindas heart 

She wish'd you'd nothing else to do. 

Fair Venus smiled, Minerva frowned, 
Cupid observ'd the arrow flew; 

Indifference, ere a week went round, 
Show'd you had nothing else to do. 


Christmas Eve, 1787. 




Dec. 28, 1787. 

When dear Clarinda, matchless fair, 

First struck Sylvander's raptured view, 

He gaz'd, he listened to despair, 
Alas ! 'twas all he dared to do. 

Love, from Clarinda's heavenly eyes, 
Transfixed his bosom thro' and thro'; 

But still in Friendship's guarded guise, 
For more the demon feared to do. 

That heart, already more than lost, 
The imp beleaguer'd all perdue; 

For frowning Honour kept his post 
To meet that frown he shrunk to do. 

His pangs the bard refused to own, 
Tho' half he wish'd Clarinda knew; 

But Anguish wrung the unweeting groan 
Who blames what frantic Pain must do? 

That heart, where motley follies blend, 
Was sternly still to Honour true: 

To prove Clarinda's fondest friend, 
Was what a lover sure might do, 



The Muse his ready quill employed, 
No nearer bliss he could pursue: 

That bliss Clarinda cold deny'd 
"Send word by Charles how you do!" 

The chill behest disarm'd his muse, 
Till passion, all impatient grew : 

He wrote, and hinted for excuse, 

'Twas 'cause "he'd nothing else to do." 

But by those hopes I have above ! 

And by those faults I dearly rue! 
The deed, the boldest mark of love, 

For thee, that deed I dare to do ! 

O could the Fates but name the price 

Would bless me with your charms and you! 

With frantic joy I'd pay it thrice, 
If human art and power could do ! 

Then take, Clarinda, friendship's hand, 
(Friendship, at least, I may avow;) 

And lay no more your chill command, 
I'll write, whatever I've to do. 





I beg your pardon, my dear Clarinda, for the 
fragment scrawl I sent you yesterday. I really 
don't know what I wrote. A gentleman, for 
whose character, abilities, and critical knowledge, 
I have the highest veneration, called in just as I 
had begun the second sentence, and I would not 
make the porter wait. I read to my much-re- 
spected friend several of my own bagatelles, and 
among others, your lines, which I had copied out. 
He began some criticism 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 wo- 
man in Edinburgh was capable of such lines ; and, 
if you know anything of Professor Gregory, you 
will neither doubt of his abilities nor his sincerity. 
I do love you, if possible, still better for having 
so fine a taste and turn for poesy. I have again 
gone wrong in my usual unguarded way, but you 
may erase the word, and put esteem, respect, or 
any other tame Dutch expression you please, in 
its place. I believe there is no holding converse, 
or carrying on correspondence, with an amiable 
woman, much less a gloriously amiable fine wo- 



man, without some mixture of the delicious pas- 
sion, whose most devoted slave I have more than 
once had the honour of being But why be hurt 
or offended on that account ? Can no honest man 
have a prepossession for a fine woman, but he 
must run his head against an intrigue? Take a 
little of the tender witchcraft of love, and add to 
it the generous, the honourable sentiments of 
manly friendship; and I know but one more de- 
lightful morsel, which few, few in any rank ever 
taste. Such a composition is like adding cream 
to strawberries ; it not only gives the fruit a more 
elegant richness, but has a peculiar deliciousness 
of its own. 

I enclose you a few lines I composed on a late 
melancholy occasion. * I will not give above five 
or six copies of it at all; and I would be hurt if 
any friend should give any copies without my 

You cannot imagine, Clarinda (I like the idea 
of Arcadian names in a commerce of this kind), 
how much store I have set by the hopes of your 
future friendship. I don't know if you have a 
just idea of my character, but I wish you to see 
me as I am. I am, as most people of my trade 
are, a strange Will-o'-wisp being; the victim, too 

* The lines "On the death of Lord President Dundas." 



frequently, of much imprudence and many fol- 
lies. My great constituent elements are pride 
and passion: the first I have endeavoured to hu- 
manise into integrity and honour ; the last makes 
me a devotee, to the warmest degree of enthusi- 
asm, in love, religion, or friendship either of 
them or all together, as I happen to be inspired. 
'Tis true I never saw you but once ; but how much 
acquaintance did I form with you in that once! 
Do not think I flatter you, or have a design upon 
you, Clarinda : I have too much pride for the one, 
and too little cold contrivance for the other; but 
of all God's creatures I ever could approach in 
the beaten way of acquaintance, you struck me 
with the deepest, the strongest, the most perma- 
ment impression. I say the most permanent, 
because I know myself well, and how far I can 
promise either on my prepossessions or my pow- 
ers. Why are you unhappy? And why are so 
many of our fellow-creatures, unworthy to be- 
long to the same species with you, blest with all 
they can wish? You have a hand all benevolent 
to give ; why were you denied the pleasure ? You 
have a heart formed, gloriously formed for all 
the most refined luxuries of love; why was that 
heart ever wrung? O Clarinda! Shall we not 
meet in a state, some yet unknown state of being, 


where the lavish hand of Plenty shall minister to 
the highest wish of Benevolence; and where the 
chill north wind of Prudence shall never blow 
over the flowery fields of Enjoyment? If we do 
not, man was made in vain ! I deserved some of 
the most unhappy hours that have lingered over 
my head ; they were the wages of my labour ; but 
what unprovoked demon, malignant as hell, stole 
upon the confidence of unmistrusting busy fate, 
and dashed your cup with undeserved sorrow? 

Let me know how long your stay will be out of 
town: I shall count the hours till you inform me 
of your return. Cursed etiquette forbids your 
seeing me just now; and so soon as I can walk, 
I must bid Edinburgh adieu. Lord ! why was I 
born to see misery, which I cannot relieve ; and to 
meet with friends, whom I can't enjoy? I look 
back with the pang of unavailing avarice on my 
loss in not knowing you sooner: all last winter, 
these three months past, what luxury of inter- 
course have I not lost! Perhaps, though, 'twas 
better for my peace. You see I am either above, 
or incapable of, dissimulation. I believe it is 
want of that particular genius. I despise de- 
sign, because I want either coolness or wisdom to 
be capable of it. I am interrupted. Adieu, my 
dear Clarinda! SYLVANDER. 

Friday Evening. 




Probably Written in Answer to His the Same 

I go to the country early to-morrow morning, 
but will be home by Tuesday sooner than I ex- 
pected. I have not time to answer yours as it 
deserves; nor, had I the age of Methusalem, 
could I answer it in kind. I shall grow vain. 
Your praises were enough but those of a Dr. 
Gregory superadded! Take care, many a "glo- 
rious woman" has been undone by having her 
head turned. "Know you!" I know you far 
better than you do me. Like yourself, I am a 
bit of an enthusiast. In religion and friendship 
quite a bigot perhaps I could be so in love too ; 
but everything dear to me in heaven and earth 
forbids! This is my fixed principle; the person 
who would dare to endeavour at removing it I 
would hold as my chief enemy. Like you, I am 
incapable of dissimulation; nor am I, as you 
suppose, unhappy. Possessed of fine children, 
competence, fame, friends kind and attentive 
what a monster of ingratitude should I be in the 
eyes of Heaven were I to style myself unhappy ! 
True, I have met with scenes horrible to recol- 



lection, even at six years' distance ; but adversity, 
my friend, is allowed to be the school of Virtue. 
It oft confers that chastened softness which is 
unknown among the favourites of Fortune! 
Even a mind possessed of natural sensibility, 
without this, never feels that exquisite pleasure 
which nature has annexed to our sympathetic 
sorrows. Religion, the only refuge of the un- 
fortunate, has been my balm in every woe. Oh ! 
could I make her appear to you as she has done 
to me! Instead of ridiculing her tenets, you 
would fall down and worship her very semblance 
wherever you found it! 

I will write you again at more leisure, and no- 
tice other parts of yours. I send you a simile 
upon a character I don't know if you are ac- 
quainted with. I am confounded at your admir- 
ing my lines. I shall begin to question your 
taste but Dr. G. ! When I am low-spirited 
(which I am at times) I shall think of this as a 

Now for the simile: 

The morning sun shines glorious and bright, 
And fills the heart with wonder and delight ! 
He dazzles, in meridian splendour seen, 
Without a blackening cloud to intervene. 



So, at a distance view'd, your genius bright, 
Your wit, your flowing numbers can delight, 
But ah! when error's dark'ning clouds arise, 
When passion thunders, folly's lightning flies, 
More safe we gaze, but admiration dies: 
And as the tempting brightness snares the moth, 
Sure ruin marks too near approach to both. 

Good night; for Clarinda's "heavenly eyes" 
need the earthly aid of sleep. Adieu. 


P. S. I entreat you not to mention our cor- 
respondence to one on earth. Though I've con- 
scious innocence, my situation is a delicate one. 




January 1, 1788. 

Many happy returns of this day to you, my 
dear, pleasant friend ! May each revolving year 
find you wiser and happier ! I embrace the first 
spare hour to fulfil my promise; and begin with 
thanking you for the enclosed lines they are 
very pretty: I like the idea of personifying the 
vices rising in the absence of Justice. It is a 
constant source of refined pleasure, giving "to 
airy nothings a local habitation and a name," 
which people of a luxuriant imagination only 
can enjoy. Yet, to a mind of a benevolent turn, 
it is delightful to observe how equal the distribu- 
tion of happiness is among all ranks ! If stupid 
people are rendered incapable of tasting the 
refined pleasures of the intelligent and feeling 
mind, they are likewise exempted from the thou- 
sand distractions and disquietudes peculiar to 

I have been staying with a dear female friend* 
who has long been an admirer of yours, and was 
once on the point of meeting with you in the 
house of a Mrs. Bruce. She would have been a 
much better "Clarinda." She is comely without 

* Mary Peacock. 



being beautiful, and has a large share of sense, 
taste and sensibility; added to all, a violent pen- 
chant for poetry. If ever I have an opportunity, 
I shall make you and her acquainted. No won- 
der Dr. Gregory criticised my lines. I saw sev- 
eral defects in them myself ; but had neither time 
nor patience (nor ability, perhaps) to correct 
them. The three last verses were longer than 
the former; and in the conclusion, I saw a vile 
tautology which I could not get rid of. But you 
will not wonder when I tell you that I am not 
only ignorant of every language except my own, 
but never so much as knew a syllable of the Eng- 
lish grammar. If I can write grammatically, 'tis 
through mere habit. I rejoice to hear of Dr. 
Gregory being your particular friend. Though 
unacquainted, I am no stranger to his character: 
where worth unites with abilities, it commands 
our love as well as admiration. Alas! they are 
too seldom found in one character! Those pos- 
sessed of great talents would do well to remember 
that all depends upon the use made of them. 
Shining abilities improperly applied, only serve 
to accelerate our destruction in both worlds. I 
loved you for your fine taste in poetry long be- 
fore I saw you ; so shall not trouble myself eras- 
ing the word applied in the same way to me. 
* 40 


You say "there is no corresponding with an 
agreeable woman without a mixture of the tender 
passion." I believe there is no friendship be- 
tween people of sentiment of different sexes, 
without a little softness; but when kept within 
proper bounds, it only serves to give a higher 
relish to such intercourse. Love and Friendship 
are names in every one's mouth; but few, ex- 
tremely few, understand their meaning. Love 
(or affection) cannot be genuine if it hesitate a 
moment to sacrifice every selfish gratification to 
the happiness of its object. On the contrary, 
when I would purchase that at the expense of 
this, it deserves to be styled not love, but a name 
too gross to mention. Therefore, I contend that 
an honest man may have a friendly prepossession 
for a woman, whose soul would abhor the idea 
of an intrigue with her. These are my senti- 
ments on the subject; I hope they correspond 
with yours. 

'Tis honest in you to wish me to see you "just 
as you are." I believe I have a tolerably just 
idea of your character. No wonder; for had I 
been a man, I should have been you. I am not 
vain enough to think myself equal in abilities; 
but I am formed with a liveliness of fancy, and 
a strength of passion little inferior. Situation 



and circumstances have, however, had the effects 
on each of us that might have been expected. 
Misfortune has wonderfully contributed to sub- 
due the keenness of my passions, while success 
and adulation have served to nourish and inflame 
yours. Both of us are incapable of deceit, be- 
cause we want coolness and command of our 
feelings. Art is what I never could attain to, 
even in situations where a little would have been 
prudent. Now and then I am favoured with a 
salutary blast of "the north wind of prudence." 
The southern zephyrs of kindness too often send 
up their sultry fogs, and cloud the atmosphere of 
my understanding. I have thought that Nature 
threw me off in the same mould, just after you. 
We were born, I believe, in one year. Madam 
Nature has some merit by her work that year. 
Don't you think so? I suppose the carline has 
had a flying visit of Venus and the Graces ; and 
Minerva has been jealous of her attention, and 
has sent Apollo with his harp to charm them 

But why do you accuse Fate for my misfor- 
tunes? There is a noble independence of mind 
which I admire; but, when not checked by Reli- 
gion, it is apt to degenerate into a criminal 
arraignment of Providence. No "malignant 



demon," as you suppose, was "permitted to dash 
my cup of life with sorrow": it was the kindness 
of a wise and tender Father who foresaw that I 
needed chastisement ere I could be brought to 
Himself. Ah, my friend, Religion converts our 
heaviest misfortunes into blessings! I feel it to 
be so. These passions naturally too violent for 
my peace, have been broken and moderated by 
adversity; and if even that has been unable to 
conquer my vivacity, what lengths might I not 
have gone, had I been permitted to glide along 
in the sunshine of prosperity? I should have for- 
got my future destination, and fixed my happi- 
ness on the fleeting shadows below! My hand 
was denied the bliss of giving, but Heaven ac- 
cepts of the wish. My heart was formed for 
love, and I desire to devote it to Him who is the 
source of love! Yes, we shall surely meet in an 
"unknown state of being," where there will be 
full scope for every kind, heartfelt affection 
love without alloy and without end. Your para- 
graph upon this made the tears flow down my 
face! I will not tell you the reflections which it 
raised in my mind; but I wished that a heart 
susceptible of such a sentiment took more pains 
about its accomplishment. I fancy you will not 
wish me to write again; you'll think me too seri- 



ous and grave. I know not how I have been led 
to be so ; but I make no excuse, because I must be 
allowed to write you as I feel, or not at all. You 
say you have "humanised pride into honour and 
integrity." 'Tis a good endeavour ; and could you 
command your too impetuous passions, it would 
be a more glorious achievement than his who 
conquered the world and wept because he had 
no more worlds to subdue. Forgive my freedom 
with you : I never trouble myself with the faults 
of those I don't esteem, and only notice those 
of friends, to themselves. I am pleased with 
friends when they tell me mine, and look upon 
it as a test of real friendship. 

I have your Poems in loan just now, I've read 
them many times, and with new pleasure. Some- 
time I shall give you my opinion of them sever- 
ally. Let me have a sight of some more of your 
"Bagatelles," as you style them. If ever I write 
any more, you shall have them; and I'll thank 
you to correct their errors. I wrote lines on 
Bishop Geddes, by way of blank verse ; but they 
were what Pope describes, "Where ten low words 
do creep in one dull line." I believe you (being 
a genius) have inspired me; for I never wrote so 
well before. Pray, is Dr. Gregory pious? I 
have heard so. I wish I knew him. Adieu! 



You have quantity enough, whatever be the 
quality. Good night, Believe me your sincere 





Thursday, 3d Jan., 1788. 

I got your lines : * they are "in kind!" I can't 
but laugh at my presumption in pretending to 
send my poor ones to you! but it was to amuse 
myself. At this season, when others are joyous, 
I am the reverse. I have no near relations ; and 
while others are with theirs I sit alone, musing 
upon several of mine with whom I used to be 
now gone to the land of forgetfulness. 

You have put me in a rhyming humour. The 
moment I read yours, I wrote the following 
lines : 

Talk not of Love! it gives me pain, 

For Love has been my foe; 
He bound me in an iron chain, 

And plung'd me deep in woe! 

But Friendship's pure and lasting joys 
My heart was formed to prove ; 

The worthy object be of those, 
But never talk of Love. 

The "Hand of Friendship" I accept, 

May Honour be our guard ! 
Virtue our intercourse direct, 

Her smiles our dear reward. 

* Here again Burns' verses are missing. 


But I wish to know (in sober prose) how your 
leg is? I would have inquired sooner had I 
known it would have been acceptable. Miss N. 
informs me now and then; but I have not seen 
her dear face for some time. Do you think you 
could venture this length in a coach without hurt- 
ing yourself? I go out of town the beginning of 
the week for a few days. I wish you could come 
to-morrow or Saturday. I long for a conversa- 
tion with you, and lameness of body won't hin- 
der that. 'Tis really curious so much fun pass- 
ing between two persons who saw one another 
only once! Say if you think you dare venture; 
only let the coachman be "adorned with sobriety." 

Adieu! Believe me (on my simple word) 
your real friend and well-wisher, 





My dear Clarinda, Your last verses have so 
delighted me, that I have copied them in among 
some of my own most valued pieces, which I keep 
sacred for my own use. Do let me have a few 
now and then. 

Did you, Madam, know what I feel when you 
talk of your sorrows ! 

Good God ! that one who has so much worth in 
the sight of heaven, and is so amiable to her fel- 
low-creatures, should be so unhappy! I can't 
venture out for cold. My limb is vastly better; 
but I have not any use of it without my crutches. 
Monday, for the first time, I dine at a neigh- 
bour's, next door. As soon as I can go so far, even 
in a coach, my first visit shall be to you. Write 
me when you leave town, and immediately when 
you return; and I earnestly pray your stay may 
be short. You can't imagine how miserable you 
made me when you hinted to me not to write. 





You are right, my dear Clarinda; a friendly 
correspondence goes for nothing, except one 
write their undisguised sentiments. Yours 
please me for their intrinsic merit, as well as be- 
cause they are yours, which, I assure you, is to 
me a high recommendation. Your religious 
sentiments, Madam, I revere. If you have, on 
suspicious evidence from some lying oracle, learnt 
that I despise or ridicule so sacredly important a 
matter as real religion, you have, my Clarinda, 
much misconstrued your friend. "I am not mad, 
most noble Festus!" Have you ever met a per- 
fect character? Do we not sometimes rather 
exchange faults than get rid of them? For in- 
stance, I am perhaps tired with, and shocked at, 
a life too much the prey of giddy inconsistencies 
and thoughtless follies ; by degrees I grow sober, 
prudent, and statedly pious I say statedly, be- 
cause the most unaffected devotion is not at all 
inconsistent with my first character I join the 
world in congratulating myself on the happy 
change. But let me pry more narrowly into this 
affair. Have I, at bottom, anything of a secret 
pride in these endowments and emendations? 
Have I nothing of a presbyterian sourness, a 


hypocritical severity, when I survey my less reg- 
ular neighbours? In a word, have I missed all 
those nameless and numberless modifications of 
indistinct selfishness, which are so near our own 
eyes, that we can scarce bring them within the 
sphere of our vision, and which the known spot- 
less cambric of our character hides from the ordi- 
nary observer? 

My definition of worth is short ; truth and hu- 
manity respecting our fellow-creatures; rever- 
ence and humility in the presence of that Being, 
my Creator and Preserver, and who, I have every 
reason to believe, will one day be my Judge. The 
first part of my definition is the creature of un- 
biased instinct ; the last is the child of after reflec- 
tion. Where I found these two essentials I 
would gently note and slightly mention any at- 
tendant flaws flaws, the marks, the conse- 
quences of human nature. 

I can easily enter into the sublime pleasures 
that your strong imagination and keen sensibility 
must derive from religion, particularly if a little 
in the shade of misfortune; but I own I cannot, 
without a marked grudge, see heaven totally en- 
gross so amiable, so charming a woman as my 
friend Clarinda ; and should be very well pleased 



at a circumstance that would put it in the power 
of somebody (happy somebody!) to divide her 
attention, with all the delicacy and tenderness of 
an earthly attachment. 

You will not easily persuade me that you have 
not a grammatical knowledge of the English lan- 
guage so far from being inaccurate, you are ele- 
gant beyond any woman of my acquaintance, ex- 
cept one, whom I wish you knew. ' 

Your last verses to me have so delighted me, 
that I have got an excellent old Scots air that 
suits the measure, and you shall see them in print 
in the "Scots Musical Museum," a work publish- 
ing by a friend of mine in this town. I want 
four stanzas; you gave me but three, and one of 
them alluded to an expression in my former let- 
ter; so I have taken your two first verses, with 
a slight alteration in the second, and have added 
a third ; but you must help me to a fourth. Here 
they are : the latter half of the first stanza would 
have been worthy of Sappho;. I am in raptures 
with it. 

"Talk not of Love, it gives me pain, 

For Love has been my foe; 
He bound me with an iron chain 
And sunk me deep in woe. 


But Friendship's pure and lasting joys 

My heart was f orm'd to prove : 
There, welcome, win and wear the prize, 

But never talk of Love. 

Your friendship much can make me blest, 

O, why that bliss destroy? 
Why urge the odious (or only) one request 

You know I must (or will) deny?" 

The alteration in the second stanza is no im- 
provement, but there was a slight inaccuracy in 
your rhyme. The third I only offer to your 
choice, and have left two words for your deter- 
mination. The air is "The Banks of Spey," and 
is most beautiful. 

To-morrow evening I intend taking a chair, 
and paying a visit at Park Place, to a much- 
valued old friend. If I could be sure of finding 
you at home (and I will send one of the chair- 
men to call), I would spend from five to six 
o'clock with you as I go past. I cannot do more 
this time, as I have something on my hand that 
hurries me much. I propose giving you the first 
call, my old friend the second, and Miss Nimmo 
as I return home. Do not break any engage- 
ment for me, as I will spend another evening with 
you, at any rate, before I leave town. 


Do not tell me that you are pleased when your 
friends inform you of your faults. I am igno- 
rant what they are; but I am sure they must be 
such evanescent trifles compared with your per- 
sonal and mental accomplishments, that I would 
despise the ungenerous, narrow soul who would 
notice any shadow of imperfections you may 
seem to have, any other way than in the most 
delicate agreeable raillery. Coarse minds are 
not aware how much they injure the keenly feel- 
ing tie of bosom-friendship, when, in their foolish 
officiousness, they mention what nobody cares 
for recollecting. People of nice sensibility and 
generous minds have a certain intrinsic dignity 
that fires at being trifled with, or lowered, or even 
too nearly approached. 

You need make no apology for long letters : I 
am even with you. Many happy New Years to 
you, charming Clarinda! I can't dissemble, 
were it to shun perdition. He who sees you as 
I have done, and does not love you, deserves to 
be damn'd for his stupidity ! He who loves you, 
and would injure you, deserves to be doubly 
damn'd for his villainy ! Adieu. 


P. S. What would you think of this for a 
fourth stanza? 



The lines that followed were torn from the 
original MS. but from the published volume we 
know them to be: 

Your thought, if love must harbour there, 

Conceal it in that thought, 
Nor cause me from my bosom tear 
The very friend I sought. 



Some days, some nights, nay, some hours, like 
the "ten righteous persons in Sodom," save the 
rest of the vapid, tiresome, miserable months and 
years of life. One of these hours my dear Clar- 
inda blest me with yesternight. 

" One well-spent hour 
In such a tender circumstance for friends, 
Is better than an age of common time." 


My favourite feature in Milton's Satan is his 
manly fortitude in supporting what cannot be 
remedied ; in short, the wild broken fragments of 
a noble exalted mind in ruins. I meant no more 
by saying he was a favourite hero of mine. 

I mentioned to you my letter to Dr. Moore, 
giving an account of my life: it is truth, every 
word of it, and will give you the just idea of a 
man whom you have honoured with your friend- 
ship. I am afraid you will hardly be able to 
make sense of so torn a piece. Your verses I 
shall muse on deliciously, as I gaze on your im- 
age in my mind's eye, in my heart's core: they 
will be in time enough for a week to come. I am 


truly happy your headache is better. Oh, how 
can Pain or Evil be so daringly, unfeelingly, 
cruelly savage as to wound so noble a mind, so 
lovely a form ! 

My little fellow * is all my namesake. Write 
me soon. My every, strongest good wish attend 
you, Clarinda! 


Saturday, Noon. 

I know not what I have written. I am pes- 
tered with people around me. < 

* Robert Burns, Jr., Jean Armour's son. 




I cannot delay thanking you for the packet of 
Saturday ; * twice have I read it with close atten- 
tion. Some parts of it did beguile me of my 
tears. With Desdemona, I felt " 'twas pitiful, 
'twas wondrous pitiful." When I reached the 
paragraph where Lord Glencairn is mentioned, 
I burst out into tears. 'Twas that delightful 
swell of the heart which arises from the combina- 
tion of the most pleasurable feelings. Nothing 
is so binding to a generous mind as placing con- 
fidence in it. I have ever felt it so. You seem 
to have known this feature in my character intui- 
tively; and therefore entrusted me with all your 
faults and follies. The description of your first 
love-scene delighted me. It recalled the idea of 
some tender circumstances which happened to 
myself, at the same period of life only mine did 
not go so far. Perhaps, in return, I'll tell you 
the particulars when we meet. Ah, my friend! 
our early love emotions are surely the most ex- 
quisite. In riper years we may acquire more 
knowledge, sentiment, &c.; but none of these 
can yield such rapture as the dear delusions of 
heart-throbbing youth! Like yours, mine was 

* Evidently the autobiographical sketch to which he has referred. 



a rural scene too, which adds much to the ten- 
der meeting. But no more of these recollec- 

One thing alone hurt me, though I regretted 
many your avowal of being an enemy to Cal- 
vinism. I guessed it was so by some of your 
pieces ; but the confirmation of it gave me a shock 
I could only have felt for one I was interested in. 
You will not wonder at this when I inform you 
that I am a strict Calvinist, one or two dark 
tenets excepted, which I never meddle with. 
Like many others, you are so, either from never 
having examined it with candour and impartial- 
ity, or from having unfortunately met with weak 
professors, who did not understand it ; and hypo- 
critical ones, who made it a cloak for their knav- 
ery. Both of these, I am aware, abound in 
country life ; nor am I surprised at their having 
had this effect upon your more enlightened un- 
derstanding. I fear your friend, the captain of 
the ship, was of no advantage to you in this and 
many other respects. 

My dear Sylvander, I flatter myself you have 
some opinion of Clarinda's understanding. Her 
belief in Calvinism is not (as you will be apt to 
suppose) the prejudice of education. I was 
bred by my father in the Arminian principles, 



My mother, who was an angel, died when I was 
in my tenth year. She was a Calvinist, was 
adored in her life, and died triumphing in the 
prospect of immortality. I was too young, at 
that period, to know the difference ; but her pious 
precepts and example often recurred to my mind 
amidst the giddiness and adulation of Miss in 
her teens. 'Twas since I came to this town, five 
years ago, that I imbibed my present principles. 
They were those of a dear, valued friend in whose 
judgment and integrity I had entire confidence. 
I listened to him often, with delight upon the 
subject. My mind was docile and open to con- 
viction. I resolved to investigate, with deep 
attention, that scheme of doctrine which had 
such happy effects upon him. Conviction of 
understanding, and peace of mind, were the 
happy consequences. Thus have I given you 
a true account of my faith. I trust my practice 
will ever correspond. Were I to narrate my 
past life as honestly as you have done, you would 
soon be convinced that neither of us could hope 
to be justified by our good works. 

If you have time and inclination, I should wish 
to hear your chief objections to Calvinism. They 
have been often confuted by men of great minds 
and exemplary lives, but perhaps you never 



inquired into these. Ah, Sylvander ! Heaven has 
not endowed you with such uncommon powers of 
mind to employ them in the manner you have 
done. This long, serious subject will, I know, 
have one of three effects: either to make you 
laugh in derision yawn in supine indifference 
or set about examining the hitherto-despised sub- 
ject. Judge of the interest Clarinda takes in 
you when she affirms, that there are but few 
events could take place that would afford her 
the heart-felt pleasure of the latter. 

Read this letter attentively, and answer me at 
leisure. Do not be frightened at its gravity, 
believe me, I can be as lively as you please. 
Though I wish Madam Minerva for my guide, 
I shall not be hindered from rambling sometimes 
in the fields of Fancy. I must tell you that I 
admire your narrative, in point of composition, 
beyond all your other productions. One thing 
I am afraid of; there is not a trace of friendship 
toward a female: now, in the case of Clarinda, 
this is the only "consummation devoutly to be 

You told me you had never met with a woman 
who could love as ardently as yourself. I be- 
lieve it ; and would advise you never to tie your- 
self, till you meet with such a one. Alas ! you'll 



find many who canna, and some who manna ; but 
to be joined to one of the former description 
would make you miserable. I think you had 
almost better resolve against wedlock : for unless 
a woman were qualified for the companion, the 
friend, and the mistress, she would not do for 
you. The last may gain Sylvander, but the oth- 
ers alone can keep him. Sleep, and want of 
room, prevent my explaining myself upon "infi- 
delity in a husband," which made you stare at 
me. This, and other things, shall be matter for 
another letter, if you are not wishing this to be 
the last. If agreeable to you, I'll keep the narra- 
tive till we meet. Adieu! "Charming Clarinda" 
must e'en resign herself to the arms of Morpheus. 

Your true friend, 


P. S. Don't detain the porter. Write when 

I am probably to be in your square this after- 
noon, near two o'clock. If your room be to the 
street, I shall have the pleasure of giving you a 
nod. I have paid the porter, and you may do 
so when you write. I'm sure they have some- 
times made us pay double. Adieu! 

Tuesday Morning. 




I am delighted, charming Clarinda, with your 
honest enthusiasm for religion. Those of either 
sex, but particularly the female, who are luke- 
warm in that most important of all things, "O my 
soul, come not thou into their secrets !" 

I feel myself deeply interested in your good 
opinion, and will lay before you the outlines of 
my belief: He who is our Author and Pre- 
server, and will one day be our Judge, must be, 
not for his sake, in the way of duty, but from 
the native impulse of our hearts, the object of 
our reverential awe and grateful adoration. He 
is almighty and all-bounteous; we are weak and 
dependent: hence prayer and every other sort of 
devotion. "He is not willing that any should 
perish, but that all should come to everlasting 
life": consequently, it must be in every one's 
power to embrace His offer of "everlasting life"; 
otherwise he could not in justice condemn those 
who did not. A mind pervaded, actuated and 
governed by purity, truth, and charity, though 
it does not merit heaven, yet is an absolutely- 
necessary prerequisite, without which heaven 
can neither be obtained nor enjoyed; and by 
Divine promise, such a mind shall never fail of 


attaining "everlasting life": hence the impure, 
the deceiving and the uncharitable exclude them- 
selves from eternal bliss by their unfitness for 
enjoying it. The Supreme Being has put the 
immediate administration of all this for wise 
and good ends known to himself into the hands 
of Jesus Christ, a great Personage, whose rela- 
tion to Him we cannot comprehend, but whose 
relation to us is a Guide and Saviour; and who, 
except for our own obstinacy and misconduct, 
will bring us all, through various ways and by 
various means, to bliss at last. 

These are my tenets, my lovely friend; and 
which, I think, cannot be well disputed. My 
creed is pretty nearly expressed in that last clause 
of Jamie Dean's grace, an honest weaver in Ayr- 
shire: "Lord, grant that we may lead a gude 
life ! for a gude life maks a gude end : at least it 
helps weel." 

I am flattered by the entertainment you tell 
me you have found in my packet. You see me 
as I have been, you know me as I am, and may 
guess at what I am likely to be. I too may say, 
"Talk not of Love," &c. ; for, indeed, he has 
"plunged me deep in woe!" Not that I ever saw 
a woman who pleased unexceptionably, as my 
Clarinda elegantly says, "in the companion, the 



friend, and the mistress." One indeed, I could 
except; one, before passion threw its mists over 
my discernment, I knew the first of women! 
Her name is indelibly written in my heart's core ; 
but I dare not look on it, a degree of agony 
would be the consequence. Oh, thou perfidious, 
cruel, mischief-making demon, who presidest o'er 
that frantic passion, thou mayest, thou dost 
poison my peace, but shalt not taint my honour ! 
I would not for a single moment give an asylum 
to the most distant imagination that would 
shadow the faintest outline of a selfish gratifica- 
tion at the expense of her, whose happiness is 
twisted with the threads of my existence. May 
she be happy, as she deserves! And if my ten- 
derest, f a:thfulest friendship can add to her bliss, 
I shall, at least, have one' solid mine of enjoy- 
ment in my bosom! Don't guess at these rav- 

I watched at our front window to-day, but 
was disappointed. It has been a day of disap- 
pointments. I am just risen from a two-hours' 
bout after supper, with silly or sordid souls who 
could relish nothing in common with me but the 
Port. "One!" Tis now the "witching time of 
night," and whatever is out of joint in the fore- 
going scrawl, impute it to enchantments and 


spells; for I can't look over it, but will seal it 
up directly, as I don't care for to-morrow's criti- 
cisms on it. 

You are by this time fast asleep, Clarinda; 
may good angels attend and guard you as con- 
stantly and as faithfully as my good wishes do I 

"Beauty which, whether waking or asleep, 
Shot forth peculiar graces." 

John Milton, I wish thy soul better rest than 
I expect on my pillow to-night! O for a little 
of the cart-horse part of human nature! Good 
night, my dearest Clarinda! 


Tuesday Night. 




Wednesday, 10 P.M. 

This moment your letter was delivered to me. 
My boys are asleep. The youngest has been for 
some time in a crazy state of health, but has been 
worse these two days past. Partly this and the 
badness of the day prevented my exchanging a 
heartfelt Howd'ye, yesterday. Friday, if noth- 
ing prevents, I shall have that pleasure about two 
o'clock or a little before it. 

I wonder how you could write so distinctly 
after two or three hours over a bottle; but they 
were not congenial whom you sat with, and there- 
fore your spirits remained unexhausted; and 
when quit of them you fled to a friend who can 
relish most things in common with you (except 
Port). 'Tis dreadful what a variety of these 
"silly sordid souls" one meets with in life! but in 
scenes of mere sociability these pass. In reading 
the account you give of your inveterate turn for 
social pleasure, I smiled at its resemblance to my 
own. It is so great, that I often think I had been 
a man but for some mistake of Nature. If you 
saw me in a merry party, you would suppose me 
only an enthusiast in fun; but I now avoid such 
parties. My spirits are sunk for days after; and, 



what is worse, there are sometimes dull or mali- 
cious souls who censure me loudly for what their 
sluggish natures cannot comprehend. Were I 
possessed of an independent fortune, I would 
scorn their pitiful remarks ; but everything in my 
situation renders prudence necessary.* 

I have slept little these two nights. My child 
was uneasy, and that kept me awake watching 
him! Sylvander, if I have merit in anything, 
'tis in an unremitting attention to my two chil- 
dren; but it cannot be denominated merit, since 
'tis as much inclination as duty. A prudent 
woman (as the world goes) told me she was sur- 
prised I loved them, "considering what a father 
they had." I replied with acrimony, I could not 
but love my children in any case ; but my having 
given them the misfortune of such a father, en- 
dears them doubly to my heart: they are inno- 
cent-^they depend upon me and I feel this the 
most tender of all claims. While I live, my fond- 
est attentions shall be theirs! 

All my life I loved the unfortunate, and ever 
will. Did you ever read Fielding's Amelia? If 
you have not, I beg you would. There are 
scenes in it, tender domestic scenes, which I have 

* Financial independence might have made a great difference 
with her. It might even have meant her divorce, and her marriage 
with Burns. 



read over and over, with feelings too delightful 
to describe! I meant a "Booth," such a one infi- 
nitely to be preferred to a brutal, though per- 
haps constant husband. I can conceive a man 
fond of his wife, yet, ( Sylvander-like ) hurried 
into a momentary deviation, while his heart 
remained faithful. If he concealed it, it could 
not hurt me; but if, unable to bear the anguish 
of self-reproach, he unbosomed it to me, I would 
not only forgive him, but comfort and speak 
kindly and in secret only weep. Reconciliation, 
in such a case, would be exquisite beyond almost 
anything I can conceive! Do you now under- 
stand me on this subject? I was uneasy till it 
was explained; for all I have said, I know not 
if I had been an "Amelia," even with a "Booth." 
My resentments are keen, like all my other feel- 
ings: I am exquisitely alive to kindness and to 
unkindness. The first binds me forever! But I 
have none of the spaniel in my nature. The last 
would soon cure me, though I loved to distrac- 
tion. But all this is not, perhaps, interesting to 
Sylvander. I have seen nobody to-day ; and, like 
a true egotist, talk away to please myself. I 
am not in a humour to answer your creed to- 

I have been puzzling my brain about the fair 



one you bid me "not guess at." I first thought it 
your Jean ; but I don't know if she now possesses 
your "tenderest, faithfulest friendship." I can't 
understand that bonny lassie: her refusal, after 
such proofs of love proves her to be either an 
angel or a dolt. I beg pardon; I know not all 
the circumstances, and am no judge therefore. 
I love you for your continued fondness, even 
after enjoyment: few of your sex have souls in 
such cases. But I take this to be the test of true 
love mere desire is all the bulk of people are 
susceptible of; and that is soon satiated. "Your 
good wishes." You had mine, Sylvander, before 
I saw you. You will have them while I live.. 
With you, I wish I had a little of the "cart-horse" 
in me. You and I have some horse properties; 
but more of the eagle, and too much of the turtle- 
dove ! Goodnight ! 

Your friend, 


Thursday Morning. 

This day is so good that I'll make out my call 
to your Square. I am laughing to myself at 
announcing this for the third time. Were she who 
"poisons your peace" to intend you a Pisgah 
view, she could do no more than I have done on 



this trivial occasion. Keep a good heart, Syl- 
vander; the eternity of your love-sufferings will 
be ended before six weeks. Such perjuries the 
"Laughing gods allow." But remember, there 
is no such toleration in friendship, and 

I am yours, 





I am certain I saw you, Clarinda; but you 
don't look to the proper story for a poet's lodg- 

"Where Speculation roosted near the sky." 

I could almost have thrown myself over, for very 
vexation. Why didn't you look higher? It has 
spoilt my peace for this day. To be so near my 
charming Clarinda; to miss her look while it was 
searching for me. I am sure the soul is capable 
of disease; for mine has convulsed itself into an 
inflammatory fever. I am sorry for your little 
boy: do let me know to-morrow how he is. 

You have converted me, Clarinda, (I shall 
love that name while I live : there is heavenly mu- 
sic in it) . Booth and Amelia I know well. Your 
sentiments on that subject, as they are on every 
subject, are just and noble. "To be feelingly 
alive to kindness and to unkindness," is a charm- 
ing female character. 

What I said in my last letter, the powers of 
fuddling sociality only know for me. By yours, 
I understand my good star has been partly in 
my horizon, when I got wild in my reveries. Had 
that evil planet, which has almost all my life shed 



its baleful rays on my devoted head, been as usual 
in its zenith, I had certainly blabbed something 
that would have pointed out to you the dear 
object of my tenderest friendship, and, in spite of 
me, something more. Had *iiat fatal informa- 
tion escaped me, and it was merely chance or 
kind stars that it did not, I had been undone! 
You would never have written me, except, per- 
haps, once more! O, I could curse circum- 
stances! and the coarse tie of human laws which 
keeps fast what common sense would loose, and 
which bars that happiness itself cannot give 
happiness which otherwise love and honour would 
warrant! But hold I shall make no more 
"hair-breadth 'scapes." 

My friendship, Clarinda, is a life-rent busi- 
ness. My likings are both strong and eternal. 
I told you I had but one male friend : I have but 
two female. I should have a third, but she is 
surrounded by the blandishments of flattery and 
courtship. Her I register in my heart's core by 
Peggy Chalmers : Miss Nimmo can tell you how 
divine she is. She is worthy of a place in the 
same bosom with my Clarinda. That is the high- 
est compliment I can pay her. Farewell, Cla- 
rinda! Remember SYLVANDER. 

Thursday, Noon. 




Thursday Eve. 

I could not see you, Sylvander, though I had 
twice traversed the Square. I'm persuaded you 
saw me not neither. I met the young lady I 
meant to call for first; and returned to seek an- 
other acquaintance, but found her moved. All 
the time, my eye soared to poetic heights, alias 
garrets, but not a glimpse of you could I obtain! 
You surely was within the glass, at least. I re- 
turned, finding my intrinsic dignity a good deal 
hurt, as I missed my friend. Perhaps I shall 
see you again next week: say how high you are. 
Thanks for your inquiry about my child ; his com- 
plaints are of a tedious kind, and require patience 
and resignation. Religion has taught me both. 
By nature I inherit as little of them as a certain 
harum-scarum friend of mine. In what respects 
has Clarinda "converted you"? Tell me. It 
were an arduous task indeed. 

Your "ravings" last night, and your ambigu- 
ous remarks upon them I cannot, perhaps ought 
not, to comprehend. I am your friend, Sylvan- 
der : take care lest virtue demand even friendship 
as a sacrifice. You need not curse the tie of 
human laws; since what is the happiness Cla- 



rinda would derive from being loosed? At pres- 
ent, she enjoys the hope of having her children 
provided for. In the other case, she is left, in- 
deed, at liberty, but half dependent on the bounty 
of a friend, kind in substantiate, but having no 
feelings of romance : * and who are the generous, 
the disinterested, who would risk the world's 
"dread laugh" to protect her and her little ones? 
Perhaps a Sylvander-like son of whim and fancy 
might, in a sudden fit of romance : but would not 
ruin be the consequence? Perhaps one of the 
former . . . yet if he was not dearer to her than 
all the world such are still her romantic ideas 
she could not be his. 

You see, Sylvander, you have no cause to 
regret my bondage. The above is a true picture. 
Have I not reason to rejoice that I have it not 
in my power to dispose of myself? "I commit 
myself into thy hands, thou Supreme Disposer of 
all events! do with me as seemeth to thee good." 
Who is this one male friend? I know your third 
female. Ah, Sylvander! many "that are first 
shall be last," and vice versa! I am proud of 
being compared to Miss Chalmers: I have heard 
how amiable she is. She cannot be more so than 
Miss Nimmo: why do ye not register her also? 

* Her cousin, Lord Craig. 



She is warmly your friend; surely you are in- 
capable of ingratitude. She has almost wept 
to me at mentioning your intimacy with a certain 
famous or infamous man in town. Do you think 
Clarinda could anger you just now? I com- 
posed lines addressed to you some time ago, con- 
taining a hint upon the occasion. I had not cour- 
age to send them then: if you say you'll not be 
angry, I will yet. 

I know not how 'tis, but I felt an irresistible 
impulse to write you the moment I read yours. 
I have a design in it. Part of your interest in 
me is owing to mere novelty. You'll be tired of 
my correspondence ere you leave town, and will 
never fash to write me from the country. I for- 
give you in a "state of celibacy." Sylvander, I 
wish I saw you happily married: you are so 
formed, you cannot be happy without a tender 
attachment. Heaven direct you! 

When you see Bishop Geddes, ask him if he 
remembers a lady at Mrs. Kemp's, on a Sunday 
night, who listened to every word he uttered with 
a gaze of attention. I saw he observed me, and 
returned that glance of cordial warmth which 
assured me he was pleased with my delicate flat- 
tery. I wished that night he had been my father, 
that I might shelter me in his bosom. 


You shall have this, as you desired, to-morrow; 
and, if possible none for four or five days. I say, 
if possible: for I really can't but write, as if I 
had nothing else to do. I admire your Epitaph ; 
but while I read it, my heart swells at the sad 
idea of its realisation. Did you ever read San- 
cho's Letters? they would hit your taste. My 
next will be on my favourite theme religion. 

Farewell, Sylvander! Be wise, be prudent, 
and be happy. 


Let your next be sent in the morning. 

If you were well, I would ask you to meet me 
to-morrow, at twelve o'clock. I go down in the 
Leith fly, with poor Willie : what a pleasant chat 
we might have! But I fancy 'tis impossible. 

Friday, One o'clock. 




Saturday Morning. 

Your thoughts on religion, Clarinda, shall be 
welcome. You may perhaps distrust me when 
I say 'tis also my favourite topic ; but mine is the 
religion of the bosom. I hate the very idea of 
controversial divinity; as I firmly believe that 
every honest, upright man, of whatever sect, will 
be accepted of the Deity. If your verses, as you 
seem to hint, contain censure, except you want 
an occasion to break with me, don't send them. 
I have a little infirmity in my disposition, that 
where I fondly love or highly esteem I cannot 
bear reproach. 

"Reverence thyself," is a sacred maxim; and 
I wish to cherish it. I think I told you Lord 
Bolingbroke's saying to Swift, "Adieu, dear 
Swift! with all thy faults I love thee entirely: 
make an effort to love me with all mine." A 
glorious sentiment, and without which there can 
be no friendship! I do highly, very highly, es- 
teem you indeed, Clarinda: you merit it all! 
Perhaps, too I scorn dissimulation I could 
fondly love you: judge, then, what a maddening 
sting your reproach would be. "Oh, I have sins 
to heaven, but none to you." With what pleas- 



ure would I meet you to-day, but I cannot walk 
to meet the Fly. I hope to be able to see you, on 
foot, about the middle of next week. I am inter- 
rupted perhaps you are not sorry for it. You 
will tell me: but I won't anticipate blame. O, 
Clarinda! did you know how dear to me is your 
look of kindness, your smile of approbation, you 
would not, either in prose or verse, risk a cen- 
sorious remark. 

"Curst be the verse, how well soe'er it flow, 
That tends to make one worthy man my foe." 





You talk of weeping, Clarinda: * some invol- 
untary drops wet your lines as I read them. 
Offend me, my dearest angel! You cannot of- 
fend me, you never offended me. If you had 
ever given me the least shadow of offence, so 
pardon me my God as I forgive Clarinda. I 
have read yours again; it has blotted my paper. 
Though I find your letter has agitated me into 
a violent headache, I shall take a chair and be 
with you about eight. A friend is to be with us 
at tea, on my account, which hinders me from 
coming sooner. Forgive, dearest Clarinda, my 
unguarded expressions! For Heaven's sake, 
forgive me, or I shall never be able to bear my 
own mind. 

(Your unhappy 


*Clarinda's missing letter must have been in her most pathetic 
vein. Evidently she was afraid of having been a shade too didactic 
for his patience, and, whatever she may have wished, it surely was 
not to lose him. 



Sunday Evening. 

I will not deny it, Sylvander, last night was one 
of the most exquisite I ever experienced. Few 
such fall to the lot of mortals ! Few, extremely 
few, are formed to relish such refined enjoyment. 
That it should be so, vindicates the wisdom of 
Heaven. But, though our enjoyment did not 
lead beyond the limits of virtue, yet to-day's re- 
flections have not been altogether unmixed with 
regret. The idea of the pain it would have given, 
were it known to a friend to whom I am bound 
by the sacred ties of gratitude, (no more,) the 
opinion Sylvander may have formed from my 
unreservedness ; and, above all, some secret mis- 
givings that Heaven may not approve, situated 
as I am these procured me a sleepless night; 
and, though at church, I am not at all well. 

Sylvander, you saw Clarinda last night, behind 
the scenes! Now, you'll be convinced she has 
faults. If she knows herself, her intention is 
always good; but she is too often the victim of 
sensibility, and, hence, is seldom pleased with 
herself. A rencontre to-day I will relate to you, 
because it will show you I have my own share of 
pride. I met with a sister of Lord Napier, at 



the house of a friend with whom I sat between 
sermons: I knew who she was, but paid her no 
other marks of respect than I do to any gentle- 
woman. She eyed me with minute, supercilious 
attention, never looking at me, when I spoke, 
but even half interrupted me, before I had done 
addressing the lady of the house. I felt my face 
glow with resentment, and consoled myself with 
the idea of being her superior in every respect 
but the accidental, trifling one of birth! I was 
disgusted at the fawning deference the lady 
showed her; and when she told me at the door 
that it was my Lord Napier's sister, I replied, 
"Is it, indeed? by her ill breeding I should have 
taken her for the daughter of some upstart 
tradesman !" 

Sylvander, my sentiments as to birth and for- 
tune are truly unfashionable: I despise the per- 
sons who pique themselves on either, the for- 
mer especially. Something may be allowed to 
bright talents or even external beauty these be- 
long to us essentially; but birth in no respect can 
confer merit, because it is not our own. A per- 
son of a vulgar uncultivated mind I would not 
take to my bosom, in any station; but one pos- 
sessed of natural genius, improved by education 
and diligence, such an one I'd take for my friend, 



be her extraction ever so mean. These, alone, 
constitute any real distinction between man and 
man. Are we not all the offspring of Adam? 
have we not one God? one Saviour? one Immor- 
tality? I have found but one among all my 
acquaintance who agreed with me my Mary, 
whom I mentioned to you. I am to spend to- 
morrow with her, if I am better. I like her the 
more that she likes you. 

I intended to resume a little upon your favour- 
ite topic, the "Religion of the Bosom." Did you 
ever imagine that I meant any other? Poor 
were that religion and unprofitable whose seat 
was merely in the brain. In most points we seem 
to agree: only I found all my hopes of pardon 
and acceptance with Heaven upon the merit of 
Christ's atonement, whereas you do upon a 
good life. You think "it helps weel, at least." 
If anything we could do had been able to atone 
for the violation of God's Law, where was the 
need (I speak it with reverence) of such an aston- 
ishing Sacrifice? Job was an "upright man." 
In the dark season of adversity, when other sins 
were brought to his remembrance, he boasted of 
his integrity ; but no sooner did God reveal Him- 
self to him, than he exclaims : "Behold I am vile, 
and abhor myself in dust and ashes." Ah! my 



friend, 'tis pride that hinders us from embracing 
Jesus ! we would be our own Saviour, and scorn 
to be indebted even to the "Son of the Most 
High." But this is the only sure foundation of 
our hopes. It is said by God Himself, " 'tis to 
some a stumbling-block: to others foolishness;" 
but they who believe, feel it to be the "Wisdom 
of God, and the Power of God." 

If my head did not ache, I would continue the 
subject. I, too, hate controversial religion; but 
this is the "Religion of the Bosom." My God! 
Sylvander, why am I so anxious to make you 
embrace the Gospel? I dare not probe too deep 
for an answer let your heart answer : in a word 
Benevolence. When I return, I'll finish this. 
Meantime, adieu! Sylvander, I intended doing 
you good: if it prove the reverse, I shall never 
forgive myself. Good night. 

Tuesday, Noon. Just returned from the 
Dean, where I dined and supped with fourteen 
of both sexes : all stupid. My Mary and I alone 
understood each other. However, we were joy- 
ous, and I sung in spite of my cold; but no wit. 
'Twould have been pearls before swine literalised. 
I recollect promising to write you. Sylvander, 
you'll never find me worse than my word. If 
you have written me, (which I hope,) send it to 



me when convenient, either at nine in the morn- 
ing or evening. I fear your limb may be worse 
from staying so late. I have other fears too: 
guess them! Oh! my friend, I wish ardently to 
maintain your esteem; rather than forfeit one 
iota of it, I'd be content never to be wiser than 
now. Our last interview has raised you very 
high in mine. I have met with few, indeed, of 
your sex who understood delicacy in such circum- 
stances; yet 'tis that only which gives a relish to 
such delightful intercourse. Do you wish to pre- 
serve my esteem, Sylvander? do not be proud to 
Clarinda! She deserves it not. I subscribe to 
Lord B.'s sentiments to Swift; yet some faults I 
shall still sigh over, though you style it reproach 
even to hint them. Adieu ! You have it much in 
your power to add to the happiness or unhappi- 
ness of 





Monday Evening, 11 o'clock. 

Why have I not heard from you, Clarinda? 
To-day I expected it; and, before supper, when 
a letter to me was announced, my heart danced 
with rapture; but behold, 'twas some fool who 
had taken it into his head to turn poet, and made 
me an offering of the first fruits of his nonsense. 
It is not poetry, but "prose run mad." 

Did I ever repeat to you an epigram I made on 
a Mr. Elphinstone, who has given a translation 
of Martial, a famous Latin poet? The poetry of 
Elphinstone can only equal his prose notes. I 
was sitting in a merchant's shop of my acquaint- 
ance, waiting somebody ; he put Elphinstone into 
my hand, and asked my opinion of it. I begged 
leave to write it on a blank leaf, which I did. 


"O thou whom poesy abhors, 
Whom prose has turned out of doors, 
Heardst thou yon groan? proceed no further, 
'Twas laurel'd Martial calling murther." 

I am determined to see you, if at all possible, 
on Saturday evening. Next week I must sing 



"The night is my departing night, 
The morn's the day I maun awa ; 
There's neither friend nor foe of mine, 
But wishes that I were awa. 

What I hae done for lack of wit, 
I never, never can reca'; 
I hope ye're a' my friends as yet. 
Gude night, and joy be wi' you a'." 

If I could see you sooner, I would be so much 
the happier; but I would not purchase the dear- 
est gratification on earth, if it must be at your 
expense in worldly censure, far less inward peace. 

I shall certainly be ashamed of thus scrawling 
whole sheets of incoherence. The only unity (a 
sad word with poets and critics) in my ideas, is 
Clarinda. There my heart "reigns and revels." 

"What art thou, Love ? whence are those charms, 
That thus thou bear'st an universal rule? 
For thee the soldier quite his arms, 
The king turns slave, the wise man fool. 
In vain we chase thee from the field, 
And with cool thoughts resist thy yoke; 
Next tide of blood, alafe ! we yield, 
And all those high resolves are broke!" 

I like to have quotations ready for every occa- 
sion. They give one's ideas so pat, and save one 


the trouble of finding expression adequate to 
one's feelings. I think it is one of the greatest 
pleasures attending a poetic genius, that we can 
give our woes, cares, joys, loves, &c., an embodied 
form in verse, which, to me, is ever immediate 
ease. Goldsmith says finely of his muse 

"Thou source of all my bliss and all my woe; 
Who found'st me poor at first, and keep'st me 

My limb has been so well to-day, that I have 
gone up and down stairs often without my staff. 
To-morrow I hope to walk once again on my 
own legs to dinner. It is only next street. 
Adieu I 




Tuesday Evening. 

That you have faults, my Clarinda, I never 
doubted ; but I know not where they existed ; and 
Saturday night made me more in the dark than 
ever. O, Clarinda! why would you wound my 
soul by hinting that last night must have les- 
sened my opinion of you. True, I was behind the 
scenes with you; but what did I see? A bosom 
glowing with honour and benevolence; a mind 
ennobled by genius, informed and refined by 
education and reflection, and exalted by native 
religion, genuine as in the climes of Heaven; a 
heart formed for all the glorious meltings of 
friendship, love and pity. These I saw. I saw 
the noblest immortal soul creation ever showed 

I looked long, my dear Clarinda, for your 
letter ; and am vexed that you are complaining. 
I have not caught you so far wrong as in your 
dea that the commerce you have with one friend 
hurts you, if you cannot tell every tittle of it to 
another. Why have so injurious a suspicion of a 
good God, Clarinda, as to think that Friendship 
and Love, on the sacred, inviolate principles of 



Truth, Honour and Religion, can be anything 
else than an object of His divine approbation? 

I have mentioned, in some of my former 
scrawls, Saturday evening next. Do allow me 
to wait on you that evening. Oh, my angel ! how 
soon must we part! and when can we meet 
again? I look forward on the horrid interval 
with tearful eyes. What have I not lost by not 
knowing you sooner! I fear, I fear, my acquaint- 
ance with you is too short to make that lasting 
impression on your heart I could wish. 




Wednesday Morning. 

Your mother's wish was fully realised. I slept 
sounder last night than for weeks past and 
I had a "blithe wakening": for your letter was 
the first object my eyes opened on. Sylvander, 
I fancy you and Vulcan are intimates: he has 
lent you a key which opens Clarinda's heart at 
pleasure, shows you what is there, and enables 
you to adapt yourself to its every feeling! I 
believe I shall give over writing you. Your 
letters are too much! my way is, alas! "hedged 
in"; but had I, like Sylvander, "the world be- 
fore me," I should bid him, if he had a friend 
that loved me, tell him to write as he does, 
and "that would woo me." Seriously, you are 
the first letter-writer I ever knew. I only won- 
der how you can be fashed with my scrawls. I 
impute it to partialities. Either to-morrow or 
Friday I shall be happy to see you. On Sat- 
urday, I am not sure of being alone, or at home. 
Say which you'll come? Come to tea if you 
please; but eight will be an hour less liable to 
intrusions. I hope you'll come afoot even though 
you take a chair home. A chair is so uncommon 
a thing in our neighbourhood, it is apt to raise 



speculation but they are all asleep by ten. I 
am happy to hear of your being able to walk 
even to the next street. You are a consummate 
flatterer; really my cheeks glow while I read 
your flights of Fancy. I fancy you see I like 
it, when you peep into the Repository. I know 
none insensible to that "delightful essence." If 
I grow affected or conceited, you are alone to 
blame. Ah, my friend! these are disgusting 
qualities! but I am not afraid. I know any 
merit I may have perfectly but I know many 
sad counterbalances. 

Your lines on Elphinstone were clever, beyond 
anything I ever saw of the kind; I know the 
character the figure is enough to make one cry, 
Murder! He is a complete pedant in language; 
but are not you and I pedants in something 
else? Yes, but in far superior things: Love, 
Friendship, Poesy, Religion! Ah, Sylvander! 
you have murdered Humility, and I can say 
thou didst it. You carry your warmth too far 
as to Miss Napier, (not Nairn;) yet I am 
pleased at it. She is sensible, lively, and well- 
liked they say. She was not to know Clarinda 
was "divine," and therefore kept her distance. 
She is comely, but a thick bad figure, waddles 
in her pace, and has rosy cheeks. 


Wha is that clumsy damsel there? 
Whisht! it's the daughter of a Peer, 
Right honorably Great! 

The daughter of a Peer, I cried, 

It doth not yet appear 
What we shall be (in t'other world), 

God keep us frae this here! 
That she has Blude, I'se no dispute, 

I see it in her face; 
Her honour's in her name, I fear, 

And in nae other place. 

I hate myself for being satirical hate me for 
it too. I'll certainly go to Miers to please you, 
either with 'Mary or Miss Nimmo. Sylvander, 
some interesting parts of yours I cannot enter 
on at present. I dare not think upon parting 
upon the interval ; but I am sure both are wisely 
ordered for our good. A line in return to tell 
me which night you'll be with me. "Lasting 
impression!" Your key might have shown you 
me better. Say, my lover, poet, and my friend, 
what day next month the Eternity will end? 
When you use your key, don't rummage too 
much, lest you find I am half as great a fool in 
the tender as yourself. Farewell! Sylvander. 
I may sign, for I am already sealed your friend. 




Sunday Night. 

The impertinence of fools has joined with the 
return of an old indisposition to make me good 
for nothing to-day. The paper has lain before 
me all this evening to write to my dear Clarinda ; 

"Fools rush'd on fools, as waves succeed to 


I cursed them in my soul: they sacrilegiously 
disturb my meditations on her who holds my 
heart. What a creature is man! A little alarm 
last night and to-day that I am mortal, has 
made such a revolution in my spirits! There is 
no philosophy, no divinity, comes half so home 
to the mind. I have no idea of courage that 
braves Heaven. 'Tis the wild ravings of an 
imaginary hero in Bedlam. I can no more, 
Clarinda; I can scarce hold up my head; but I 
am happy you don't know it, you would be so 
uneasy. SYLVANDEK. 

Monday Morning. 

I am, my lovely friend, much better this morn- 
ing, on the whole; but I have a horrid languor 
on my spirits. 



"Sick of the world and all its joy, 
My soul in pining sadness mourns ; 
Dark scenes of woe my mind employ, 
The past and present in their turns." 

Have you ever met with a saying of the great 
and likewise good Mr. Locke, author of the 
famous essay on the Human Understanding? 
He wrote a letter to a friend, directing it "Not 
to be delivered till after my decease." It ended 
thus* "I know you loved me when living, and 
will preserve my memory now I am dead. All 
the use to be made of it is, that this life affords 
no solid satisfaction, but in the consciousness of 
having done well, and the hopes of another life. 
Adieu! I leave my best wishes with you. 
J. Locke." 

Clarinda, may I reckon on your friendship for 
life? I think I may. Thou Almighty Preserver 
of men! Thy friendship, which hitherto I have 
too much neglected, to secure it shall, all the 
future days and nights of my life, be my steady 
care. The idea of my Clarinda follows : 

"Hide it, my heart, within that close disguise, 
Where, mix'd with God's, her lov'd idea lies." 

But I fear inconstancy, the consequent imper- 
fection of human weakness. Shall I meet with 


a friendship that defies years of absence and the 
chances and changes of fortune? Perhaps "such 
things are." One honest man I have great hopes 
from that way ; but who, except a romance writer, 
would think on a love that could promise for life, 
in spite of distance, absence, chance and change, 
and that, too, with slender hopes of fruition? 

For my own part, I can say to myself in both 
requisitions "Thou art the man." I dare, in 
cool resolve, I dare declare myself that friend 
and that lover. If womankind is capable of such 
things, Clarinda is. I trust that she is; and feel 
I shall be miserable if she is not. There is not 
one virtue which gives worth, or one sentiment 
which does honour to the sex, that she does not 
possess superior to any woman I ever saw: her 
exalted mind, aided a little, perhaps, by her sit- 
uation, is, I think, capable of that nobly-romantic 
love-enthusiasm. May I see you on Wednesday 
evening, my dear angel? The next Wednesday 
again, will, I conjecture, be a hated day to us 
both. I tremble for censorious remarks, for your 
sake; but in extraordinary cases, may not usual 
and useful precaution be a little dispensed with? 
Three evenings, three swift-winged evenings, 
with pinions of down, are all the past I dare not 
calculate the future. I shall call at Miss Nim- 



mo's to-morrow evening; 'twill be a farewell call. 

I have written out my last sheet of paper, so I 
am reduced to my last half-sheet. What a 
strange, mysterious faculty is that thing called 
imagination! We have no ideas almost at all, 
of another world; but I have often amused my- 
self with visionary schemes of what happiness 
might be enjoyed by small alterations, altera- 
tions that we can fully enter to in this present 
state of existence. For instance: supposing you 
and I just as we are at present; the same rea- 
soning powers, sentiments, and even desires; the 
same fond curiosity for knowledge and remark- 
ing observation in our minds; and imagine our 
bodies free from pain, and the necessary supplies 
for the wants of nature at all times and easily 
within our reach. Imagine, further, that we were 
set free from the laws of gravitation, which bind 
us to this globe, and could at pleasure fly, with- 
out inconvenience, through all the yet uncon- 
jectured bounds of creation; what a life of bliss 
should we lead in our mutual pursuit of virtue 
and knowledge, and our mutual enjoyment of 
friendship and love ! 

I see you laughing at my fairy fancies, and 
calling me a voluptuous Mahometan; but I am 
certain I should be a happy creature, beyond any- 



thing we call bliss here below: nay, it would be 
a paradise congenial to you too. Don't you see 
us hand in hand, or rather my arm about your 
lovely waist, making our remarks on Sirius, the 
nearest of the fixed stars ; or surveying the comet 
flaming innoxious by us, as we just now would 
mark the passing pomp of a travelling monarch ; 
or in a shady bower of Mercury or Venus, dedi- 
cating the hour to love, in mutual converse, rely- 
ing honour, and revelling endearment, while the 
most exalted strains of poesy and harmony would 
be the ready, spontaneous language of our souls ! 
Devotion is the favourite employment of your 
heart ; so is it of mine : what incentives then to, 
and powers for reverence, gratitude, faith, and 
hope, in all the fervour of adoration and praise 
to that Being, whose unsearchable wisdom, 
power, and goodness, so pervaded, so inspired, 
every sense and feeling! By this time, I dare- 
say, you will be blessing the neglect of the maid 
that leaves me destitute of paper. 




Thursday Morning. 

"Unlavish Wisdom never works in vain." 

I have been tasking my reason, Clarinda, why 
a woman, who, for native genius, poignant wit, 
strength of mind, generous sincerity of soul and 
the sweetest female tenderness, is without a peer ; 
and wiiose personal charms have few, very few 
parallels among her sex ; why, or how, she should 
fall to the blessed lot of a poor harum-scarum 
poet, whom Fortune had kept for her particular 
use to wreak her temper on, whenever she was in 

One time I conjectured that, as Fortune is the 
most capricious jade ever known, she may have 
taken, not a fit of remorse, but a paroxysm of 
whim, to raise the poor devil out of the mire 
where he had so often, and so conveniently, 
served her as a stepping-stone, and given him the 
most glorious boon she ever had in her gift, 
merely for the maggot's sake, to see how his 
fool head and his fool heart will bear it. 

At other times, I was vain enough to think 
that Nature, who has a great deal to say with 
Fortune, had given the coquettish goddess some 
such hint as "Here is a paragon of female ex- 



cellence, whose equal, in all my former composi- 
tions, I never was lucky enough to hit on, and 
despair of ever doing so again: you have cast 
her rather in the shades of life. There is a cer- 
tain poet of my making: among your frolics, it 
would not be amiss to attach him to this master- 
piece of my hand, to give her that immortality 
among mankind, which no woman of any age 
ever more deserved, and which few rhymesters 
of this a)ge are better able to confer." 

Evening, Nine O'clock. 

I am here absolutely unfit to finish my letter 
pretty hearty after a bowl which has been 
constantly plied since dinner till this moment. 
I have been with Mr. Schetki the musician, and 
he has set the song * finely. I have no distinct 


Clarinda, mistress of my soul, 
The measured time is run! 
The wretch beneath the dreary pole 
So marks his latest sun. 

To what dark cave of frozen night 
Shall poor Sylvander hie, 
Deprived of thee, his life and light 
The sun of all his joy? 

We part but by those precious drops 

That nil thy lovely eyes I [over] 



ideas of anything, but that I have drunk your 
health twice to-night, and that you are all my 
soul holds dear in this world. 


* To CLARINDA (Continued) 

No other light shall guide my steps 
Till thy bright beams arise. 

She, the fair sun of all her sex 
Has blest my glorious day; 
And shall a glimmering planet fix 
My worship to its ray? 




Thursday Forenoon. 

Sylvander, the moment I waked this morning, 
I received a summons from Conscience to appear 
at the Bar of Reason. While I trembled before 
this sacred throne, I beheld a succession of fig- 
ures pass before me in awful brightness! Re- 
ligion, clad in a robe of light, stalked majestically 
along, her hair dishevelled, and in her hand the 
Scripture of Truth, held open at these words 
"If you love me, keep my commandments." 
Reputation followed: her eyes darted indigna- 
tion, while she waved a beautiful wreath of laurel, 
intermixed with flowers, gathered by Modesty in 
the Bower of Peace. Consideration held her 
bright mirror close to my eyes, and made me start 
at my own image! Love alone appeared as 
counsel in my behalf. She was adorned with a 
veil, borrowed from Friendship, which hid her de- 
fects and set off her beauties to advantage. She 
had no plea to offer, but that of being the sister 
of Friendship, and the offspring of Charity. But 
Reason refused to listen to her defence, because 
she brought no certificate from the Temple of 
Hymen! While I trembled before her, Reason 
addressed me in the following manner: "Re- 



turn to my paths, which alone are peace; shut 
your heart against the fascinating intrusion of 
the passions; take Consideration for your guide, 
and you will soon arrive at the Bower of Tran- 

Sylvander, to drop my metaphor, I am neither 
well nor happy to-day: my heart reproaches me 
for last night. If you wish Clarinda to regain 
her peace, determine against everything but what 
the strictest delicacy warrants. 

I do not blame you, but myself. I must not 
see you on Saturday, unless I find I can depend 
on myself acting otherwise. Delicacy, you know, 
it was which won me to you at once: take care 
you do not loosen the dearest, most sacred tie 
that unites us! Remember Clarinda's present 
and eternal happiness depends upon her adher- 
ence to Virtue. Happy Sylvander! that can 
be attached to Heaven and Clarinda together. 
Alas! I feel I cannot serve two masters! God 
pity me ! I 

Thursday Night. 

Why have I not heard from you, Sylvander? 
Everything in nature seems tinged with gloom 
to-day. Ah! Sylvander 

"The heart's ay the part ay 
That makes us right or wrang!" 


How forcibly have these lines recurred to my 
thoughts! Did I not tell you what a wretch 
love rendered me? Affection to the strongest 
height, I am capable of, to a man of my Sylvan- 
der's merit if it did not lead me into weak- 
nesses and follies my heart utterly condemns. 
I am convinced, without the approbation of 
Heaven and my own mind, existence would be to 
me a heavy curse. Sylvander, why do not your 
Clarinda's repeated levities cure the too passion- 
ate fondness you express for her? Perhaps it 
has a little removed esteem. But I dare not 
touch this string it would fill up the cup of my 
present misery. Oh, Sylvander, may the friend- 
ship of that God, you and I have too much neg- 
lected to secure, be henceforth our chief study 
and delight. I cannot live deprived of the con- 
sciousness of His favour. I feel something of 
this awful state all this day. Nay, while I ap- 
proached God with my lips, my heart was not 
fully there. 

Mr. Locke's posthumous letter ought to be 
written in letters of gold. What heartfelt joy 
does the consciousness of having done well in 
any one instance confer; and what agony the 
reverse! Do not be displeased when I tell you 
I wish our parting was over. At a distance we 



shall retain the same heartfelt affection and in- 
terestedness in each other's concerns; but ab- 
sence will mellow and restrain those violent heart- 
agitations which, if continued much longer, would 
unhinge my very soul, and render me unfit for 
the duties of life. You and I are capable of that 
ardency of love, for which the wide creation can- 
not afford an adequate object. Let us seek to 
repose it in the bosom of our God. Let us next 
give a place to those dearest on earth the ten- 
der charities of parent, sister, child! I bid you 
good night with this short prayer of Thom- 

"Father of Light and Life, thou good Supreme! 
Oh teach us what is good teach us Thyself! 
Save us from Folly, Vanity and Vice," &c. 

Your letter I should have liked had it con- 
tained a little of the last one's seriousness. Bless 
me! You must not flatter so; but it's in a 
"merry mood," and I make allowances. Part of 
some of your encomiums, I know I deserve; but 
you are far out when you enumerate "strength 
of mind" among them. I have not even an ordi- 
nary share of it every passion does what it will 
with me ; and all my life, I have been guided by 



the impulse of the moment unsteady, and weak. 
I thank you for the letter, though it stickit my 
prayer. Why did you tell me you drank away 
Reason, "that Heaven-lighted lamp in man"? 
When Sylvander utters a calm, sober sentiment, 
he is never half so charming.* I have read sev- 
eral of these in your last letter with vast pleasure. 
Good night! 

Friday Morning. 

My servant (who is a good soul) will deliver 
you this. She is going down to Leith, and will 
return about two or three o'clock. I have or- 
dered her to call then, in case you have aught 
to say to Clarinda to-day. I am better of that 
sickness at my heart I had yesterday ; but there's 
a sting remains, which will not be removed till I 
am at peace with Heaven and myself. Another 
interview, spent as we ought, will help to procure 
this. A day when the sun shines gloriously, al- 
ways makes me devout! I hope 'tis an earnest 
(to-day) of soon being restored to the "light of 
His countenance," who is the source of love and 
standard of perfection. Adieu! 


* As Wallace remarks with dry humour, "Clarinda's agitation 
here proved fatal to her correct style. She says exactly the op- 
posite of what she meant." 




Clarinda, my life, you have wounded my soul. 
Can I chink of your being unhappy, even though 
it be not described in your pathetic elegance of 
language, without being miserable? Clarinda, 
can I bear to be told from you that "you will not 
see me to-morrow night that you wish the hour 
of parting were come!" Do not let us impose on 
ourselves by sounds. If, in the moment of fond 
endearment and tender dalliance, I perhaps tres- 
passed against the letter of Decorum's law, I ap- 
peal, even to you, whether I ever sinned, in the 
very least degree, against the spirit of her strict- 
est statute? But why, my love, talk to me in 
such strong terms ; every word of which cuts me 
to the very soul? You know a hint, the slightest 
signification of your wish, is to me a sacred com- 

Be reconciled, my angel, to your God, your- 
self, and to me; and I pledge you Sylvander's 
honour an oath, I dare say, you will trust with- 
out reserve, that you shall never more have rea- 
son to complain of his conduct. Now, my love, 
do not wound our next meeting with any averted 
looks or restrained caresses. I have marked the 
line of conduct a line, I know, exactly to your 



taste and which I will inviolably keep; but do 
not you show the least inclination to make 
boundaries. Seeming distrust, where you know 
you may confide, is a cruel sin against sensibility. 

"Delicacy, you know, it was which won me to 
you at once; take care you do not loosen the 
dearest, the most sacred tie that unites us." Cla- 
rinda, I would not have stung your soul I 
would not have bruised your spirit, as that harsh 
crucifying "Take care" did mine; no, not to have 
gained heaven! Let me again appeal to your 
dear self, if Sylvander, even when he seemingly 
half -transgressed the laws of decorum, if he did 
not show more chastised, trembling, faltering 
delicacy, than many of the world do in keeping 
these laws? 

Oh Love and Sensibility, ye have conspired 
against my peace! I love to madness and I feel 
to torture! Clarinda, how can I forgive myself 
that I have ever touched a single chord in your 
bosom with pain! would I do it willingly? 
Would any consideration, any gratification, make 
me do so? Oh, did you love like me, you would 
not, you could not, deny or put off a meeting 
with the man who adores you; who would die 
a thousand deaths before he would injure you; 
and who must soon bid you a long farewell! 


I had proposed bringing my bosom friend, 
Mr. Ainslie, to-morrow evening, at his strong re- 
quest, to see you ; as he has only time to stay with 
us about ten minutes, for an engagement. But I 
shall hear from you: this afternoon, for mercy's 
sake! for, till I hear from you, I am wretched. 
O Clarinda, the tie that binds me to thee is in- 
twisted, incorporated, with my dearest threads of 





I was on my way, my Love, to meet you, (I 
never do things by halves, ) when I got your card. 
Mr. Ainslie goes out of town to-morrow morn- 
ing, to see a brother of his who is newly arrived 
from France. I am determined that he and I 
shall call on you together. So, look you, lest I 
should never see to-morrow, I will call on you 
to-night. Mary and you may put off tea till 
about seven, at which time, in the Galloway 
phrase, "an' the beast be to the fore and the 
branks bide hale," expect the humblest of your 
humble servants, and his dearest friend. We 
.only propose staying half an hour "for ought 
we ken." I could suffer the lash of misery eleven 
months in the year, were the twelfth to be com- 
posed of hours like yester-night. You are the 
soul of my enjoyment; all else is of the stuff of 
stocks and stones. 





Sunday, Noon. 

I have almost given up the Excise idea. I 
have been just now to wait on a great person, 
Miss 's friend, . Why will great peo- 
ple not only deafen us with the din of their equi- 
page, and dazzle us with their fastidious pomp, 
but they must also be so very dictatorially wise? 
I have been questioned like a child about my mat- 
ters, and blamed and schooled for my Inscription 
on Stirling window. Come, Clarinda! "Come, 
curse me, Jacob ; come, defy me, Israel !" 

Sunday Night. 

I have been with Miss Nimmo. She is, indeed, 
"a good soul," as my Clarinda finely says. She 
has reconciled me, in a good measure, to the 
world with her friendly prattle. 

Schetki has sent me the song, set to a fine air of 
his composing. I have called the song Clarinda: 
I have carried it about in my pocket and thumbed 
it over all day. 

Monday Morning. 

If my prayers have any weight in heaven, this 
morning looks in on you and finds you in the 


arms of peace, except where it is charmingly in- 
terrupted by the ardours of devotion. I find so 
much serenity of mind, so much positive pleas- 
ure, so much fearless daring toward the world, 
when I warm in devotion, or feel the glorious sen- 
sation a consciousness of Almighty friendship 
that I am sure I shall soon be an honest en- 

"How are thy servants blest, O Lord! 
How sure is their defence! 
Eternal^ wisdom is their guide, 
Their help Omnipotence." 

I am, my dear Madam, yours, 





Sunday, Eighth Evening. 
Sylvander, when I think of you as my dearest 
and most attached friend, I am highly pleased; 
but when you come across my mind as my lover, 
something within gives a sting resembling that 
of guilt. Tell me why is this ? It must be from 
the idea that I am another's. What? another's 
wife! Oh cruel Fate! I am, indeed, bound in 
an iron chain. Forgive me, if this should give 
you pain. You know I must (I told you I must) 
tell you my genuine feelings, or be silent. Last 
night we were happy beyond what the bulk of 
mankind can conceive. Perhaps the "line" you 
had marked was a little infringed, it was really ; 
but, though I disapprove, I have not been un- 
happy about it. I am convinced no less of your 
discernment, than of your wish to make your 
Clarinda happy. I know you sincere, when you 
profess horror at the idea of what would render 
her miserable forever. Yet we must guard 
against going to the verge of danger. Ah! my 
friend, much need had we to "watch and pray!" 
May those benevolent spirits, whose office it is 
to save the fall of Virtue struggling on the brink 


of Vice, be ever present to protect and guide us 
in right paths! 

I had an hour's conversation to-day with my 
worthy friend, Mr. Kemp.* You'll attribute, 
perhaps, to this, the above sentiments. 'Tis true, 
there's not one on earth has so much influence 
on me, except Sylvander; partly it has forced 
me "to feel along the Mental Intelligence." 
However, I've broke the ice. I confessed I had 
received a tender impression of late that it was 
mutual, and that I had wished to unbosom myself 
to him (as I always did), particularly to ask if 
he thought I should, or not, mention it to my 
friend? I saw he felt for me, (for I was in 
tears ;) but he bewailed that I had given my heart 
while in my present state of bondage; wished I 
had made it friendship only; in short, talked to 
me in the style of a tender parent, anxious for 
my happiness. He disapproves altogether of 
my saying a syllable of the matter to my friend, 
says it could only make him uneasy; and that 
I am in no way bound to do it by any one tie. 
This has eased me of a load which has lain upon 
my mind ever since our intimacy. Sylvander, I 
wish you and Mr. Kemp were acquainted, such 
worth and sensibility! If you had his piety and 

* Her pastor. 



sobriety of manners, united to the shining abili- 
ties you possess, you'd be "a faultless monster 
which the world ne'er saw." He, too, has great 
talents. His imagination is rich his feelings 
delicate his discernment acute; yet there are 
shades in his, as in all characters: but these it 
would ill become Clarinda to point out. Alas! 
I know too many blots in my own. 

Sylvander, I believe nothing were a more im- 
practicable task than to make you feel a little 
of the genuine gospel humility. Believe me, I 
wish not to see you deprived of that noble fire 
of an exalted mind which you eminently possess. 
Yet a sense of your faults a feeling sense of 
them! were devoutly to be wished. Tell me, did 
you ever, or how oft have you smote on your 
breast, and cried, "God be merciful to me a 
sinner?" I fancy, once or twice, when suffering 
from the effects of your errors. Pardon me if I 
be hurting your "intrinsic dignity"; it need not 
even "divine Clarinda" has been in this mortal 

Pray, what does Mr. Ainslie tfiink of her? 
Was he not astonished to find her merely human ? 
Three weeks ago, I suppose you would have 
made him walk into her presence unshod: but 
one must bury even divinities when they discover 



symptoms of mortality! (Let these be interred 
in Sylvander's bosom.) 

My dearest friend, there are two wishes upper- 
most in my heart: to see you think alike with 
Clarinda on religion, and settled in some credit- 
able line of business. The warm interest I take 
in both these is, perhaps, the best proof of my 
friendship as well as earnest of its duration. 
As to the first, I devolve it over into the hands 
of the Omniscient ! May he raise up friends who 
will effectuate the other I While I breathe these 
fervent wishes, think not anything but pure dis- 
interested regard prompts them. They are fond 
but chimerical ideas. They are never indulged 
but in the hour of tender endearment, when 

Looked gaily smiling on, while rosy Pleasure 
Hid young Desire amid her flowery wreath, 
And poured her cup luxuriant, mantling high 
The sparkling, Heavenly vintage Love and 

'Tis past ten and I please myself with think- 
ing Sylvander will be about to retire and write 
to Clarinda. I fancy you'll find this stupid 
enough; but I can't be always bright the sun 



will be sometimes under a cloud. Sylvander, I 
wish our kind feelings were more moderate ; why 
set one's heart upon impossibilities? Try me 
merely as your friend (alas, all I ought to be). 
Believe me, you'll find me most rational. If 
you'd caress the "mental intelligence" as you 
do the corporeal frame, indeed, Sylvander, you'd 
make me a philosopher. I see you fidgeting at 
this violently blasting rationality. I have a 
headache which brings home these things to the 
mind. To-morrow I'll hear from you, I hope. 
This is Sunday, and not a word on our favourite 
subject. O fy, "divine Clarinda." I intend giv- 
ing you my idea of Heaven in opposition to your 
heathenish description (which, by the by, was ele- 
gantly drawn) . Mine shall be founded on Rea- 
son and supported by Scripture ; but it's too late, 
my head aches, but my heart is affectionately 



Monday Morning. 

I am almost not sorry at the Excise affair 
misgiving. You will be better out of Edinburgh 
it is full of temptation to one of your social 

Providence (if you will be wise in future) will 
order something better for you. I am half glad 



you were schooled about the Inscription; 'twill 
be a lesson, I hope, in future. Clarinda would 
have lectured you on it before, "if she dared." 
Miss Nimmo is a woman after my own heart. 
You are reconciled to the world by her "friendly 
prattle!" How can you talk so diminutively of 
the conversation of a woman of solid sense? what 
will you say of Clarinda's chit chat? I suppose 
you would give it a still more insignificant term 
if you dared ; but it is mixed with something that 
makes it bearable, were it even weaker than it is. 
Miss Nimmo is right in both her conjectures. 
Ah, Sylvander! my peace must suffer yours 
cannot. You think, in loving Clarinda, you are 
doing right; all Sylvander's eloquence cannot 
convince me that it is so! If I were but at lib- 
erty Oh, how I would indulge in all the luxury 
of innocent love! It is, I fear, too late to talk 
in this strain, after indulging you and myself so 
much; but would Sylvander shelter his Love in 
Friendship's allowed garb, Clarinda would be far 

To-morrow, didst thou say? The time is short 
now is it not too frequent? do not sweetest 
dainties cloy soonest? Take your chance come 
half-past eight. If anything particular occur 
to render it improper to-morrow, I'll send you 



word, and name another evening. Mr. Kemp is 
to call to-night, I believe. He, too, trembles for 
my peace. Two such worthies to be interested 
about my foolish ladyship! The Apostle Paul, 
with all his rhetoric, could not reconcile me to 
the great (little souls) when I think of them and 
Sylvander together; but I pity them, 

"If e'er ambition did my fancy cheat, 
With any wish so mean, as to be great, 
Continue, Heaven, far from me to remove 
The humble blessings of that life I love." 

Till we meet, my dear Sylvander, adieu ! 





Sunday Morning. 

I have just been before the throne of my God, 
Clarinda. According to my association of ideas, 
my sentiments of love and friendship, I next de- 
vote myself to you. Yesternight I was happy 
happiness "that the world cannot give." I kindle 
at the recollection; but it is a flame where Inno- 
cence looks smiling on, and Honour stands by, a 
sacred guard. Your heart, your fondest wishes, 
your dearest thoughts, these are yours to bestow : 
your person is unapproachable, by the laws of 
your country; and he loves not as I do who would 
make you miserable. 

You are an angel, Clarinda : you are surely no 
mortal that "the earth owns." To kiss your 
hand, to live on your smile, is to me far more 
exquisite bliss than any of the dearest favours 
that the fairest of the sex, yourself excepted, can 

Sunday Evening. 

You are the constant companion of my 
thoughts. How wretched is the condition of one 
who is haunted with conscious guilt, and trem- 
bling under the idea of dreaded vengeance ! And 


what a placid calm, what a charming secret en- 
joyment, is given to one's bosom by the kind 
feelings of friendship and the fond throes of 
love ! Out upon the tempest of Anger, the acri- 
monious gall of fretful Impatience, the sullen 
frost of lowering Resentment, or the corroding 
poison of withered Envy I They eat up the im- 
mortal part of man! If they spent their fury 
only on the unfortunate objects of them, it would 
be something in their favour ; but these miserable 
passions, like traitor Iscariot, betray their Lord 
and Master. 

Thou Almighty Author of peace, and good- 
ness, and love ! do Thou give me the social heart 
that kindly tastes of every man's cup! Is it a 
draught of joy? warm and open my heart to 
share it with cordial, unenvying rejoicing! Is it 
the bitter potion of sorrow? melt my heart with 
sincerely sympathetic woe! Above all, do Thou 
give me the manly mind, that resolutely exempli- 
fies in life and manners those sentiments which 
I would wish to be thought to possess! The 
friend of my soul there may I never deviate 
from the firmest fidelity and most active kind- 
ness! Clarinda, the dear object of my fondest 
love; there, may the most sacred, inviolate hon- 
our, the most faithful, kindling constancy, ever 



watch and animate my every thought and imagi- 
nation ! 

Did you ever meet the following lines spoken 
of Religion, your darling topic? 

" 'Tis this, my friend, that streaks our morning 

bright ! 

'Tis this that gilds the horror of our night ! 
When wealth forsakes us, and when friends 

are few ; 
When friends are faithless, or when foes 

pursue ; 

'Tis this that wards the blow or stills the smart, 
Disarms affliction, or repels its dart : 
Within the breast bids purest rapture rise, 
Bids smiling Conscience spread her cloudless 


I met with these verses very early in life, and 
was so delighted with them that I have them by 
me, copied at school. 

Good night, and sound rest, 

My dearest Clarinda. 





Wednesday Evening, Nine. 

There is not a sentiment in your last dear letter 
but must meet the approbation of every worthy 
discerning mind except one "that my heart, 
my fondest wishes," are mine to bestow. True, 
they are not, they cannot be placed upon him who 
ought to have had them, but whose conduct (I 
dare not say more against him), has justly for- 
feited them. But is it not too near an infringe- 
ment of the sacred obligations of marriage to 
bestow one's heart, wishes, and thoughts upon 
another? Something in my soul whispers that it 
approaches criminality. I obey the voice. Let 
me cast every kind feeling into the allowed bond 
of Friendship. If 'tis accompanied with a 
shadow of a softer feeling, it shall be poured into 
the bosom of a merciful God ! If a confession of 
my warmest, tenderest friendship does not sat- 
isfy you, duty forbids Clarinda should do more! 
Sylvander, I never expect to be happy here be- 
low! Why was I formed so susceptible of emo- 
tions I dare not indulge? Never were there two 
hearts formed so exactly alike as ours ! No won- 
der our friendship is heightened by the "sym- 
pathetic glow." In reading your Life, I find 



the very first poems that hit your fancy, were 
those that first engaged mine. While almost a 
child, the hymn you mentioned, and another of 
Addison's, "When all thy mercies," &c., were my 
chief favourites. They are much so to this hour ; 
and I make my boys repeat them every Sabbath 
day. When about fifteen, I took a great fond- 
ness for Pope's "Messiah," which I still reckon 
one of the sublimest pieces I ever met with. 

Sylvander, I believe our friendship will be 
lasting; its basis has been virtue, similarity of 
tastes, feelings, and sentiments. Alas ! I shudder 
at the idea of an hundred miles distance. You'll 
hardly write me once a-month, and other objects 
will weaken your affection for Clarinda. Yet I 
cannot believe so. Oh, let the scenes of Nature 
remind you of Clarinda! In winter, remember 
the dark shades of her fate; in summer, the 
warmth, the cordial warmth, of her friendship; 
in autumn, her glowing wishes to bestow plenty 
on all; and let spring animate you with hopes, 
that your friend may yet live to surmount the 
wintry blasts of life, and revive to taste a spring- 
time of happiness ! At all events, Sylvander, the 
storms of life will quickly pass, and "one un- 
bounded spring encircle all." There, Sylvander, 
I trust we'll meet. Love, there, is not a crime. 



I charge you to meet me there Oh, God! I 
must lay down my pen. I repent, almost, flat- 
tering your writing talents so much: I can see 
you know all the merit you possess. The allusion 
of the key is true therefore I won't recant it; 
but I rather was too humble about my own let- 
ters. I have met with several who wrote worse 
than myself, and few, of my own sex, better; so 
I don't give you great credit for being fashed 
with them. 

Sylvander, I have things with different friends 
I can't tell to another, yet am not hurt ; but I told 
you of that particular friend: he was, for near 
four years, the one I confided in. He is very 
worthy, and answers your description in the 
"Epistle to J. S." exactly. When I had hardly 
a friend to care for me in Edinburgh, he be- 
friended me. I saw, too soon, 'twas with him a 
warmer feeling: perhaps a little infection was 
the natural effect. I told you the circumstances 
which helped to eradicate the tender impression 
in me; but I perceive (though he never tells me 
so) I see it in every instance his prepossession 
still remains. I esteem him as a faithful friend ; 
but I can never feel more for him. I fear he's 
not convinced of that. He sees no man with me 
half so often as himself; and thinks I surely am 



at least partial to no other. I cannot bear to 
deceive one in so tender a point, and am hurt at 
his harbouring an attachment I never can return. 
I have thoughts of owning my intimacy with 
Sylvander; but a thousand things forbid it. I 
should be tortured with Jealousy, that "green- 
eyed monster;" and, besides, I fear 'twould 
wound his peace. 'Tis a delicate affair. I wish 
your judgment on it. O Sylvander, I cannot 
bear to give pain to any creature, far less to 
one who pays me the attention of a brother! 

I never met with a man congenial, perfectly 
congenial to myself but one ask no questions. 
Is Friday to be the last night? I wish, Sylvander, 
you'd steal away I cannot bear farewell ! I can 
hardly relish the idea of meeting for the idea! 
but we will meet again, at least in Heaven, I 
hope. Sylvander, when I survey myself, my 
returning weaknesses, I am consoled that my 
hopes, my immortal hopes, are founded in the 
complete righteousness of a compassionate 
.Saviour. "In all our afflictions, He is afflicted, 
and the angel of His presence guards us." 

I am charmed with the lines on Religion, and 
with you for relishing them. I only wish the 
world saw you, as you appear in your letters to 
me. Why did you send forth to them "The 


Holy Fair," &c.? Had Clarinda known you, 
she would have held you in her arms till she had 
your promise to suppress them. Do not publish 
the "Moor Hen." Do not, for your sake, and 
for mine. I wish you vastly to hear my valued 
friend, Mr. Kemp. Come to hear him on Sunday 
afternoon. 'Tis the first favour I have asked 
you : I expect you'll not refuse me. You'll easily 
get a seat. Your favourite, Mr. Gould, I admire 
much. His composition is elegant indeed! but 
'tis like beholding a beautiful superstructure 
built on a sandy foundation: 'tis fine to look 
upon; but one dares not abide in it with safety. 
Mr. Kemp's language is very good, perhaps not 
such studied periods as Mr. G's; but he is far 
more animated. He is pathetic in a degree that 
touches one's soul! and then, 'tis all built upon 
a rock. 

I could chide you for the Parting Song. It 
wrings my heart. "You may reca' " by being 
wise in future "your friend as yet." I will be 
your friend for ever! Good night! God bless 
you! prays 




Thursday Noon. 

I shall go to-morrow forenoon to Miers * 
alone : 'tis quite a usual thing I hear. Mary is not 
in town, and I don't care to ask Miss Nimmo, or 
anybody else. What size do you want it about? 
O Sylvander, if you wish my peace, let Friend- 
ship be the word between us : I tremble at more. 
"Talk not of Love," &c. To-morrow I'll expect 
you. Adieu ! 


* Miers was a miniature painter whose "shades" (silhouettes) 
were especially popular. 



Thursday Night. 

I cannot be easy, my Clarinda, while any sen- 
timent respecting me in your bosom gives you 
pain. If there is no man on earth to whom your 
heart and affections are justly due, it may savour 
of imprudence, but never of criminality, to be- 
stow that heart and those affections where you 
please. The God of love meant and made those 
delicious attachments to be bestowed on some- 
body; and even all the imprudence lies in be- 
stowing them on an unworthy object. If this 
reasoning is conclusive, as it certainly is, I must 
be allowed to "talk of Love." 

It is, perhaps, rather wrong to speak highly to 
a friend of his letter : it is apt to lay one under a 
little restraint in their future letters, and re- 
straint is the death of a friendly epistle ; but there 
is one passage in your last charming letter, 
Thomson nor Shenstone never exceeded it nor 
often came up to it. I shall certainly steal it, 
and set it in some future poetic production, and 
get immortal fame by it. 'Tis when you bid the 
scenes of nature remind me of Clarinda. Can I 
forget you, Clarinda? I would detest myself as 
a tasteless, unfeeling, insipid, infamous, block- 



head! I have loved women of ordinary merit, 
whom I could have loved for ever. You are the 
first the only unexceptionable individual of the 
beauteous sex that I ever met with; and never 
woman more entirely possessed my soul. I know 
myself, and how far I can depend on passions, 
well. It has been my peculiar study. 

I thank you for going to Miers. Urge him, 
for necessity calls, to have it done by the middle 
of next week: Wednesday the latest day. I 
want it for a breast-pin, to wear next my heart. 
I propose to keep sacred set times, to wander in 
the woods and wilds for meditation on you. 
Then, and only then, your lovely image shall be 
produced to the day, with a reverence akin to 

To-morrow night shall not be the last. Good 
night! I am perfectly stupid, as I supped late 





Saturday Evening. 

I am wishing, Sylvander, for the power of 
looking into your heart. It would be but fair 
for you have the key of mine. You are possessed 
of acute discernment. I am not deficient either 
in that respect. Last night must have shown 
you Clarinda not "divine" but as she really is. 
I can't recollect some things I said without a de- 
gree of pain. Nature has been kind to me in 
several respects ; but one essential she has denied 
me entirely: it is that instantaneous perception 
of fit and unfit, which is so useful in the conduct 
of life. No one can discriminate more accurately 
afterwards than Clarinda. But when her heart 
is expanded by the influence of kindness, she loses 
all command of it, and often suffers severely in 
the recollection of her unguardedness. You must 
have perceived this; but, at any rate, I wish you 
to know me as "I really am." I would have 
given much for society to-day; for I can't bear 
my own : but no human being has come near me. 
Well as I like you, Sylvander, I would rather 
lose your love than your esteem: the first I ought 



not to wish; the other I shall ever endeavour to 
maintain. But no more of this : you prohibit it, 
and I obey. 

For many years, have I sought for a male 
friend endowed with sentiments like yours; one 
who could love me with tenderness, yet unmixed 
with selfishness: who could be my friend, com- 
panion, protector, and who would die sooner than' 
injure me. I sought but I sought in vain! 
Heaven has, I hope, sent me this blessing in 
Sylvander! Whatever weaknesses may cleave 
to Clarinda, her heart is not to blame : whatever 
it may have been by nature, it is unsullied by 
art. If she dare dispose of it last night can 
leave you at no loss to guess the man : 

Then, dear Sylvander, use it weel, 
An' row it in your bosom's biel; 
You'll find it aye baith kind and leal, 

And fou'o' glee; 
It wadna wrang the very deil, 

Ah, far less thee ! 

How do you like this parody on a passage of 
my favourite poet? it is extempore from the 
heart; and let it be to the heart. I am to enclose 



the first fruits of my muse, "To a Blackbird." * 
It has no poetic merit; but it bespeaks a sweet 
f eminine mind such a one as I wish mine to be ; 
but my vivacity deprives me of that softness 
which is, in my opinion, the first female orna- 
ment. It was written to soothe an aching heart. 
I then laboured under a cruel anguish of soul, 
which I cannot tell you of. If I ever take a 

walk to the Temple of H , I'll disclose it; 

but you and I (were it even possible) would 
"fall out by the way." The lines on the Soldier 
were occasioned by reading a book entitled the 
"Sorrows of the Heart." Miss Nimmo was 
pleased with them, and sent them to the gentle- 
man. They are not poetry, but they speak what 
I felt at a survey of so much filial tenderness. 


Morningside, 1784- 

Go on, sweet bird, and soothe my care, 
Thy cheerful notes will hush despair; 
Thy tuneful warblings, void of art, 
Thrill sweetly through my aching heart. 
Now choose thy mate and fondly love, 
And all the charming transport prove; 
Those sweet emotions all enjoy, 
Let Love and Song thy hours employ; 
Whilst I, a love-lorn exile, live, 
And rapture nor receive nor give. 
Go on, sweet bird, and soothe my care, 
Thy cheerful notes will hush despair. 

The other poem of which she speaks is missing. 


I agree with you in liking quotations. If they 
are apt, they often give one's ideas more pleas- 
antly than our own language can at all times. 
I am stupid to-night. I have a soreness at my 
heart. I conclude, therefore, with a verse of 
Goldsmith, which, of late, has become an im- 
mense favourite of mine : 

In Nature's simplest habit clad, 
No wealth nor power had he; 

Genius and worth were all he had, 
But these were all to me. , 

Good night, "my dear Sylvander;" say this 
(like Werter) to yourself. 


Sunday Evening. 

I would have given much, Sylvander, that you 
had heard Mr. Kemp this afternoon. You would 
have heard my principles, and the foundation of 
all my immortal hopes, elegantly delivered. "Let 
me live the life of the righteous, and my latter 
end be like his," was the text. Who are the 
righteous? "Those," says Sylvander, "whose 
minds are actuated and governed by purity, 
truth, and charity." But where does such a mind 
exist? It must be where the "soul is made per- 



feet," for I know none such on earth. "The 
righteous," then, must mean those who believe 
on Christ, and rely on his perfect righteousness 
for their salvation. "Everlasting" life, as you 
observe, is in the power of all to embrace; and 
this is eternal life, to "believe in Him whom 
God hath sent." Purity, truth, and charity, will 
flow from this belief, as naturally as the stream 
from the fountain. These are, indeed, the only 
evidences we can have of the reality of our faith, 
and they must be produced in a degree ere we 
can be fit for the enjoyment of Heaven. But 
where is the man who dare plead these before 
"Infinite Holiness"? Will Inflexible Justice 
pardon our thousand violations of his laws? 
Will our imperfect repentance and amendments 
atone for past guilt? Or, will we presume to 
present our best services (spotted as they are) as 
worthy of acceptance before Unerring Recti- 
tude? I am astonished how any intelligent mind, 
blessed with a divine revelation, can pause a mo- 
ment on the subject. "Enter not into judgment 
with me, O Lord! in thy sight no flesh can be 
justified!" This must be the result of every can- 
did mind, upon surveying its own deserts. If 
God had not been pleased to reveal His own Son, 
as our all-sufficient Saviour, what could we have 


done but cried for mercy, without any sure hope 
of obtaining it? But when we have Him clearly 
announced as our surety, our guide, our blessed 
advocate with the Father, who, in their senses 
ought to hesitate, in putting their souls into the 
hands of this glorious "Prince of Peace"? With- 
out this we may admire the Creator in his works, 
but we can never approach him with the confi- 
dential tenderness of children. "I will arise and 
go to my father." This is the blessed language 
of every one who believes and trusts in Jesus. 
Oh, Sylvander, who would go on fighting with 
themselves, resolving and resolving, while they 
can thus fly to their Father's house? But alas! 
it is not till we tire of these husks of our own, 
that we recollect that there, there is bread enough 
and to spare. Whenever the wish is sincerely 
formed in our hearts, our Heavenly Father will 
have compassion on us "though a great way 
off." This is the "religion of the bosom." I 
believe that there will be many of every sect, na- 
tion and people, who will "stand before the 
throne"; but I believe that it will be the effect 
of Christ's atonement, conveyed to them by ways 
too complicated for our finite minds to compre- 
hend. But why should we, who know "the way, 
the truth, and the life," deprive ourselves of the 



comfort it is fitted to yield ? Let my earnest wish 
for your eternal, as well as temporal happiness, 
excuse the warmth with which I have unfolded 
what has been my own fixed point of rest. I want 
no controversy I hate it; let our only strivings 
be, who shall be the most constant and attached 
friend, which of us shall render our conduct 
most approved to the other. I am well aware 
how vain it were (vain in every sense of the 
expression) to hope to sway a mind so intelli- 
gent as yours, by any arguments I could devise. 
May that God, who spoke worlds into existence, 
open your eyes to see "the truth, as it is in 
Jesus!" Forgive me, Sylvander, if I've been 
tedious upon my favourite theme. You know 
who it was, who could not stop when his divinity 
came across him. Even there you see we are 

I'll tell you a pretty apt quotation I made to- 
day, warm from my heart. I met the Judges in 
the morning, as I went into the Parliament 
Square, among whom was my Lord Dreghorn, in 
his new robes of purple. He is my mother's 
cousin-german, the greatest real honour he could 
ever claim; but used me in a manner unfeeling, 
harsh beyond description, at one of the darkest 
periods of my chequered life. I looked stead- 



f astly in his sour face ; his eyes met mine. I was 
a female, and therefore he stared; but, when he 
knew who it was, he averted his eyes suddenly. 
Instantaneously these lines darted into my mind: 

"Would you the purple should your limbs adorn, 
Go wash the conscious blemish with a tear." 

The man who enjoys more pleasure in the 
mercenary embrace of a courtezan, than in re- 
lieving the unfortunate, is a detestable character, 
whatever his bright talents may be! 

I pity him! Sylvander, all his fortune could 
not purchase half the luxury of Friday night! 
Let us be grateful to Heaven, though it has de- 
nied us wealth and power, for being endowed with 
feelings, fitted to yield the most exquisite enjoy- 
ments here and hereafter! May I hope you'll 
read what I have urged on Religion with atten- 
tion, Sylvander! when Reason resumes her 
reign? I've none of those future delusive hopes, 
which you too vainly express as having towards 
Clarinda. Do not indulge them; my wishes ex- 
tend to your immortal welfare. Let your first 
care be to please God: for that, which He de- 
lights in, must be happiness. I must conclude, 
or I'll relapse. I have not a grain of humour 


to-night in my composition; so, lest "'charming 
Clarinda" should make you yawn, she'll decently 
say "good night!" I laugh to myself at the 
recollection of your earnest asseverations as to 
your being anti-Platonic! Want of passions is 
not merit: strong ones, under the control of 
reason and religion let these be our glory. 
Once more good night. 





Saturday Morning. 

There is no time, my Clarinda, when the con- 
scious thrilling chords of Love and Friendship 
give such delight as in the pensive hours of what 
our favourite Thomson calls "philosophic melan- 
choly." The sportive insects, who bask in the 
sunshine of Prosperity, or the worms, that lux- 
uriant crawl amid their ample wealth of earth; 
they need no Clarinda they would despise Syl- 
vander, if they dared. The family of Misfor- 
tune, a numerous group of brothers and sisters! 
they need a resting-place to their souls. Un- 
noticed, often condemned by the world in some 
degree, perhaps, condemned by themselves 
they feel the full enjoyment of mutual love, deli- 
cate tender endearments, mutual esteem, and 
mutual reliance. 

In this light, I have often admired religion. 
In proportion as we are wrung with grief, or 
distracted with anxiety, the ideas of a compas- 
sionate Deity, an Almighty Protector, are doubly 

; 'Tis this, my friend, that streaks our morning 

bright ; 

'Tis this that gilds the horrors of our night." 



I have this morning been taking a peep 
through, as Young finely says, "the dark postern 
of time long elapsed" ; and you will easily guess 
'twas a rueful prospect: what a tissue of 
thoughtlessness, weakness and folly ! My life re- 
minded me of a ruined temple: what strength, 
what proportion in some parts! what unsightly 
gaps, what prostrate ruins in others! I kneeled 
down before the Father of Mercies, and said, 
"Father, I have sinned against Heaven, and in 
thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called 
thy son!" I rose eased and strengthened. I 
despise the superstition of a fanatic; but I love 
the religion of a man. "The future," said I to 
myself, "is still before me : there let me 

'On reason build resolve 
That column of true majesty in man!' 

I have difficulties many to encounter," said I; 
"but they are not absolutely insuperable: and 
where is firmness of mind shown; but in exer- 
tion? Mere declamation is bombast rant. Be- 
sides, wherever I am, or in whatever situation I 
may be, 

; 'Tis nought to me 
Since God is ever present, ever felt, 
In the void waste as in the city full; 
And where he vital breathes, there must be joy.' ' 


Saturday Night, Half after Ten. 
What luxury of bliss I was enjoying this time 
yesternight ! My ever dearest Clarinda, you have 
stolen away my soul: but you have refined, you 
have exalted it; you have given it a stronger 
sense of virtue, and a stronger relish for piety. 
Clarinda, first of your sex! if ever your lovely 
image is effaced from my soul, 

"May I be lost, no eye to weep my end, 
And find no earth that's base enough to bury 

What trifling silliness is the childish fondness 
of the every-day children of the world! 'Tis the 
unmeaning toying of the younglings of the fields 
and forests; but, where Sentiment and Fancy 
unite their sweets, where Taste and Delicacy re- 
fine, where Wit adds the flavour, and Good Sense 
gives strength and spirit to all; what a deli- 
cious draught is the hour of tender endearment! 
Beauty and Grace in the arms of Truth and 
Honour, in all the luxury of mutual love. 

Clarinda, have you ever seen the picture real- 
ised? not in all its very richest colouring, but 

"Hope, tTiou nurse of young Desire, 
Fair promiser of Joy." 



Last night, Clarinda, but for one slight shade, 
was the glorious picture 


Look'd gaily smiling on; while rosy Pleasure 
Hid young Desire amid her flowery wreath, 
And pour'd her cup luxuriant, mantling high, 
The sparkling, Heavenly vintage Love and 

Clarinda, when a poet and poetess of Nature's 
making two of Nature's noblest productions ! 
when they drink together of the same cup of 
Love and Bliss, attempt not, ye coarser stuff of 
human nature! profanely to measure enjoyment 
ye never can know. 

Good night, my dear Clarinda! 





... I am a discontented ghost, a perturbed 
spirit. Clarinda, if ever you forget Sylvander, 
may you be happy, but he will be miserable. 

O, what a fool I am in love! what an ex- 
travagant prodigal of affection! Why are your 
sex called the tender sex, when I have never 
met with one who can repay me in passion? They 
are either not so rich in love as I am, or they 
are niggards where I am lavish. 

Thou, whose I am, and whose are all my 
ways! Thou see'st me here, the hapless wreck 
of tides and tempests in my own bosom: do Thou 
direct to thyself that ardent love, for which I 
have so often sought a return, in vain, from my 
fellow-creatures ! If Thy goodness has yet such 
a gift in store for me, as an equal return of af- 
fection from her who, Thou knowest, is dearer 
to me than life, do Thou bless and hallow our 
band of love and friendship; watch over us, in 
all our outgoings and incomings, for good; and 
may the tie that unites our hearts be strong and 
indissoluble as the thread of man's immortal life ! 

1 am just going to take your Blackbird, the 
sweetest, I am sure that ever sung, and prune its 
wings a little. SYLVANDER. 




I cannot go out to-day, my dearest love, with- 
out sending you half a line by way of a sin offer- 
ing; but, believe me, 'twas the sin of ignorance. 
Could you think that I intended to hurt you by 
anything I said yesternight ? Nature has been too. 
kind to you for your happiness, your delicacy, 
your sensibility. O why should such glorious 
qualifications be the fruitful source of woe ! You 
have "murdered sleep" to me last night. I went 
to bed impressed with an idea that you were 
unhappy ; and every start I closed my eyes, busy 
Fancy painted you in such scenes of romantic 
misery, that I would almost be persuaded you are 
not well this morning. 

"If I unwitting have offended, 
Impute it not," 

"But while we live 

But one short hour, perhaps, between us two 
Let there be peace." 

If Mary is not gone by the time this reaches 
you, give her my best compliments. She is a 
charming girl and highly worthy of the noblest 

I send you a poem to read till I call on you 



this night, which will be about nine. I wish I 
could procure some potent spell, some fairy 
charm, that would protect from injury, or restore 
to rest that bosom chord, "tremblingly alive all 
o'er," on which hangs your peace of mind. I 
thought, vainly I fear thought, that the devotion 
of love strong as even you can feel, love guarded, 
invulnerably guarded by all the purity of virtue 
and all the pride of honour I thought such a 
love might make you happy. Shall I be mis- 
taken? I can no more, for hurry. 

Tuesday Morning. 




Thursday, Twelve. 

I have been giving Mary a convoy; the day 
is a genial one. Mary is a happy woman to-day. 
Mrs. Cockburn has seen her "Henry" and ad- 
mired it vastly. She talked of you, told her she 
saw you, and that her lines even met your ap- 
plause! Sylvander, I share in the joy of every 
one; and am ready to "weep with those who 
weep," as well, as "rejoice with those who re- 
joice." I wish all the human race well my heart 
throbs with the large ambitious wish to see them 
blest; yet I seem sometimes as if born to inflict 
misery. What a cordial evening we had last 
night! I only tremble at the ardent manner 
Mary talks of Sylvander! She knows where his 
affections lie, and is quite unconscious of the 
eagerness of her expressions. All night I could 
get no sleep for her admiration. I like her for 
it, and am proud of it; but I know how much 
violent admiration is akin to love. 

I go out to dinner, and mean to leave this, in 
case of one from you to-day. Miss Chalmers's 
letters are charming. Why did not such a woman 
secure your heart? O the caprice of human na- 
ture, to fix on impossibilities. 



I am, however, happy you have such valuable 
friends. What a pity that those who will be 
most apt to feel your merit, will probably be 
among the number who have not the power of 
serving you ! Sylvander, I never was ambitious ; 
but of late I have wished for wealth, with an 
ardour unfelt before, to be able to say, "Be in- 
dependent, thou dear friend of my heart I" What 
exquisite joy! Then "your head would be lifted 
up above your enemies." Oh, then, what little 
shuffling, sneaking attentions! shame upon the 
world! Wealth and power command its adula- 
tion, while real genius and worth, without these, 
are neglected and contemned. 

"In nature's simplest habit clad, 
No wealth nor power had he; 
Genius and worth were all he had, 
But these were all to me." 

Forgive my quoting my most favourite lines. 
You spoke of being here to-morrow evening. I 
believe you would be the first to tire of our 
society; but I tremble for censorious remarks: 
however, we must be sober in our hours. I am 
flat to-day so adieu! I was not so cheerful 
last night as I wished. Forgive me. I am 
yours, CLAKINDA. 




Friday Morning, 7 O'clock. 

Your fears for Mary are truly laughable. I 
suppose, my love, you and I showed her a scene 
which, perhaps, made her wish that she had a 
swain, and one who could love like me, and 
'tis a thousand pities that so good a heart as 
hers should want an aim, an object. I am mis- 
erably stupid this morning. Yesterday I dined 
with a Baronet, and sat pretty late over the 
bottle. And "who hath wo who hath sorrow? 
they that tarry long at the wine; they that go 
to seek mixed wine." Forgive me, likewise, a 
quotation from my favourite author. Solomon's 
knowledge of the world is very great. He may 
be looked upon as the "Spectator" or "Adven- 
turer" of his day: and it is indeed, surprising 
what a sameness has ever been in human nature. 
The broken, but strongly characterising hints, 
that the royal author gives us of the manners 
of the court of Jerusalem and country of Israel 
are in their great outlines, the same pictures that 
London and England, Versailles and France ex- 
hibit some three thousand years later. The loves 
in the "Song of Songs" are all in the spirit of 
Lady M. W. Montague or Madame Ninon de 



1'Enclos; though, for my part, I dislike both 
the ancient and modern voluptuaries; and will 
dare to affirm, that such an attachment as mine 
to Clarinda, and such evenings as she and I have 
spent, are what these greatly respectable and 
deeply experienced Judges of Life and Love 
never dreamed of. 

I shall be with you this evening between eight 
and nine, and shall keep as sober hours as you 
could wish. I am ever, my dear Madam, yours, 





These letters of Clarinda are missing. It 
would seem that Mr. Kemp had scored her rather 
harshly for continuing the intimacy with Burns 
in spite of his warnings. 


ous dinner-party wait me while I read yours and 
write this. Do not require that I should cease 
to love you, to adore you in my soul; 'tis to me 
impossible: your peace and happiness are to me 
dearer than my soul. Name the terms on which 
you wish to see me, to correspond with me, and 
you have them. I must love, pine, mourn and 
adore in secret: this you must not deny me. 
You will ever be to me 

"Dear as the light that visits these sad eyes, 
Dear as the ruddy drops that warm my heart." 

I have not patience to read the Puritanic scrawl. 
Damned sophistry. Ye heavens, thou God of 
nature, thou Redeemer of mankind ! ye look down 
with approving eyes on a passion inspired by 
the purest flame, and guarded by truth, delicacy 
and honour; but the half-inch soul of an unfeel- 
ing, cold-blooded, pitiful Presbyterian bigot can- 


not forgive anything above his dungeon-bosom 
and foggy head. 

Farewell! I'll be with you to-morrow eve- 
ning ; and be at rest in your mind. I will be yours 
in the way you think most to your happiness. I 
dare not proceed. I love, and will love you ; and 
will, with joyous confidence, approach the throne 
of the Almighty Judge of men with your dear 
idea; and will despise the scum of sentiment and 
the mist of sophistry. 




Wednesday, Midnight. 

MADAM, After a wretched day, I am prepar- 
ing for a sleepless night. I am going to address 
myself to the Almighty Witness of my actions 
some time, perhaps very soon, my Almighty 
Judge. I am not going to be the advocate of 
Passion : be Thou my inspirer and testimony, O 
God, as I plead the cause of truth! 

I have read over your friend's haughty dicta- 
torial letter: you are only answerable to your 
God in such a matter. Who gave any fellow- 
creature of yours (a fellow-creature incapable of 
being your judge, because not your peer,) a right 
to catechise, scold, undervalue, abuse, and insult, 
wantonly and inhumanly to insult you thus? I 
don't wish, not even wish to deceive you, Madam. 
The Searcher of hearts is my witness how dear 
you are to me; but though it were possible you 
could be still dearer to me, I would not even kiss 
your hand, at the expense of your conscience. 
Away with declamation! let us appeal to the 
bar of common sense. It is not mouthing every- 
thing sacred; it is not vague ranting assertions; 
it is not assuming, haughtily and insultingly as- 
suming, the dictatorial language of a Roman 



Pontiff, that must dissolve a union like ours. 
Tell me, Madam, are you under the least shadow 
of an obligation to bestow your love, tenderness, 
caresses, affections, heart and soul, on Mr. 
M'Lehose the man who has repeatedly, habitu- 
ally, and barbarously broken through every tie of 
duty, nature, or gratitude to you? The laws of 
your country, indeed, for the most useful reasons 
of policy and sound government, have made your 
person inviolate; but are your heart and affec- 
tions bound to one who gives not the least return 
of either to you? You cannot do it; it is not in 
the nature of things that you are bound to do it ; 
the common feelings of humanity forbid it. Have 
you, then, a heart and affections that are no man's 
right? You have. It would be highly, ridicu- 
lously absurd to suppose the contrary. Tell me 
then, in the name of common sense, can it be 
wrong, is such a supposition compatible with the 
plainest ideas of right and wrong, that it is im- 
proper to bestow the heart and these affections 
on another while that bestowing is not in the 
smallest degree hurtful to your duty to God, to 
your children, to yourself, or to society at large ? 
This is the great test; the consequences: let 
us see them. In a widowed, forlorn, lonely sit- 
uation, with a bosom glowing with love and ten- 



derness, yet so delicately situated that you cannot 
indulge these nobler feelings except you meet 
with a man who has a soul capable . . . 

The rest of the letter is missing. 




"I am distressed for thee, my brother Jona- 
than." I have suffered, Clarinda, from your 
letter. My soul was in arms at the sad perusal. 
I dreaded that I had acted wrong. If I have 
wronged you, God forgive me. But, Clarinda, 
be comforted. Let us raise the tone of our feel- 
ings a little higher and bolder. A fellow-crea- 
ture who leaves us who spurns us without just 
cause, though once our bosom-friend up with a 
little honest pride: let them go. How shall I 
comfort you, who am the cause of the injury? 
Can I wish that I had never seen you that we 
had never met? No, I never will. But have I 
thrown you friendless? there is almost distrac- 
tion in the thought. Father of mercies! against 
Thee often have I sinned: through Thy grace 
I will endeavour to do so no more. She who 
Thou knowest is dearer to me than myself, 
pour Thou the balm of peace into her past 
wounds, and hedge her about with Thy peculiar 
care, all her future days and nights. Strengthen 
her tender, noble mind firmly to suffer and mag- 
nanimously to bear. Make me worthy of that 
friendship, that love she honours me with. May 
my attachment to her be as pure as devotion and 



as lasting as immortal life. O, Almighty Good- 
ness, hear me! Be to her, at all times, particu- 
larly in the hour of distress or trial, a friend and 
comforter, a guide and guard. 

"How are thy servants blest, O Lord, 

How sure is their defence! 
Eternal wisdom is their guide, 

Their help Omnipotence." 

Forgive me, Clarinda, the injury I have done 
you. To-night I shall be with you, as indeed I 
shall be ill at ease till I see you. 





Two o'clock. 

I just now received your first letter of 
yesterday, by the careless negligence of the 
penny post. Clarinda, matters are grown very 
serious with us : then seriously hear me, and hear 
me, Heaven! 

I met you, my dear Clarinda, by far the first 
of womankind, at least to me. I esteemed, I 
loved you at first sight, both of which attach- 
ments you have done me the honour to return. 
The longer I am acquainted with you, the more 
innate amiableness and worth I discover in you. 
You have suffered a loss, I confess, for my sake ; 
but if the firmest, steadiest, warmest friendship; 
if every endeavour to be worthy of your friend- 
ship; if a love, strong as the ties of nature and 
holy as the duties of religion; if all these can 
make anything like a compensation for the evil 
I have occasioned you; if they be worth your 
acceptance, or can in the least add to your enjoy- 
ments, so help Sylvander, ye Powers above, in 
his hour of need, as he freely gives all these to 
Clarinda ! 

I esteem you, I love you, as a friend ; I admire 
you, I love you as a woman, beyond any one in 


all the circle of creation. I know I shall con- 
tinue to esteem you, to love you, to pray for you, 
nay, to pray for myself for your sake. 

Expect me at eight ; and believe me to be ever, 
my dearest Madam, yours most entirely, 





When matters, my love, are desperate, we 
must put on a desperate face 

"On reason build resolve, 
That column of true majesty in man." 

or, as the same author finely says in another place, 

"Let thy soul spring up, 

And lay strong hold for help on Him that made 

I am yours, Clarinda, for life. Never be dis- 
couraged at all this. Look forward: in a few 
weeks I shall be somewhere or other, out of the 
possibility of seeing you: till then, I shall write 
you often but visit you seldom. Your fame, 
your welfare, your happiness, are dearer to me, 
than any gratification whatever. Be comforted, 
my love! the present moment is the worst; the 
lenient hand of time is daily and hourly either 
lightening the burden, or making us insensible 
to the weight. None of these friends I mean 

Mr. and the other gentleman can hurt 

your worldly support : and of their friendship in a 
little time you will learn to be easy, and by and 


by to be happy without it. A decent means of 
livelihood in the world, an approving God, a 
peaceful conscience, and one firm trusty friend 
can anybody that has these be said to be un- 
happy? These are yours. 

To-morrow evening I shall be with you about 
eight, probably for the last time till I return to 
Edinburgh. In the meantime, should any of 
these two unlucky friends question you respect- 
ing me, whether I am the man, I do not think 
they are entitled to any information. As to 
their jealousy and spying, I despise them. 

Adieu, my dearest Madam! 





Glasgow, Monday Evening, Nine O'clock. 

The attraction of Love, I find, is in an inverse 
proportion to the attraction of the Newtonian 
philosophy. In the system of Sir Isaac, the 
nearer objects were to one another, the stronger 
was the attractive force. In my system, every 
milestone that marked my progress from Cla- 
rinda, awakened a keener pang of attachment 
to her. How do you feel, my love? Is your 
heart ill at ease? I fear it. God forbid that 
these persecutors should harass that peace which 
is more precious to me than my own. Be as- 
sured I shall ever think on you, muse on you, 
and, in my moments of devotion, pray for you. 
The hour that you are not in my thoughts, "be 
that hour darkness; let the shadows of death 
cover it; let it not be numbered in the hours of 
the day!" 

"When I forget the darling theme, 
Be my tongue mute ! my fancy paint no more ! 
And, dead to joy, forget my heart to beat!" 

I have just met with my old friend, the ship Cap- 
tain guess my pleasure ; to meet you could alone 



have given me more. My brother William too, 
the young saddler, has come to Glasgow to meet 
me; and here are we three spending the evening. 

I arrived here too late to write by post; but 
I'll wrap half a dozen blank sheets of paper to- 
gether, and send it by the Fly, under the name 
of a parcel. You shall hear from me next post 
town. I would write you a longer letter but for 
the present circumstances of my friend. 

Adieu, my Clarinda! I am just going to pro- 
pose your health by way of grace-drink. 




Edinburgh, Tuesday Evening, Nine o'clock. 

Mr. has just left me, after half an hour's 

most pathetic conversation. I told him of the us- 
age I had met with on Sunday night, which he 
condemned much, as unmanly and ungenerous. I 
expressed my thanks for his call ; but he told me, 
it "was merely to hide the change in his friend- 
ship from the world." Think how I was morti- 
fied: I was indeed; and affected so, as hardly to 
restrain tears. He did not name you ; but spoke 
in terms that showed plainly he knew. Would 
to God he knew my Sylvander as I do! then 
might I hope to retain his friendship still; but 
I have made my choice, and you alone can ever 
make me repent it. Yet, while I live, I must 
regret the loss of such a man's friendship. My 
dear, generous friend of my soul does so too. I 
love him for it! Yesterday I thought of you, 
and went over to Miss Nimmo to have the luxury 
of talking of you. She was most kind; and 
praised you more than ever, as a man of worth, 
honour, genius. Oh, how I could have listened 
to her for ever! She says, she is afraid our at- 
tachment will be lasting. I stayed tea, was 
asked kindly, and did not choose to refuse, as 



I stayed last time when you were of the party. 
I wish you were here to-night to comfort me. I 
feel hurt and depressed; but to-morrow I hope 
for a cordial from your dear hand! I must bid 
you good night. Remember your Clarinda. 
Every blessing be yours! 

Your letter this moment. Why did you write 
before to-day? Thank you for it. I figure 
your heartfelt enjoyment last night. Oh, to 
have been of the party! Where was it? I'd 
like to know the very spot. My head aches so I 
can't write more; but I have kissed your dear 
lines over and over. Adieu! I'll finish this to- 


Wednesday, Eleven. 

Mary was at my bedside by eight this morning. 
We had much chat about you. She is an affec- 
tionate, faithful soul. She tells me her defence 
of you was so warm, in a large company where 
you were blamed for some trivial affair, that she 
left them impressed with the idea of her being 
in love. She laughs, and says, " 'Tis pity to have 
the skaith, and nothing for her pains." 

My spirits are greatly better to-day. I am a 
little anxious about Willie : his leg is to be lanced 



this day, and I shall be fluttered till the opera- 
tion is fairly over. Mr. Wood thinks he will 
soon get well, when the matter lodged in it is 
discussed. God grant it! Oh, how can I ever 
be ungrateful to that good Providence, who has 
blest me with so many undeserved mercies, and 
saved me often from the ruin I courted! The 
heart that feels its continual dependence on the 
Almighty, is bound to keep His laws by a tie 
stronger and tenderer than any human obliga- 
tion. The feeling of Honour is a noble and pow- 
erful one; but can we be honourable to a fellow- 
creature, and basely unmindful of our Bountiful 
Benefactor, to whom we are indebted for life 
and all its blessings; and even for those very 
distinguishing qualities, Honour, Genius, and 

I am sure you enter into these ideas; did you 
think with me in all points I should be too happy ; 
but I'll be silent. I may wish and pray, but you 
shall never again accuse me of presumption. My 
dear, I write you this to Mauchline, to be waiting 
you. I hope, nay I am sure, 'twill be welcome. 

You are an extravagant prodigal in more es- 
sential things than affection. To-day's post 
would have brought me yours and saved you six- 
pence. However, it pleased me to know that, 



though absent in body, "you were present with 
me in spirit." 

Do you know a Miss Nelly Hamilton in Ayr, 
daughter to a Captain John H. of the Excise 
cutter? I stayed with her at Kailzie, and love 
her. She is a dear, amiable, romantic girl. I 
wish much to write to her, and will enclose it for 
you to deliver, personally, if agreeable. She 
raved about your poems in summer, and wished 
to be acquainted. Let me know if you have any 
objections. She is an intimate of Miss Nimmo, 
too. I think the streets look deserted-like since 
Monday; and there's a certain insipidity in good 
kind of folks I once enjoyed not a little. You, 
who are a casuist, explain these deep enigmas. 
Miss Wardrobe supped here on Monday. She 
once named you, which kept me from falling 
asleep. I drank your health in a glass of ale 
as the lasses do at Hallowe'en "in to mysel'." 

Happy Sylvander ! to meet with the dear char- 
ities of brother, sister, parent ! whilst I have none 
of these and belong to nobody. Yes, I have my 
children, and my heart's friend, Sylvander the 
only one I have ever found capable of that name- 
less, delicate attachment, which none but noble, 
romantic minds can comprehend. I envy you 
the Captain's society. Don't tell him of the 



"Iron Chain," lest he call us both fools. I saw 
the happy trio in my mind's eye. So absence 
increases your fondness; 'tis ever so in great 
souls. Let the poor worldlings enjoy (possess, 
I mean, for they can't enjoy) their golden dish; 
we have each of us an estate, derived from the 
Father of the Universe, into whose hands I trust 
we'll return it, cultivated so as to prove an inex- 
haustible treasure through the endless ages of 


Mr. Wood has not come, so the affair is not 
over. I hesitate about sending this till I hear 
further; but I think you said you'd be at M. on 
Thursday: at any rate you'll get this on your 

Farewell! may you ever abide under the 
shadow of the Almighty. Yours, 





Kilmarnock; Friday. 

I wrote you, my dear Madam, the moment I 
alighted in Glasgow. Since then I have not had 
opportunity: for in Paisley, where I arrive next 
day, my worthy, wise friend Mr. Pattison did 
not allow me a moment's respite. I was there 
ten hours; during which time I was introduced 
to nine men worth six thousands ; five men worth 
ten thousands; his brother, richly worth twenty 
thousands; and a young weaver who will have 
thirty thousands good when his father, who has 
no more children than the said weaver, and a 
Whig-kirk, dies. Mr. P. was bred a zealous anti- 
burgher; but during his widowerhood, he has 
found their strictness incompatible with certain 
compromises he is often obliged to make with the 
Powers of darkness the devil, the world, and 
the flesh: so he, good, merciful man! talked pri- 
vately to me of the absurdity of eternal torments ; 
the liberality of sentiment in indulging the hon- 
est instincts of nature ; the mysteries of concubin- 
age, &c. He has a son, however, that, at sixteen, 
has repeatedly minted at certain privileges, only 
proper for staid, sober men, who can use the good 
things of this life without abusing them ; but the 



father's parental vigilance has hitherto hedged 
him in, amid a corrupt and evil world. 

His only daughter, who, "if the beast be to the 
fore, and the branks bide hale," will have seven 
thousand pounds when her old father steps into 
the dark Factory-office of Eternity with his well- 
thummed web of life, has put him again and again 
in a commendable fit of indignation, by request- 
ing a harpsichord. "O! these boarding-schools!" 
exclaims my prudent friend. "She was a good 
spinner and sewer, till I was advised by her 
foes and mine to give her a year of Edinburgh!" 

After two bottles more, my much-respected 
friend opened up to me a project, a legitimate 
child of Wisdom and Good Sense; 'twas no less 
than a long thought-on and deeply-matured de- 
sign, to marry a girl, fully as elegant in her form 
as the famous priestess whom Saul consulted in 
his last hours, and who had been second maid of 
honour to his deceased wife.' This, you may be 
sure, I highly applauded, so I hope for a pair 
of gloves by and by. I spent the two bypast 
days at Dunlop house with that worthy family 
to whom I was deeply indebted early in my poetic 
career; and in about two hours I shall present 
your "twa wee sarkies" to the little fellow. My 
dearest Clarinda, you are ever present with me; 


and these hours, that drawl by among the fools 
and rascals of this world, are only supportable in 
the idea that they are the forerunners of that 
happy hour, that ushers me to "the mistress of 
my soul." Next week I shall visit Dumfries, 
and next again return to Edinburgh. My let- 
ters in these hurrying, dissipated hours will be 
heavy trash; but you know the writer. 
God bless you. 





Edinburgh, Friday Evening. 

I wish you had given me a hint, my dear Syl- 
vander, that you were to write to me only once 
in a week. Yesterday I looked for a letter; to- 
day, never doubted it; but both days have ter- 
minated in disappointment. A thousand con- 
jectures have conspired to make me most un- 
happy. Often have I suffered much disquiet 
from forming the idea of such an attention, on 
such and such an occasion, and experienced quite 
the reverse. But in you, and you alone, I have 
ever found my highest demands of kindness ac- 
complished; nay, even my fondest wishes, not 
gratified only, but anticipated! To what, then, 
can I attribute your not writing me one line since 

God forbid that your nervous ailment has in- 
capacitated you for that office, from which you 
derived pleasure singly ; as well as that most deli- 
cate of all enjoyments, pleasure reflected. To- 
morrow I shall hope to hear from you. Hope, 
blessed hope, thou balm of every woe, possess and 
fill my bosom with thy benign influence. 

I have been solitary since the tender farewell 
till to-night. I was solicited to go to Dr. 



Moyes's lecture with Miss Craig and a gallant of 
hers, a student ; one of the many stupid animals, 
knowing only in the Science of Puppyism, "or 
the nice conduct of a clouded cane." With what 
sovereign contempt did I compare his trite, in- 
sipid frivolity with the intelligent, manly observa- 
tion which ever marks the conversation of Syl- 
vander. He is a glorious piece of divine work- 
manship, Dr. Moyes. The subject to-night was 
the origin of minerals, springs, lakes, and the 
ocean. Many parts were far beyond my weak 
comprehension, and indeed that of most women. 
What I understood delighted me, and altogether 
raised my thoughts to the infinite wisdom and 
boundless goodness of the Deity. The man him- 
self marks both. Presented with a universal 
blank of Nature's works,* his mind appears to 
be illuminated with Celestial light. He con- 
cluded with some lines of the Essay on Man: "All 
are but parts of one stupendous whole," &c.; a 
passage I have often read with sublime pleasure. 
Miss Burnet sat just behind me. What an 
angelic girl! I stared at her, never having seen 
her so near. I remembered you talking of her, 
&c. What felicity to witness her "Softly speak 
and sweetly smile!" How could you celebrate 

* Dr. Moyes was blind. 



any other Clarinda! Oh, I would have adored 
you, as Pope of exquisite taste and refinement, 
had you loved, sighed, and written upon her for 
ever! breathing your passion only to the woods 
and streams. But Poets, I find, are not quite 
incorporeal, more than others. My dear Syl- 
vander, to be serious, I really wonder you ever 
admired Clarinda, after beholding Miss Bur- 
net's superior charms. If I don't hear to-mor- 
row, I shall form dreadful reasons. God forbid! 
Bishop Geddes was within a foot of me, too. 
What field for contemplation both! 
Good night. God bless you, prays 




This letter was not found among Clarinda's 
papers, but was published in the Banff 'shire 
Journal., "as printed from the original," which 
was described as much mutilated. Its authen- 
ticity would seem to be confirmed by the allu- 
sions in her reply. 

Probably written the day of his arrival at 
Mossgiel, Feb. 23. 

I have just now, my ever dear Madam, deliv- 
ered your kind present to my sweet little Bob- 
bie, whom I find a very fine fellow. Your letter 
was waiting me. Your interview with Mr. 
Kemp opens a wound, ill-closed, in my breast; 
not that I think his friendship is of so much con- 
sequence to you, but because you set such a value 
on it. 

Now for a little news that will please you. I, 
this morning, as I came home, called for a certain 
woman. I am disgusted with her I cannot en- 
dure her! I, while my heart smote me for the 
profanity, tried to compare her with my Cla- 
rinda: 'twas setting the expiring glimmer of a 
farthing taper beside the cloudless glory of the 
meridian sun. Here was tasteless insipidity, 



vulgarity of soul, and mercenary fawning; there 
polished good sense, Heaven-born genius, and 
the most generous, the most delicate, the most 
tender passion. I have done with her, and she 
with me. 

I set off to-morrow for Dumfries-shire. 'Tis, 
merely out of compliment to Mr. Miller; for I 
know the Indies must be my lot. I will write 
you from Dumfries, if these horrid postages 
don't frighten me. 

"Whatever place, whatever land I see, 
My heart, untravell'd, fondly turns to thee; 
Still to 'Clarinda' turns with ceaseless pain, 
And drags at each remove a lengthen'd chain." 

I just stay to write you a few lines, before I 
go to call on my friend, Mr. Gavin Hamilton. I 
hate myself as an unworthy sinner because these 
interviews of old dear friends make me, for half 
a moment, almost forget Clarinda. 

Remember to-morrow evening, at eight o'clock, 
I shall be with the Father of Mercies, at that hour 
on your own account. Farewell! If the post 
goes not to-night, I'll finish the other page to- 
morrow morning. 


P. S. Remember. 



Cumnock, 2d March, 1788. 

I hope, and am certain, that my generous 
Clarinda will not think my silence, for now a long 
week, has been in any degree owing to my for- 
getfulness. I have been tossed about through 
the country ever since I wrote you, and am here 
returning from Dumfries-shire, at an inn, the 
post-office of the place, with just so long time 
as my horse eats his corn, to write you. I have 
been hurried with business and dissipation, 
almost equal to the insidious decree of the Per- 
sian monarch's mandate, when he forbade asking 
petition of God or man for forty days. Had the 
venerable prophet been as throng as I, he had not 
broken the decree; at least not thrice a-day. 

I am thinking my farming scheme will yet 
hold. A worthy intelligent farmer, my father's 
friend and my own, has been with me on the spot : 
he thinks the bargain practicable. I am myself, 
on a more serious review of the lands, much bet- 
ter pleased with them. I won't mention this in 
writing to anybody but you and Mr. Ainslie. 
Don't accuse me of being fickle ; I have the two 
plans of life before me, and I wish to adopt the 
one most likely to procure me independence. 


I shall be in Edinburgh next week. I long to 
see you; your image is omnipresent to me; nay, 
I am convinced I would soon idolatrise it most 
seriously; so much do absence and memory im- 
prove the medium through which one sees the 
much-loved object. To-night, at the sacred hour 
of eight, I expect to meet you, at the Throne of 
Grace. I hope, as I go home to-night, to find a 
letter from you at the post-office in Mauchline; 
I have just once seen that dear hand since I left 
Edinburgh a letter, indeed, which much affect- 
ed me. Tell me, first of womankind, will my 
warmest attachment, my sincerest friendship, my 
correspondence, will they be any compensation 
for the sacrifices you make for my sake? If they 
will, they are yours. If I settle on the farm I 
propose, I am just a day and a half's ride from 
Edinburgh. We shall meet; don't you say, 
"Perhaps, too often!" 

Farewell, my fair, my charming Poetess! 
May all good things ever attend you. 

I am ever, my dearest Madam, 


In a letter to Robert Ainslie, written March 
3, Burns says: "I got a letter from Clarinda 



yesterday, and she tells me she has got no letter 
of mine but one. Tell her that I wrote to her 
from Glasgow, from Kilmarnock, from Mauch- 
line, and yesterday from Cumnock as I returned 
from Dumfries. Indeed, she is the only person 
in Edinburgh I have written to till this day. 
How are your soul and body putting up?- 
little like man and wife, I suppose." 



Edinburgh,, March 5, 1788. 

I received yours from Cumnock about an hour 
ago; and to show you my good-nature, sit down 
to write to you immediately. I fear, Sylvander^ 
you overvalue my generosity; for, believe me, it 
will be some time ere I can cordially forgive you 
the pain your silence has caused me! Did you 
ever feel that sickness of heart which arises from 
hope deferred? That, the crudest of pains, you 
have inflicted on me for eight days by-past. I 
hope I can make every reasonable allowance for 
the hurry of business and dissipation. Yet, had 
I been ever so engrossed, I should have found 
one hour out of the twenty-four to write you. 
No more of it: I accept of your apologies; but 
am hurt that any should have been necessary be- 
tween us on such a tender occasion. 

I am happy that the farming scheme promises 
so well. There's no fickleness, my dear sir, in 
changing for the better. I never liked the Ex- 
cise for you; and feel a sensible pleasure in the 
hope of your becoming a sober, industrious 
farmer. My prayers, in this affair, are heard, 
I hope, so far: may they be answered completely! 
The distance is the only thing I regret; but, 



whatever tends to your welfare, overweighs all 
other considerations. I hope ere then to grow 
wiser, and to lie easy under weeks' silence. I 
had begun to think that you had fully experi- 
enced the truth of Sir Isaac's philosophy. 

I have been under unspeakable obligations to 
your friend, Mr. Ainslie. I had not a mortal to 
whom I could speak of your name but him. He 
has called often; and, by sympathy, not a little 
alleviated my anxiety. I tremble lest you should 
have devolved, what you used to term your 
"folly," upon Clarinda: more's the pity. 'Tis 
never graceful but on the male side; but I shall 
learn more wisdom in future. Example has 
often good effects. 

I got both your letters from Kilmarnock and 
Mauchline, and would, perhaps, have written to 
you unbidden, had I known anything of the 
geography of the country; but I knew not 
whether you would return by Mauchline or not, 
nor could Mr. Ainslie inform me. I have met 
with several little rubs, that hurt me the more 
that I had not a bosom to pour them into 

"On some fond breast the feeling soul relies." 

Mary I have not once set eyes on, since I wrote 
to you. Oh, that I should be formed susceptible 


of kindness, never, never to be fully, or at least 
habitually, returned! "Trim," (said my Uncle 
Toby) "I wish, Trim, I were dead." 

Mr. Ainslie called just now to tell me he had 
heard from you. You would see, by my last, 
how anxious I was, even then, to hear from you. 
'Tis the first time I ever had reason to be so; 
I hope 'twill be the last. My thoughts were 
yours both Sunday nights at eight. Why should 
my letter have affected you? You know I 
count all things (Heavenexcepted) but loss, that 
I may win and keep you. I supped at Mr. 
Kemp's on Friday. Had you been an invisible 
spectator with what perfect ease I acquitted my- 
self, you would have been pleased, highly pleased, 
with me. 

Interrupted by a visit from Miss R . She 

was inquiring kindly for you. I delivered your 
compliments to her. She means (as you once 
said) all the kindness in the world, but she wants 
that "finer chord." Ah! Sylvander, happy, in 
my mind, are they who are void of it. Alas! it 
too often thrills with anguish. 

I hope you have not forgotten to kiss the little 
cherub for me. Give him fifty, and think Cla- 
rinda blessing him all the while. I pity his 
mother sincerely, and wish a certain affair hap- 



pily over. My Willie is in good health, except 
his leg, which confines him close since it was 
opened; and Mr. Wood says it will be a very 
tedious affair. He has prescribed sea-bathing as 
soon as the season admits. I never see Miss 
Nimmo. Her indifference wounds me; but all 
these things make me fly to the Father of Mer- 
cies, who is the inexhaustible Fountain of all 
kindness. How could you ever mention "pos- 
tages" ? I counted on a crown at least ; and have 
only spent one poor shilling. If I had but a 
shilling in the world, you should have sixpence; 
nay, eightpence, if I could contrive to live on a 
groat. I am avaricious only in your letters; 
you are so, indeed. Farewell. Yours, 





I own myself guilty, Clarinda: I should have 
written you last week. But when you recollect, 
my dearest Madam, that yours of this night's 
post is only the third I have from you, and that 
this is the fifth or sixth I have sent to you, you 
will not reproach me, with a good grace, for un- 
kindness. I have always some kind of idea, not 
to sit down to write a letter, except I have time, 
and possession of my faculties, so as to do some 
justice to my letter; which at present is rarely 
my situation. For instance, yesterday I dined 
at a friend's at some distance: the savage hospi- 
tality of this country spent me the most part 
of the night over the nauseous potion in the bowl. 
This day sick headache low spirits miser- 
able fasting, except for a draught of water or 
small beer. Now eight o'clock at night; only 
able to crawl ten minutes' walk into Mauchline, 
to wait the post in the pleasurable hope of hear- 
ing from the mistress of my soul. 

But truce with all this. When I sit down to 
write to you, all is happiness and peace. A hun- 
dred times a-day do I figure you before your 
taper your book or work laid aside as I get 
within the room. How happy have I been! and 


how little of that scantling portion of time, called 
the life of man, is sacred to happiness, much less 

I could moralise to-night, like a death's-head. 

"O what is life, that thoughtless wish of all! 
A drop of honey in a draught of gall." 

Nothing astonishes me more, when a little sick- 
ness clogs the wheels of life, than the thoughtless 
career we run in the hour of health. "None 
saith, where is God, my Maker, that giveth songs 
in the night: who teacheth us more knowledge 
than the beasts of the field, and more under- 
standing than the fowls of the air?" 

Give me, my Maker, to remember thee ! Give 
me, to act up to the dignity of my nature ! Give 
me, to feel "another's woe"; and continue with 
me that dear-loved friend that feels with mine! 

The dignifying and dignified consciousness 
of an honest man, and the well-grounded trust 
in approving Heaven, are two most substantial 
foundations of happiness. . . . 

I could not have written a page to any mortal, 
except yourself. I'll write you by Sunday's 
post. Adieu. Good night. 





Mossgiel, 7th March, 1788. 

Clarinda, I have been so stung with your re- 
proach for unkindness, a sin so unlike me, a sin 
I detest more than a breach of the whole deca- 
logue, fifth, sixth, seventh, and ninth articles ex- 
cepted, that I believe I shall not rest in my 
grave about it, if I die before I see you. You 
have often allowed me the head to judge, and the 
heart to feel the influence of female excellence: 
was it not blasphemy, then, against your own 
charms, and against my feelings, to suppose that 
a short fortnight could abate my passion? 

You, my love, may have your cares and anx- 
ieties to disturb you; but they are the usual 
occurrences of life. Your future views are fixed, 
and your mind in a settled routine. Could not 
you, my ever dearest Madam, make a little allow- 
ance for a man, after long absence, paying a 
short visit to a country full of friends, relations, 
and early intimates? Cannot you guess, my 
Clarinda, what thoughts, what cares, what anx- 
ious forebodings, hopes and fears, must crowd 
the breast of the man of keen sensibility, when 
no less is on the tapis than his aim, his employ- 
ment, his very existence through future life? 



To be overtopped in anything else, I can bear ; 
but in the tests of generous love, I defy all man- 
kind ! not even to the tender, the fond, the loving 
Clarinda she whose strength of attachment, 
whose melting soul, may vie with Eloisa and 
Sappho, not even she can overpay the affection 
she owes me ! 

Now that, not my apology, but my defence is 
made, I feel my soul respire more easily. I 
know you will go along with me in my justifica- 
tion : would to Heaven you could in my adoption, 
too! I mean an adoption beneath the stars an 
adoption where I might revel in the immediate 
beams of 

"She the bright sun of all her sex." 

I would not have you, my dear Madam, so 
much hurt at Miss N- -s coldness. 'Tis placing 
yourself below her, an honour she by no means 
deserves. We ought, when we wish to be econ- 
omists in happiness, we ought, in the first place, 
to fix the standard of our own character; and 
when, on full examination, we know where we 
stand, and how much ground we occupy, let us 
contend for it as property; and those who seem 
to doubt, or deny us what is justly ours, let us 
either pity their prejudices, or despise their 



judgment. I know, my dear, you will say, this 
is self-conceit; but I call it self-knowledge: the 
one is the overweening opinion of a fool, who 
fancies himself to be, what he wishes himself to 
be thought; the other is the honest justice that a 
man of sense, who has thoroughly examined the 
subject, owes to himself. Without this standard, 
this column in our own mind, we are perpetually 
at the mercy of the petulance, the mistakes, the 
prejudices, nay, the very weakness and wicked- 
ness of our fellow-creatures. 

I urge this, my dear, both to confirm myself in 
the doctrine, which, I assure you, I sometimes 
need, and because I know, that this causes you 

often much disquiet. To return to Miss N . 

She is, most certainly, a worthy soul; and 
equalled by very very few in goodness of heart. 
But can she boast more goodness of heart than 
Clarinda? Not even prejudice will dare to say 
so: for penetration and discernment, Clarinda 

sees far beyond her. To wit, Miss N dare 

make no pretence: to Clarinda's wit, scarce any 
of her sex dare make pretence. Personal 
charms, it would be ridiculous to run the parallel : 

and for conduct in life, Miss N was never 

called out, either much to do, or to suffer. Cla- 
rinda has been both ; and has performed her part, 



where Miss N would have sunk at the bare 


Away, then, with these disquietudes! Let us 
pray with the honest weaver of Kilbarchan, 
"Lord send us a gude conceit o' oursel'!" or in 
the words of the auld sang, 

"Who does me disdain, I can scorn them again, 
And I'll never mind any such foes." 

There is an error in the commerce of intimacy 
. . . which has led me far astray . . . those who, 
by way of exchange, have not an equivalent to 
give us; and what is still worse, have no idea of 
the value of our goods. Happy is our lot, indeed, 
when we meet with an honest merchant, who is 
qualified to deal with us on our own terms; but 
that is a rarity: with almost everybody we must 
pocket our pearls, less or more ; and learn, in the 
old Scots phrase, "To gie sic like as we get." For 
this reason, we should try to erect a kind of bank 
or storehouse in our own mind ; or, as the Psalmist 
says, "We should commune with our own hearts, 
and be still." This is exactly the ... if the 
friend be so peculiarly favoured of Heaven as to 
have a soul as noble and exalted as yours sooner 
or later your bosom will ache with disappoint- 



I wrote you yesternight, which will reach you 
long before this can. I may write Mr. Ainslie 
before I see him, but I am not sure. 

Farewell! and remember 





Edinburgh, 8th March, 1788. 
I was agreeably surprised by your answer to 
mine of Wednesday coming this morning. I 
thought it always took two days, a letter from 
this to Mauchline, and did not expect yours 
sooner than Monday. This is the fifth from you, 
and the fourth time I am now writing you. I 
hate calculating them: like some things, they 
don't do to be numbered. I wish you had writ- 
ten from Dumfries, as you promised; but I do 
not impute it to any cause but hurry of business, 
&c. I hope I shall never live to reproach you 
with unkindness. You never ought to put off 
till you "have time to do justice to your letters." 
I have sufficient memorials of your abilities in 
that way; and last week two lines, to have said 
"How do ye, my Clarinda," would have saved 
me days and nights of cruel disquietude. "A 
word to the wise," you know. I know human 
nature better than to expect always fine flights 
of fancy, or exertions of genius, and feel in my- 
self the effects of this "crazy mortal coil," upon 
its glorious inhabitant. To-day I have a clog- 
ging headache; but, however stupid, I know (at 
least I hope) a letter from your heart's friend 


will be acceptable. It will reach you to-morrow, 
I hope. Shocking custom! one can't entertain 
with hospitality without taxing their guests with 
the consequences you mention. 

Your reflections upon the effects which sick- 
ness has on our retrospect of ourselves, are noble. 
I see my Sylvander will be all I wish him, before 
he leaves this world. Do you remember what 
simple eulogium I pronounced on you, when 
Miss Nimmo asked, what I thought of you: 
"He is ane of God's ain; but his time's no come 
yet." It was like a speech from your worthy 
mother, whom I revere. She would have joined 
me with a heartfelt sigh, which none but mothers 
know. It is rather a bad picture of us, that we 
are most prone to call upon God in trouble. 
Ought not the daily blessings of health, peace, 
competence, friends, ought not these to awaken 
our constant gratitude to the Giver of all? I 
imagine, that the heart which does not occasion- 
ally glow with filial love in the hours of prosper- 
ity, can hardly hope to feel much comfort in fly- 
ing to God in the time of distress. O my dear 
Sylvander! that we may be enabled to set Him 
before us, as our witness, benefactor, and judge, 
at all times, and on all occasions I 

In the name of wonder how could you spend 



ten hours with such a as Mr. Pattison? 

What a despicable character! Religion! he 
knows only the name; none of her real votaries 
ever wished to make any such shameful com- 
promises. But 'tis Scripture verified the 
demon of avarice, his original devil, finding him 
empty, called other seven more impure spirits, 
and so completely infernalised him. Destitute 
of discernment to perceive your merit, or taste 
to relish it, my astonishment at his fondness of 
you, is only surpassed by your more than Puri- 
tanic patience in listening to his shocking non- 
sense! I hope you renewed his certificate. I 
was told, it was in a tattered condition some 
months ago, and that he proposed putting it on 
parchment, by way of preserving it. Don't call 
me severe: I hate all who would turn the "Grace 
of God into licentiousness;" 'tis commonly the 
weaker part of mankind who attempt it. 

"Religion, Thou the soul of happiness." 

Yesterday morning in bed I happened to think 
of you. I said to myself, "My bonnie Lizzie 
Baillie," &c., and laughed; but I felt a delicious 
swell of heart, and my eyes swam in tears. I 
know not }f your sex ever feel this burst of affec- 
tion; 'tis an emotion indescribable. You see I'm 


grown a fool since you left me. You know I was 
rational, when you first knew me, but I always 
grow more foolish, the farther I am from those 
I love; by and by I suppose I shall be insane 

I am happy your little lamb is doing so well. 
Did you execute my commission? You had a 
great stock on hand; and, if any agreeable cus- 
tomers came in the way, you would dispose of 
some of them I fancy, hoping soon to be supplied 
with a fresh assortment. For my part, I can 
truly say, I have had no demand. I really be- 
lieve you have taught me dignity, which, partly 
through good nature, and partly by misfortune, 
had been too much laid aside; which now I will 
never part with. Why should I not keep it up? 
Admired, esteemed, beloved, by one of the first 
of mankind! Not all the wealth of Peru could 
have purchased these. Oh, Sylvander, I am great 
in my own eyes, when I think how high I am, in 
your esteem! You have shown me the merit I 
possess; I knew it not before. Even Joseph 
trembled t'other day in my presence. "Hus- 
bands looked mild and savages grew tame !" Love 
and cherish your friend Mr. Ainslie. He is your 
friend indeed. I long for next week; happy 
days, I hope, yet await us. When you meet 



young Beauties, think of Clarinda's affection 
of her situation of how much her happiness de- 
pends on you. 

Farewell, till we meet. God be with you. 


P. S. Will you take the trouble to send for 
a small parcel left at Dunlop and Wilson's, 
Booksellers, Trongate, Glasgow, for me, and 
bring it with you in the Fly? 



I will meet you to-morrow, Clarinda, as you 
appoint. My Excise affair is just concluded, 
and I have got my order for instructions : so far 
good. Wednesday night I am engaged to sup 
among some of the principals of the Excise: so 
can only make a call for you that evening; but 
next day, I stay to dine with one of the Commis- 
sioners, so cannot go till Friday morning. 

Your hopes, your fears, your cares, my love, 
are mine ; so don't mind them. I will take you in 
my hand through the dreary wilds of this world, 
and scare away the ravening bird or beast that 
would annoy you. I saw Mary in town to-day, 
and asked her if she had seen you. I shall cer- 
tainly bespeak Mr. Ainslie as you desire. 

Excuse me, my dearest angel, this hurried 
scrawl and miserable paper ; circumstances make 
both. Farewell till to-morrow. 


Monday, Noon. (31st March.) 




I am just hurrying away to wait on the Great 
Man, Clarinda; but I have more respect to my 
own peace and happiness than to set out without 
waiting on you ; for my imagination, like a child's 
favourite bird, will fondly flutter along with this 
scrawl, till it perch on your bosom. I thank you 
for all the happiness you bestowed on me yester- 
day. The walk delightful; the evening rap- 
ture. Do not be uneasy to-day, Clarinda; for- 
give me. I am in rather better spirits to-day, 
though I had but an indifferent night. Care, 
anxiety, sat on my spirits; and all the cheerful- 
ness of this morning is the fruit of some serious, 
important ideas that lie, in their realities, beyond 
"the dark and narrow house," as Ossian, prince 
of poets, says. The Father of Mercies be with 
you, Clarinda ! and every good thing attend you ! 


Tuesday Morning. (8th April.) 




Wednesday Morning. 

Clarinda, will that envious night-cap hinder 
you from appearing at the window as I pass? 
"Who is she that looketh forth as the morning; 
fair as the sun, clear as the moon, terrible as an 
army with banners?" 

Do not accuse me of fond folly for this line; 
you know I am a cool lover. I mean by these 
presents greeting, to let you to wit, that arch- 
rascal Creech,* has not done my business yester- 
night, which has put off my leaving town till 
Monday morning. To-morrow, at eleven, I 
meet with him for the last time; just the hour I 
should have met far more agreeable company. 

You will tell me this evening, whether you can- 
not make our hour of meeting to-morrow one 
o'clock. I have just now written Creech such a 
letter, that the very goose-feather in my hand 
shrunk back from the line, and seemed to say, "I 
exceedingly fear and quake!" I am forming 
ideal schemes of vengeance. O for a little of my 

* Creech, the bookseller who published the second edition of 
Burns' poems, was "a pleasant companion, but of penurious habits, 
and extremely dilatory in the settling of accounts, though a man of 
considerable wealth." 



will on him! I just wished he loved as I do 
as glorious an object as Clarinda and that he 
were doomed. Adieu, and think on 





Friday, Nine o'clock, Night. 

I am just now come in, and have read your 
letter. The first think I did, was to thank the 
Divine Disposer of events, that he has had such 
happiness in store for me as the connexion I have 
with you. Life, my Clarinda, is a weary, bar- 
ren path ; and wo be to him or her that ventures 
on it alone ! For me, I have my dearest partner 
of my soul: Clarinda and I will make out our 
pilgrimage together. Wherever I am, I shall 
constantly let her know how I go on, what I ob- 
serve in the world around me, and what adven- 
tures I meet with. Will it please you, my love, 
to get, every week, or, at least, every fortnight, a 
packet, two or three sheets, full of remarks, non- 
sense, news, rhymes, and old songs? 

Will you open, with satisfaction and delight, a 
letter from a man who loves you, who has loved 
you, and who will love you to death, through 
death, and for ever? Oh Clarinda! what do I 
owe to Heaven for blessing me with such a piece 
of exalted excellence as you! I call over your 
idea, as a miser counts over his treasure! Tell 
me, were you studious to please me last night? 
I am sure you did it to transport. How rich am 



I who have such a treasure as you! You know 
me; you know how to make me happy, and you 
do it most effectually. God bless you with 

"Long life, long youth, long pleasure, and a 

To-morrow night, according to your own direc- 
tion, I shall watch the window : 'tis the star that 
guides me to Paradise. The great relish to all 
is, that Honour, that Innocence, that Religion, 
are the witnesses and guarantees of our happi- 
ness. "The Lord God knoweth" and perhaps, 
"Israel he shall know" my love and your merit. 
Adieu, Clarinda! I am going to remember you 
in my prayers. 


"When Burns left Edinburgh in April, 1788," 
writes Mrs. M'Lehose's grandson, "he presented 
an elegant pair of drinking glasses to Clarinda, 
with the following verses. The glasses were 
carefully preserved by her, and often taken down 
from the open cupboard in her parlour, to show 
to strangers." 




(With a present of a pair of drinking glasses.) 

Fair Empress of the Poet's soul, 

And Queen of Poetesses, 
Clarinda, take this little boon, 

This humble pair of glasses; 

And fill them high with generous juice, 

As generous as your mind, 
And pledge me in the generous toast, 

"The whole of humankind!" 

"To those who love us!" second fill, 
But not to those whom we love, 

Lest we love those who love not us. 
A third, "To thee and me, love!" 

Burns' marriage followed with astounding 
haste upon the letters in which he assured Cla- 
rinda and Ainslie that he had done with Jean 
and she with him. This is not so strange, if his 
feeling for Clarinda were more than a mere pas- 
sion. The high gods have no pity for self-deceit, 
and the deeper love strikes into the being of man 
and woman, the more inexorably are their eyes 
opened at last to truth. Some new and pitiless 
clarity of vision forced upon Burns the realisa- 



tion of responsibilities to which he had been blind. 
In the letters that announced his marriage to his 
friends, we find him doggedly clinging to a cer- 
tain formula "I had a long and much-loved 
fellow-creature's happiness or misery in my 
hands, and who could trifle with such a deposit?" 
His estimate of marriage was confessedly the 
Pauline one, but of that Jean never complained. 
She mothered her own children and the child 
of another woman, for Burns married was still 
Burns with tender patience; and not the bairns 
only, but their father too. He was fond of her, 
kind and considerate in their family life ; he gave 
her, not only some exquisite songs, which alas! 
came all too cheap, but the first gingham worn 
in those parts, which really shows some costly 
thought for her pleasure and dignity. But he 
says a volume in a few words when he admits, 
"Conjugal love is a passion which I deeply feel 
and highly venerate; but somehow it does not 
make such a figure in poesy as that other species 
of the passion where love is liberty and nature 
law." Duty lay heavily upon him the cart- 
horse part of human nature does not come by 
wishing ! and in one rather pathetic entry of his 
commonplace book we find him wearied to death 
with the prosy business of living. 



Ellisland, 14th June, 1788. Sunday. 

This is now the third day I have been in this 
country. Lord, what is man! what a bustling 
little bundle of passions, appetites, ideas and fan- 
cies! and what a capricious kind of existence he 
has here! If legendary stories be true, there is 
indeed an Elsewhere, where, as Thomson says, 
"Virtue sole survives." 

"Tell us, ye Dead; 

Will none of you in pity disclose the secret, 
What 'tis you are, and we must shortly be? 

a little time 

Will make us learned as you are, and as close." 

I am such a coward in Life, so tired of the Ser- 
vice, that I would almost at any time with Mil- 
ton's Adam 

"gladly lay me in my mother's lap 
And be at peace." 

but a wife and children, in poetics, "The fair 
Partner of my soul and the little dear Pledges of 
our mutual love," these bind me to struggle with 
the stream; till some chopping squall overset the 



silly vessel, or, in the listless return of years, its 
own craziness drive it to a wreck. Farewell, now, 
to those giddy Follies, those varnished Vices, 
which, though half sanctified by the bewitching 
levity of Wit and Humour, are at best but thrift- 
less idling with the precious current of existence ; 
nay, often poisoning the whole, that, like the 
Plains of Jericho, "The water is naught, and the 
ground barren," and nothing short of a super- 
naturally gifted Elisha can ever after heal the 

Wedlock, the circumstance that buckles me 
hardest to Care, if Virtue and Religion were to 
be anything with me but mere names, was what 
in a few seasons I must have resolved on; in the 
present case it was unavoidably necessary. Hu- 
manity, Generosity, honest vanity of character, 
Justice to my own happiness for after-life, so 
far as it could depend, which it surely will a great 
deal, on internal peace, all these joined their 
warmest suffrages, their most powerful solicita- 
tions, with a rooted Attachment, to urge the step 
I have taken. Nor have I any reason on her 
part to rue it. I can fancy how, but I have never 
seen where, I could have made it better. Come 
then, let me return to my favourite Motto, that 
glorious passage in Young 



"On Reason build Resolve, 
That column of true majesty in man." 

We do not know whether he wrote Clarinda 
the news of his marriage, or left the knowledge 
to reach her by indirect ways. The following 
letter proves that she took it extremely ill. 
While we may well guess that, setting aside her 
little preachments, Clarinda did not make self- 
control any too easy for Burns, it is noteworthy 
that this is the only occasion when he turns upon 
her with any suggestion to that effect. 




March 9fh, 1789. 

MADAM, The letter you wrote me to Heron's 
carries its own answer in its bosom; you forbade 
me to write you, unless I was willing to plead 
guilty to a certain indictment that you were 
pleased to bring against me. As I am convinced 
of my own innocence, and, though conscious of 
high imprudence and egregious folly, can lay my 
hand on my breast and attest the rectitude of my 
heart, you will pardon me, Madam, if I do not 
carry my complaisance so far, as humbly to ac- 
quiesce in the name of Villain, merely out of com- 
pliment to your opinion; much as I esteem your 
judgment* and warmly as I regard your worth. 

I have already told you, and I again aver it, 
that, at the period of time alluded to, I was not 
under the smallest moral tie to Mrs. Burns; nor 
did I, nor could I then know, all the powerful 
circumstances that omnipotent necessity was 
busy laying in wait for me. When you call over 
the scenes that have passed between us, you will 
survey the conduct of an honest man, struggling 
successfully with temptations, the most powerful 
that ever beset humanity, and preserving un- 
tainted honour, in situations where the austerest 



virtue would have forgiven a fall: situations that, 
I will dare to say, not a single individual of all 
his kind, even with half his sensibility and pas- 
sion, could have encountered without ruin; and 
I leave you to guess, Madam, how such a man is 
likely to digest an accusation of perfidious treach- 

Was I to blame, Madam, in being the dis- 
tracted victim of charms which, I affirm it, no 
man ever approached with impunity? Had I 
seen the least glimmering of hope that these 
charms could ever have been mine; or even had 
not iron necessity but these are unavailing 

I would have called on you when I was in town, 
indeed I could not have resisted it, but that Mr. 
Ainslie told me, that you were determined to 
avoid your windows while I was in town, lest 
even a glance of me should occur in the street. 

When I shall have regained your good opin- 
ion, perhaps I may venture to solicit your friend- 
ship; but, be that as it may, the first of her sex 
I ever knew shall always be the object of my 
warmest good wishes. 

XV. 13. 




(About end of January, 1790.) 
I have, indeed, been ill, Madam, this whole 
winter. An incessant headache, depression of 
spirits, and all the truly miserable consequences 
of a deranged nervous system have made dread- 
ful havoc of my health and peace. Add to all 
this, a line of life, into which I have lately en- 
tered, obliges me to ride, upon an average, at 
least two hundred miles every week. However, 
thank Heaven I am now greatly better in my 
health. . . . 

I cannot, will not, enter into extenuatory cir- 
cumstances ; else I could show you how my pre- 
cipitate, headlong, unthinking conduct, leagued 
with a conjuncture of unlucky events, to thrust 
me out of a possibility of keeping the path of 
rectitude; to curse me, by an irreconcileable war 
between my duty and my nearest wishes, and to 
damn me with a choice only of different species 
of error and misconduct. 

I dare not trust myself further with this sub- 
ject. The following song is one of my latest 
productions; and I send it to you as I would do 
anything else, because it pleases myself. 




Tune: The Quaker's Wife. 

Thine am I, my faithful fair, 
Thine, my lovely Nancy; 
Ev'ry pulse along my veins, 
Ev'ry roving fancy. 

To thy bosom lay my heart, 
There to throb and languish: 
Tho' despair had wrung its core, 
That would heal its anguish. 

Take away those rosy lips, 
Rich with balmy treasure; 
Turn away thine eyes of love, 
Lest I die with pleasure. 

What is life when wanting love? 
Night without a morning: 
Love's the cloudless summer sun, 
Nature gay adorning. 

The following fragment was found endorsed 
by Clarinda, "Received Feb. 5, 1790." By some 
it is supposed to be a part of the preceding letter, 
but from the allusions it would rather seem to 
have been written upon receiving her answer. 



I could not answer your last letter but one. 
When you in so many words tell a man that you 
look on his letters with a smile of contempt, in 
what language, Madam, can he answer you? 
Though I were conscious that I had acted wrong 
and I am conscious that I have acted wrong 
yet would I not be bullied into repentance; but 
your last letter. . . . Madam, determined as 
you. . . . 

The reverse of the fragment contains the verses 
"To Mary in Heaven." 

In the opera of Julien we have the saddest 
point of the hero's life marked by a travesty of 
his most sacred experience, the high priest of 
Art burlesqued by a street showman and the 
Goddess of Beauty by a drunken girl of the gut- 
ters. Often in the work of men who have staked 
much on some principle, we find the terrible mo- 
ment of reaction where they laugh at that prin- 
ciple and at the fools who champion it, as in 
Ibsen's "Wild Duck." In the last years of Burns, 
we find a travesty of his passion for Nancy, a 
thin, cheap, trifling affair and deliberate withal, 
almost as if he thought that belittling the former 
experience could lessen the pain it had left. 
Mrs. Whelpdale, the "lassie wi' the lint-white 



locks" whom he chose for his Chloris, had made 
a foolish marriage and was deserted by her repro- 
bate husband, like Clarinda. He carried the 
dreary play far enough to suggest changing in a 
later edition the opening line of the foregoing 
song to read 

"Thine am I, my Chloris fair." 

He had already altered the second and fourth 
lines, much to the poem's detriment. 

But Chloris was only a poor shadow after all, 
and he seems to have realised it. He writes to 
George Thomson, in 1796, the year of his death: 
"In my bypast songs I dislike one thing the 
name Chloris. I meant it as the fictitious name 
of a certain lady, but on second thoughts it is a 
high incongruity to have a Greek appellation to 
a Scotch pastoral ballad. Of this and of some 
things else in my next ; I have other amendments 
to propose. What you once mentioned of flaxen 
locks is just. They cannot enter into an elegant 
description of beauty." 

So much for Chloris. 



Probably July, 1791. 

I have received both your last letters, Madam, 
and ought, and would, have answered the first 
long ago. But on what subject shall I write 
you? How can you expect a correspondent 
should write you when you declare that you mean 
to preserve his letters, with a view sooner or later, 
to expose them on the pillory of derision, and the 
rack of criticism? This is gagging me com- 
pletely, as to speaking the sentiments of my 
bosom; else, Madam, I could, perhaps, too truly 

"Join grief with grief, and echo sighs to thine I" 

I have perused your most beautiful, but most 
pathetic poem : do not ask me how often, or with 
what emotions. You know that "I dare to sin, 
but not to lie!" Your verses wring the confes- 
sion from my inmost soul, that I will say it, ex- 
pose it if you please that I have, more than 
once in my life, been the victim of a damning 
conjuncture of circumstances; and that to me 
you must be ever 

"Dear as the light that visits these sad eyes." 


I have just, since I had yours, composed the 
following stanzas. Let me know your opinion 
of them. 

Sensibility, how charming, 
Thou, my Friend, canst truly tell; 

But Distress, with horrors arming, 
Thou, alas! hast known too well! 

Fairest Flower, behold the lily, 

Blooming in the sunny ray; 
Let the blast sweep o'er the valley, 

See it prostrate in the clay. 

Hear the wood-lark charm the forest, 

Telling o'er his little joys; 
But, alas! a prey the surest 

To each pirate of the skies. 

Dearly bought the hidden treasure 

Finer feelings can bestow : 
Chords that vibrate sweetest pleasure 

Thrill the deepest notes of woe. 

I have one other piece in your taste; but I have 
just a snatch of time. 

R. B. 

The following poem would appear to be the 
one which he speaks of her sending him. 




Assist me, all ye gentle powers 
That sweeten Friendship's happy hours, 
Whilst I attempt to sing of thee, 
Heav'n-born emotion, Sympathy. 

When first I saw my rural swain, 
The pride of all the tuneful train, 
That hour we lov'd what could it be 
But thy sweet magic, Sympathy? 

Nor sordid wealth, nor giddy power, 
Could e'er confer one happy hour 
One hour like those I've spent with thee, 
In love's endearing sympathy ! 

All hail! the heav'n-inspired mind, 
That glows with love of human-kind ; 
'Tis thine to feel the ecstasy 
Soul link'd to soul by Sympathy. 




Edinburgh, 2nd August. 

Your surely mistake me, Sir "Expose your 
letters to criticism!" Nothing could be farther 
from my intention : read my letters and you will 
find nothing to justify such an idea. But I sup- 
pose they are burned, so you can't have recourse 
to them. In an impassioned hour I once talked 
of publishing them, but a little cool reflection 
showed me its impropriety: the idea has long 
been abandoned and I wish you to write me with 
that confidence you would do to a person of 
whom you entertained a good opinion and who 
is sincerely interested in your welfare. To the 
"everyday children of the world" I well know one 
cannot speak the sentiments of the bosom. 

I am pleased with your reception of the Poem 
and no less so with your beautiful stanzas in 
consequence. The last I think particularly ele- 

Dearly bought the hidden treasure, &c. 

It has procured me a short visit from the Muse, 
who has been a stranger since the "Golden 
Dream" of '88. The verses are inaccurate, but 


if worth while, pray correct them for me. Here 
they are 

Yes, Sensibility is charming 

Tho' it may wound the tender mind, 

Nature's stores, the bosom warming, 
Yield us pleasures most refined. 

See yonder pair of warbling linnets, 
How their music charms the grove ; 

What else with rapture fills their minutes 
But Sensibility and Love? 

Ev'n should the sportsmen (cruel rovers!) 
Rob them of their tuneful breath, 

How blest the little life-long lovers, 
Undivided in their death! 

A long-loved maid, nipt in the blossom, 
May lie in yonder kirkyard green ; 

Yet Mem'ry soothes her lover's bosom, 
Recalling many a raptured scene. 

Or, musing by the rolling ocean, 

See him sit with visage wan, 
As wave succeeding wave in motion, 

Mourns the chequer'd life of Man. 


Sensibility! sweet treasure, 

Still I'll sing in praise of thee : 
All that mortals know of pleasure 

Flows from Sensibility.* 

Let me know what you think of this poor imi- 
tation of your style 'Tis metre, but not poetry. 

Pray, have you seen Greenfield's Poems? or 
Miss Carmichael's? The last are very poor, I 

I have been reading Beattie's Minstrel for the 
first time. What a delicious treat 1 

Interrupted adieu ! 


*Mr. Scott Douglas, who first printed this letter, added the 
note: "We have, for want of space, been compelled to abridge 
Clarinda's little sentimental poem, but the omitted stanzas are in 
quality considerably inferior to those here presented." 




In August, 1791, "I had a letter" (from Mr. 
M'Lehose) "and, soon after, another, inviting me 
to come out to Jamaica and enclosing a bill for 
50, which was meant, I suppose, to equip me; 
and containing the most flattering directions to 
give his only surviving son the best education 
Edinburgh could afford." (Mr. M'Lehose had 
all this time been prospering in Jamaica, but in 
spite of strenuous efforts to recall him to his 
duty, not a farthing had found its way to his 
family.) "I consulted my frjends; they declined 
giving any advice, and referred me to my own 
mind. After much agitation, and deep and 
anxious reflection for my child's sake, for whom 
he promised such liberal things, and encouraged 
by flattering accounts of his character and con- 
duct in Jamaica, I resolved to undertake the 
arduous voyage." (It is not at all unlikely that 
the marriage of Burns may have counted for 
something in her decision. ) 

She wrote as follows to her cousin, Lord 
Craig. "When I wrote you last, the bidding 
adieu to my dear boy was my only source of 
anxiety. I had then no idea whatever of going 
out to Mr. M'Lehose. Next day I learned from 


Mrs. Adair that Captain Liddel told her my 
husband had the strongest resolution of using 
me kindly, in case I accepted of his invitation; 
and that pride alone hindered him acknowledging 
his faults a second time, still hurt at my not an- 
swering his overtures of reconciliation from Lon- 
don. But that, in case I did not choose to come 
over, I might rest assured I would never hear 
from him while he existed. Captain Liddel 
added his opinion, that I ought to go, in the 
strongest terms. Mrs. Adair joins him; and 
above all, my poor boy adds his entreaties most 
earnestly. I thought it prudent to inform him, 
for the first time, of the disagreement between 
his parents, and the unhappy jealousy in his 
father's temper. Still he argues that his father 
may be incensed at my refusal. If I go I have 
a terror of the sea, and no less of the climate; 
above all, the horror of again involving myself 
in misery in the midst of strangers, and almost 
without remedy. If I refuse, I must bid my 
only child ( in whom all my affections and hopes 
are entirely centred) adieu for ever; struggle 
with a straitened income and the world's censure 
solitary and unprotected. The bright side of 
these alternatives is, that if I go, my husband's 
jealousy of temper may be abated from a better 



knowledge of the world; and time and misfor- 
tunes, by making alterations both on person and 
vivacity, will render me less likely to incur his 
suspicions; and that ill humour, which partly 
arose from straitened fortune, will be removed 
by affluence. I will enjoy my son's society, and 
have him for a friend; and who knows what ef- 
fect so fine a boy may have on a father long 
absent from his sight. If I refuse, and stay here, 
I shall continue to enjoy a circle of kind, re- 
spectable friends. Though my income be small, 
I can never be in want; and I shall maintain 
that liberty which, after nine years' enjoyment, I 
shall find it hard to forego, even to the degree to 
which I am sensible every married woman must 

A few days later she wrote again to her cousin. 
"On Friday last I went down to Leith and had 
a conversation on board the Roselle with Captain 
Liddel. He told me that Mr. M'Lehose had 
talked of me and of my coming over, with great 
tenderness ; and said, it would be my fault if we 
did not enjoy great happiness; and concluded 
with assuring me, if I were his own child he 
would advise me to go out. This conversation 
has tended greatly to decide my accepting my 
husband's invitation. I have done what you de- 



sired me, weighed coolly (as coolly as a sub- 
ject so interesting would permit) all I have 
to suffer or to expect in either situation; and 
the result is, my going to Jamaica. This appears 
to me the preferable choice : it is surely the path 
of duty ; and as such, I may look for the blessing 
of God to attend my endeavours for happiness 
with him who was the husband of my choice and 
the father of my children. On Saturday I was 
agreeably surprised by a call from Mr. Kemp. 
He had received my letter that morning at Glas- 
gow, and had alighted for a few minutes, on his 
way to Easter Duddungston, where his family 
are for summer quarters. He was much affected 
with my perplexing situation. Like you, he 
knew not how to decide, and left me, promising 
to call early this day, which he has done. I told 
him of the meeting with Mr. Liddel, and enumer- 
ated all the arguments which I had thought of on 
both sides of the question. What Mr. Liddel 
(who is a man of known worth) said to me 
weighed much with him; and he, too, is now of 
opinion my going to Jamaica is advisable. He 
gave me much good advice as to my conduct 
towards Mr. M'Lehose, and promised to write 
him himself. Your letter luckily arrived while 
he was with me. The assurance of my little in- 



come being secured me, not a little adds both to 
his opinion of the propriety of my going, and 
to my ease and comfort, in case (after doing all 
I can) it should prove impossible to enjoy that 
peace which I so earnestly pant after; and I 
would fain hope for a tender reception. After 
ten years' separation, and the sacrifice I make 
of bidding adieu (probably for ever) to my 
friends and my country indeed, I am much de- 
pressed in mind should I escape the sea, the 
climate may prove fatal to me ; but should it hap- 
pen so, I have the iatisfaction to think I shall 
die in attempting to attain happiness in that path 
of duty which Providence and a succession of 
events seem to point out for the best. You, my 
dear kind benefactor, have had much trouble 
with me first and last; and though others appear 
ungrateful, neither time nor absence can ever 
erase from my heart the remembrance of your 
past kindness. My prayers shall ascend for the 
reward of Heaven upon your head ! To-morrow 
I am to write to my husband. Mr. Kemp is to 
see it on Wednesday. If any person occurs to 
you as proper to place Andrew with in Edin- 
burgh, let me know the sooner the better: the 
hopes of his rejoining me will help to console 
my mind in the midst of strangers. I am sorry 


you are to be so long of coming to town. Mean- 
time I shall be glad to hear from you ; for I am, 
my dear Sir, in every possible situation your 
affectionate and obliged friend, A. M." 

"I accordingly wrote to my husband in Octo- 
ber, 1791, acquainting him with my resolution of 
forgetting past differences, and throwing myself 
on his protection." As the Rosette which, by a 
curious coincidence was the ship in which Burns 
had thought of making his voyage to Jamaica 
did not sail till spring, she again wrote to her 
husband in December. "I had occasion to be in 
Glasgow lately for two days only. I called for 
your mother. I felt much for her bereaved of 
so many children. They told me you had not 
written for these three years past; but I assured 
them (and I hope it is the case) that your letters 
must have miscarried, as I could not believe you 
capable of such unkind neglect. I am certain, 
inclination no less than duty, must ever prompt 
you to pay attention to your mother. She has 
met with many and sore afflictions; and I feel 
for her the most sincere sympathy. ... I have 
met with much kindness since I came to Edin- 
burgh, from a set of most agreeable and respect- 
able friends. No ideas of wealth or splendour 
could compensate for the pain I feel in bidding 



them adieu. Nothing could support me but the 
fond reliance I have of gaining your affections 
and confidence. To possess these is the dearest 
wish of my heart ; and I trust the Almighty will 
grant this my ardent desire. I would fain hope 
to hear from you ere we sail; a kind letter from 
you would prove a balm to my soul during the 
anxieties of a tedious voyage." 




November t 1791. 

Sir, I take the liberty of addressing a few 
lines in behalf of your old acquaintance, Jenny 
Clow, who, to all appearance, is at this moment 
dying. Obliged, from all the symptoms of a 
rapid decay, to quit her service, she is gone to 
a room almost without common necessaries, un- 
tended and unmourned. In circumstances so dis- 
tressing, to whom can she so naturally look for 
aid as to the father of her child, the man for 
whose sake she has suffered many a sad and 
anxious night, shut from the world, with no other 
companions than guilt and solitude? You have 
now an opportunity to evince you indeed possess 
those fine feelings you have delineated, so as 
to claim the just admiration of your country. I 
am convinced I need add nothing farther to 
persuade you to act as every consideration of 
humanity must dictate. I am, Sir, your sincere 





Dumfries, 23d November, 1791. 
It is extremely difficult, my dear Madam, for 
me to deny a lady anything ; but to a lady whom 
I regard with all the endearing epithets of re- 
spectful esteem and old friendship, how shall I 
find the language of refusal? I have, indeed, a 
shade * of the lady, which I keep, and shall ever 
keep in the sanctum sanctorum of my most 
anxious care. That lady, though an unfortunate 
and irresistible conjuncture of circumstances has 
lost me her esteem, yet she shall be ever, to me 

"Dear as the ruddy drops that warm my heart." 

I am rather anxious for her sake, as to her voy- 
age. I pray God my fears may be groundless. 
By the way, I have this moment a letter from 
her, with a paragraph or two conceived in so 
stately a. style, that I would not pardon it in 
any created being except herself; but, as the sub- 
ject interests me much, I shall answer it to you, 
as I do not know her present address. I am sure 
she must have told you of a girl, a Jenny Clow, 

* Not in the breast-pin, however, which enshrined it on his re- 
turn from Edinburgh. After his marriage, he substituted for 
Clarinda's silhouette one of Jean, with the motto, "To err is 
human; to forgive, divine." 



who had the misfortune to make me a father, with 
contrition I own it, contrary to the laws of our 
most excellent constitution, in our holy Presby- 
terian hierarchy. 

Mrs. M tells me a tale of the poor girl's 

distress that makes my very heart weep blood. I 
will trust that your goodness will apologise to 
your delicacy for me, when I beg of you, for 
Heaven's sake, to send a porter to the poor 
woman Mrs. M., it seems, knows where she is 
to be found with five shillings in my name ; and, 
as I shall be in Edinburgh on Tuesday first, for 
certain, make the poor wench leave a line for me, 
before Tuesday, at Mr. Mackay's, White Hart 
Inn, Grassmarket, where I shall put up ; and, be- 
fore I am two hours in town, I shall see the poor 
girl, and try what is to be done for her relief. 
I would have taken my boy from her long ago, 
but she would never consent. 

I shall do myself the very great pleasure to 
call for you when I come to town, and repay you 
the sum your goodness shall have advanced. . . . 

and most obedient, 


Burns was in Edinburgh from the 29th of 
November to the 6th of December, on which date 



he returned to Dumfries, after what was to be 
the last of all his meetings with Clarinda. It is 
supposed that it is to this occasion he refers in his 
poem, "O May, thy morn was ne'er sae sweet as 
the mirk night of December." 

It is evident from the letters and poems that 
follow that the reconciliation was complete. 




He transcribes in full his Lament of Mary, 
Queen of Scots, and adds. 

Such, my dearest Clarinda, were the words of 
the amiable but unfortunate Mary. Misfortune 
seems to take a peculiar pleasure in darting her 
arrows against "honest men and bonny lasses." 
Of this you are too, too just a proof; but may 
your future fate be a bright exception to the re- 
mark! In the words of Hamlet, 

"Adieu, adieu, adieu ! Remember me." 


Leadhills, Thursday, Noon, (llth December, 1791.) 





I have some merit, my ever dearest of women, 
in attracting and securing the heart of Clarinda. 
In her I met with the most accomplished of all 
womankind, the first of all God's works ; and yet 
I, even I, have had the good fortune to appear 
amiable in her sight. 

By the by, this is the sixth letter that I have 
written you since I left you ; and if you were an 
ordinary being, as you are a creature very ex- 
traordinary an instance of what God Almighty 
in the plenitude of his power and the fulness of 
his goodness, can make! I would never forgive 
you for not answering my letters. 

I have sent in your hair, a part of the parcel 
you gave me, with a measure, to Mr. Bruce the 
jeweller in Prince's Street, to get a ring done 
for me. I have likewise sent in the verses On 
Sensibility altered to 

"Sensibility how charming, 
Dearest Nancy, thou canst tell," &c., 

to the Editor of the Scots Songs, of which you 
have three volumes, set to a most beautiful air; 


out of compliment to the first of women, my ever- 
beloved, my ever-sacred Clarinda. I shall proba- 
bly write you to-morrow. In the meantime, from 
a man who is literally drunk, accept and forgive ! 

R. B. 




Dumfries, 27th December,, 1791. 
I have yours, my ever dearest Madam, this 
moment. I have just ten minutes before the post 
goes; and these I shall employ in sending you 
some songs I have just been composing to dif- 
ferent tunes, for the Collection of Songs, of 
which you have three volumes, and of which you 

shall have the fourth. 



Time: Rory Ball's Port. 

Ae fond kiss, and then we sever; 

Ae fareweel, and then for ever! 

Deep in heart-wrung tears I'll pledge thee, 

Warring sighs and groans I'll wage thee. 

Who shall say that Fortune grieves him, 
While the star of hope she leaves him? 
Me, nae cheerful twinkle lights me; 
Dark despair around benights me. 

I'll ne'er blame my partial fancy, 
Naething could resist my Nancy: 
But to see her was to love her; 
Love but her, and love for ever. 


Had we never loved sae kindly, 
Had we never loved sae blindly! 
Never met or never parted, 
We had ne'er been broken-hearted. 

Fare-thee-weel, thou first and fairest! 
Fare-thee-weel, thou best and dearest! 
Thine be ilka joy and treasure, 
Peace, Enjoyment, Love, and Pleasure! 

Ae fond kiss, and then we sever; 

Ae fareweel, alas, for ever! 

Deep in heart-wrung tears I'll pledge thee, 

Warring sighs and groans I'll wage thee. 

(To an old Scots Tune) 

Behold the hour, the boat, arrive! 

My dearest Nancy, O fareweel! 
Sever'd frae thee, can I survive, 

Frae thee whom I hae loved sae weel! 

Endless and deep shall be my grief; 

Nae ray o' comfort shall I see ; 
But this most precious, dear belief! 

That thou wilt still remember me. 



Alang the solitary shore, 

Where fleeting sea-fowl round me cry, 
Across the rolling, dashing roar, 

I'll westward turn my wistful eye : 

Happy, thou Indian grove, I'll say, 
Where now my Nancy's path shall be I 

While thro' your sweets she holds her way, 
O tell me, does she muse on me!!! 

To a charming plaintive Scots Air. 

Ance mair I hail thee, thou gloomy December! 

Ance mair I hail thee wi' sorrow and care; 
Sad was the parting thou mak'st me remember, 

Parting wi' Nancy, oh, ne'er to meet mair! 

Fond lovers' parting is sweet, painful pleasure, 
Hope beaming mild on the soft parting hour; 

But the dire feeling, oh, farewell for ever! 
Anguish unmingled and agony pure ! 

The rest of this song is on the wheels. 

Adieu. Adieu. 



The song was afterward finished as follows : 

Wild as the winter now tearing the forest, 
Till the last leaf o' the summer is flown, 

Such is the tempest has shaken my bosom, 
Since my last hope and last comfort is gone! 

Still as I hail thee, thou gloomy December, 
Still shall I hail thee wi' sorrow and care; 

For sad was the parting thou mak'st me re- 
Parting wi' Nancy, oh, ne'er to meet mair! 




25th January, 1792. 

Agitated, hurried to death, I sit down to write 
a few lines to you, my ever dear, dear friend! 
We are ordered aboard on Saturday, to sail on 
Sunday. And now, my dearest Sir, I have a few 
things to say to you, as the last advice of her, who 
could have lived or died with you! I am happy 
to know of your applying so steadily to the busi- 
ness you have engaged in ; but oh, remember, this 
life is a short, passing scene ! Seek God's favour, 
keep His Commandments be solicitous to 
prepare for a happy eternity! There, I trust, 
we will meet, in perfect and never-ending bliss. 
Read my former letters attentively: let the re- 
ligious tenets there expressed sink deep into your 
mind; meditate on them with candour, and your 
accurate judgment must be convinced that they 
accord with the words of Eternal Truth ! Laugh 
no more at holy things, or holy men: remember, 
"without holiness, no man shall see God." An- 
other thing, and I have done: as you value my 
peace, do not write me to Jamaica, until I let you 
know you may with safety. Write Mary often. 
She feels for you! and judges of your present 
feelings by her own. I am sure you will be happy 



to hear of my happiness : and I trust you will 
soon. If there is time, you may drop me a line 
ere I go, to inform me if you get this, and an- 
other letter I wrote you, dated the 21st, which I 
am afraid of having been neglected to be put 
into the office. 

So it was the Rosette you were to have gone in! 
I read your letter to-day, and reflected deeply on 
the ways of Heaven ! To us they oft appear dark 
and doubtful; but let us do our duty faithfully, 
and sooner or later we will have our reward, be- 
cause "the Lord God Omnipotent reigns": every 
upright mind has here cause to rejoice. And 
now, adieu. May Almighty God bless you and 
yours! take you into His blessed favour here, 
and afterward receive you into His glory! 

Farewell! I will ever, ever remain 

Your reed friend, 
A. M. 

Poor little Clarinda! She probably looked 
forward to a most romantic correspondence full 
of noble sentiment enlivened by hopeless passion, 
when, safely insulated by the sea, she could ar- 
range for receiving her mail without disturbing 
the conjugal entente. Alas for her hopes, that 
entente proved far from cordial. Her husband, 



weakening in his good resolutions (possibly on 
the receipt of her letters and Mr. Kemp's), had 
urged her not to come, alleging that yellow fever 
was raging in the island and the negroes were 
in revolt. She had resolved to go, however, and 
go she did, only to learn upon her arrival that 
the warnings were untrue, and the hard fact of 
the matter was simply that he did not want her. 
He was both unkind and unfaithful; and her 
humiliation and distress, combined with the ef- 
fect of the climate, made it necessary for her 
health's sake to return to Scotland. Painful as 
her experience had been, we can hardly doubt 
her relief in returning to her congenial Edin- 
burgh life, all former compromising circum- 
stances erased by her martyrdom in the name of 
wifely duty a martyrdom which it is logical to 
assume she did not endure in silence. She did 
not write to Burns that she had come back; that 
is easy to understand. That mirk night o' De- 
cember undoubtedly left matters in a status only 
to be continued with comfort and safety on oppo- 
site sides of the ocean. Back in the same little 
Scotland, she was quite evidently afraid of him. 
He was not to be dropped so easily, however, and 
wrote, as she had suggested, to her friend. 




Dumfries, Dec. 6, 1792. 
DEAR MADAM I have written to you so often 
and have got no answer, that I had resolved never 
to lift up a pen to you again; but this eventful 
day, the sixth of December, recalls to my mem- 
ory such a scene! Heaven and earth! when I 
remember a far-distant person! but no more 
of this until I learn from you a proper address 
and why my letters have lain by you unanswered, 
as this is the third I have sent you. The oppor- 
tunities will all be gone now, I fear, of sending 
over the book I mentioned in my last. Do not 
write me for a week, as I shall not be at home; 
but as soon after that as possible. 

Ance mair I hail thee, thou gloomy December! 

Ance mair I hail thee wi' sorrow and care; 
Dire was the parting thou bidst me remember, 

Parting wi' Nancy, oh, ne'er to meet mair! 


XV. 1>. 




I suppose, my dear Madam, that by your neg- 
lecting to inform me of your arrival in Europe, 
a circumstance that could not be indifferent to 
me, as, indeed, no occurrence relating to you can, 
you meant to leave me to guess and gather that 
a correspondence I once had the honour and felic- 
ity to enjoy, is to be no more. Alas ! what heavy- 
laden sounds are these "No more!" The wretch 
who has never tasted pleasure, has never known 
woe ; what drives the soul to madness, is the recol- 
lection of joys that are "no more!" But this is 
not language to the world: they do not under- 
stand it. But come, ye few, the children of 
Feeling and Sentiment! ye whose trembling 
bosom-chords ache to unutterable anguish, as 
recollection gushes on the heart! ye who are 
capable of an attachment, keen as the arrow of 
Death and strong as the vigour of immortal be- 
ing, come ! and your ears shall drink a tale 

But, hush! I must not, cannot tell it; agony is 
in the recollection, and frenzy in the recital! 

But, Madam, to leave the paths that lead to 
madness, I congratulate your friends on your 
return ; and I hope that the precious health, which 
Miss P. tells me is so much injured, is restored, 



or restoring. There is a fatality attends Miss 
Peacock's correspondence and mine. Two of my 
letters, it seems, she never received; and her last 
came while I was in Ayrshire, was unfortunately 
mislaid and only found about ten days or a 
fortnight ago, on removing a desk of drawers. 

I present you a book: may I hope you will 
accept of it. I daresay you will have brought 
your books with you. The fourth volume of the 
Scots Songs is published ; I will presume to send 
it you. Shall I hear from you? But first" hear 
me. No cold language no prudemtial docu- 
ments: I despise advice and scorn control. If 
you are not to write such language, such senti- 
ments as you know I shall wish, shall delight to 
receive, I conjure you, by wounded pride! by 
ruined peace! by frantic, disappointed passion! 
by all the many ills that constitute that sum of 
human woes, a broken heart!!! to me be silent 
for ever. 

The rest of this letter is missing from the 
letter in Clarinda's collection, but we know how 
it ran, because Burns included this "composition" 
as Mr. Chambers aptly characterises it, in the 
volume of Letters he transcribed for Riddel. It 
was headed by him, "Letter to a Lady, ever 
scrolled, but copied from the original letter," and 



he added this disingenuous comment: "I need 
scarcely remark that the foregoing was the 
fustian rant of enthusiastic youth." 

If you ever insult me with the unfeeling 
apophthegms of cold-blooded caution, may all 
the but hold! a fiend could not breathe a 
malevolent wish on the head of my angel I Mind 
my request if you send me a page baptised in 
the font of sanctimonious prudence, by heaven, 
earth and hell, I will tear it to atoms! Adieu; 

may all good things attend you! 

R. B. 




Undated, but conjectured as 1793 in the author- 
ized edition of the Letters. 

Before you ask me why I have not written you, 
first let me be informed by you, how I shall write 
you? "In friendship," you say; and I have many 
a time taken up my pen to try an epistle of 
"friendship" to you; but it will not do: 'tis like 
Jove grasping a pop-gun, after having yielded 
his thunder. When I take up the pen, recollec- 
tion ruins me. Ah! my ever dearest Clarinda! 
Clarinda! What a host of memory's tenderest 
offspring crowd on my fancy at that sound ! But 
I must not indulge that subject. You have for- 
bid it. 

I am extremely happy to learn that your 
precious health is re-established and that you are 
once more fit to enjoy that satisfaction in exist- 
ence, which health alone can give us. My old 
friend Ainslie has indeed been kind to you. Tell 
him that I envy him the power of serving you. 
I had a letter from him a while ago, but it was 
so dry, so distant, so like a card to one of his 
clients, that I could scarce bear to read it, and 
have not yet answered it. He is a good honest 
fellow, and can write a friendly letter, which 



would do equal honour to his head and his heart, 
as a whole sheaf of his letters which I have by 
me will witness ; and though Fame does not blow 
her trumpet at my approach now, as she did then, 
when he first honoured me with his friendship, 
yet I am as proud as ever; and when I am laid 
in my grave, I wish to be stretched at my full 
length, that I may occupy every inch of ground 
I have a right to. 

You would laugh were you to see me where I 
am just now. Would to Heaven you were here 
to laugh with me, though I am afraid that crying 
would be our first employment. Here I am set, 
a solitary hermit, in the solitary room of a soli- 
tary inn, with a solitary bottle of wine by me, as 
grave and stupid as an owl, but like that owl, still 
faithful to my old song; in confirmation of which, 
my dear Mrs. Mac, here is your good health. 
May the hand-waled benisons o' Heaven bless 
your bonnie face ; and the wratch wha skellies at 
your welfare, may the auld tinkler deil get him 
to clout his rotten heart ! Amen. 

You must know, my dearest Madam, that 
these now many years, wherever I am, in what- 
ever company, when a married lady is called as a 
toast, I constantly give you; but, as your name 
has never passed my lips, even to my most in- 



timate friend, I give you by the name of Mrs. 
Mac. This is so well known among my acquaint- 
ances, that when any married lady is called for, 
the toast-master will say: "Oh, we need not 
ask him who it is: here's Mrs. Mac!" I have 
also, among my convivial friends, set on foot a 
round of toasts, which I call a round of Arcadian 
Shepherdesses ; that is a round of favourite ladies 
under female names celebrated in ancient song; 
and then you are my Clarinda. So, my lovely 
Clarinda, I devote this glass of wine to a most 
ardent wish for your happiness. 

In vain would Prudence, with decorous sneer, 
Point out a censuring world, and bid me fear: 
Above that world on wings of love I rise, 
I know its worst, and can that worst despise. 

"Wrong'd, injured, shunned, unpitied, un- 
redrest ; 

The mock'd quotation of the scorner's jest" 

Let Prudence' direst bodements on me fall, 
Clarinda, rich reward! o'erpays them all. 

I have been rhyming a little of late, but I do 
not know if they are worth postage. 

Tell me what you think of the following 



Here follows the "Monody on a lady famed 
for her caprice." 

The subject of the foregoing is a woman of 
fashion in this country, with whom at one period 
I was well acquainted. By some scandalous con- 
duct to me, and two or three other gentlemen 
here as well as me, she steered so far to the 
north of my good opinion, that I have made her 
the theme of several ill-natured things. The fol- 
lowing epigram struck me the other day as I 
passed her carriage. 


If you rattle along like your Mistress' tongue, 

Your speed will out-rival the dart ; 
But, a fly for your load, you'll break down on the 

If your stuff be as rotten's her heart. 


We know well enough the story of Burns' last 
years and of his death. His great fellow-coun- 
tryman has given us the soul of it in a few words. 
"To the ill-starred Burns was given the power of 
making man's life more venerable, but that of 
wisely guiding his own life was not given. Des- 
tiny for so in our ignorance we must speak 
* 246 


his faults, the faults of others, proved too hard 
for him, and that spirit which might have soared 
could it but have walked, soon sank to the dust, 
its glorious faculties trodden under foot in the 
blossom; and died, we may almost say, without 
ever having lived. And so kind and warm a 
soul, so full of inborn riches, of love to all living 
and lifeless things!" . . . As Stevenson briefly 
phrased it, "He died of being Robert Burns." 

It is pitiful enough, that closing scene, beset 
with little mean cares, half of them goblins of 
that delirium against the terror of which he 
begged the comfort of Jean's work-worn hands. 
But to my mind far more pitiable is the spectacle 
of "divine Clarinda," a chirpy old lady addicted 
to snuff, complacently sunning her failing wits 
in the radiance of her great lover's fame. Con- 
sider carefully these extracts from her letters to 
Mr. Syme, who approached her on the subject of 
the publication of her correspondence with Burns 
in a new edition of the poet's works, and com- 
pare them with the statement from the preface 
written for the authorised edition of the corre- 
spondence published in 1843, by Mrs. M'Lehose's 
grandson a gentleman who is disposed to deal 
charitably with his ancestress, as is proven by this 
memorable sentence, also in the preface: "The 



visionary hopes entertained by the poet were gen- 
erally checked by Clarinda with a happy mixture 
of dignity and mildness bespeaking inward 




What can have impressed such an idea upon 
you, as that I ever conceived the most distant 
intention to destroy these precious memorials of 
an acquaintance, the recollection of which would 
influence me were I to live till fourscore! Be 
assured I will never suffer one of them to perish. 
This I give you my solemn word of honour upon ; 
nay, more, on condition that you send me my 
letters, I will select such passages from our dear 
bard's letters as will do honour to his memory 
and cannot hurt my own fame, even with the 
most rigid. His letters, however, are really not 
literary; they are the passionate effusions of an 
elegant mind indeed, too tender to be exposed 
to any but the eye of a partial friend. Were the 
world composed of minds such as yours, it would 
be cruel even to bury them; but ah! how very 
few would understand, much less relish, such 
compositions ! The bulk of mankind are strangers 
to the delicate refinements of superior minds. 

Edinburgh, 9th January, 1797. 
Dear Sir, I am much obliged to you for the 
speedy return you made to my last letter. . . . 



I am happy that you have consented to return 
the letters at last, and that my pledge has pleased 
you. . . . You must pardon me for refusing to 
send B.'s. I never will. I am determined not to 
allow them to be out of my house; but it will be 
quite the same to you, as you shall see them all 
when you come to Edinburgh next month. Do 
write me previous to your arrival, and name the 
day, that I may be at home and guard against 
our being interrupted in perusing these dear 
memorials of our lamented friend. I hold them 
sacred too sacred for the public eye; and I am 
sure you will agree they are so when you see 
them. If any argument could have prevailed on 
me, the idea of their affording pecuniary assist- 
ance was most likely. But I am convinced they 
would have added little to this effect: for I 
heard, by a literary conversation here, that it was 
thought by most people there would be too much 
intended to be published; and that letters espe- 
cially it was nonsense to give as few would be 
interested in them. This- 1 thought strange, and 
so will a few enthusiastic admirers of our bard; 
but I fear 'tis the general voice of the public. . . . 
there are few souls anywhere who understood or 
could enter into the relish of such a character as 
B.'s. There was an electricity about him which 


could only touch or pervade a few cast in nature's 
finest mould. . . . 

tYours with regard, 





"In reading the correspondence of Burns and 
Clarinda, the reader will perceive that several of 
her letters, and perhaps three or four of his, are 
wanting; and that, in those published, various 
passages are short-coming. A brief explanation, 
in relation to their custody, is therefore deemed 
necessary. Clarinda survived forty-four years; 
and it is perhaps a matter of surprise that the 
Letters should have been so well preserved and 
so few lost in such a long period. 

"In some of the Poet's letters, pieces have been 
cut out> to gratify (it is supposed) collectors of 
autographs, as it is well known that Mrs. M'Le-* 
hose was much harassed with such applications; 
they are, besides, much torn, which was incidental 
to the frequent handling of them, for they were 
exhibited to gratify the curiosity of visitors. 
These are the sole causes of a few blanks being 
observable in the letters." 

The italics are ours.