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next year the natural consequence became mani- not only take him in his vanity, but wound him fest. It was a heavy stroke for this unfortunate at the heart. couple. They had trifled with life, and were now He relieved himself in verse ; but for such a rudely reminded of life's serious issues. Jean smarting affront, manuscript poetry was insuffiawoke to the ruin of her hopes; the best she had cient to console him. He must find a more now to expect was marriage with a man who powerful remedy in good flesh and blood; and, was a stranger to her dearest thoughts; she after this discomfiture, set forth again at once might now be glad if she could get what she upon his voyage of discovery in quest of love. would never have chosen. As for Burns, at the It is perhaps one of the most touching things in stroke of the calamity he recognized that his voy- human nature, as it is a commonplace of psyage of discovery had led him into a wrong hem- chology, that when a man has just lost hope or isphere—that he was not, and never had been, confidence in one love, he is then most eager to really in love with Jean. Hear him in the pres- find and lean upon another. The universe could sure of the hour. Against two things,” he not be yet exhausted ; there must be hope and writes, “I am as fixed as fate-staying at home, love waiting for him somewhere; and so, with and owning her conjugally. The first, by heaven, his head down, this poor, insulted poet ran once I will not do!—the last, by hell, I will never do !” more upon his fate. There was an innocent and And then he adds, perhaps already in a more gentle Highland nursery-maid at service in a relenting temper: “If you see Jean, tell her I will neighboring family; and he had soon battered meet her, so God help me in my hour of need.” himself and her into a warm affection and a They met accordingly; and Burns, touched with secret engagement. Jean's marriage lines had her misery, came down from these heights of in- not been destroyed till March 13, 1786; yet all dependence, and gave her a written acknowledg- was settled between Burns and Mary Campbell ment of marriage. It is the punishment of Don by Sunday, May 14, when they met for the last Juanism to create continually false positions, time, and said farewell with rustic solemnities relations in life which are wrong in themselves, upon the banks of Ayr. They each wet their and which it is equally wrong to break or to per- hands in a stream, and, standing one on either petuate. This was such a case. Worldly Wise- bank, held a Bible between them as they vowed man would have laughed and gone his way; let eternal faith. Then they exchanged Bibles, on us be glad that Burns was better counseled by one of which Burns, for greater security, had inhis heart. When we discover that we can be no scribed texts as to the binding nature of an oath ; longer true, the next best is to be kind. I dare and surely, if ceremony can do aught to fix the say he came away from that interview not very wandering affections, here were two people united content, but with a glorious conscience; and as for life. Mary came of a superstitious family, so he went homeward, he would sing his favorite, that she perhaps insisted on these rites; but they “How are Thy servants blest, O Lord !” Jean, must have been eminently to the taste of Burns on the other hand, armed with her “lines,” con- at this period; for nothing would seem superflufided her position to the master-mason, her father, ous, and no oath great enough, to stay his totterand his wife. Burns and his brother were then ing constancy. in a fair way to ruin themselves in their farm; Events of consequence now happened thickly the poet was an execrable match for any well- in the poet's life. His book was announced; the to-do country lass; and perhaps old Armour had Armours sought to summon him at law for the an inkling of a previous attachment on his daugh- aliment of the child; he lay here and there in ter's part. At least, he was not so much in- hiding to correct the sheets; he was under an censed by her slip from virtue as by the marriage engagement for Jamaica, where Mary was to which had been designed to cover it; of this he join him as his wife; now he had “orders withwould not hear a word; Jean, who had besought in three weeks at latest to repair aboard the the acknowledgment only to appease her parents, Nancy, Captain Smith”; now his chest was aland not at all from any violent inclination to the ready on the road to Greenock; and now, in the poet, readily gave up the paper for destruction; wild autumn weather on the moorland, he meaand all parties imagined, although wrongly, that sures verses of farewell : the marriage was thus dissolved. To a proud
“ The bursting tears my heart declare ; man like Burns, here was a crushing blow. The
Farewell the bonny banks of Ayr!" concession which had been wrung from his pity was now publicly thrown back in his teeth. The But the great master dramatist had secretly anArmour family preferred disgrace to his connec- Other intention for the piece; by the most violent tion. Since the promise, besides, he had doubt- and complicated solution, in which death and less been busy“ battering himself” back again birth and sudden fame all play a part as interinto his affection for the girl; and the blow would posing deities, the act-drop fell upon a scene of
transformation. Jean was brought to bed of in an epigram. “These gentlemen,” said he, twins, and, by an amicable arrangement, the “remind me of some spinsters in my country Burnses took the boy to bring up by hand, while who spin their thread so fine that it is neither fit the girl remained with her mother. The success for weft nor woof.” Ladies, on the other hand, of the book was immediate and emphatic; it put surprised him; he was scarce commander of twenty pounds at once into the author's purse; himself in their society; he was disqualified by and he was encouraged upon all hands to go to his acquired nature as a Don Juan; and he, who Edinburgh and push his success in a second and had been so much at his ease with country lasslarger edition. Third and last in these series of es, treated the town dames to an extreme of definterpositions, a letter came one day to Mossgiel erence. One lady, who met him at a ball, gave Farm for Robert. He went to the window to Chambers a speaking sketch of his demeanor. read it; a sudden change came over his face, and “His manner was not prepossessing—scarcely, he left the room without a word. Years after- she thinks, manly or natural. It seemed as if he ward, when the story began to leak out, his family affected a rusticity or laudertness, so that when understood that he had then learned the death of he said the music was ‘bonnie, bonnie' it was Highland Mary. Except in a few poems and a like the expression of a child.” These would be few dry indications purposely misleading as to company manners; and doubtless on a slight dedate, Burns himself made no reference to this gree of intimacy the affectation would grow less. passage of his life; it was an adventure of which, And his talk to women had always "a turn for I think sufficient reasons, he desired to bury either to the pathetic or humorous, which enthe details. Of one thing we may be glad : in gaged the attention particularly.” after-years he visited the poor girl's mother, and The Edinburgh magnates (to conclude this left her with the impression that he was “a real episode at once) behaved well to Burns from first warm-hearted chield."
to last. Were heaven-born genius to revisit us Perhaps a month after he received this intel- in similar guise I am not venturing too far when ligence, he set out for Edinburgh on a pony he I say that he need expect neither so warm a welhad borrowed from a friend. The town that come nor such solid help. Although Burns was winter was “ agog with the plowman poet.” Rob- only a peasant, and one of no very elegant repuertson, Dugald Stewart, Blair, “ Duchess Gordon, tation as to morals, he was made welcome to and all the gay world,” were of his acquaintance. their homes. They gave him a great deal of Such a revolution is not to be found in literary good advice, helped him to some five hundred history. He was now, it must be remembered, pounds of ready money, and got him, as soon as twenty-seven years of age; he had fought since he asked it, a place in the excise. Burns, on his his early boyhood an obstinate battle against part, bore the elevation with perfect dignity; and poor soil, bad seed, and inclement seasons, wad- with perfect dignity returned, when the time had ing deep in Ayrshire mosses, guiding the plow in come, into a country privacy of life. His powerthe furrow, wielding “ the thresher's weary fling- ful sense never deserted him, and from the first in'-tree,” and his education, his diet, and his he recognized that his Edinburgh popularity was pleasures had been those of a Scotch country- but an ovation and the affair of a day. He wrote man. Now he stepped forth suddenly among a few letters in a high-flown, bombastic vein of the polite and learned. We can see him as he gratitude; but in practice he suffered no man to then was, in his boots and buckskins, his blue intrude upon his self-respect. On the other hand, coat and waistcoat striped with buff and blue, he never turned his back, even for a moment, on like a farmer in his Sunday best; the heavy plow- his old associates; and he was always ready to man's figure firmly planted on its burly legs; his sacrifice an acquaintance to a friend, although face full of sense and shrewdness, and with a the acquaintance were a noble duke. He would somewhat melancholy air of thought, and his be a bold man who should promise similar conlarge dark eye “ literally glowing" as he spoke. duct in equally exacting circumstances. It was, “I never saw such another eye in a human head," in short, an admirable appearance on the stage says Walter Scott, “though I have seen the most of life-socially successful, intimately self-respectdistinguished men of my time." With men, ing, and like a gentleman from first to last. whether they were lords or omnipotent critics, In the present study this must only be taken his manner was plain, dignified, and free from by the way, while we return to Burns's love-afbashfulness or affectation. If he made a slip, fairs. Even on the road to Edinburgh, he had he had the social courage to pass on and refrain seized upon the opportunity of a flirtation, and from explanation. He was not embarrassed in had carried the “battering" so far that, when this society, because he read and judged the next he moved from town, it was to steal two men; he could spy snobbery in a titled lord; days with this anonymous fair one. The exact and, as for the critics, he dismissed their system importance to Burns of this affair may be gath
ered from the song in which he commemorated like Corporal Trim's hat." I avow a carnal longits occurrence. “I love the dear lassie,” he sings, ing, after this transcription, to buffet the Old “because she loves me"; or, in the tongue of Hawk about the ears. There is little question prose, “Finding an opportunity, I did not hesi- that to this lady he must have repeated his adtate to profit by it; and even now, if it returned, dresses, and that he was by her (Miss Chalmers) I should not hesitate to profit by it again.” A eventually, though not at all unkindly, rejected. love thus founded has no interest for mortal man. One more detail to characterize the period. Six Meantime, early in the winter, and only once, we months after the date of this letter, Burns, back find him regretting Jean in his correspondence. in Edinburgh, is served with a writ in medita“ Because "—such is his reason—" because he tione fuge, on behalf of some Edinburgh fair does not think he will ever meet so delicious an one, probably of humble rank, who declared an armful again "; and then, after a brief excursion intention of adding to his family. into verse, he goes straight on to describe a new About the beginning of December, 1787, a episode in the voyage of discovery with the new period opens in the story of the poet's randaughter of a Lothian farmer for a heroine. I dom affections. He met at a tea-party one Mrs. must ask the reader to follow all these refer- Agnes McLehose, a married woman of about his ences to his future wife; they are essential to own age, who, with her two children, had been the comprehension of Burns's character and fate. deserted by an unworthy husband. She had wit, In June we find him back at Mauchline, a famous could use her pen, and had read “Werther" with man. There the Armour family greeted him attention. Sociable, and even somewhat frisky, with a "mean, servile compliance,” which in- there was a good, sound, human kernel in the creased his former disgust. Jean was not less woman; a warmth of love, strong, dogmatic, recompliant; a second time the poor girl submitted ligious feeling; and a considerable, but not auto the fascination of the man whom she did not thoritative, sense of the proprieties. Of what love, and whom she had so cruelly insulted little biographers refer to daintily as “her somewhat more than a year ago; and, though Burns took voluptuous style of beauty," judging from the advantage of her weakness, it was in the ugliest silhouette in Mr. Scott Douglas's valuable ediand most cynical spirit, and with a heart abso- tion, the reader will be difficult if he does not lutely indifferent. Judge of this by a letter writ- approve. Take her for all in all, I believe she was ten some twenty days after his return—a letter the best woman Burns encountered. The pair to my mind among the most degrading in the took a fancy for each other on the spot; Mrs. whole collection-a letter which seems to have McLehose, in her turn, invited him to tea; but been inspired by a boastful, libertine bagman. the poet, in his character of the Old Hawk, pre“I am afraid,” it goes, “ I have almost ruined ferred a tête-à-tête, excused himself at the last one source, the principal one, indeed, of my moment, and offered a visit instead. An acciformer happiness—the eternal propensity I al- dent confined him to his room for near a month, ways had to fall in love. My heart no more and this led to the famous Clarinda and Sylvanglows with feverish rapture; I have no paradisai- da correspondence. It was begun in simple cal evening interviews.” Even the process of sport; they are already at their fifth or sixth ex“ battering” has failed him, you perceive. Still change, when Clarinda writes, “It is really cuhe had some one in his eye-a lady, if you please, rious so much fun passing between two persons with a fine figure and elegant manners, and who who saw each other only once"; but it is hardly had “ seen the politest quarters in Europe.” “I safe for a man and woman in the flower of their frequently visited her," he writes, “and, after years to write almost daily, and sometimes in passing regularly the intermediate degrees be- terms too ambiguous, sometimes in terms too
, tween the distant formal bow and the familiar plain, and generally in terms too warın for mere grasp round the waist, I ventured, in my careless acquaintance. The exercise partakes a little of way, to talk of friendship in rather ambiguous the nature of battering, and danger may be apterms; and after her return to - I wrote her prehended when next they meet. It is difficult in the same terms. Miss, construing my remarks to give any account of this remarkable correfurther than even I intended, few off in a tan- spondence; it is too far away from us, and pergent of female dignity and reserve, like a mount- haps not yet far enough; in point of time and ing lark in an April morning, and wrote me an manner, the imagination is baffled by these stilted answer which measured out very completely what literary utterances, warming in bravura passages an immense way I had to travel before I could into downright truc nonsense. Clarinda reach the climax of her favors. But I am an old has one famous sentence in which she bids Sylhawk at the sport, and wrote her such a cool, vanda connect the thought of his mistress with deliberate, prudent reply, as brought my bird the changing phases of the year; it was enthufrom her aërial towerings, pop, down to my foot, siastically admired by the swain, but on the mod
ern mind produces mild amazement and alarm. her part writes, this time with a beautiful simpli“O Clarinda !" writes Burns, “shall we not meet city: “ I think the streets look deserted-like since in a state—some yet unknown state-of being, Monday; and there's a certain insipidity in good where the lavish hand of Plenty shall minister to kind folks I once enjoyed not a little. Miss the highest wish of Benevolence, and where the Wardrobe supped here on Monday. She once chill north wind of Prudence shall never blow named you, which kept me from falling asleep. I over the flowery field of Enjoyment?” The de- drank your health in a glass of ale—as the lasses sign may be that of an old hawk, but the style do at Hallowe'en—' with myseľ.'” Arrived at is more suggsetive of a bird-of-paradise. It is Mauchline, Burns installed Jean Armour in a sometimes hard to fancy they are not gravely lodging, and prevailed on Mrs. Armour to prommaking fun of each other as they write. Reli- ise her help and countenance in the approaching gion, poetry, love, and charming sensibility are confinement. This was kind at least; but hear the current topics. “I am delighted, charming his expressions : “I have taken her a room; I Clarinda, with your honest enthusiasm for reli- have taken her to my arms; I have given her a gion," writes Burns; and the pair entertained a mahogany bed; I have given her a guinea. . fiction that this was their “ favorite subject.” I swore her privately and solemnly never to at“This is Sunday," writes the lady, “and not a tempt any claim on me as a husband, even though word on our favorite subject. O fy! divine anybody should persuade her she had such a
O ' Clarinda !'” I suspect, although quite uncon- claim-which she has not, neither during my life sciously to the lady, who was bent on his redemp- nor after my death. She did all this like a good tion, they but used the favorite subject as a girl.” And then he took advantage of the situastalking-horse. In the mean time the sportive tion. To Clarinda he wrote: “I this morning acquaintance was ripening steadily into a genuine called for a certain woman. I am disgusted with passion. Visits took place, and then became her; I can not endure her"; and he accused her frequent. Clarinda's friends were hurt and sus- of "tasteless insipidity, vulgarity of soul, and picious; her clergyman interfered; she herself mercenary fawning.” This was already in March; had smart attacks of conscience; but her heart by the 13th of that month he was back in Edinhad gone from her control; it was altogether his, burgh. On the 17th he wrote to Clarinda: and she “counted all things but loss”-heaven “Your hopes, your fears, your cares, my love, are excepted—“that she might win and keep him." mine; so don't mind them. I will take you in Burns himself was transported while in her neigh- my hand through the dreary wilds of this world, borhood, but his transports grew somewhat rap- and scare away the ravening bird or beast that idly less during an absence. I am tempted to would annoy you.” Again, on the 21st: “Will imagine that, womanlike, he took on the color of you open, with satisfaction and delight, a letter his mistress's feeling; that he could not but heat from a man who loves you, who has loved you, himself at the fire of her unaffected passion; and who will love you, to death, through death, but that, like one who should leave the hearth and for ever? ... How rich am I to have such upon a winter's night, his temperature soon fell a treasure as you! ... ‘The Lord God knowwhen he was out of sight and touch ; and, in a eth,' and, perhaps, ‘Israel he shall know, my word, though he could share the symptoms, that love and your merit. Adieu, Clarinda! I am gohe had never shared the disease. At the same ing to remember you in my prayers." By the time, amid the fustian of the letters, there are 7th of April
, seventeen days later, he had already forcible and true expressions, and the love-verses decided to make Jean Armour publicly his wife. that he wrote upon Clarinda are among the most A more astonishing stage-trick is not to be moving in the language.
found. And yet his conduct is seen, upon a We are approaching the solution. In mid- nearer examination, to be grounded both in reawinter, Jean, once more in the family-way, was son and in kindness. He was now about to emturned out of doors by her family; and Burns bark on a solid worldly career; he had taken a had her received and cared for in the house of a farm; the affair with Clarinda, however gratifyfriend. For he remained to the last imperfect in ing to his heart, was too contingent to offer any his character of Don Juan, and lacked the sinis- great consolation to a man like Burns, to whom ter courage to desert his victim. About the mid- marriage must have seemed the very dawn of dle of February, 1788, he had to tear himself hope and self-respect. This is to regard the from his Clarinda and make a journey into the question from its lowest aspect; but there is no southwest on business. Clarinda gave him two doubt that he entered on this new period of his shirts for his little son. They were daily to meet life with a sincere determination to do right. in prayer at an appointed hour. Burns, too late He had just helped his brother with a loan of a for the post at Glasgow, sent her a letter by par- hundred and eighty pounds; should he do nocel, that she might not have to wait. Clarinda on thing for the poor girl whom he had ruined ?
It was true he could not do as he did without Alas! this was not the only ill circumstance brutally wounding Clarinda; that was the pun- in his future. He had been idle for some eighishment of his bygone fault; he was, as he truly teen months, superintending his new edition, says, “ damned with a choice only of different hanging on to settle with the publisher, traveling species of error and misconduct.” To be pro- in the Highlands with Willie Nichol, or philanderfessional Don Juan, to accept the provocation of ing with Mrs. McLehose; and in this period the any lively lass upon the village green, may thus radical part of the man had suffered irremediable lead a man through a series of detestable words hurt. He had lost his habits of industry, and and actions, and land him at last in an undesired formed the habit of pleasure. Apologetical biogand most unsuitable union for life. If he had raphers assure us of the contrary; but from the been strong enough to refrain, or bad enough to first, he saw and recognized the danger for himpersevere in, evil; if he had only not been Don self; his mind, he writes, is “enervated to an Juan at all, or been Don Juan altogether, there alarming degree" by idleness and dissipation ; had been some possible road for him throughout and again, “my mind has been vitiated with this troublesome world; but a man, alas ! who idleness.” It never fairly recovered. To busiis equally at the call of his worse and better in- ness he could bring the required diligence and stincts, stands among changing events without attention without difficulty; but he was thencefoundation or resource.
forward incapable, except in rare instances, of
that superior effort of concentration which is reDOWNWARD COURSE.
quired for serious literary work. He may be It may be questionable whether any marriage said, indeed, to have worked no more, and only could have tamed Burns; but it is at least cer- amused himself with letters. The man who had tain that there was no hope for him in the mar- written a volume of masterpieces in six months, riage he contracted. He did right, but then he during the remainder of his life rarely found had done wrong before; it was, as I said, one of courage for any more sustained effort than a those relations in life which it seems equally song. And the nature of the songs is itself wrong to break or to perpetuate. He neither characteristic of these idle later years; for they loved nor respected her. “God knows," he are often as polished and elaborate as his earlier writes, “my choice was as random as blind- works were frank, and headlong, and colloquial ; man's-buff.” He consoles himself by the thought and this sort of verbal elaboration in short flights that he has acted kindly to her; that she has is, for a man of literary turn, simply the most the most sacred enthusiasm of attachment to agreeable of pastimes. The change in manner him”; that she has a good figure; that she has coincides exactly with the Edinburgh visit. In “a wood-note wild,” “ her voice rising with ease 1786 he had written “ The Address to a Louse," to B natural”; no less. The effect on the reader which may be taken as an extreme instance of is one of unmingled pity for both parties con- the first manner; and already, in 1787, we come cerned. This was not the wife who (in his own upon the rose-bud pieces to Miss Cruikshank, words) could “enter into his favorite studies or which are typical examples of the second. The relish his favorite authors "; this was not even a change was, therefore, the direct and very natuwife, after the affair of the marriage lines, in ral consequence of his great change in life; but whom a husband could joy to place his trust. it is not the less typical of his loss of moral Let her manage a farm with sense, let her voice courage that he should have given up all larger rise to B natural all day long, she would still be ventures, nor the less melancholy that a man a peasant to her lettered lord, and an object of who first attacked literature with a hand that pity rather than of equal affection. She could seemed capable of moving mountains, should now be faithful, she could now be forgiving, she have spent his later years in whittling cherrycould now be generous even to a pathetic and stones. touching degree; but coming from one who was Meanwhile, the farm did not prosper; he had unloved, and who had scarcely shown herself to join to it the salary of an exciseman; at last worthy of the sentiment, these were all virtues he had to give it up, and rely altogether on the thrown away, which could neither change her latter resource. He was an active officer; and, husband's heart nor affect the inherent destiny though he sometimes tempered severity with of their relation. From the outset, it was a mar- mercy, we have local testimony, oddly representriage that had no root in nature; and we find ing the public feeling of the period, that, while him, ere long, lyrically regretting Highland Mary, “ in everything else he was a perfect gentleman, renewing correspondence with Clarinda in the when he met with anything seizable he was no warmest language, on doubtful terms with Mrs. better than any other gauger." Riddel, and on terms unfortunately beyond any There is but one manifestation of the man in question with Anne Park.
these last years which need delay us; and that