Puslapio vaizdai

was the sudden interest in politics which arose of an armed smuggler, bought at the subsequent from his sympathy with the great French Revo- sale four carronades, and dispatched them with lution. His only political feeling had been hith- a letter to the French Assembly. Letter and erto a sentimental Jacobitism, not more or less guns were stopped at Dover by the English offirespectable than that of Scott, Aytoun, and the cials; there was trouble for Burns with his surest of what George Burns has nicknamed the periors; he was reminded firmly, however deli“Charlie-over-the-water” Scotchmen. It was a cately, that, as a paid official, it was his duty to sentiment almost entirely literary and picturesque obey and to be silent; and all the blood of this in its origin, built on ballads and the adventures poor, proud, and falling man must have rushed of the Young Chevalier; and in Burns it is the to his head at the humiliation. His letter to Mr. more excusable, because he lay out of the way Erskine, subsequently Earl of Mar, testifies, in of active politics in his youth. With the great its turgid, turbulent phrases, to a perfect passion French Revolution, something living, practical, of alarmed self-respect and vanity. He had been and feasible appeared to him for the first time in muzzled, and muzzled, when all was said, by his this realm of human action. The young plow- paltry salary as an exciseman; alas ! had he not man who had desired so earnestly to rise, now a family to keep? Already, he wrote, he looked reached out his sympathies to a whole nation forward to some such judgment from a hackney animated with the same desire. Already in 1788 scribbler as this : “Burns, notwithstanding the we find the old Jacobitism hand in hand with the fanfaronnade of independence to be found in new popular doctrine, when, in a letter of indig- his works, and after having been held forth to nation against the zeal of a Whig clergyman, he view and to public estimation as a man of some writes: “I dare say the American Congress in genius, yet, quite destitute of resources within 1776 will be allowed to be as able and as en- himself to support his borrowed dignity, he dwinlightened as the English Convention was in dled into a paltry exciseman, and shrunk out the 1688; and that their posterity will celebrate the rest of his insignificant existence in the meanest centenary of their deliverance from us as duly of pursuits, and among the vilest of mankind.” and sincerely as we do ours from the oppressive And then on he goes, in a style of rodomontade, measures of the wrong-headed house of Stew- but filled with living indignation, to declare his art.” As time wore on, his sentiments grew right to a political opinion, and his willingness to more pronounced and even violent; but there shed his blood for the political birthright of his was a basis of sense and generous feeling to his sons. Poor, perturbed spirit ! he was indeed exhottest excess. What he asked was a fair chance ercised in vain; those who share and those who for the individual in life; an open road to suc- differ from his sentiments about the Revolution, cess and distinction for all classes of men. It alike understand and sympathize with him in this was in the same spirit that he had helped painful strait ; for poetry and human manhood found a public library in the parish where his are lasting like the race, and politics, which are farm was situated, and that he sang his fervent but a wrongful striving after right, pass and snatches against tyranny and tyrants. Witness, change from year to year and age to age. The were it alone, this verse :

Twa Dogs" has already outlasted the consti“ Here's freedom to him that wad read,

tution of Siéyès and the policy of the Whigs; Here's freedom to him that wad write ;

and Burns is better known among English-speakThere's nane ever feared that the truth should be ing races than either Pitt or Fox. heard

Meanwhile, whether as a man, a husband, or But them whom the truth wad indite.”

a poet, his steps led downward. He knew, knew

bitterly, that the best was out of him; he refused Yet his enthusiasm for the cause was scarcely to make another volume, for he felt that it would guided by wisdom. Many stories are preserved be a disappointment; he grew petulantly alive of the bitter and unwise words he used in country to criticism, unless he was sure it reached him coteries; how he proposed Washington's health from a friend. For his songs he would take noas an amendment to Pitt's, gave as a toast “the thing; they were all that he could do; the prolast verse of the last chapter of Kings," and posed Scotch play, the proposed series of Scotch celebrated Dumouriez in a doggerel impromptu tales in verse, all had gone to water; and in a full of ridicule and hate. Now his sympathies fling of pain and disappointment, which is surely would inspire him with “Scots, wha hae”; now noble with the nobility of a viking, he would involve him in a drunken broil with a legal offi- rather stoop to borrow than to accept money for cer, and consequent apologies and explanations, these last and inadequate efforts of his muse. hard to offer for a man of Burns's stomach. And this desperate abnegation rises at times near Nor was this the front of his offending. On to the height of madness; as when he pretended February 27, 1792, he took part in the capture that he had not written, but only found and pub

ther ;


lished, his immortal “Auld Lang Syne." In the be. And, second, in a time when English versisame spirit he became more scrupulous as an art- fication was particularly stiff, lame, and feeble, ist; he was doing so little, he would fain do that and words were used with ultra - academical little well; and about two months before his timidity, he wrote verses that were easy, racy, death, he asked Thomson to send back all his graphic, and forcible, and used language with manuscripts for revisal, saying that he would absolute tact and courage, as it seemed most fit rather write five songs to his taste than twice to give a clear impression. If you take even that number otherwise. The battle of his life those English authors whom we know Burns to was lost; in forlorn efforts to do well, in desper- have most admired and studied, you will see at ate submissions to evil, the last years Aow by. once that he owed them nothing but a warning. His temper is dark and explosive, launching epi- Take Shenstone, for instance, and watch that grams, quarreling with his friends, jealous of elegant author as he tries to grapple with the young puppy officers. He tries to be a good fa- facts of life. He has a description, I remember,

he boasts himself a libertine. Sick, sad, of a gentleman engaged in sliding or walking on and jaded, he can refuse no occasion of tempo- thin ice, which is a little miracle of incompetence. rary pleasure, no opportunity to shine; and he You see my memory fails me, and I positively who had once refused the invitations of lords and can not recollect whether his hero was sliding or ladies, is now whistled to the inn by any curious walking; as though a writer should describe a stranger. His death (July 21, 1796), in his thir- battle, and the reader, at the end, be still uncerty-seventh year, was indeed a kindly dispensa- tain whether it were a charge of cavalry or a tion. It is the fashion to say he died of drink; slow and stubborn advance of foot! There many a man has drunk more and yet lived with could be no such ambiguity in Burns; his work reputation and reached a good age. That drink is at the opposite pole from such indefinite and and debauchery helped to destroy his constitution, stammering performances; and a whole lifetime and were the means of his unconscious suicide, passed in the study of Shenstone would only is doubtless true; but he had failed in life, had lead a man further and further from writing the lost his power of work, and was already married Address to a Louse." Yet Burns, like most to the poor, unworthy, patient Jean, before he great artists, proceeded from a school and conhad shown his inclination to convivial nights, or tinued a tradition; only the school and tradition at least before that inclination had become dan- were Scotch, and not English. While the English gerous either to his health or his self-respect. language was becoming daily more pedantic and He had trifled with life, and must pay the pen- inflexible, and English letters more colorless and alty. He had chosen to be Don Juan, he had slack, there was another dialect in the sister grasped at temporary pleasures, and substantial country, and a different school of poetry tracing happiness and solid industry had passed him by. its descent, through King James I., from ChauHe died of being Robert Burns, and there is no The dialect alone accounts for much; for levity in such a statement of the case; for shall it was then written colloquially, which kept it we not, one and all, deserve a similar epitaph ? fresh and supple; and, although not shaped for If you had put that man in Eden, with all his heroic flights, it was a direct and vivid medium godlike qualities, with all his generous and noble for all that had to do with social life. Hence, traits, he would have made a desert around him whenever Scotch poets left their laborious imitaas he went.

tions of bad English verses, and fell back on

their own dialect, their style would kindle, and WORKS.

they would write of their convivial and someThe somewhat cruel necessity which has lain what gross existences with pith and point. In upon me throughout this paper only to touch Ramsay, and far more in the poor lad Fergusson, upon those points in the life of Burns where con- there were mettle, humor, literary pluck, and a nection or amplification seemed desirable, leaves power of saying what they wished to say defime little opportunity to speak of the works which nitely and brightly, which in the latter case have made his name so famous. Yet, even here, should have justified great anticipations. Had a few observations seem necessary.

Burns died at the same age as Fergusson, he At the time when the poet made his appear- would have left us literally nothing worth reance and great first success, his work was re- mark. To Ramsay and to Fergusson, then, he markable in two ways. For, first, in an age was indebted in a very uncommon degree, not when poetry had become abstract and conven- only following their tradition and using their tional, instead of continuing to deal with shep- measures, but directly and avowedly imitating herds, thunderstorms, and personifications, he their pieces. The same tendency to borrow a dealt with the actual circumstances of his life, hint, to work on some one else's foundation, is however matter-of-fact and sordid these might notable in Burns from first to last, in the period


of song-writing as well as in that of the early night, a shepherd's collie, a sheep struggling in poems, and strikes one oddly in a man of such the snow, the conduct of cowardly soldiers in deep originality, who left so strong a print on all the field, the gait and cogitations of a drunken he touched, and whose work is so greatly dis- man, or only a village cockcrow in the morning, tinguished by that character of “inevitability" he could find language to give it freshness, body, which Wordsworth denied to Goethe.

and relief. He was always ready to borrow the When we remember Burns's obligations to hint of a design, as though he had a difficulty in his predecessors, we must never forget his im- commencing—a difficulty, let us say, in choosing mense advances on them. They had already a subject out of a world which seemed all equally "discovered " nature ; but Burns discovered poe- living and significant to him; but, once he had try—a higher and more intense way of thinking the subject chosen, he could cope with nature of the things that go to make up nature, a higher single-handed, and make every stroke a triumph. and more ideal key of words in which to speak Again, his absolute mastery in his art enabled of them. Ramsay and Fergusson excelled at him to express each and all of his different humaking a popular–or shall we say, vulgar?- mors, and to pass smoothly and congruously sort of society verses, comical and prosaic, writ- from one to another. Many men invent a diaten, you would say, in taverns while a supper- lect for only one side of their nature-perhaps party waited for its laureate's word; but on the their pathos or their humor, or the delicacy of appearance of Burns this coarse and laughing their senses—and, for lack of a medium, leave literature was touched to finer issues, and learned all the others unexpressed. You meet such a gravity of thought and natural pathos.

one, and find him in conversation full of thought, What he had gained from his predecessors feeling, and experience, which he has lacked the was a direct-speaking style, and to walk on his art to employ in his writings. But Burns was not own feet instead of on academical stilts. There thus hampered in the practice of the literary art ; was never a man of letters with more absolute he could throw the whole weight of his nature command of his means; and we may say of him, into his work, and impregnate it from end to without excess, that his style was his slave. end. If Dr. Johnson, that stilted and accomHence that energy of epithet, so concise and tell- plished stylist, had lacked the sacred Boswell, ing, that a foreigner is tempted to explain it by what should we have known of him ? and how some special richness or aptitude in the dialect should we have delighted in his acquaintance as he wrote. Hence that Homeric justice and com- we do? Those who spoke with Burns tell us pleteness of description, which gives us the very how much we have lost who did not. But I physiognomy of nature, in body and detail as think they exaggerate their privilege; I think we nature is. Hence, too, the unbroken literary have the whole Burns in our possession set forth quality of his best pieces, which keeps him from in his consummate verses. any slip into the weariful trade of word-painting, It was by his style, and not by his matter, and presents everything, as everything should be that he affected Wordsworth and the world. presented by the art of words, in a clear, con- There is, indeed, only one merit worth considertinuous medium of thought. Principal Shairp, ing in a man of letters—that he should write for instance, gives us a paraphrase of one tough well; and only one damning fault—that he should verse of the original; and for those who knew write ill. We are little the better for the reflecthe Greek poets only by paraphrase this has the tions of the sailor's parrot in the story. And so, very quality they are accustomed to look for and if Burns helped to change the course of literary admire in Greek. The contemporaries of Burns history, it was by his frank, direct, and masterly were surprised that he should visit so many cele- utterance, and not by his homely choice of subbrated mountains and waterfalls, and not seize jects. That was imposed upon him, not chosen the opportunity to make a poem. Indeed, it is upon a principle. He wrote from his own expenot for those who have a true command of the rience, because it was his nature so to do, and art of words, but for peddling, professional ama- the tradition of the school from which he proteurs that these pointed occasions are most use- ceeded was fortunately not opposed to homely ful and inspiring. As those who speak French subjects. But to these homely subjects he comimperfectly are glad to dwell on any topic they municated the rich commentary of his nature; may have talked upon or heard others talk upon they were all steeped in Burns; and they interest before, because they know appropriate words for us not in themselves, but because they have been it in French, so the dabbler in verse rejoices to passed through the spirit of so genuine and behold a waterfall, because he has learned the vigorous a man. Such is the stamp of living sentiment and knows appropriate words for it in literature; and there was never any more alive poetry. But the dialect of Burns was fit to deal than that of Burns. with any subject; and whether it was a stormy What a gust of sympathy there is in him, sometimes flowing out in by-ways hitherto un- that “Tam o' Shanter" is, from the absence of used, upon mice, and flowers, and the devil him- this quality, only a picturesque and external piece self; sometimes speaking plainly between human of work; and I may add that in “The Twa hearts ; sometimes ringing out in merry exulta- Dogs" it is precisely in the infringement of dration like a peal of bells! When we compare matic propriety that a great deal of the humor “The Farmer's Salutation to his Auld Mare of the speeches depends for its existence and Maggie" with the clever and inhuman produce effect. Indeed, Burns was so full of his identity, tion of half a century earlier, “The Auld Man's that it breaks forth on every page; and there is Mare's dead,” we see in a nutshell the spirit of scarce an appropriate remark either in praise or the change introduced by Burns. And as to its blame of his own conduct, but he has put it himmanner, who that has read it can forget how the self into verse. Alas for the tenor of these recollie Luath, in “ The Twa Dogs," describes and marks! They are, indeed, his own pitiful apology enters into the merry-making in the cottage ? for such a marred existence and talents so mis

used and stunted; and they seem to prove for “ The luntin' pipe an' sneeshin' mill,

ever how small a part is played by reason in the Are handed round wi' richt guid will ;

conduct of man's affairs. Here was one, at least, The canty auld folks crackin' crouse,

with unfailing judgment predicted his own The young anes rantin' through the houseMy heart has been sae fain to see them

fate; yet his knowledge could not avail him, and That I for joy hae barkit wi' them."

with open eyes he must fulfill his tragic destiny.

Ten years before the end, he had written his It was this ardent power of sympathy that was epitaph; and neither subsequent events, nor the fatal to so many women, and, through Jean Ar- critical eyes of posterity, have shown us a word mour, to himself at last. His humor comes from in it to alter. And, lastly, has he not put in fi. him in a stream so deep and easy that I will ven- himself the last, unanswerable plea ? ture to call him the best of humorous poets. He turns about in the midst to utter a noble senti

“ Then gently scan your brother man, ment or a trenchant remark on human life, and

Still gentler sister woman;

Though they may gang a kennin wrang, the style changes and rises to the occasion. I

To step aside is human: think it is Principal Shairp who says, happily,

One point must still be greatly dark—" that Burns would have been no Scotchman if he had not loved to moralize; neither, may we add, One? Alas! I fear every man and woman of would he have been his father's son; but (whatus is “greatly dark" to all their neighbors, from is worthy of note) his moralizings are to a large the day of birth until death removes them, in extent the moral of his own career. He was their greatest virtues as well as in their saddest among the least impersonal of artists. Except faults; and we, who have been trying to read in “The Jolly Beggars,” he shows no gleam of the character of Burns, may take home the lesdramatic instinct. Mr. Carlyle has complained son and be gentle in our thoughts.

R. L. S. (Cornhill Magasine.)

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Anthony Hamblin stared blankly at the boy, CHAPTER XXII.

with reddened cheeks. No criminal, caught in HOW ANTHONY HAMBLIN LOOKED.

flagrante delicto, red-handed, knife in fist, with

the spoil under his arm, actually lifting the swag, No other than Uncle Anthony !

ever showed so hang-dog a countenance. He When the boy, recovering from the first said nothing. shock, had made up his mind, by much staring, “Now, Uncle Anthony,” the boy continued, that it really was his deceased uncle come to life feeling every moment firmer as to head and legs, again, only without his beard, he tried to pull and awakened to the comprehension that this himself together, and to assume, with indifferent was the noblest opportunity that ever came to success, his usual air of importance.

mortal boy, “considering that a public coffee“This,” he said, with a little stammer and a house is not the best place to discuss family senatural quiver in the voice, “is a pretty Go! Acrets, and that I at least am accustomed to more very pretty Go, it is !"

respectable places of appointment, we had better



go to your own house or lodgings, if you have “ What is it?" any, and talk things over there. If you are My knife-left it at the coffee-house. Now, ready, we will go at once. If not, I will wait. then, right about. You go first. A new knife As for waiting, I don't care how long I wait. I-three blades—real buck's-horn." can send a telegram to relieve the old lady. And They observed the same order in returning as for that, the ice is melted long ago, and she to the coffee-house, where the knife was found won't think I've followed your example. Bah! on the floor; and, in coming back again, the boy You and your ice. Oh, the cunning! For such prepared, by turning up cuffs and squaring his an oh-be-joyful occasion as the present I could shoulders, for precipitate action, if necessary. wait all night, and go home with my eyes skinned About half way down the Cannon Street in the morning, with Alison to tell the news Road, which was the name of this retreat, and to."

next door to a small Dissenting chapel, Anthony Anthony Hamblin moved one foot. Nicolas Hamblin stopped and pulled out a latch-key. interpreted the motion, wrongly and hastily, as The house was, like all its neighbors, small, havindicative of a desire for fight.

ing four or six rooms only. The door was paint“No,” he said firmly, “ you don't. Give up ed a rich, a flaunting red. In the window of the that idea. You've bolted enough already. You ground-floor was a large card, on which Nicolas know me, Uncle Anthony, and my character for read the following announcement : determination. If you run, I run too. And if I run after you, there may be—I don't say there

MR. A. HAMPTON, will—but there may be such a crowd, and such a Teacher of Writing, Arithmetic, and Freehowling, and such a diving after a middle-aged,

hand Drawing elderly bolter and a younger man, with white eyebrows, as you never heard of before in all Below this legend, and on either side of it, your life. Besides, if you were to get away, I've was drawn, with many an artful flourish and only got to go to the House and tell the partners crafty curve, in free-hand, and apparently with a that you're not drowned at all, but living at the quill-pen, gigantic quills, whose feathers were far-end of Cable Road, which leads to the west like the branches of a palm for richness and reextremity of nowhere. Then they will just come dundancy. Nicolas recollected, all at once, that over and catch you somewhere or other in the his uncle had often, in the old days, delighted very act, as I did. Think of that. Because you himself with such caligraphic exercises. must eat, Uncle Anthony."

Anthony Hamblin, crestfallen and shameAnthony Hamblin, with pale and shame-faced faced, opened the door, and led the way into the cheek, sighed, rose, and led the way. Nicolas ground-floor front. Arrived there, he sat down followed closely at his heels.

before the window in a hopeless, resigned sort of Anthony turned to the left, and walked slowly way, as if he would do no more, but must, unrealong the pavement. Nicolas saw that he looked sisting, let Fate go on. older. His shoulders stooped; his hair had gone “ Upon my word," said the boy, looking round grayer; his beard, as we have seen, was quite –“upon-my-word, this is a very pretty sort of gone. Also he was very shabby in his dress—his lodging for the head of the House ! Gone a hat was rusty at the edges; his boots were down writing-mastering, too." at heel.

"I am no longer head of the House," said Notwithstanding these symptoms of distress, Anthony humbly; "I am a dead man.” the boy felt inclined to the most rapturous joy. It certainly was not such a room as once shelHe was fain to give outward and visible expres- tered the head partner in the firm. It was only sion to it by a double-shuffle, a wild contortion of about twelve feet square. Its furniture consisted the limbs, a cracking of the fingers, as he followed of one arm-chair and two cane-bottomed chairs, his prisoner, so that he looked like some grim of which one had lost a leg; there was a table old caricature of the devil, as carved on a cathe- and a sort of sideboard pratiqué in the wall bedral-wall, capering behind a victim. No victim, side the fireplace; on it stood half a dozen books, even under the melancholy circumstances im- the whole of Anthony Hamblin's library. There agined by mediæval Freemasons, could have was a cupboard on the other side of the firelooked more miserable than Anthony, who walked place. Nothing else. No pictures on the wall, on with hanging head and downcast demeanor, no decorations of any kind, except a couple of as if he were going—anywhere—where those wooden pipes on the mantel-shelf, and a tobaccovictims were going. Suddenly the boy stopped, pouch. There were no curtains, but only a clean and began feeling in his pockets.

white blind. "Stop, Uncle Anthony!” he cried. “Stop, I “This is my one room,” Anthony explained, say. We've got to turn back."

while the boy curiously examined every article of VOL. VII.-34

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