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be disappointed, I shall be much more so. Shall I then be blest with your society? Answer me, my dear boy!
But I forget myself, you are no classic, no Latin one, I mean, though certainly to be classed (allow me a jingle,) among the first Caledonian classics. Tell me where you are.
God knows I would gladly come for you
person; this is not in my power, will you allow me to send a servant and a horse for you? Do, my dear Burns, and bless me with your assent. Your hearty friend,
but as NO. IX.
EXTRACT OF A LETTER
MR DAVID SILLAR TO R. A. IN AYR.
MR ROBERT BURNS was sometime in the parish of Tarbolton prior to my acquaintance with him. What he was, and what education he received in the neighbourhood of Ayr, you have in your own place the most genuine sources of information.
His social disposition easily procured him acquaintance; but a certain satirical seasoning with which he and all poetical geniuses are in some degree influenced, while it set the rustic circle in a roar, was not unaccompanied with its kindred attendant, suspicious fear. I recollect hearing his neighbours observe, he had a great deal to say for himself, and that they suspected his principles. He wore the only tied hair in the parish; and in the church, he, his plaid, which was of a particular colour, I think fillemot, he wrapped in a particular manner round his shoulders. These surmises, and his exterior, had such a magnetical influence on my curiosity, as made me particularly solicitous of his acquaintance. Whether my acquaintance with Gilbert was casual, or premeditated, I am not now certain: By him I was introduced, not only to his brother, but to the whole of that family, where, in a short time, I became a frequent, and I believe, not unwelcome visitant. After the commencement of my acquaintance with the bard, we frequently met upon Sundays at church, when, between sermons, instead of going with our friends or lasses to the inn, we often took a walk in the fields. In these walks, I have frequently been struck with his facility in addressing the fair sex; and many times, when I have been bashfully anxious how to express myself, he would have entered into conversation with them with the greatest ease and freedom; and it was generally a death-blow to our conversation, however agreeable, to meet a female acquaintance. Some of the few opportunities of a noontide walk that a country life allows her laborious sons, he spent on the banks of the river, or in the woods, in the neighbourhood of Stair, a situation peculiarly adapted to the genius of a rural bard. Some book, (generally one of those mentioned in his letter No. 5., addressed to Mr John Murdoch) he always carried and read, when not otherwise employed. It was likewise his custom to read at table: In one of my visits to Lochlea, in time of a sowen supper, he was so intent reading, I think Tristram Shandy, that his spoon falling out of his hand, made him exclaim, in a tone scarcely imitable, “ Alas, poor
Yorick !" His, like the genius of many others, was in a great measure directed by adventitious circumstances. Education, associates, and rank in society, are the principal. We know some, and have read of many, born in humbler situations, whose genius has enabled them to surmount astonishing difficulties, and who are filling, and have filled with reputation, the most respectable offices in society, we have also seen the
In the intermediate space are many shades. Our bard's genius or mental power was undoubtedly great; and having such parents to guide, and such a companion as his brother in his juvenile studies, were to him fortunate circumstances. He had in his youth paid considerable attention to the arguments for and against the
doctrine of original sin, then making considerable noise in your neighbourhood, and having perused Dr Taylor's work on that subject, and “ Letters on Religion essential to Man,” when he came to Tarbolton, his opinions were of consequence favourable to what you Ayr people call the moderate side. The religion of the people of Tarbolton at that time was purely the religion of their fathers, founded on the Westminster confession, and taught by one generation to another, uncontaminated by reading, reflection, and conversation, and though divided into different sectaries, the shorter catechism was the line which bounded all their controversies. The slightest insinuation of Taylor's opinions made his neighbours suspect, and some even avoid him, as an heretical and dangerous companion. Such was Burns, and such were his associates, when, in May 1781, I was admitted a member of the Bachelor's Club.