Robert Burns

J. De Lancey Ferguson and G. Ross Roy (eds), The Letters of Robert Burns, Vol. 1: 1780–1789 (Second Edition)

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244. (16) Mrs Dunlop of Dunlop at Mr Dunlop's Haddington

Mauchline 27 May—1788


I have been torturing my Philosophy to no purpose, to account for that kind Partiality of yours, which, unlike every other of my Patronesses & Patrons in upper life, has followed me in my return to my native shade of life, with assiduous benevolence.—Often did I regret in the fleeting hours of my late Will-o'-wisp appearance that, "Here I had no continuing city;"1 and, but for the material consolation of a few solid guineas, could almost lament the time that a momentary acquaintance with Wealth & Splendor put me so much out of conceit with the sworn companions of my road through Life— Insignificance & Poverty.—

It is so common with Poets when their Patrons try their hand at a Rhyme, to cry up the Honble or Rt Honble performance as pg 282Matchless; Divine, &c. that I am afraid to open my mouth respecting your Poetic Extempores that you occasionally favor me with: I will only say, you cannot oblidge me more than sending them me.—For my own part, I have extensive rhyming Projects in my head, but at present cannot for my soul tag a Stanza.—


There are few circumstances relating to the unequal distribution of the good things of this life that give me more vexation (I mean in what I see around me) than the Importance that the GREAT bestow on their trifles & small matters in family affairs, compared with the same, the very same things on the contracted Scale of a Cottage.—Last afternoon I had the honor to spend an hour or two at a good woman's fireside, where the homely planks that composed the floor were decorated with a splendid Carpet, and the gay table sparkled with Silver & China.—'Tis now about term day, and there has been a revolution among those [those (deleted)] creatures who, tho' in appearance, Partakers & equally noble Partakers of the same Nature with Madame; yet are from time to time, their nerves, their sinews, their health, strength, wisdom, experience, genius, time, nay a good part of their very thoughts, sold for months & amp;years, anxious Drudges, sweating, weary slaves, not only to the necessities, the conveniences, but the Caprices of [that (deleted)] the IMPORTANT FEW.—We talk'd of the insignifi—[cant (left incomplete at the end of the line)] Creatures; nay, notwithstanding their general stupidity & Rascality, did some of the poor devils the honor to commend them—But, light be turf upon his breast who taught— "Reverence Thyself!" we looked down on the unpolished Wretches, their impertinent wives and clouterly brats, as the lordly Bull does on the little, dirty Ant-hill, whose puny inhabitants he crushes in the carelessness of his ramble, or tosses in air in the wantonness of his pride.—

I return you the Poem with my thanks for the perusal.— Alas, Madam! the very ingenious Author deserves a better friend than the Press.—I feel most truly for him; but no writing in this our day will take, except very transcendant excellence indeed, or Novelty.—

pg 283I have often had it in my head to write to you in my miscellaneous way, a paragraph or sheet now & then as the spirit moves me; but with all my loyalty for his most sacred & most sapient Majesty, George 3d, By the grace of God, REX—I hate & abhor his exorbitant Postages.—

My old Direction—at Mauchline, will find me.—

  • I have the honor to be most gratefully
  • Madam, your humble servt
  • Robt Burns

Do, let me know when my brother Farmer's family increases.


[Currie, 1800, in part; completed by Wallace, 1898. Here collated with the original MS. in the Morgan Library, New York.]

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Editor’s Note
1 Taken loosely from Hebrews 13:14.
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