Obrázky na stránke

reproductions more or less like the original-that the popular idea of the personal appearance of Burns is drawn. For information as to the portraits of Burns, I must refer to the articles in previous numbers of the Chronicle, written by men who know the subject. For myself, I can only say that a relative of Burns informed me that Mrs. Burns Begg (Isobel Burns, the Poet's sister), said that "Nasmyth's portrait was like her brother, but just too pretty." The one portrait of Burns that struck me as a satisfactory representation of the Poet was No. 362-the red crayon drawing by Archibald Skirving, lent by Sir Theodore Martin. Skirving may or may not have seen Burns in the flesh; in this portrait he has at any rate caught the spirit of the man. There is a bigness in Skirving's rendering that Nasmyth's lacks. Burns was never a pretty" man, as the saying goes.


Two Bibles that were exhibited were in every sense close personal relics of the Poet. These were No, 1179 and 1210. The first, lent by Mrs. J. G. Burns, is the veritable "Big Ha' Bible of 'The Cottar's Saturday Night,'" and contains the "Burns Family Register," in the handwriting of the Poet's father. The second, lent by Mrs. Burns-Hutchinson, is Burns's own Family Bible, and embodies a record in the Poet's handwriting of his marriage, and of the dates of the births of nearly all his family. There are entries at the close of, and completing, the register, in the handwriting of Colonel Glencairn Burns. Robert Burns had not kept the register closely up to date, and events are recorded that happened after he himself had left this troubled world. Another most interesting relic of the Poet was No. 700, his seal, lent by Mrs. Burns-Thomas, the greatgrand-daughter of the Poet. The seal is familiar to all from the engraving on the covers of the Chronicle.


Among the other personal relics exhibited were the sword'sticks which Burns was in the habit of carrying when engaged in his excise duties, his gauging-rod and excise ink-bottle, and the whip that his strong nervous hand clutched in many a lonely ride over his revenue district. Locks of the Poet's hair were, of course, exhibited-one of them, a lock said to have been given to the Annie Rankine, who figures as the heroine of Corn Rigs." Records indubitable of his connection with Freemasonry were also on exhibition-jewels, aprons, and mallets. Burns had always a kindly heart for the mystic craft. I have mentioned only a few of the personal relics; they were all judiciously chosen, and had a direct connection with either the Poet or his intimate associates. Jean Armour-his true and trusty wife; Highland Mary-perhaps the one great love. of his life; his friends, Gavin Hamilton, Glencairn, and Lord Daer; the clergymen he respected, and those that he made sport of; "the bletherin bitch"; Tam o' Shanter and Souter Johnie-all the men and women whom he loved or laughed at and immortalised were brought vividly before us by the various

exhibits of their belongings and relics. What poet in all the world had ever such a tribute paid to him ? The mere mention of a name in Burns's verse has given to that name everlasting fame or notoriety, and has conferred interest upon all its associations, even though of the most commonplace description.

Among the books exhibited stand, of course, pre-eminently forth the copies of the Kilmarnock edition. The Exhibition was especially fortunate in having of this edition two splendid examples, in the original blue paper covers, quite untouched by the hand of that modern Philistine vandal, the fine art binder. One belongs to Mr. Seaton Veitch, of Paisley, the other to the well-known collector, Mr. Lamb, of Dundee. A third copy is the property of Mr. M'Naught, editor of the Chronicle, and these are the only copies in the original paper binding known to exist. They were, to my mind, at least, close personal relics of the Poet; they were virgin copies; they had passed through no degrading process of "improvement." Burns himself might have handled them as they are. In the case beside Mr. Veitch's copy lay the only existing example of the first subscription sheet, issued when Burns had no thought of world-wide fame. The subscription price was only 35. At the bottom of the sheet one name is scored out, and, evidently in the Poet's hand, is written above the erasion, "the blockhead refused it." The blockhead refused to pay 38 for the book for which Mr. Veitch has refused £250, and which no money would take from the possession of Mr. Lamb! Next in pathetic interest to these first editions of Burns came, among the books, those exhibited in gallery No. 3, with inscriptions upon them in the Poet's own handwriting, many of them copies of his own works presented to intimate friends. And, just in passing, we may notice in this connection how fond Burns was of airing the few French phrases that he had at his tongue's end. Chief among these books was one given by Burns to Miss Jessie Lewars, who so faithfully attended him in his last illness. On the title-page are some lines, almost certainly the last the Poet ever wrote.

Of the many exhibited portraits of the Poet, varying much in details, and yet all with a strong family resemblance the one to the other, but little need be said. They are all interesting ; most of them creditable as works of art; but the great majority based on the rendering of Nasmyth. It is not out of reason to suppose that Burns must often have been painted. After he came into fame there were travelling artists who would have gladly taken his portrait for a very small payment. Some of these rude presentments may still exist in out-of-the-way corners in Ayrshire, their utter unlikeness to the Poet being their best protection from public recognition.

Among the portraits shown, in Gallery No. I., of Burns's relations and friends, I would place first in interest No. 52,

"Bonie Jean and her Grandchild (now Mrs. Hutchinson, still living in honoured old age in Cheltenham), painted by MacKenzie, and well-known from its numerous reproductions in engraving; the portraits of his sons, Colonel W. Nicol Burns, painted by Macnee, and Colonel James Glencairn Burns, painted by William Tweedie; and the portrait of the Poet's nephew, Robert Burns Begg, painted by J. M. Barclay. We had also in this room oil portraits of many men and women more or less intimately associated with Burns and his works; such as the Reverend Dr. James M'Kinlay (Simper James); George Thomson, of Edinburgh; Jessie Lewars (Mrs. Thomson), whom I have already mentioned in another connection; the Rev. Dr. George Lawrie, James Humphrey, the immortal "bletherin bitch"; Peter Taylor, the artist who painted the "Taylor Portrait," now in the National Portrait Gallery; John Templeton, the sweet singer of Burns's songs; Nance Tannock, of Mauchline fame; the Earl of Buchan; the eleventh and thirteenth Earls of Eglinton; Patrick Miller, of Dalswinton; Burns's landlord at Ellisland, and members of his family; Tam Samson of the famous "Elegy"; Beugo the Engraver; Miss Burnett ("fair Burnett"); the Rev. Dr. Dalrymple; Thomas Carlyle; the Rev. “Daddy Auld"; and Alexander Ferguson of Craigdarroch, the hero of "The Whistle." Specially interesting was the portrait of Dr. Maxwell, Burns's physician in Dumfries, lent by Mrs. Maxwell Witham, which we never remember seeing before. Of course the pictures in the Exhibition were not all shown on account of their art qualities; they were exhibited principally as interesting reminiscences of the Poet and the Poet's friends. Among the other treasures in Gallery No. I. were several charming representations of the scenes amid which Burns dwelt and which his genius has celebrated. Notably among these were two splendid views of the world-famed Cottage at Alloway, by Sam Bough-the large oil picture belonging to Mrs. Reid of Auchterarder, and the small water colour belonging to Sir Charles Tennant. Then we had different renderings of "The Auld Brig o' Ayr," by William Young, David Farquharson, and W. E. Lockhart; Alloway Kirk; Dunure Castle; Lochlea, Mossgiel, and Ellisland; the "Globe Tavern"; "Ballochmyle," by D. O. Hill; "On the Ayr at Ballochmyle," by William Young; views in Ayr, Mauchline, Dumfries, Kilmarnock, etc. Several representations of "Tam o' Shanter" showed the varying notes this wonderful poem has struck in different painters' ears, and chief among them for its power, abandonment, and hearty sympathy with the spirit of the scene, was J. E. Christie's "Kings may be blest, but Tam was glorious," lent by Dr. Holmes. Good, too, was the same artist's "Halloween," lent by Mr. David Hennedy. The "Auld Brig o' Doon" has found many exponents, but none better than Robert Alexander's low-toned picture, lent by Provost Mackay, Kilmarnock. Nor must Charles Martin

Hardie's two well-known pictures be overlooked, "The Meeting of Burns and Scott," and "Burns in Edinburgh, 1787," the latter lent by Mr. David Tullis. This imperfect catalogue of the splendid collection of pictures on the walls of Room No. I. may suffice to give some slight idea of its variety and charm. For fuller particulars, I refer all interested to the superb catalogue about to be printed at prices suitable for all purchasers.

The black and white illustrations of Burns's life and works, miniatures, etc., in Galleries Nos. IV. and V., were some hundred in number, and included original drawings, engravings, and etchings. One of the most important exhibits was a complete set of the proofs of the steel engravings, illustrating "The Land of Burns," published in 1841, lent by Messrs. Blackie & Son. This is indeed a very complete pictorial record of the Poet's life and surroundings. Besides these, there were the original drawings reproduced in several of the best known editions of Burns; such as the illustrations in the Citizen portfolio of "The Songs of Burns"; "Etchings for the Life and Works of Robert Burns," by W. Bell Scott; illustrations of the beautiful new edition of Scott Douglas, published by Mr. James Thin, Edinburgh; the illustrations for the new edition of Chambers, edited by Mr. William Wallace; and illustrations of the Centenary edition of the Poetry of Robert Burns, edited by Henley and Henderson, and published by Messrs. Jack of Edinburgh. There was a wealth of engraved, etched, and autotype portraits of the Poet and his relations, lent by Lord Rosebery, Mr. Alexander Skirving, Mrs. Burns, of Knockmaroon, Dr. J. C. Mitchell, Dr. Hunter Selkirk, Mr. William Dunbar, Mr. Andrew Gibson, Mrs. Burns Thomas, Mr. M'Naught Campbell, Mr. George Aikman, and many others. In this connection special mention must be made of the valuable aid given to the Exhibition by Mr. William Macmath, of Edinburgh. He put his splendid collection of engraved portraits at the disposal of the Committee, and the Exhibition would distinctly have been lacking in completeness, on the portrait side, had this favour not been granted. The miscellaneous engravings, memorial and commemoration cards, silhouettes, etc., had all a practical bearing on the object of the Exhibition; even the most trifling exhibits served to show how dear to his country's heart is everything that concerns the personality of the Bard.

In Gallery No. V. was one of the notes of humour in the Exhibition-unintentional humour, of course, but all the more humorous on that account. The man who struck the note was in dead earnest, but then he was an Englishman, and very likely the "poor body" could advance the plea of ignorance. No. 545 was the only truly comic exhibit in the place-a lithograph published by the well-known R. Ackermann, of the Strand, in 1825-title, "Burns's Departure from Scotland." We

have, in this ideal rendering, the Poet, tall and rawboned, with the actual tear, as big as a green pea, bursting on his cheek, bidding farewell to Scotland after the manner, and with the gesture, of a booth-ranter, and clothed in a scantily indecent kilt, that looked like a red cotton handkerchief wrapped round his loins. We Scotsmen all know that Burns always wore a kilt; in a kilt he followed the plough upon the mountain side; the divine afflatus was never on his soul unless the kilt was on his hurdies! When a Cockney presumes to illustrate or edit the text of Robert Burns with the smattering of knowledge the Glossary and Southern tradition may have given him, he is but "a poor wan'ered wean," deserving of more pity than anger.

Another engraving in Gallery No. V. claims more than passing attention. This is No. 581, the veritable engraving to which Burns directed the attention of the company at Professor Ferguson's house-when the lad, Walter Scott, gave to Burns Langhorne's name as the author of the lines engraved below Burnbury's print-the incident that Martin Hardie so well portrays. The history of this print is authentic. From the possession of Professor Ferguson's family, it passed into the hands of Mr. William Chambers; he gifted it to the Chambers Institute at Peebles, and the Institute lent it to the Burns Exhibition. A self-sufficient idiot wrote to the papers, pointing out in his own stupid way, that as Langhorne's name was below the verses, Burns had no occasion to ask who was their author! He did not notice that the name was so minutely printed as to be invisible at a distance.

Of the miscellaneous relics of Burns and his friends, not much need be said here. His tea-cups and saucers, his alecups and his toddy ladles, his whip, and the slightest scrap of his writing on a window pane, his own parlour chair and his chest, and all his personal belongings, are sacred treasures in the eyes of Burns worshippers. To mention these relics in anyway approaching to detail would be simply to repeat the catalogue, and occupy uselessly the Chronicle's space. Each exhibit, however trifling, was an offering sincerely laid on the altar of thanksgiving to the memory of Scotland's Poet.

The manuscripts were to me the most interesting part of the whole Exhibition. Had ever any poet (or, for that matter of it, any other literary celebrity) a nobler handwriting than Burns? He wrote clearly, distinctly, and in a fine, bold, manly style. The handwriting proclaimed the man. Like himself, it was upright, firm, straightforward—no lurking doubt or doubling in a single turn of it! The letters, the manuscripts, the brief notes that were exhibited, would demand a long article for themselves. The collections kindly lent by Mr. Robert B. Adam, of Buffalo, per Mr. Hew Morrison, of the Public Library, Edinburgh; by the Kilmarnock Burns. Museum, through Provost Mackay and Captain Sneddon; by Mr. R. Burns Begg, Mr. Alfred Morrison, Mrs. J. G. Burns, of

« PredošláPokračovať »