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I put Mr. Mackenzie in a dilemma. He was fighting with the odds of the truth against him; and where, may I ask Mr. Tod, is he now, when Mr. Stronach has shown that the "Poor Man's Prayer" could not by any possibility have been written by Burns! I do complain of Mr. Tod for giving colour to Mr. Mackenzie's insinuation that the British Museum, or the Antiquarian Museum in Edinburgh, would for a moment be unjustly swayed, one way or another, in any judgment they might give on a matter of the kind, though I was not much concerned at his taking the side of Mr. Mackenzie in the correspondence.* A word, by the way, as to Mr Mackenzie. Along with two gentlemen, Mr. Colvill Scott, of London, and Mr. Andrew Gibson, of Belfast-two gentlemen who know their Burns down to the roots-I called upon Mr. Mackenzie. We told him that we had called to see the Burns MSS. which, in his letters to the Cumnock Express, he had invited the public to see; we told him who we were; and on his complaining of my having condemned a letter I had not seen, I replied that I had not said anything about the penmanship of the letter, and that my strictures were confined to the matter of the letter, which I could not accept as being the outcome of the brain of the Poet. I promised that if he would show me that any of my statements were exaggerated or unfair I should withdraw them over my own name in the first issue of the Express. On referring to the letters, he took exception to my having called him the "dupe" of the forger. I replied that I had no other alternative. I knew he was not the forger, and I would not believe that he was his willing accomplice. He refused to show the MSS. on the ground that I was a "dealer." I told him that I was a collector of books relating to Burns, but that dealing in Burns MSS. could not be said to be a department of my firm. Not having been favourably impressed with the answers and conversation of Mr. Mackenzie, I said I should bid him good-bye, and write to the Express to say that he had refused to show me the MSS. he had invited the public to see. After much hesitation and haggling he said the MSS. were at his house, and that he could not show them that day. We asked him to fix a day when we could see them, and he named the following Tuesday. I asked him no questions myself, but my friends did. He refused to tell where he got the MSS., or in whose possession they had been previous to their coming into his hands, further than to say that he was a collector, and that an old cabinet, the style of which he did not like, had been brought to him, and that thinking there might be some hidden treasure in some secret drawer, he purchased it. And he told us how, on touching a spring, a bundle of MSS., as if by magic, were ejected from their long hiding. On the question being raised whether, under the circumstances, the MSS. were his property, or that of the late owner of the cabinet, and why he had not communicated the knowledge of his 'find' to some learned Society or the Scotsman, he beat about the bush and would not come to the point. On his repeating his statement in one of his letters

* Mr. Tod has since admitted that he was in error.

that he had not seen a spurious Burns MS., and that he did not believe in their existence, we undertook to borrow examples and show them to him on Tuesday, which we did. On that day we were late, having been detained in the borrowing of the spurious MSS., which two most respectable firms in Edinburgh, knowing our object, kindly placed at our disposal. We explained to Mr. Mackenzie the cause of our being late for our appointment. He demurred to showing us the documents at that late hour, but he relented and showed us a MS. named in the Express; we showing him those we had borrowed. With the exception of one signature, which he thought doubtful, he seemed inclined to think the MSS. authentic. We were not so complimentary to those he showed us. Taking his statements as to the cabinet with the secret spring, and his denial or modification, on the occasion of our second visit, of the statements he made on our first, we were no wiser as to how he came by the boasted MSS. than if we had not conversed with him on the subject. Putting all the circumstances together, I doubt if Mr. Mackenzie has in his possession a genuine MS. of Burns.

All honour to the men of Ayr for their courage in verifying the MS. of "The bonnie banks of Ayr." The committee, when it was challenged, as it was by Mr. M'Naught, the new editor of the Burns Chronicle, Treasurer Mackay, of Kilmarnock, and myself, should not have accepted it without, in the first instance, putting it to a reasonable test. That MS. has been weighed in the balance and found wanting.”

On the subject of the "Mysterious Cabinet," Mr. Colvill Scott wrote to the Dispatch on November 30th :—

"On another occasion of calling on Mr. Mackenzie at his shop, I heard from his own lips the following:-On asking him personally where he discovered the MSS., he gave me to understand that, being a kind of general collector of all sorts of things, he was shown one day a desk or cabinet, and, on looking over it, naturally enough previous to purchasing, he suddenly touched an invisible spring, when out flew a drawer filled with MSS. of Burns, &c. Having drawn the attention of the owner to the fact, he decided to make an offer for the MSS., and purchased it, but told me, when closely pressed, that he did not buy the desk wherein the peculiar discovery was made, and which might be called the Enchanted Cabinet.'

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Mr. Mackenzie, writing on December 3rd in reply to the foregoing, says :

"Already much has been made of the cabinet story, and, as it has been referred to, let me mention the facts without the fiction. Two parties named in this correspondence called on me, and, in course of conversation, I said that some years ago, when looking at an old cabinet, the owner showed me a secret drawer in which he had found some old MSS. I bought the MSS. On another occasion one of these gentlemen asked why I had not reported the finding of the Burns MSS. in the cabinet. I at once stated that these were not Burns MSS., but merely old medical MSS. Yet, in the face of this, a very different light has been thrown

on the cabinet story. The Burns MSS. I possessed had often been shown to gentlemen known to be authorities on Burns, and no one thought them to be other than genuine, even including those that so much has been made of. I am now pleased, however, that the authorship of these has been discovered."

Such is the story of the "Enchanted Cabinet," and it must be considered a very strange one as it stands. After the judgment passed upon that part of Mr. Mackenzie's collection of which "so much (or rather, so little) has been made”—a judgment, by the way, with which he has been forced to coincide he surely cannot feel at ease regarding the remainder of his literary treasures. We are at a loss to account for the motives of any "amateur collector," who, in the circumstances in which Mr. Mackenzie finds himself placed, refuses, or even delays, to give the fullest information at his command concerning the history of the questioned documents, and how they came into his possession. But we must proceed with our narrative. A few weeks ago, Mr. Stillie, writing to Mr. Muir, late Editor of "BURNS CHRONICLE," offered to submit for inspection of the Burns Monument Committee of Kilmarnock certain Burns MSS., of which a list was enclosed. A parcel containing six MSS. was accordingly forwarded, accompanied by a printed list, which was supplemented by the following memorandum from Mr. Stillie:


"EDINBURGH, 11th November, 1892.

Besides the list sent I have found Burns Original Manuscript of his introduction to the Kilmarnock First Edition of his Poems. It was sent by Wilson to Creech, Bookseller. These are the earliest and finest collection I have ever seen. Burns wrote his chief works on one side for the printer. Henry Mackenzie bound all his Manuscripts this way. These six documents offered at the reduced value of £100."

It is to be regretted that the venerable and honourable name of Mr. Stillie is so closely connected with the subject of this article. If, as is the general opinion, his judgment only has been at fault, he deserves all sympathy and consideration. There is but one course open for him however, and that is the obvious one of self-vindication, by recounting unreservedly the circumstances that led to his being inveigled. Judges, however well qualified by nature and experience, are not infallible. No shame attaches to the confession of unconscious error, while

mistaken ideas of consistency very often lead to an unreasonable obstinacy which is not to be commended. We were privileged to examine the six documents forwarded. The grounds of our personal judgment, either in this or the Ayr case, would not be particularly interesting to the general reader, suffice it therefore to say, that apart from the handwriting and contents, it was matter of extreme surprise to us that any one accustomed to handle old documents should have accepted them as correct, without putting them to the severest test.

We subjoin a detailed description of the MSS., to show the elaborate manner in which they have been prepared.

Burns Manuscripts on offer to the Kilmarnock Town Council, 12th November, 1892.

1. Burns' Original Manuscript of the Preface to the Kilmarnock First Edition of his Poems, with a Note at the end, asking his friend, Mr. Robert Aikin, for a criticism. Sent to John Wilson, Printer, Kilmarnock, June, 1786.

Consists of seven 4to leaves, with two Autographs.
Docketed-William Creech and R. Heron.

Robert Burns MS. (Lounger MS.)

Mr. WILSON, Kilmarnock,

DEAR SIR,-I send you as promised the following sheets as an addition to what I have already sent. You might address me privately, with proof sheets, to Old Rome Forest, as I have reasons for living there quietly. I send also the introduction with this. —Yours truly, July, 1786. ROBERT BURns.

Letter by him (William Creech) to John Wilson, Kilmarnock, and Preface to his Work printed there. From Mr. R. Heron, 1798. See criticism upon Second Edition by Mr. Mackenzie (Lounger 39). See letter to Mr. Creech, 391. Substituted for dedication to the Caledonian Hunt.

2. Burns' Original Manuscript Dedication of his Poems, sent to his friend, Gavin Hamilton, Writer, Mauchline, 1786. Robert Burns, Mossgiel, July, 1786.

This Poem was inserted in the body of his Poems. Consists of 9 folio leaves, with two Autographs.

Docketed—William Creech, R. Heron, Mackenzie, from John Wilson,


Mr. Robert Burns MS.-William Creech.

Dedication of his Poems to Gavin Hamilton, Esq., Writer, Mauch


This was afterwards substituted for another to the general public, but was inserted in the body of his works.-R. Heron.

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3. Burns' Original Manuscript of Ten of his Earliest Poems and Songs, sent to his friend, "Gavin Hamilton, Esquire, Mauchline, and my other friends there. I present, with diffidence, the following effusions for his kindly criticism. Mossgiel, Jany. 1786."

Consists of 32 folio leaves, with two Autographs.

Docketed-R. H., see letter by John Hamilton to Mr. Creech; Mackenzie, "Lounger."

Given to me by Mr. Hamilton.-William Johnston.

Docket-Mr. Robert Burns.

MS. Poems sent to Mr. Gavin Hamil

ton, Mauchline, for criticism. This was the first time that many of the contents were known.-R. H.

See letter by John Hamilton to Mr. Creech.

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1. Epistle to a Friend (J. Rankine).-Robert Burns.

2. Song, to the tune "Green Grow the Rashes."

3. An Elegy, "Now Robin lies in his last lair."

4. "When clouds in skies do come together."---Robert Burns.

5. An Epistle to Davy, a brother Poet, Lover, Ploughman, and Fiddler. Robert Burns.

6. Song, Robin, "There was a Lad was Born in Kyle."

7. Song, "Though cruel fate should bid us part."

8. Song,

"O! raging fortune's withering blast.”—Robert Burns. 9. "The Twa Herds, or the Holy Tulzie."--Robert Burns. 10. Song, "The Braes o' Ballochmyle."-Robert Burns.

11. Epitaph on John Dove, the Innkeeper.

12. Another Epistle to Davy, a brother poet. "Auld Neebor."

-Robert Burns.

4. Burns' Original Manuscript: Dedication to the Noblemen and Gentlemen of the Caledonian Hunt, Edinburgh, 4th April, 1787, for Creech's first Edinburgh edition of Burns' Poems.

Consists of 3 folio leaves and has one Autograph.

Docket-4th April. 1787. Mr. Robert Burns. Proposed Dedication to his book of poems. Mr. William Creech.

M. 137.


Edinburgh, April 4th, 1787.

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