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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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
(Signed) ROBERT BURNS.
Edinburgh, April 4th, 1787.
5. A Manuscript Letter of Burns, which includes a copy of Wilson's Settled Account for Printing Burns' First Edition at Kilmarnock.
"MOSSGIEL, OCTOBER 9TH, 1786. "DEAR AND HONOURED SIR,-I have settled all the claims which Mr. Wilson, Kilmarnock, had against me.--I proposed for a second edition, with additional matter if I thought well.- -But as his terms were against me, I could not enter into any arrangement. -He proposed that I should pay for the paper, which, for 1000 copies, would be about £27, and the printing would come to about £16. -The latter was to be his risk, to be paid out of the first monies coming in.- -As you know, this was quite out of my power, and so I have given up all hopes of a second edition in the meantime.-- -As you so kindly interested yourself to my welfare in the matter, I let you have a copy of Wilson's account. --I am much disappointed at Wilson's terms, for I could have added considerably to the merits of the work, as I have, as you know, been cultivating the Muses
spirit of late.
"I was sorry not seeing you when I was in Kilmarnock, as I have every wish to converse with you on various matters, and I shall call on you the first day I am in Kilmarnock.—I remain, Dear Sir, your obliged and devoted servant,
Folded, Sealed, and Addressed to
Mr. Robert Muir, Merchant, Kilmarnock.
6. Burns' Original Manuscript of his Introduction to the Kilmarnock First Edition of his Poems. It was sent by Wilson to William Creech, bookseller.
Docket-Mr. Robert Burns. Preface to the First Edition of his Poems at Kilmarnock.
Given to me by William Park, Kilmarnock, 1803.—J. C.
This document is signed Robert Burns, and dated "Old Rome
Forest, July 1786.
(No. 1 of this lot of MS. is a copy of No. 6.-Ed.)
The appearance of two copies of the dedication of the first edition on the same sale list was considered, by the Kilmarnock people, a somewhat curious coincidence, and all the more so when the date of the one which purports to be the rough draft, was compared with that of the clean copy apparently intended for the press. Before taking any further steps in the negotiations, the Museum Committee came to the decision to have them tested, and sent them to the British Museum for the opinion of experts. But the authorities there had had so many solicitations of a similar nature within the previous few weeks, which had interfered so seriously with the routine work of the officials, that orders were issued that no extraneous work was to be undertaken. The documents were, therefore, brought under the notice of the Messrs Sotheby, a firm in whose knowledge and experience of all kinds of historical and literary MSS. there is universal confidence. We had the express permission of that firm to publish their opinion, but it is sufficient for our present purpose to say that they do not consider any of the documents a genuine Burns MS. Following upon this, the Committee met on 28th November and entered upon their minutes, "that having doubts as to the genuineness of the MSS., they had returned them to Mr. Stillie, with a note stating that they declined to purchase," though that gentleman had previously advised them in writing that he was "willing to guarantee their authenticity." Than this assurance, nothing can be more convincing of the good faith of Mr. Stillie himself, and we trust that his position will forthwith be publicly vindicated without the delay which, in view of his advanced age and increasing infirmities, we cannot help thinking is positively dangerous.
We do not propose to follow the narrative further. For the information and guidance of our readers we had prepared a list of the spurious and suspected documents, which, however, we have resolved, in the meantime, to hold in retentis, lest, by inadvertence, we fall into error, or trench upon the prerogatives of the Courts of Law. Since the foregoing was penned, another arrest has taken place. On December 15th, another man was apprehended in Edinburgh "on a Magistrate's warrant, charged with uttering, as genuine, forged documents," and remitted on a charge of forgery next day. The whole affair, therefore, has now passed into the hands of the constituted
guardians of public morality. The trial, or trials, about to take place will be watched with eager interest by every member of the Burns cult throughout the world. When the ends of justice are served, confidence will be restored, and genuine relics of the Bard accounted more valuable than ever, for the reason that the Federation and kindred organisations will not relax their vigilance till every one of the contemptible counterfeits are nailed to the counter.
James Dickie, Esq., Town-Clerk of Irvine, sends us the following note which is specially interesting at this time. The whole of the Irvine MSS. passed through John Wilson's hands when printing the first edition, and bear the foreman compositor's directions for setting up.
"The Burns Manuscripts in the possession of the Irvine Burns Club are all written on the same kind and quality of paper, the whole evidently being part of the same quire. The size is foolscap, of the kind laid--not wove the quality and size such as that now used by Government for stamped paper, and known as "Small Deed." I have not been able to find any date on the paper, but there are water-marks. On one page of each sheet there is a circle which is surmounted by a crown. Within the circle there is a figure resembling Britannia with the trident in the left, and a branch or flower in the right hand. The figure is rather rudely depicted. The circle is formed of three concentric rings. From the inner ring the second is distant rather more than of an inch, while the outer ring is distant from the second rather less than of an inch.
On the other page the maker's name appears—It is “F. HAYES" in bold capital letters.
The manuscripts are all written on both sides of the paper, there being no blank pages.
I may mention that "The Cottar's Saturday Night" consists of 6 pages, and does not connect with the others; "The Twa Dogs" consists of 8 pages and 4 lines on the 9th page; "Scotch Drink" begins on this 9th page and extends over 3 more pages; "The Earnest Cry and Prayer commences at the top of a page, and consists of 5 pages and the greater part of the 6th page; "The Holy Fair" commences on this 6th page, and covers 6 more pages, and ends on the 7th page; "Address to the Deil" commences on this 7th page, and covers 3 other pages."