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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.
“ CHAMBERS, BURGH BUILDINGS,
IRVINE, 24TH DECEMBER, 1892. “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 4 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.”
BURNS AND TENNYSON.
E are old enough to remember the time when the great
English Poet, so recently called to his rest, was desig
nated by the contemptuous critics as “Miss Alfred;" old enough too, we are, to recollect the bitterness with which Burns and his works were assailed by certain sections of "the unco guid” whose cant was only equalled by their unblushing hypocrisy. But this latter phase of feeling, circumscribed as it ever was, yielded up the ghost at the Centenary of 1859—and, now, we have done with it for ever.
The death of Tennyson evoked a consensus of public opinion, represented by the press of the entire civilized globe, such as has never before appeared in print; and yet, it does no more than justice to the illustrious dead by its fervency and force. The burden of the universal exordium may thus be epitomised:“No poet of the century has taken a firmer hold of the common heart of humanity than did Alfred Tennyson."
It was just because the Lincolnshire Bard, who was born fifty years after Burns, and who lived nearly a hundred years beyond him, took, like the Bard of Coila, nature for “his guide, philosopher and friend,” rendering “the meanest weed a flower,” and using the human heart as a harp, that he achieved the proudest position amongst the great singers of this memorable Nineteenth Century.
The pen that gave outward form and force to the following all-pervading sentiment of humanity-now"household words” over the globe—could not have been other than inspired in the highest sense of the term :
“Break, break, break !
The thoughts that arise in me !
" And the stately ships sail on
To the haven under the hill-
And the sound of a voice that is still !" The depth of sympathy herein expressed with the countless millions of hearts which are daily being pierced and lacerated by the cruel arrows of inconsolable bereavement never was so touchingly expressed. Never did a truer voice translate into articulate language the universal plaint which the dread exigency of life-death for all—has called forth in all ages, and from all conditions of men. Even had we space at command, there is no positive call for a multiplication of extracts to prove the magic of the late Laureate's touch. Every reader of his works can recall such priceless gems at will, and future students of his precious pages will not only find out these treasures, but will, of a certainty, discover new ones for themselves. It is because of this close communion with the world's great heart that Burns and Tennyson have obtained an almost unbroken sway over it from 1786 down to the present day. Cowper and Wordsworth, the most moral and philosophic, and Byron, the most glowing and passionate of modern British poets, have commanded, and still deservedly command, a vast amount of enthusiastic appreciation; but none of their writings ever become so indelibly engraven on the inner souls of men as those of Burns and Tennyson. And the reason, as already indicated, is not far to seek. After a long and dreary interregnum, beginning almost with the Shaksperian era, Burns seized on the National harp which had hung so long silent; and, looking from “Nature up to Nature's God," swept the strings with an inspiration which ere long touched the chords responsive of the universal world. Whether in English (and his English was of the best), or through the medium of his now classic Doric, he wrote as only a cosmopolitan poet can; and his reward came at length in the acclamation of humanity. Alas ! that practically, so much of his due reward was reserved during his life, to be expressed after his death in marble and brass ever being added to and multiplied even until now.
As a disciple of the peasant Bard, Tennyson has likewise enshrined himself in the hearts of an admiring world, and secured a place in the annals of Modern Song which no other Englishman (Shakspeare alone excepted), has ever obtained. This, together with that “white flower of a blameless life,” which he was privileged to wear from youth to age, will ever endear his. name and his verse to the English speaking race throughout the coming time.
We do not for a moment seek to place the poet of Haslemere on a par with the peasant who “ drove his Plough of Song into
the inner hearts of men,” but as citizens of the World whose literature he has so enriched, we shall ever feel proud of one of the greatest teachers and preachers which the British Muse has hitherto inspired. Burns and Tennyson! In a sense, truly, the title given to this brief lucubration seems a somewhat incongruous one. The surroundings of no two men, in an almost contemporary position, could well have differed more widely than those which individually distinguished their personalities. One was reared in the lap of comfort and culture, the other, from his birth, was inured to poverty and almost menial toil. The Englishman, after enduring a few senseless and menseless sneers, issued quite a library of verse, and soared gradually upwards to wealth, distinction, and a coronet. He received the unstinted admiration of the great, as well as the trusty friendship of his fellows; and at his obsequies was witnessed such an ovation as has rarely, if ever, been bestowed upon any author of ancient or modern times. The other, whose entire poetical works are comprised in one comparatively small volume, after a brief enthusiastic burst of not overly well balanced — though well deserved — adulation, continued to labour, early and late, as an unsuccessful tiller of an all too sterile soil, combined with the paltry peddling details, which then appertained to the duties of an exciseman! Then, almost deserted, save by an ever faithful few, he sank into the arms of death-out of the jaws of "honest poverty"--at a period of life when most men have only arrived at the maturity and plenitude of their powers.
The world, we feel convinced, will long cherish Tennyson and his works, but will never cease to worship Burns as the greatest Poet of the People who has arisen since the mighty Bard of Avon gave utterance to his last deathless notes.