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mouth, the hair thicker and less wavy, a squarer jaw, and a more compactly built head, form its more prominent characteristics. It is well and gracefully drawn, and finished with much elegance and delicacy of touch. This much prized work is now in the possession of Sir Theodore Martin.
The portrait by Peter Taylor, at present in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Queen Street, Edinburgh, is a work of some interest, inasmuch as Burns gave sittings for it. It is the work of a young man of much promise, but evidently inexperienced. It wants the electric flash of Nasmyth, all that expresses the soul in the countenance, and looks not exactly the man whose conversation in the hey-day of triumphant youth carried the ladies of Edinburgh off their feet. It undoubtedly resembles the poet, but cannot be regarded as at all satisfactory. As for the testimony of Sir Walter Scott, Mrs. Maclehose, the Ettrick Shepherd, and others, it does not count for much. The picture was so long laid aside that it eventually came upon them with all the force of novelty, and we are naturally strongly impressed with the unexpected; but this work must be judged from its inherent merits and in relation to the other portraits, at least to Nasmyth's and Skirving's. We can scarcely accept of the opinions of those who, in matters of art, hardly understand the relation of one line to another, and the parties concerned, could only, thirty-three years after the poet's death, talk and write of it, not in detail, but as it impressed them generally. Mr. Stevenson has put the matter in a sentence, when he says that as a portrait of Burns it is more interesting than valuable.
Some months ago, the ivory miniature, painted by Reid at Dumfries, in 1795, was added to the collection of National Portraits in Queen Street, Edinburgh.* This is undoubtedly the portrait alluded to by Burns (Jany. 29th, 1796) in a letter to Mrs. Riddell: it is a profile showing the left side of the face. Seven years had elapsed from the time of his sitting to Nasmyth, and the vicissitudes and trials of life have left their impress upon his brow though still young his features are harder, the eye more sunk but still brilliant, and the lips thinner and more compressed. An additional feature is the small black whisker which comes down to the lobe of the ear, as was the fashion of the time, the
* A bequest from the Watson collection.
hair, too, is less bulky and with a feeling of grey in it. With regard to the dress, the coat is blue and high-collared, with the regular lapel of the period; the vest light and cross-striped as in the other portraits. Underneath, on paper faded to a dim yellow, is written in the Poet's well known hand, "R. Burns, Excise-Officer." This small picture is in very good preservation, and its inherent merits prove it to be genuine.
The Miers silhouette we have always regarded as excellent, and it accentuates the portraits of Nasmyth, Skirving, and Reid. Nasmyth's first portrait was presented by himself to Mrs. Burns, and was bequeathed to the Scottish Nation by the last surviving son, Colonel William Nicol Burns, and is now in the National Gallery, Edinburgh. Of this picture, Nasmyth made two replicas, one of which is in the National Portrait Gallery, London. The other he presented to a favourite pupil on her marriage, and is now at Auchendrane, near Ayr. This latter work is said to have been retouched by Sir Henry Raeburn.
There is also Nasmyth's Cabinet whole length-representing him as he appeared on the streets of Edinburgh, in buckskins and top boots, and the soft felt hat he usually wore in the National Gallery, Edinburgh.
Of the many engravings, that by Walker and Cousins, published in 1830, is by far the finest it is even more animated and brilliant than the picture itself, and Nasmyth was delighted with it. This engraving is the size of the portrait. On the same scale, there is also an etching of Skirving's fine head.
It is much to be regretted that Raeburn did not paint Burns. Had he done so, it would have been the portrait of the century. There is no record of their ever even having met. Raeburn, after a sojourn of three years in Italy, returned to Edinburgh late in 1787, and Burns left it in the spring of 1788, and they seem never to have been brought together. A Raeburn portrait could not possibly have gone amissing; both the poet and painter would have afterwards spoken of it. Professor Wilson (Christopher North) one of Burns's most enthusiastic admirers, was, in his young days, a frequent and welcome guest at Raeburn's table, and nothing whatever seems to have transpired about a portrait by Sir Henry. We may therefore dismiss the matter as inadmissible.
It is not to be expected now that any new and original por
trait of Burns will turn up; we know them all, and they are in safe keeping. We have four of them, apart from the silhouette, for three of which he gave sittings; and although at first he had an aversion to being painted, he is in reality better represented than the great majority of poets. Skirving's head is the most poetic of them all, and may come to be regarded as the typical portrait of Burns.
ALEX. S. MACKAY.
REMINISCENCES OF ROBERT BURNS,
WITH SOME ACCOUNT OF HIS PORTRAITS.
HE interesting article on the "Portraits of Burns in your first number, by D. W. Stevenson, R.S.A., the well-known sculptor in Edinburgh, prompts me to send you my father's recollections of Burns, as well as his opinion of the Taylor Portrait when first made public, a portrait which he and others then living in Edinburgh, who had often seen Burns, refused to accept as at all like the poet. It is only in recent years that I have realised how important his testimony might be considered, and as there are so few contemporary reminiscences of Burns I gladly avail myself of your publication to lay them before your readers.
It was my good fortune to be one of the younger members of a family where the genius and poetry of Burns were greatly appreciated. My father in his younger days had several times seen Burns himself, and knowing his poems and songs off by heart he aptly quoted them on all suitable occasions. Often during the last twenty years of his life have I heard his vivid description of the time and place when and where he first saw Robert Burns, and it was always a treat to hear him recite his poems, or sing his songs, both of which he did with a broad Scots accent, and with great enthusiasm, as well as dramatic effect. He was a native of Kelso, on the romantic banks of the Tweed, where he spent all his early years, being educated at the Kelso Grammar School. He remembered Scott's younger brother being at the school at the same time, and often saw Walter Scott at Kelso, and afterwards in Edinburgh.
As my father grew up he would no doubt hear a great deal about Burns's poems, as they were well known on the Borders long before their fame reached the general public. At any rate he soon became familiar with them, for when on a visit, early in May, 1787, to his uncle, Mr William Gladstaines, who lived in the neighbouring town of Duns, he found a copy of the Edinburgh edition which had just been published along with the first engraved portrait of the Poet. One afternoon as he was sitting on the sill in the recess of the window in the parlour of his uncle's house reading this new edition of Burns's poems, who
should be shown in but Burns himself!
He had come in with the father of his young Edinburgh friend, Robert Ainslie, with whom he was staying in the immediate neighbourhood of Duns, and who had brought him in to see my father's uncle who was one of the principal residents in the town. One or two others had also come in with them, and as they sat round the table talking and sipping their toddy-the usual hospitality when a call was made in those days-my father sat quietly listening to their conversation. He closely watched the Poet and compared him with the portrait in the book, delighted to have this chance of seeing the author and the portrait at the same time. His description of Burns was that he was tall, and not stoutly but strongly built, of very dark complexion, and with large brilliant black eyes that sparkled as he spoke in a wonderful manner. When I once asked my father about their conversation he said that he did not remember much about it, except that it was mostly about farming and the people of the neighbourhood, and that he was content to sit and look at Burns as the author of the wonderful poems he had just been reading. The next morning being Sunday, my father again saw him as he was entering the Parish church-yard with the Ainslies, and as their pew in the church was next to his uncle's, he managed to sit on the side nearest them, and when they stood up to pray-there being only the division of the pew between him and Burns—he contrived to let his elbow touch Burns's that he might be able to say that "he had touched the poet!" In confirmation of this I may mention that I have still the piece of paper on which I copied a paragraph from the "Glasgow Citizen" of the 10th August, 1844, in reference to the Burns Festival of that date, in which it was stated that "The following interesting reminiscence was appended to the signature of a gentleman in Liverpool ordering a copy of to-day's Citizen :-' Ane wha rubbed shoulders wi' the poet i' the Auld Kirk o' Dunse, in 1787, o' whilk he is no'a little proud."" My father was much amused that the editor had thought it worth while to put this into his paper.
It may be also interesting to state that my father noticed an incident in the church on this occasion, of Burns, when the sermon was being preached, pulling a piece of paper out of his pocket, and after writing something on it, passing it to Miss Ainslie, who was sitting next to him. The meaning of this only