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the Incorporation feel it indispensable to resort to the alternative of offering their land and their money to the public, calling on them to embrace this opportunity of preventing the land and cottage of Burns from being despised, rejected, neglected, and unknown, and if the public are inclined to act along with them, the Incorporation bind themselves to carry out measures to carry the matter into execution in a way and manner that may have some accordance with the wishes of the subscribers. .
Such is the account of the matter contained in the minute books of the Incorporation, but there are several holograph letters of Sir Alexander Boswell, with whom the idea of the monument originated, which rather confirm their version of the matter, and otherwise throw interesting light on the progress of the movement relative to both proposals, and which is further elucidated by other letters. The first is a letter from Sir Alexander Boswell, which is, it will be observed, dated more than four years prior to the time at which the "misunderstanding" arose :—
"Auchinleck, Oct. 25, 1815.-Sir,-As the subscription for erecting a monument to Burns at the place of his birth has at length reached a sum which enables us to proceed, it is my intention to call a meeting of the Committee to decide on the propriety of immediately advertising for plans.
"I was early made acquainted with the perfect willingness of the Company of Shoemakers to give the necessary ground for a site, but it is requisite that there should be a written declaration to that effect, which I may lay before the Committee, and which may be ground for further procedure.
"So soon as plans are given in a meeting of the subscribers shall be called to determine which shall be adopted, and also to name trustees and curators under whose superintendence the monument should be erected and afterwards preserved-proper regulations being at the same time adopted to supply vacancies which may occur by death or otherwise. As the custody of the monument must be confided to these trustees, it will be necessary that the Company of Shoemakers convey to these trustees the site of the intended building, guarded with such clauses or conditions as they may deem fit, that the ground is conveyed for that purpose and no other.
"It is impossible at present to state the extent of ground required, as that must depend on the ground plans of the architect whose plan is preferred; but it cannot occupy much. It has been suggested that the building should contain an apartment where might be placed a bust of the poet and such paintings from his works as should be presented by artists. But an architect of respectability assures me that a suitable building with such an apartment could not be executed under £1000. Had the enthusiasm and liberality of his native county borne any proportion to that of strangers, we should have had that sum long ere now; but as the result unfortunately proves a different feeling (or rather want of feeling), I fear we cannot reckon on more than £700.
The next letter is also by Sir Alexander Boswell. It deals with the dispute, and is somewhat pathetic in its character :
Auchinleck, March 8th, 1820.-Sir,-As there lives not an individual more anxious to conciliate than I am, it has given me much concern that a misunderstanding has arisen respecting the site of Burns's Monument, The difficulties I have encountered in carrying this into effect, from the lukewarmness of those at home and other circumstances, have been sufficiently greatso great as to have damped the energy of most men-without an unpleasant dispute at the conclusion. The monument, instead of being a building erected by subscribers who might be assembled, as was the first intention, has been the result of subscriptions from the'east and from the west and south forwarded to myself; and I thus became in a great measure the representative of these distant subscribers.
"It certainly was my intention, as one of the Committee, that the monument should have been erected as near the spot where Burns was born as possible, although two-thirds of the subscriptions were sent for the purpose of erecting the monument near to Alloway Kirk, the scene of Tam o' Shanter." I yielded to the taste and opinion of others, and I now think I yielded with propriety. At the same time, I may state that it was not and could not be finally resolved to build the monument elsewhere than on the ground of your Incorporation till a very short time before the foundation stone was laid. So soon as it was settled that it was to be placed elsewhere, I freely confess that there was an omission of courtesy in not informing the Incorporation, and nothing but hurry and inadvertence could have prevented me from suggesting such a communication. I mention this as an apology for what can only now be regretted.
It is painful to me that any brother Freemen of your Incorporation should have taken the matter up in so strong a point of view, but although they are the best judges of their own proceedings, I beg to suggest to you what I requested Mr IIamilton Boswell to suggest to your Deacon, that a monument to Burns should be erected on your property in the form of a hall, to be called "Burns's Hall," "The Poet's Hall," or "The Hall of Harmony," where the admirers of the Bard might meet, which the plan of the other monument precludes. If this suggestion is adopted, I shall most willingly subscribe and do my utmost to promote the object, and the expense cannot be very formidable. A paper war can add little to the respectability of neither party. I heard it rumoured that a long reply to Mr Hamilton Boswell's advertisement is to be inserted in the newspapers. If so, and my opinion has any weight, the Incorporation will remain masters of the field and no answer will be given. All that I can say is that it would be more consonant to "Harmony," if we love it, that a middle course should be taken, as I have suggested, creditable to all and beneficial to your property.—I am, sir, your most obedient humble servant, ALEXANDER BOSWELL."
This letter appears to have had the effect of oil on troubled waters, and to have to some extent reconciled the Incorporation to the inevitable, if we may judge from the reply to it. But we
also gather from the reply and the foregoing minutes that it did not avail to prevent the dispute being made public. The reply was as follows:
Ayr, 9th March, 1820.—Sir,—I had the honour of receiving your letter of yesterday's date to-day at half-past three o'clock, and lost no time in communicating it to the Deacon. He also immediately called a meeting of the Committee upon the subject, but by the time all this could be done the newspapers were published. The Committee are highly gratified with the liberal and just sentiments contained in your letter to me, and desire me to say that had these same sentiments been conveyed to them previous to any publication on the subject they would have been most happy, and nothing of the kind would have occurred; and they only regret it did not arrive sooner. Whatever feelings they had upon the subject are greatly removed by your conciliatory and gentlemanly expressions, and they are now anxious to make up the matter entirely. The proposal made by you as to erecting a hall for the accommodation of the admirers of Burns exactly meets their mind, and they hope with your assistance, and the assistance of those who are of your mind, that it will be carried into effect. Your name, countenance, and subscription will be of the greatest consequence, and they accept them with the greatest pleasure and thankfulness. They will not only be of great service to the undertaking. but will contribute to the further honour of Burns, and the accommodation of his admirers in this quarter.—I have the honour to be, sir, your most obedient humble servant, HEW AITKIN."
The action taken by the Incorporation invoked a further letter from Sir Alexander Boswell in the following terms :
Auchinleck, March 16th, 1820.—Sir,—I read the reply of the Incorporation to Mr Ham. D. Boswell's advertisement, and although it is far from my wish to awaken what has been set to rest, I think it right to say that the Incorporation, in their view of my interference, has been guided by misinformation; and my own recollection of what passed is aided by that of Mr Ham. Boswell, who was present when I visited the ground of the Incorporation. It is, however, much more consonant to my feelings to be placed in an unfavourable point of view than to be in hostility with a body of men whose prosperity I wish.
"I have received your letter and the copies of your circular, and shall be happy to aid your object; but it must be obvious that I could not do it with effect till I have got off my hands the monument which has cost so much exertion for so many years, and which many of the subscribers, ignorant of the difficulties which were encountered and overcome, have thought too long delayed.
"It must strike you and the Committee that it is extremely difficult to press a new and nearly similar object, while the other is not yet begun. Yours, however, limited as it must be—both looking to the object and the probable means-does not appear of that magnitude that should discourage sanguine hopes of its completion.
"I beg to suggest that a plan should be got of the proposed hall, and I
trust some liberal architect will give his services gratis. Mr Hamilton of Glasgow is most liberal, and, I hope, may be prevailed on to give his aid.
'It is first necessary to consider the dimensions of the proposed building, and perhaps a room of 40 feet by 24 feet broad would accommodate as large an assemblage as is likely to meet. I think the expensive part of the building should be confined to a portico, of perhaps the Doric order, facing the road. To complete the whole in ashler would cost more than I have any hope of seeing raised. But the rest of the building may be plain ruble work, and the whole place surrounded with evergreens; they would conceal the plain part of the building and be appropriate and ornamental. The building might be lighted from the top by a lanthorn light or lanthorns (not a skylight), and perhaps a range of semi-circular windows round the upper part of the side walls. But of those points an architect could best judge. A plan and estimate procured, it would then be more satisfactory to proceed. I think that such a hall might be executed for about £300.
On March 20, 1820, Sir Alexander Boswell wrote intimating a subscription of £5 5s to the Incorporation monument, and stating that "if the fund does not come up to your expectation I can increase my subscription." The last letter bearing on the subject is one in reply from Deacon Mann as follows:
Ayr, 25th March, 1820.—Sir,—I had the honour of receiving your letter, and have, as you desire, caused your name to be put on the list of subscribers for the sum you mentioned. I beg leave to assure you that the Incorporation look on this liberality on your part not only as another instance of your great attachment to the genius of Burns, but as a mark of your condescension and attention to them in carrying on the subscriptions on the work itself. They feel anxious that the whole should be to your mind, and they will be happy from time to time to receive your advice and assistance in the matter.
There is in existence independent evidence which further confirms the statements of the Incorporation, and contradicts that of Mr Hamilton Boswell with reference to the choice of the site by the committee. In the museum at Burns's Cottage, there is preserved in a glazed frame a plan which is inscribed "Sketch of the ground on which it is proposed to build a monument in memory of the late Robert Burns, the Ayrshire Bard, by James Milligan, surveyor, Ayr." The plan itself does not bear any date so far as can be seen, but the date 1819 is marked on the frame. Among other things the plan bears "(a) the cottage in which Burns was born," and "() the spot on which the monument is
proposed to be erected." It also shows (a) the "well" a little from the south-east corner of the cottage, and (b) a little to the southwest of the well. There is nothing to show for whom this plan was prepared; but on referring to the printed list of subscribers, a copy of which is also preserved in the cottage, the name of James Milligan appears as a subscriber of £1 Is, "being the guinea allowed to him for making plan of the site of the monument." It is obvious from this and from other circumstances, therefore, that if the Committee did not select this site they were in a fair way of doing so. What exactly led them finally to change their mind, we have now no direct means of knowing; but the drift of the minutes and letters quoted seems to warrant the assumption that, at the outset at least, the Incorporation expected, and would, in all probability, have derived considerable advantage from the monument being associated with their property, even though the site had with all sincerity been given unconditionally. We need not assume that the topographical question had much to do with the matter, because it will be admitted that the site at Burns's Cottage was as conspicuous, if not quite so picturesque, as that on the banks of the Doon; but that what led the Committee to go back on their earlier choice was just that inclination to dissociate the name of Burns from the remotest connection with intemperance, which has since become much more pronounced. That dissociation has now happily been completely accomplished so far as the cottage is concerned; but it seems not improbable that had the Committee latterly come back to their first choice, this desirable object might have been accomplished at the time, only that the Incorporation were somewhat late in showing a disposition to abolish the "alehouse." At the same time, it is impossible to withhold sympathy from the Incorporation in their desire to maintain the value of their property. They were at that time essentially a benefit society, with a number of old people dependent on them for support, and their principal asset was the rent from the cottage as a public-house, and to have abolished the "alehouse" would undoubtedly have led to a very material reduction of the income from the premises. What further encouragement the Incorporation