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A general reprimands his subordinate in 10 pages before his regiment; a surgeon, brief at other times, discourses intermin ably on the true art of healing. Here and there you have a little bit of nature from the lower orders- —an old soldier, a groom, a cunning maid-but they come in and pop out as if their author were ashamed of them. To be sure, there are smart things too— "it seems to be a prevailing opinion in this island that talents and genius, like cats, are more attached to particular walls and houses than to the persons who reside within them"-still even these are discounted by the surrounding prose, and by the witty mottoes of each chapter.
On the whole, had Burns set Edward (who goes where goodness leads him) against Zeluco (who rides where the Devil drives), he would not only have multiplied the minor defects of Dr Moore's art, but would have recognised more fully how far he falls behind the great novelists of the day in giving his characters life, freedom, and purpose.
Dr Moore died in 1802, aged 72. In that time he had travelled a deal, and evidently seen the class of people whom we meet in his novels. Burns speaks with enthusiasm of his "Views of Society and Manners in France and Italy," but neither it nor the "Journal" have had the day of Arthur Young's famous travels. Who knows, nevertheless, but that these forgotten volumes inspired the Poet with that Revolution ardour which (as a French critic puts it) "caused in him a daily irritability?” We cannot say. It may be true that Dr Moore's reputation would have been as dead as himself had he not been the friend of one great man and the father of another—the friend of Burns and the father of Sir John Moore. It cannot be disputed that in his day his reputation was sufficient to extract biography (in prose or verse) from Burns and Byron, and to confirm the former in his practice of using the native tongue.
To be a literary man is something; to break new literary ground is something more; to stimulate the genius of men whom you have never seen is greatest of all. That was the last and best work of Dr John Moore.
ALEX. S. BROWN.
BURNS AS A TOURIST.
PROPOSE to deal here with Burns as a tourist. I am not aware that the poet has been described in this way before. Yet as a tourist he occupies a unique and interesting position. In these days, when innumerable inducements, both in the means of locomotion and low expenditure, are offered for travelling at home and abroad, everybody is a tourist. It was vastly different in the eighteenth century. The facilities with which we are now all so familiar did not then exist. There were only three means available to the traveller-he could go on foot, ride on horse-back, or drive in a post-chaise. Roads were bad, rough tracks many of them, and the inns were not the most comfortable. A tourist had to be a person with a good deal of leisure, and have a purse pretty well stocked with sovereigns. He had also to be a person of some courage, for one can understand that considerable risks were attached to travelling under such conditions. Tourists were therefore few, and their travels, whether within the bounds of their own country or in other lands, could not but bring them into some prominence.
Not the least prominent of eighteenth century tourists was Robert Burns. If he has not in this respect the fame of others that could be mentioned, the reason is that he did not produce a formal record of his journeyings. How well he could have done it had he been so inclined, or some one had suggested the task to him! In the scrappy journals which were the outcome of his two longest tours there was the essence of notable books.
The spirit of the tourist was fostered in Robert Burns by the study of the history and the songs and ballads of his native land. He became imbued with a passionate desire to see the places which had been made famous by the clash of arms or the glamour of poetry. I think I can point to the first tour which he ever made-a boyish one, short as most of such excursions are, but likewise as romantic and memorable. He was in his fourteenth
or fifteenth year at the time, and living at Mount Oliphant, his life composed of "the cheerless gloom of a hermit, with the unceasing moil of a galley slave." He describes the ramble in a letter to Mrs Dunlop :-" Many a solitary hour," he wrote, "have I stole out, after the laborious vocations of the day, to shed a tear over the glorious but unfortunate story of Wallace. In those boyish days I remember, in particular, being struck with that part of his story where these lines occur :—
Syne to the Leglen wood when it was late,
I chose a fine summer Sunday, the only day my way of life allowed, and walked half a dozen of miles to pay my respects to the Leglen wood, with as much devout enthusiasm as ever pilgrim did to Loretto, and as I explored every den and dell where I could suppose my heroic countrymen to have lodged, I recollect -for even then I was a rhymer-my heart glowed with a wish to be able to make a song on him in some measure equal to his merits.'
It is, of course, impossible to say how great was the influence of this pilgrimage upon him; but we may be sure that it greatly stimulated his desire to further acquaint himself with the classic places of Scotland. In another of his letters to Mrs Dunlop he wrote:-- "I have no dearer aim than to have it in my power, unplagued with the routine of business, for which heaven knows I am unfit enough, to make leisurely pilgrimages through Caledonia; to sit on the fields of her battles, to wander on the romantic banks of her rivers, and to muse by the stately towers or venerable ruins, once the time-honoured abode of her heroes." But there was one insuperable obstacle to this desire being gratified-his poverty. So long as Burns was a poor man his wanderings had to be confined to his native Ayrshire. One can picture him fondly imagining that some day and somehow fickle fortune would fulfil her fair promises, and bestow upon him sufficient wealth and leisure to enable him to carry out his dearest aim. Far earlier than he ever dreamed, his hopes were largely realised.
The success which attended the Edinburgh edition of his
poems made a great change in the fortunes of Burns. He was suddenly taken out of a position of toil and penury and placed in one of ease and comparative affluence. The opportunity so long desired, and so little expected, had come, and he was not slow to accept and make the most of it. The Scottish border was the district most celebrated in the ballad literature which had fired his enthusiasm, and it was the district which he had the greatest ambition to see. And so one of the first things he did was to arrange a tour in what he calls "the classic
For three weeks Burns toured in zig-zag fashion in the border counties and in the north of England. He traversed the banks of the Tweed and the Jed; saw, but did not seem to be greatly impressed by, the ruins of Melrose, Jedburgh, Kelso, and Coldingham Abbeys; visited most of the larger towns, and was received by a host of people distinguished and undistinguished —and had various honours paid to him, for his fame had travelled before him. He saw all the places he had intended to see, with the exception of Yarrow and Ettrick-being prevented by stress of weather. On the English side the tour extended as
far south as Newcastle, and westwards as far as Carlisle. Burns returned to Mossgiel via Annan, Dumfries (of which he was later to become such a noted citizen), and Nithsdale.
One remarkable feature of this tour is that it was poetically unproductive. Beyond the epistle to Willie Creech-written from Selkirk a few epigrams and letters, and a journal composed of mere jottings, Burns wrote nothing. Various explanations of the silence of the Poet in such interesting and inspiring surroundings have been given. Principal Shairp narrates the mental and physical troubles from which he suffered at the time, and asks :"When all these are remeinbered, is it to be wondered that Burns should have wandered by the banks of the Tweed in no mood to chant beside it a music sweeter than its own?" If I may be allowed to dissent from such an authority I would say that the explanation is that Burns was enjoying his first long release from toil-was on holiday, as we say now-a-days-and was living the free, careless life that makes a holiday real. This being so, he did not feel it incumbent on him to sing merely because of a cer tain environment. Burns, like all true poets, sang when the spirit moved him, and not when he was expected to sing.
In his few weeks' absence, Burns had different travelling companions. First, Robert Ainslie, a jovial young Edinburgh law clerk; and afterwards two farmers called Hood and Kerr, men of more mature years and somewhat sombre temperament — not so congenial to the Poet. But his means of conveyance was always the same; his “auld, ja'd, gleyde o' a mere”—Jenny Gedde, whom he celebrated both in prose and rhyme-carried him safely "up hill and down brae in Scotland and England as teuch and birnie as a very devil."
Before starting on his Border tour Burns, in a letter to Dr Moore, sketched out the ground he had to cover and added: "I shall return to my mural shades, in all likelihood never more to quit them." But the experiences of the Poet in the Border had still further stimulated his ambition to explore his native land, and ere the year was out he had gone three other tours, one of them about the same length as that which he had just completed.