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Israelites to the promised land of their wishes and hopes. Even this was, by Times, only a dark cloud of smoke, but cold encouragement amid the threatening dangers of the wilderness and the surrounding crowds of hostile nations, which they, and, possibly, we too, may have to encounter. My mind dwells on things at present much above my conception, and while private concerns put me on the rack, I feel a bitterness added by the apprehension of approaching publick calamity, whose sweeping ruin may involve all I hold dear, in short, may overwhelm us all.
I would like to have your, or rather your Brother's, sentiments on this subject. Yours will be too cold or, like my own, too volatile. Yet I am vex't not to know what has become of you, nor can I guess, unless you are gone to Edinburgh about your publication, which I cannot say I wish, on more accounts than my missing your visit, since I look on it as a bad vortex to encounter by surprise where one requires calm deliberation and steady judgment to direct themselves, instead of being led by the undigested impetuosity of others, impelled more by Chance than Reason, and therefore more apt to be wrong than right, plausible than solid. No letters from France. I am anxious for my poor little Boy or his father. Alas, I mean his Grandfather, whom I pray Heaven may preserve. You see I have got a sheet of large size. Don't call it foolscap. Yet I have no objection to the name, and less to the thing itself. When it used to come from you the word single sheet gave a wonderful grace to the address on the outside, in my eye. I have some fear it might not seem so enchanting in yours were I necessitated to insert it on this, which, I believe, would be very proper, to save mistakes at the post office. How vain should I be could I ever learn that you rejoiced at sight of this word as sincerely as you have many a time taught me to do! Farewell! The wind is so loud to-night I doubt I shall be Homestaid to-morrow. Do steal a moment from G. R. and the Rum duty, to write me, and pour balm on our wounded spirit.
FRAN. A. DUNLOP.
(3.) MRS DUNLOP TO ROBERT BURNS.
[British edition, p. 381; American edition, v. 2, p. 243.]
DUNLOP, 14 April, 1793.
DEAR BURNS,―There are situations in which one finds it impossible to write. Such is mine for a great while past. I have not had a pen in my IIand but once since the last letter I sent you. It is one of the drawbacks of so large a family as mine that it brings a multiplicity of intermixed concerns which, although they twist and tear your heart-strings, are not so your own as to admit your dividing them with those to whom you would have pleasure in communicating every sentiment arising in your mind, from circumstances where your own Intere t'and Happiness Had the only, or at least the most predominate, part. The joy of letters is where one just thinks, and the rising thought becomes visible to the Eye of that friend whose presence we imagine could assuage its bitterness or divert our attention from its present Ill, or presage
Horrors which gleam athwart its future prospects. When the heart is full of something one is not at liberty to mention, they write with an embarrassed restraint which cannot escape the immediate perception of that Friend they have been accustomed to address with openness and freedom, to whom they have poured out the pure effusions of the soul, without allowing any moment of prudent distrust to check the hand and keep back the blackest dreg that might float in the spirit, uncorrected by time or refinement. 'Twas thus I have often wrote to you, and that I would ever wish to write to Him who by His works has convinced me of the truth of Imlac's position that a Poet must be more than a man. Imlac adds, I think, that God never made a Poet, or the Prince of Abyssinia observes it for Him; and I am of the same opinion, for I cannot help super-adding to the most perfect of His works in that line every grace and quality my own imagination can afford to lend. An absent friend, whose notice flatters and whose kindness pleases, soothes, and often makes me happy, in whose company I can forget the world, and forgive its forgetting me, can find every good propensity gain strength, and every wrong bias diverted into a better course—in short, I never consider myself one moment in the light of holding a place in your Esteem and friendly Remembrance, without a consciousness of redoubled ardour to be more worthy of so enviable a distinction, and you know "to wish more virtue is to have," says a great Master of harmony and morality. So you see one good end for which you have come into this world, to make one human creature better and more deserving to be so than she would have been without you-more than many a preacher has to boast. May not this be one step to help you up to Heaven yourself? If our friend Satan, whom both you and I so cordially join in admiring in the picture Milton draws of Him, does not tie some stone to your foot, too heavy to be counterbalanced by all my merits drawn from your writings, your conversation, and the noble motives which I have frequently seen influence your conduct, even where it was not supported by that sanction of applause in which few have so warmly basked without being sun-struck out of their senses too far to pursue calmly the narrow path of private rectitude, tender attachment, or unknown charity. Yet it is in these retired walks of life my Fancy follows you with unequalled delight, when, almost withdrawn from publick light, as myself, the blessings of the Poor and the orphans' prayers announce the name of my Friend, makes me ashamed to find how far I lag behind, and wish hereafter to emulate what it is impossible not to love and admire. Instead of a sermon, I feel my heart warm to benevolence when I look at the little musline swatch of Fanny Burns' marriage gown, but the fatal word marriage deranges all my Ideas. I cannot tell you why, nor can I now write of anything else, it so runs in my head. Yet do not, dear Burns, believe me such a fool, or think I am going to proclaim myself so; no, I think I may venture to say my first union will be with Death and Eternity. I am, however, pretty well just now, but never so for a week together since I saw you last.
The Major is returned in peace from London, but the Carrier has, I fear, lost your volumes I expected from Edinburgh. Console me with a letter, and tell me all you are doing. I dare not ask what you are thinking, unless you can properly indulge me. Alas! Shall I ever more see my poor little Henry ! O my Dear Burns, what a ravelled Haspe of sorrow is that woman's heart who has thirty children! How oft must her thread of life be tugged and broken!
My compliments to Mrs Burns, love to Frank, and good wishes to all who call you Friend or Father, from yours,
FRAN. A. DUNLOP.
Write me on the 16th, it is my 63rd birthday.
(4.) MRS DUNLOP TO ROBERT BURNS.
[British edition, p. 397; American edition, v. 2, p. 266.]
DUNLOP, 24th January, 1794.
Your fears have of late been thrown into that Channel from whence, I trust, ere now they are respited. Should they not think for a moment of my poor little Henry? I have stood by the sick bed of an expiring Infant, but believe me that equalled not the agony of my Contemplations on his forlorn unknown deserted state. For what does the adventitious advantages of Rank and fortune serve—often to create Misfortune. Had I been your wife, my Dear little boy had now been picking with the rest of the sweet little Chickens of your flock, instead of being in the land of foes from whence every friend is expelled by Death or Banishment, and where my very enquiry after him might cost the head of his protector, if his Infant Innocence has actually still procured him one. Alas, to what has the fatal prospect of property, and my foolish anxiety to preserve it for his use, exposed him and myself! Let my distress on this score serve for a Beacon to my friend, and trust in the goodness and wisdom of Him who is willing and able to provide for all his Creatures, and does it in ways so incomprehensible to us, in spite of the ill-judged steps our false, self-conceited, worldly views are hourly taking to thwart the wiser benevolent designs of providence, which, however, we are not able to counteract.
. . Believe me, its Ghost will be often rising, and is far from a chearing apparition, in spite of all the moral courage my Poet can impart to help me to laugh in its face and shake hands serenely with what we must in all Events soon leave behind us, if it should not set out first to leave us. Let, then, the phantom fly on the Clouds which are no more flitting than the destination of wealth, and let neither you nor I torment our minds about what we have or what we have not. Who can say whether your Children or mine may live or die richest? Let us then seek to make them virtuous, and hope' to leave them happy. It is long since I told you we were all like spoilt bairns most testy who were most carrest. Are you not a mark of this : favoured with superiour abilities, advanced to a line which you once could never have looked beyond, able to assist your family and contribute to the happiness of all that know you and the pleasure of multitudes that you will never know? Do you not encourage a thousand fears, anxieties, and distrustful apprehensions, to which your years of peaceful penury were utter strangers? Is this, my Dear friend, the manly gratitude of a being highly distinguished by his creator and favoured.
You proferred for my Happiness, adding the interested petition for myself that all those Hours of blessed life I prayed for to my friend might run in the same uninterrupted course of Goodwill to me which has hitherto
afforded me so much pleasure, and the enjoyment of which is now become sohabitually necessary that the deprivation of it would be like wresting away part of my remaining existence, nay, like a stroke of the palsy, would create an unfeeling insensibility for the rest, or an untrusting anxiety for the continuance of any other attachment that could promise to sweeten and support the now almost languid Eve of my sinking day, to the comfort of which I cannot express how much your acquaintance and kind attentions has for now a train of years contributed, and been an unfailing resource in every moment of Dejection, whether brought on by misfortune, weakness of Mind or Spirits, bad health. . .
The recollection has hindered me twenty times since from writing you, but I have hardly yet said one word I intended when I sat down, and behold the last page of my large paper. Do yon know, I believed for some months that Corbet was dead, and with him every hope I could ever form to serve you. You cannot conceive how much this relaxed my satisfaction in writing. The most distant Idea of a possibility of proving useful to those we regard is a wonderful spring to move our affections, which, when it is removed, become wholly dormant to each action by which they formerly exerted themselves to expression. I hope you feel something like this too, and like those to whose happiness you contribute, for in this case I shall always be certain of a Considerable portion of your kindness, since I cannot enumerate the occasions on which I have been indebted to you for more pleasurable recollections than many have it ever in their power to bestow. Cowper is a feast. Your "Zeluco" can never be compensate by mine, which, however, you shall have whenever I can know how; and how I envy that friend for whose library you plan such a decoration! I am half sorry you told how far must I find myself left behind, where a preference could have flattered me most, yet even the reading you promise is sure a hundred times more than I durst have expected . . .
I dare not venture, as you know every body says it is doubly unlucky to lose aught intended for a Child, and an old woman can never acquire courage to Brave Sprites, particularly when, for reasons I may tell you at meeting, I could not procure another Copy. I cannot Close this without telling you one debt you have unintentionally laid me under by the Verses you were so good as send me, which has, I hope, made the fortune of a very great favourite of mine, to whom I took it upon me to lend them for that purpose, yet under promise of giving no Copy except to one Lady to whom he wished to give himself, and by whom, I believe, by your timely aid, he has no small chance of being accepted. This must gratify you, since I presume to favour Love was the Original Aim of Verse, and perhaps still the most valuable manner in which it can be turned to use for the good of oneself or their friends, so that I hope you will not be in a relentless passion at me when you read this
Another day is gone and the snow still falling, tho' it seems to promise. Then I have a scheme in which I want your Aid. This I have never yet asked in vain, so am encouraged to hope you may contrive to help me now. I have found a very entertaining work making fringe, of which I have undertaken to ornament the furniture of a Roon for the Major. But you have many Rich Neighbours, and if you will dispose of my work to some of them as that of
a friend of yours who, tho' born to better days, wants ready Cash, I will dedicate a year of the profits to my charming little godson, and you cannot imagine with what chearful alacrity this destination would make my shuttle fly, and add life and joy to the inanimate occupation of tying knots. Besides, you know all women love Mystery, and as you would, I hope, find no scruple in keeping so very innocent a secret, it would give a zest, I dare say, to my work perhaps not inferiour to what you have felt in some of the most sublime of yours.
Here too I must remind you that the longer we live the task grows the most difficult, to fix the true ingrained Colour of friendship, notwithstanding the glow of its first appearance may be so dazzling as to promise its fresh lustre will only wear out with ourselves. Yet we find often not all the new dyes with which we labour to strengthen it can make it last one quarter of our year. Dare I hope Excise business, want of time or inclination, sickness of the bairns, nor a protest against your travelling in bad weather by Mrs Burns, will not prevent you paying us your oft promised annual visit? The more years we receive it I can assure you the more valuable it will become, if it can yet increase in value, which I am not very sure if it can, being already full. I ended my paper.
(5.) MRS DUNLOP TO GILBERT BURNS.
SIR,—It gives me real concern to hear your Brother has been in a bad state of health for some time past. Will you forgive me taking the liberty to beg you will be so good as let me know what were your last accounts of him, when you heard, and what was the nature of his complaints, which I sincerely hope are not of the nature to be attended with any danger? I shall also be happy to learn that your own family are as well as I can wish them, and your cousin Fanny, to whom pray remember me.-From, Sir,
Your most humble sert.,
DUNLOP, 20 July, 1796.
FRAN. A. DUNLOP.
(6.) MRS DUNLOP TO MRS GILBERT BURNS.
[Undated. ? End of July, 1796.]
MADAM, I received with concern, only to be exceeded by that of your family and his own, the melancholy account you send me of your worthy Brother's death. Spite of all the world's admiration, that few knew his real value and still fewer can ever suffer such a loss. I think myself much indebted to you, Madam, for being so attentive as to write me, and still more for the obliging intention Mr Burns expresses of seeing me, as nobody can more sincerely sympathise with his present distress than I do. I hope he, too, may have a kind of satisfaction in meeting me, whose concern is in unison with his That will compensate the trouble of his coming this length.
I am, Madam,
Your obliged humble sert.,
FRAN. A. DUNLOP.