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It is impossible to dismiss this volume of the correspondence of our Bard, without some anxiety as to the reception it may meet with. The experiment we are making has not often been tried ; perhaps on no occasion, has so large a portion of the recent and unpremeditated effusions of a man of genius been committed to the press.
Of the following letters of Burns, a considerable number were transmitted for publication, by the individuals to whom they are addressed; but, very few have been printed entire. It will easily be believed, that in a series of letters, written with
out the least view to publication, various passages were found unfit for the press, from different considerations. It will also be readily supposed, that our poet, writing nearly at the same time, and under the same feelings, to different individuals, would sometimes fall into the same train of senti
ment, and forms of expression. To avoid therefore the tediousness of such repetitions, it has been found necessary to mutilate many of the individual letters, and sometimes to exscind
great delicacy—the unbridled effusions of panegyric and regard. But though many of the letters are printed from originals furnished by the persons to whom they were addressed, others are printed from first draughts, or sketches, found among
papers of our bard. Though in general no man committed his thoughts to his correspondents with less a fairer character, or perhaps in more studied language. In the chaos of his manuscripts, some of the original sketches were found, and as these sketches, though less perfect, are fairly to be considered as the offspring of his mind, where they have seemed in themselves worthy of a place in this volume, we have not hesitated to insert them, though they may not always correspond exactly with the letters transmitted, which have been lost,
consideration or effort than Burns, yet it appears,
that in some instances he was dissatisfied with his first essays, and wrote out his communications in
Our author appears at one time to have formed an intention of making a collection of his letters, for the amusement of a friend. Accordingly, he copied an inconsiderable number of them into a book, which he presented to Robert Riddell, of Glenriddell, Esq. Among these was the account of his life, addressed to Dr. Moore, and printed in the first volume. In copying from his imperfect sketches (it does not appear that he had the
letters actually sent to his correspondents before him) he seems to have occasionally enlarged his observations, and altered his expressions. In such instances his emendations have been adopted ; but in truth there are but five of the letters thus se
lected by the poet, to be found in the present volume, the rest being thought of inferior merit, or otherwise unfit for the public eye.
In printing this volume, the editor has found some corrections of grammar necessary; but these have been very few, and such as may be supposed to occur in the careless effusions, even of literary characters, who have not been in the habit of carrying their compositions to the press. These corrections have never been extended to any habitual modes of expression of the poet, even where his phraseology may seem to violate the delicacies of taste, or the idiom of our language, which he wrote in general with great accuracy. Some difference will indeed be found in this respect in his earlier, and
in his later compositions; and this volume will exhibit the progress of his stile, as well as the his
tory of his mind.
To diversify the volume, and to illustrate the
character or the history of the poet, a few of the letters of his correspondents have been introduced. In general, this has been done with the permission of the writers ; in one or two instances, it has been done without leave, for which the editor begs pardon ; trusting that the liberal minds of the persons concerned will overlook an omission, arising from the pressure of important engagements, which prevented the error from being discovered until it
was too late.
In the eleventh page of this volume, the reader will find an apology offered on this subject to Mr. Ramsay, of Ochtertyre, if still alive. Since that sheet was printed, the editor has heard from that respectable gentleman and elegant scholar, and has ob