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her. The crew lost heart and submitted, though their num-bers were greater than those of the assailing force. (Lockhart, p. 219.). Combativeness was one of the elements in his irritability of temper. It made him also naturally inclined to disputation, and impatient of contradiction.
6. He was more disposed,” says Allan Cunningham, “ to contend for victory
" than to seek for knowledge. The debating club of Tarbolton was ever strong within him; a fierce lampoon, or a rough epigram, was often the reward of those who ventured to contradict him. His conversation partook of the nature of controversy, and he urged his opinions with a vehemence amounting to fierceness. All this was natural enough, when he was involved
. in argument with the boors around him; but he was disposed, when pressed in debate, to be equally discourteous and unsparing to the polite and the titled." (P. 349.) The conspicuous part which Burns took in the theological warfare between the partizans of the New and Old Light doctrines is well known. This polemical spirit continued with him through life. “When in the company of the demure and the pious, he loved to start doubts in religion, which he knew nothing short of inspiration could solve ; and to speak of Calvinism with such latitude of language as shocked or vexed all listeners.” (Cunningham, p. 352.) He was likewise a keen politician, wrote electioneering songs, and injured his worldly prospects by too freely giving vent to his sentiments.
Combativeness, when very large, impels its possessor to adopt a line of conduct contrary to that which he may be advised or requested to follow; and with Burns it produced its usual effect. An amusing illustration is mentioned by Mr Lockhart: When riding one dark night near Carron, his companion teased him with noisy exclamations of delight and wonder, whenever an opening in the wood permitted them to see the magnificent glare of the furnaces : “ Look, Burns! good Heaven! look! look! what a glorious sight!"_" Sir," said Burns, clapping spurs to his mare, “ I would not look, look at your bidding, if it were the mouth of hell."
From the earliest youth, as his brother Gilbert informs us, he was not amenable to counsel; a circumstance which often produced much irritation between him and his father. In childhood he delighted in perusing narratives of martial achievements. “ The two first books I ever read in private," he says, “ and which gave me more pleasure than any two books I ever read since, were The Life of Hannibal, and The History of Sir William Wallace. Hannibal gave my young ideas such a turn, that I used to strut in raptures up and down after the recruiting drum and bagpipe, and wish myself tall enough to be a soldier; while the story of Wallace poured a Scottish prejudice
into my veins, which will boil along there till the flood-gates of life shut in eternal rest.”
The effects of the large Destructiveness of Burns were very conspicuous. From this, and Self Esteem, arose that vindictive and sarcastic spirit which formed one of his chief failings. In one of bis letters, he speaks of the “ dirty sparks of malice and envy which are but too apt to invest me;" and in an unpublished piece, he alludes to the terror excited by
-“ Burns's venom, when He dips in gall unmixed his eager pen,
And pours his vengeance in the burning line.” Even those who unwittingly put him to inconvenience some. times fell under his lash. Having come, during an excursion in Ayrshire, to an inn where he used to lodge, but which he on that occasion found entirely occupied by mourners conveying the body of a lady to a distant place of interment, he gave vent to his spleen in a lampoon full of bitterness :
“ Dweller in yon dungeon dark,
Hangman of creation, mark
Hands that took, but never gave." “ In these words,” says Allan Cunningham, “and others bitterer still, the poet avenged himself on the memory of a frugal and respectable lady, whose body unconsciously deprived him of a night's sleep." (P. 218.).
Respecting Burns's Acquisitiveness a few words are necessary, According to his own description, he was “a man who had little art in making money, and still less in keeping it." That his art in making money was sufficiently moderate, there can be no doubt; for he was engaged in occupations which his soul loathed, and thought it below the dignity of genius to accept of pecuniary remuneration for some of his most laborious literary performances. He was, however, by no means insensible to the value of money, and never recklessly threw it away On the contrary, he was remarkably frugal, except when feelings stronger than Acquisitiveness came into play—such as Benevolence, Adhesiveness, and Love of Approbation; the organs of all of which are very large, while Acquisitiveness is only rather large. During his residence at Mossgiel, where his annual revenue was not more than L.7, his expenses, as Gilbert mentions,
never, in any one year, exceeded his slender income.” It is well known also, that he did not leave behind him a shilling of debt; and I have learned from good authority, that his household was much more frugally managed at Dumfries than at Ellisland,
as in the former place, but not in the latter, he had it in his power to exercise a personal control over the expenditure. I have been told also, that after his death the domestic expenses were greater than while he was alive. These facts are all consistent with a considerable development of Acquisitiveness ; for when that organ is small, there is habitual inattention to pecuniary concerns, even although the love of independence, and dislike to ask a favour, be strong.
The indifference with respect to money, which Burns occasionally ascribes to himself, appears therefore to savour of affectation ; a failing into which he was not unfrequently led by Love of Approbation and Secretiveness. Indeed, in one of his letters to Miss Chalmers, he expressly in“ timates a wish to be rich."
Burns, as we have already seen, was in common silent and reserved. This resulted chiefly from large Secretiveness. His appearance, on the occasion of a visit by Mr Mackenzie, was very characteristic. “ The poet,” says that gentleman, “ seemed distant, suspicious, and without any wish to interest or please. He kept himself very silent in a dark corner of the room, and before he took any part in conversation, I frequently observed him scruticizing me, while I conversed with his father and his brother."—(Cunningham, p. 61.) His love adventures, above noticed, furnish another illustration. Sometimes also, like Sir Walter Scott, whose Secretiveness was no way inferior to his, he disowned the authorship of his productions, “ Burns," says Cromek, “ sometimes wrote poems in the old ballad style, which, for reasons best known to bimself, he gave to the world as songs of the olden time. That famous soldier's song, in particular, first printed in a letter to Mrs Dunlop, beginning, Go fetch to me a pint of wine,' has been pronounced by some of our best living poets, an inimitable relique of some ancient minstrel ! Yet I have discovered it to be the actual production of Burns himself. The ballad of Auld Lang Syne was also introduced in this ambiguous manner, though there exist proofs that the two best stanzas of it are indisputably his; hence there are strong grounds for believing this poem also to be his production, notwithstanding the evidence to the contrary. It was found among his MSS. in his own handwriting, with occasional interlineations, such as occur in all his primitive effusions."—(Reliques, p. 112.) Secre. tiveness is a chief ingredient in humour, of which Burns possessed a distinguished share.
Self-Esteem was a very prominent quality in the character of Burns. The organ is largely developed, and, besides partaking of the general activity of his brain, was peculiarly stimulated by adverse circumstances, and the painful consciousness that his station in life was not that to which his talents made him
entitled. Self-esteem, in fact, was a chief source of the annoyances which embittered his days. - There are,” he says in his common-place-book, “ There are few of the sore evils under the sun give me more uneasiness and chagrin than the comparison how a man of genius, nay of avowed, worth, is received every where, with the reception which a mere ordinary character, decorated with the trappings and futile distinctions of fortune, meet3. I imagine a man of abilities, his breast glowing with honest pride, conscious that men are born equal, still giving honour to whom honour is due; be meets, at a great man's table, a Squire Something, or a Sir Somebody; he knows the noble landlord, at heart, gives the bard, or whatever he is, a share of his good wishes, beyond, perhaps, any one at table ; yet how will it mortify him to see a fellow, whose abili. ties would scarcely have made an eightpenny tailor, and whose heart is not worth three farthings, meet with attention and potice, that are withheld from the son of genius and poverty? The noble Glencairn," he adds, “ has wounded me to the soul here; because I dearly esteem, respect, and love him.
He shewed so much attention-engrossing attention-one day, to the only blockhead at table, (the whole company consisted of his lordship, dunderpate, and myself), that I was within half a point of throwing down my gage of contemptuous defiance.". Again, in a letter to Mrs Dunlop, he says, "When I must skulk in a corner, lest the rattling equipage of some gaping blockhead should mangle me in the mire, I am tempted to exclaim, . What merits has he had, or what demerit bave I had, in some state of pre-existence, that he is ushered into this state of being with the sceptre of rule and the key of riches in his puny, fist, and I am kieked into this world, the sport of folly, or the victim of pride ??" It was under the influence of such feelings that he composed his song " For a' that and a' that,” every line of which is an ebullition of Self-esteem. He had an intense admiration of Smollett's Ode to Independence, and hated, above all things, to lie under an obligation. “One of the principal parts in my composition," he writes to his teacher Murdoch, is a kind of pride of stomach, and I scorn to fear the face of any man living: above every thing, I abhor as hell the idea of sneaking in a corner to avoid a dun, possibly some pitiful sordid wretch, whom, in my heart, I despise and detest." It was his powerful Self-esteem and Combativeness, along with great general size of brain, that gave him that coolness and self-possession in the company of men far above his station, which various authors have remarked with surprise : His manners in that society were, as Professor Stewart votices, “strongly expressive of conscious genius and worth "
VOL. IX.-o. XLI,
Love of Approbation was still more powerful than Selfesteem. Burns was greedy of fame and applause, and extremely annoyed by disapprobation. This was one of the strongest motives by which he was actuated. His cogitations before printing the first edition of his poems, and when he had the full intention of emigrating to Jamaica, are thus recorded by him. self:-“ Before leaving my native country for ever, I resolved to publish my poems. I weighed my productions as impartially as was in my power: I thought they had merit; and it was a delicious idea that I should be called a clever fellow, even though it should never reach my ears." He writes to Mrs Dunlop : “ I am fully persuaded that there is not any class of mankind so feelingly alive to the titillations of applause as the sons of Parnassus ; nor is it easy to conceive how the heart of the poor bard dances with rapture, when those whose character in life gives them a right to be polite judges, honour him with their approbation.” In another letter, the following remark occurs :“ I have a little infirmity in my disposition, that where I fondly love or highly esteem, I cannot bear reproach." He might have added that advice was almost equally intolerable. Mr Robert Riddell, one of his friends, mentions that the poet often lamented to him that fortune had not placed him at the bar or in the senate : “ He had great ambition,” says Mr Riddell, “and the feeling that he could not gratify it preyed upon him severely.”—(Cunningham's Life, p. 350.) - He was far from averse," says the female writer already quoted, “ to the incense of flattery, and could receive it tempered with less delicacy than might have been expected." The apologies with which his letters abound, shew how desirous he was to retain the good opinion of his friends; and the anxiety which he manifested respecting his posthumous reputation was very great. “ My honest fame,” he says, “is my dearest concern, and a thousand times have I trembled at the idea of the degrading epithets that malice or misrepresentation may affix to my name.” This letter is so well known that it is unnecessary to quote farther. One additional illustration of Burns's love of notoriety
- from “ The Poet's Welcome to an Illegitimate Child”—may be given :“ The mair they talk, I'm kend the better;
E'en let them clash !” Cautiousness is much larger than Hope ; in consequence of which circumstance, joined to delicate health, external misfortunes, and the raging of passions within, Burns was afflicted by constitutional melancholy, or liability to blue devils. His teacher Murdoch records that, in youth, “ Robert's countenance was generally grave, and expressive of a serious, contemplative, and thoughtful mind ;” and Allan Cunningham, who lived