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fied. On this subject he consulted me; and with the hope of surmounting his objections, I offered him my assistance, but in vain. Endeavours were used to procure an editor in other quarters without effect. The task was beset with considerable difficulties, and men of established reputation naturally declined an undertaking, to the performance of which, it was scarcely to be hoped, that general approbation could be obtained by any exertion of judgment or temper.
To such an office, my place of residence, my accustomed studies, and my occupations, were certainly little suited; but the partiality of Mr. Syme thought me in other respects not unqualified; and his solicitations, joined to those of our excellent friend and relation, Mrs. Dunlop, and of other friends of the family of the poet, I have not been able to resist. To remove difficulties which would otherwise have been insurmountable, Mr. Syme and Mr. Gilbert Burns made a journey to Liverpool, where they explained and arranged the manuscripts, and selected such as seemed worthy of the press. From this visit I derived a degree of pleasure which has compensated much of my labour. I had the satisfaction of renewing my personal intercourse with a much valued friend, and of forming an acquaintance with a man, closely allied to Burns in talents as well as in blood, in
whose future fortunes the friends of virtue will not, I trust, be uninterested.
The publication of these volumes has been delayed by obstacles which these gentlemen could neither remove nor foresee, and which it would be tedious to enumerate. At length the task is finished. If the part which I have taken shall serve the interests of the family, and receive the approbation of good men, I shall have my recompense. The errors into which I have fallen are not, I hope, very important, and they will be easily accounted for by those who know the circumstances under which this undertaking has been performed. Generous minds will receive the posthumous works of Burns with candour, and even partiality, as the remains of an unfortunate man of genius, published for the benefit of his family-as the stay of the widow and the hope of the fatherless.
To secure the suffrages of such minds, all topics are omitted in the writings, and avoided in the life of Burns, that have a tendency to awake the animosity of party. In perusing the following volumes no offence will be received, except by those to whom even the natural erect aspect of genius is offensive; characters that will scarcely be found among those who are educated to the profession of arms.
Such men do
do not court situations of danger, or tread in the paths of glory. They will not be found in your service, which, in our own days, emulates on another element the superior fame of the Macedonian phalanx, or of the Roman legion, and which has lately made the shores of Europe and of Africa resound with the shouts of victory, from the Texel to the Tagus, and from the Tagus to the Nile!
The works of Burns will be received favourably by one who stands in the foremost rank of this noble service, and who deserves his station. On the land or on the sea, I know no man more capable of judging of the character or of the writings of this original genius. Homer, and Shakespeare, and Ossian, cannot always occupy your leisure. These volumes may sometimes engage your attention, while the steady breezes of the tropics swell your sails, and in another quarter of the earth charm you with the strains of nature, or awake in your memory the scenes of your early days. Suffer me to hope that they may sometimes recal to your mind the friend who addresses you, and who bids you-most affectionately-adieu !
LIVERPOOL, 1st May, 1800.
IF the Editor has not mentioned by name the various persons who subscribed to the former Editions, or who promoted the subscription for the support of the Widow and Children of Burns, this has arisen from his not being in possession of the necessary documents. MR. ALEXANDER CUNNINGHAM ought, however, to have been more particularly distinguished: He was indefatigably zealous in promoting the interest of the widow and her children, at a period when such services were highly important, and not a little difficult. The Editor is happy in an opportunity of doing this justice, tardy and imperfect though it be, to an old friend, of the generous qualities of whose heart he relains a just and lasting impression.
CONTENTS OF VOL. I.
Effects of the legal establishment of parochial
LIFE OF BURNS.