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Finally, in a letter of November, 1794, to Mr. Patrick Miller Junr., (vi. 142), Burns wrote, before the concluding line (“With the most grateful esteem, I am ever, dear sir, your most obedient · Robt. Burns "), the following, the whole of which Cromek omitted :-"How do you like the following clinch?
EXTEMPORE, PINNED TO A LADY'S COACH. 'If you rattle along, like your mistress's tongue,'&c. (vol. iii. 178)—Nith. If your friends think this worth insertion, they are welcome.”
“ Almost every day I am manufacturing these little trifles, and, in a dearth of news, they may have a corner.
Voila un autre
EPIGRAM ON A NOTED COXCOMB.
'Light lay the earth on Billy's breast,' &c. (vol. iii. 183.)-Clincher. This is also theirs, if they please.”
More examples could be given of Cromek's methods, but these will suffice. We may close this paper by reference to some few points in which the editor of the Clarinda correspondence (1843) departed from the originals. In the letter assigned to Dec. 20, 1787, (v. 8), “I cannot positively say,” has been misprinted, “I cannot possibly say"; "something of honor,” has been altered to “something like honor”; and “a vague infant-idea,” to “a faint idea”; while inverted commas have been inserted after, instead of before, “death,” in “death without benefit of clergy."
In another letter (Feb. 22 ; v. 91), “concubinage” is represented by asterisks, and “hinted at” has been substituted for "insisted on.” “Good things” should be in italics.
" " One other letter of the series, (v. 70), printed by Stewart in 1802, should be dated at the top, “Tuesday Morn,” and “ Love” should be substituted for “Clarinda” in the first line. The MS. is defective at the end, the last word being "hurry," as printed.
The conclusion to be drawn from these notes is that student of Burns into whose hands originals of the poet's letters may fall, should, if possible, collate them carefully with the printed text. In this way we shall gradually obtain an accurate version of what he wrote to his friends. It is not enough, as we have seen, merely to ascertain that a letter is in print, without making further examination of its exact wording.
G. A. AITKEN.
MAUCHLINE AND ITS NEIGHBOURHOOD.
WAS first induced to visit Mauchline by statements
Joseph Train made to Sir Walter Scott and Lockhart.
These statements exist among the Laing Manuscripts, now lying in the Edinburgh University Library. Train, in his M.S. notes, describes a meeting held by Burns and John Richmond in "The Elbow Tavern," but the exact locality of the Elbow Ale-house he forgets to state. I wrote to Mauchline to enquire if any such hostelry existed there, and the Rev. Joseph Mitchell, Parish Minister of Mauchline, kindly replied as follows :
MAUCHLINE, 26th May, 1892. I had never heard of the “Elbow Tavern" until I got your letter. Since then I have been making inquiries of a number of the old people in this place, and have learned from them that there existed a back lane in Mauchline, which bore the name of The Elbow. In it there stood a public house or tavern kept by an old sailor, whose name none of them remember, but who was commonly spoken of as The Old Tar.
I should think that there is every likelihood of this being the place of which you speak. None of my informants called the house The Elbow Tavern, but they all agreed in calling the lane The Elbow, and in saying that such a house stood there. One of my authorities is an old lady of 92, said to be the only person now living who has seen “Racer Jess, by whom she was frequently chased when a school girl. The lane called The Elbow no longer exists, but traces of one end of it are easily seen. If this information is of any use to you I shall be very glad. If you wish to prosecute any further enquiries it might be worth your while to pay Mauchline a visit, and I should be very glad to introduce you to my original authorities.
JOSEPH MITCHELL. I went to Mauchline, and the matter became clear to me at once, as the accompanying rough plan of Mauchline Village will demonstrate. A short street, generally called “The Knowe,” led from the upper part of the town. The street or lane in question branched off from this “Knowe” at a somewhat sharp angle, and this in old days swept down to Gavin Hamilton's house and the adjoining Castle. The angle at which the lane meets the “Knowe” sufficiently explains the
name it bore. It was at the corner or side, moreover, of the village, retired from the general bustle, and most easily accessible from Hamilton's grounds, which it skirted. I do not know if any proverbial Scottish expression describes an out-of-theway place as an elbow," but it is curious that Burns on first taking up residence in lonely Ellisland, used this phrase : “Here I am, at the elbow of existence.” Possibly Burns had an image of Mauchline in his mind when he used this odd expression. At present, the “Elbow” lane has only one house in it. Opposite this house there formerly was a tanyard, and close by the tanyard was the tavern kept by “The Old Tar.” In later days, before it was pulled down, it was used as a shelter for cattle. This was the place, there can be small doubt, which Train noted down as a small ale-house called the Elbow." In common talk it would be indicated as the “ Elbow Alehouse,” just as a city clerk speaks of the “Ludgate Hill Bar”
-meaning thereby, not that the bar is Ludgate Hill, but that there is in Ludgate Hill a place of refreshment.
I pass on to point out how little changed the Mauchline of to-day is from the Mauchline of Burns's time. The Parish Church was re-built about sixty years ago; and the Armours' house and Johnny Dow's Inn have been altered—the latter being replaced by a shop. Gavin Hamilton's house, in which Burns was married to his Jean, has been unoccupied for two years, and is fast becoming as much of a ruin as the ancient
Castle to which it is attached. Hamilton's business room—the very room in which Burns wrote “The Calf," and where he took Jean for better or worse—is now a kind of dungeon, with boarded-up windows, a dank resort of graveyard rats and other vermin. Everything else in the village is much as Burns left it, and the noticeable thing about the place is its compactness. Never was any phase of a poet's life “staged” in such small compass as Burns's life in Mauchline. The plan given on page 54 exhibits all the buildings associated with him, and they lie within a square of one hundred yards. There is the garden in which, of a Sunday, Gavin Hamilton would walk up and down tending his cabbages and gooseberry bushes in sight of Daddy Auld's congregation, greatly to the scandal of the "unco guid.” There was the village washinggreen where Burns and Jean spoke first to each other. There was Johnny Dow's tavern, from the back parlour-window of which Burns used to sign to Jean to steal from her father's cottage. There was Poosie Nancy's, where the poet studied “The Jolly Beggars." There was Nance Tinnock's ale-house, from which Burns would step into the churchyard, his eye aglow with the humours of the "Holy Fair;" and directly opposite, the single room that Burns took for Jean when she was about to become a mother for the second time. There is the ruined castle where Mary Campbell used to meet Burns, and a few yards beyond, was the “Elbow,” where Train says Burns and Richmond and Captain Montgomery came together in somewhat strange circumstances; and all within a compass, as we have said, of a hundred yards. There too, in the graveyard, lie dozens of men and women Burns knew and wrote about. His own infant daughters lie buried there; and above them lie the bones of old Armour, and next their graves is the tombstone of Jean's brother :—“To the memory of Robert Armour, many years a merchant in London, who died in that city on the oth day of February, 1846, aged 62 years." Robert began life as a weaver, and died a rich man. In the graveyard, too, lies Gavin Hamilton, once known in the village as “the friend of the poor.” Neither poor nor rich have put any memorial on his grave: but I have been told that this “careless desolation” is what Gavin desired might surround his resting-place. Standing in the shadow of the Church and looking round, we :see that this sleeping hamlet gave up its very core to be the
theatre of Burns's life-drama; the leading events of which were enacted within the small space of set scenery before us.
In the manse I was allowed to look through the Kirk-Session Records, and found them to contain very strange reading. The following items I take from the Mauchline (or “Machlin") Records, as material interesting to all Burns enthusiasts.
“APRIL 2ND, 1786.—The Session being informed that Jean Armour, an unmarried woman, is said to be with child, and that she has gone off from the place of late, to reside elsewhere, the Session think it their duty to enquire
But appoint James Lamie and William Fisher to speak to the parents.”
“ APRIL 9TH, 1786.—James Lamie reports that he spoke to Mary Smith, mother to Jean Armour, who told him that she did not suspect her daughter to be with child, that she was gone to Paisley to see her friends, and would return soon.
“JUNE 18TH, 1786.—Jean Armour, called, compeared not, but sent a letter directed to the Minister, the tenor whereof follows :
'I am heartily sorry that I have given and must give your Session trouble on my account. I acknowledge that I am with child and Robert Burns in Mossgiel is the father. I am with great respect,
Your most humble servant,
(Signed) JEAN ARMOUR. MACHLIN, 13TH JUNE, 1786.'”
The officer is ordered to summond Robert Burns to attend this day eight days.
“JUNE 25TH, 1786.-Compeared Robert Burns and acknowledges himself the father of Jean Armour's child(ren). *
(Signed) ROBERT BURNS.” “ August 6TH, 1786.-Robert Burns, John Smith, Mary Lindsay, Jean Armour, and Agnes Auld, appeared before the Congregation professing their repentance for the sin of fornication, and they having each appeared two several Sabbaths formerly were this day rebuked and absolved from the scandal.”+
“August 5TH, 1788.-Compeared Robert Burns with Jean Armour his alledged spouse. They both acknowledged their irregular marriage and their sorrow for that irregularity and desiring that the Session will take such steps as may seem to them proper in order to the solemn confirmation of the said marriage.
The Session taking this affair under their consideration agree that they both be rebuked for their acknowledged irregularity and that they
*The letters in brackets appear to have been added in at a later time, in lighter ink than that employed for the rest of the word.
There are no Session-Book entries about the two previous appearances of Burns, but we know from a letter of his to Richmond (Scott Douglas, IV. 134), that the date of one of these appearances was July 9th.