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dissatisfied with the Nasmyth portrait as looking too smooth and refined-forgetting that it was taken after Burns had been living six months in Edinburgh, and moving in good society. Skirving, it is supposed, must often have seen Burns before he went to Italy, as he only returned to Scotland after Burns's death. He has at any rate produced a wonderful portrait showing more marked features and more force of character than the Nasmyth likeness. Skirving would never part with the picture, but after his death, in 1819, Sir John Rennie purchased it, and afterwards it became the property of his son, Mr. George Rennie, and in 1881 it was purchased by Sir Theodore Martin, who considers it superior to Nasmyth's, and that Skirving must have seen Burns or he never could have produced such a portrait. By a lucky accident I bought a small photograph of it--but how procured I do not know—in the Burns monument in Edinburgh, in 1878, and afterwards when I tried to get a larger one I was told the sale of them had been stopped. There is a large one in the National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh, but it is much faded. I have never seen a good engraving of it or one that gave one any idea of the original. There was lately a photogravure taken of it, but the number printed was very limited. It is a pity it is not published or better known, as it well deserves to be.*
Before closing these reminiscences I would like to put on record the strong opinion my father always expressed of the unfairness of Lockhart's Life of Burns, inasmuch as he grossly exaggerated his faults, and made many statements about him to his discredit which turned out to be untrue, and many of which he had to retract. In fact I never heard my father mention the name of the biographer without calling him that 'blackguard Lockhart!" At the time I heard this there were, of course, other charges against him, especially his unfounded and scandalous attack on the Ballantynes, both as to their social position and financial honesty, which caused such a bitter discussion in Edinburgh on the appearance of his Life of Scott, and in which Robert Chambers always declared Lockhart to be "wholly wrong." In Scott's Diary, lately published, there is not a word of blame cast on the Ballantynes, though it covers all the time of their mutual troubles. There is, however, an
* Messrs Blackie published a large engraving of it in 1866.-[ED.]
allusion to Lockhart having a "wicked wit," and this was his well-known character. Disraeli, in one of his letters to his sister in 1836, says,—“I am to meet Lockhart; he is known in society as 'the viper,' but if he tries to sting me he will find my heel of iron.” It is the fashion to overpraise Lockhart's biographies without noticing these drawbacks. In Scott Douglas's last edition of the Life of Burns, he still points out a good many mis-statements of facts. Burns had faults enough without having them exaggerated.
I will close with an interesting incident which I remember happening in 1842, when attending a lecture with my father at the Mechanics' Institution in Liverpool, by Charles Cowden Clarke, the well-known friend of Keats and other literary men of his time. The lecture was on the British poets, one of whom was "Robert Burns," and after quoting and praising his poetry he began, (as is the fashion still with some people), to moralise about him, when my father gave an expressive exclamation of dissent peculiar to himself. Then Cowden Clarke, with his jolly face, looked up amused, as much as to say, "Well, I like that; anything more?" and then went on with the lecture. I was coming out of the lecture hall, and passing the door of the committee-room, Cowden Clark came up and exclaimed to Dr W. B. Hodgson, the secretary, (afterwards Professor of Political Economy at Edinburgh University), "I would give anything to know the gentleman who made that exclamation." Seeing me, Dr Hodgson, who knew it was my father, asked me to find him and bring him in, which I did, and after a good laugh and a chat, Mr Clarke being interested to hear that my father was not only an admirer of Burns, but had actually seen him, their interview ended in my father inviting Mr Clark and Dr Hodgson to supper, promising Mr Clarke a glass of whisky toddy out of Burns's wine glass, of which he was the proud possessor! There was a great deal of interesting conversation about Burns and other celebrities, which I, as a young man greatly enjoyed, especially the singing by Mr Clarke of Canning's song of “The University of Gottingen." When the Burns glass was produced, of course Cowden Clarke was asked to give a toast. He was a large man with a large expressive countenance, and as we watched him he set us all in a roar with the comical way in which he simply rolled his eyes round the glass and drank it
off in silence. This incident led to other visits from him, and afterwards we heard that the next time he delivered the same lecture he introduced the story of the interruption from the gentleman who had seen Robert Burns.
ROBERT C. HALL.
LIVERPOOL, Nov., 1892.
NOTES ON THE FIRST AND EARLY EDITIONS.
EYOND all doubt Burns was a book-lover-his oft quoted and much mis-read epigram on an unread,
much worm-eaten, splendidly bound Shakespeare in an Earl's library notwithstanding. The familiar lines:
"Through and through the inspired leaves,
Ye maggots make your windings,
But Oh! respect his lordship's taste,
And spare the golden bindings,"
are not a protest against the handicraft of the bookbinder, but rather a protest against the vulgar display of material wealth, where that of brain and hand is thrown on the shelf to be idly stared at, like the chimpanzee in the Zoological Gardens. In a letter to Miss Chalmers, the Poet says,- "I have taken tooth and nail to the Bible. It is really a glorious book. I sent for my bookbinder to-day, and ordered him to get me an octavo Bible in sheets, the best paper and print in town [Edinburgh], and bind it with all the elegance of his craft." In the following July, he sends a conditional order to Peter Hill for Banks's New and Complete Christian's Family Bible, published by Cooke. "You will know the character of the performance, as some numbers of it are published: and if it is really what it pretends to be, set me down as a subscriber." In the same letter, he says, "I am going to trouble you with further commissions. I call it troubling you-because I want only books; the cheapest way the best; so you may have to hunt for them in the evening auctions. I want Smollett's works for the sake of his incomparable humour, but, as I said, the veriest ordinary copies will serve me. I am nice only in the appearance of my poets." In writing to Beugo, who engraved his portrait for the first Edinburgh edition of the Poems, Burns said, "When you finish any head, I should like to have a proof copy of it," and to another correspondent, regarding Ainslie's Map of Scotland, he said, "Secure me one of the earliest impressions of the plate."
It cannot be said that the get-up of his own books was not influenced by his own taste. That John Wilson was a capable
printer, goes without saying, but Poems, chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, was the first really beautiful book he produced. It was the model and pattern of all that followed from his press, and it remains the high-water mark of his art. Fraser's Sermons, with prefaces by the ministers of Kilmarnock— Russell and Robertson-if a solid, is a somewhat lean performance, remarkable only, if remarkable at all, for the spacing of the type-preceded the poems by one year. In 1787 followed Campbell's Poems, and Russell's Reasons for our Lord's Agony in the Garden, the latter of which ran through several editions, and was embellished with the same border which Wilson first used on the title page of the poems which keep his name alive to this day. In the following year, followed the Poems of Lapraik; and in 1789 came the Poems of David Sillar, and Milton's Paradise Lost; the Poems of Janet Little not appearing till 1792, when the border was, for some reason or other, dispensed with. That Burns influenced the work of his printers in a noble way there can be no manner of doubt. Not only were his simple but expressive title pages improvements on previous performances of the kind, but his hand is apparent in the general style and taste of both the Kilmarnock edition and the Edinburgh editions of Creech that followed. Creech's best books are his Burnses; and of these the "skinking" edition of the Poems (1787), which gives the portrait in the best state of the plate, is most prized by collectors.
The Kilmarnock edition, so well known by M'Kie's fac-simile, is an octavo; that is to say, it measures nine inches high by five and three-quarter inches wide. It was issued in blue paper boards with white back, and printed label of same colour pasted thereon; but copies exist-probably those first issued-in blue paper wrappers. The former is in the style of the Sillar and Lapraik; the latter, in the style of the Janet Little poems. Copies in either style are rarely met with. A perfect copy with. the label on the back, as issued by the publisher, would be a rara avis indeed. Few such copies are known to bibliophiles; and the majority of bound copies have, in the first instance, passed through the hands of a provincial bookbinder, whose main object in cutting down the margins, in penny wise and pound foolish fashion, was economy. The copies bound