Letters and Memoirs of Her Own Life, By Mrs Alison Rutherford or Cockburn. Also 'Felix', a Biographical Sketch and Various Songs.
Author(s): Cockburn, Alison
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MRS. ALISON RUTHERFORD
150 copies printed
MEMOIR OF HER OWN LIFE
By Mrs. Alison Rutherford
'FELIX,' A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
AND VARIOUS SONGS
NOTES BY T. CRAIG-BROWN
I've seen the morning with gold the hills adorning
In loud tempest storming befor midle day.
I've seen Tweed's silver stream, shining in the sunny beam,
Grow drumly and dark as it roll'd on its way.
O fickle Fortune! why this cruel sporting?
Why thus torment us poor sons of a day?
Nae mair y'r smiles can chear me, nae mair y'r frowns can fear me,
For the flowers of the Forrest are a' wade away.
PRINTED FOR DAVID DOUGLAS
MRS. COCKBURN, says Sir
Walter Scott, 'spoke both
wittily and well; and maintained
an extensive correspondence which,
if it continues to exist, must contain
many things highly curious
and interesting.' No further warrant
is needed for printing these
letters, which Sir Walter no doubt
had in his mind, being on intimate
terms of friendship with Dr.
Douglas, parish minister of Galashiels,
to whom most of them were
addressed. It is some years since
Mr. R. Douglas Thomson of Edinburgh
(grandson of Dr. Douglas)
granted permission to publish, but
the proposal gathered impetus from
the discovery, amongst Sir Walter's
MSS. at Abbotsford, of Mrs. Cockburn's
autobiography, and also of a
short memoir of a friend whom she
styles 'Felix' — since identified by
Mr. A. H. Anderson, Edinburgh, as
'Ambassador Keith.' These two
documents, both in Dr. Douglas's
handwriting, were unearthed by the
Rev. Wm. Forbes-Leith, S.J., and
have been placed at the editor's disposal
by the Honourable Mrs. Maxwell
Scott. Letters to Mr. Chalmers
and Miss Cumming have been
copied from The Songstresses of
Scotland, a charming, if sometimes
not quite accurate, book by 'Sarah
Tytler' and J. L. Watson. Others
have partly appeared in Letters to
David Hume, and for such parts of
these as have not hitherto seen the
light thanks are due to the Royal
Society of Scotland. Grateful acknowledgment
falls to be made to
Professor Seth Pringle Pattison of
Haining and Fairnilee for suggestions
of much value, and for kindly
giving this work the advantage of
INTRODUCTORY NOTES, xiii
AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MRS. COCKBURN, 1
LETTERS OF MRS. COCKBURN, 31
THE STORY OF 'FELIX,' 241
SONGS, ETC., BY MRS. COCKBURN, 261
PORTRAIT OF MRS. COCKBURN. From the
original in possession of J. Cockburn,
Esq., The Abbey, North Berwick, Frontispiece
COCKBURN CREST AND MOTTO, page xiii
COAT OF ARMS OF RUTHERFORD OF FAIRNILEE, .. xv
PORTRAIT OF MISS ANNE PRINGLE. Photogravure
after Sir Henry Raeburn. By
permission of Prof. Seth Pringle Pattison, to face page 22
PORTRAIT OF THE REV. DR. DOUGLAS. After
Sir Henry Raeburn. By permission of
R. D. Thomson, Esq., Edinburgh, . 88
PORTRAIT OF MISS VIOLET PRINGLE. Photogravure
after Sir Henry Raeburn. By
permission of Prof. Seth Pringle Pattison, 104
FACSIMILE OF 'THE FLOWERS OF THE FOREST'
IN MRS. COCKBURN'S HANDWRITING. By
permission of Miss Russell of Ashiestiel, 113
FACSIMILE OF TWO PAGES OF MRS. COCKBURN'S
LETTER OF 15 Nov. 1777. By permission
of J. S. Thomson, Esq., Carlisle, 125
FAIRNILEE, 1882. T. Scott, A.R.S.A., 140
YAIR AND FAIRNILEE, circa 1798, from old
drawing at Haining House, 184
THE perpetuation and the quality of Scottish song are
greatly indebted to a line of ladies, extending from the seventeenth
century to the present age, who wrote from natural
impulse, for the amusement of their homes and relatives, or
from a spontaneous interest in the history and manners of
their country, not only without a view to gain or fame, but
with a scorn of publicity. . . . They wrote but little, yet
that little is marked by a felicity which often leaves the compositions
of professional poets far behind. . . . The blossoms
which a woman's hand flung so lightly on the stream of
popular memory float on for ever. The inspiration of an
hour survives the labour of an age.' — Francis, 1st Lord Napier
and Ettrick. Edinburgh Review, April 1898.
ARMS OF COCKBURN OF ORMISTON.
(From Mrs. Cockburn's Seal.)
ALISON RUTHERFORD, afterwards Mrs.
Patrick Cockburn, was born at Fairnilee,
manor-house of a pleasant Selkirkshire estate on
the northern bank of Tweed. The place first
emerges into written history as one of the stedes
or steadings which passed with the rest of Ettrick
Forest from the attainted Earl of Douglas to the
second Scots King James. When his son, James III.,
married Margaret of Denmark, she got the whole
Forest in her dowry, and for a manor-house the
newly-built Tower of Newark, whither Scott led
the aged Last Minstrel to recite his Lay. Fairnilee
is about half an hour's canter from Newark,
and only two miles, as the crow flies, from
Ashiestiel, where Sir Walter was living when he
wrote Marmion. In his familiar lines upon the
aspect of the Forest in winter—
No longer Autumn's glowing red
Upon our Forest hills is shed. . .
Away hath passed the heather-bell
That bloomed so rich on Needpath Fell—
Scott painted a bit of Fairnilee visible from his
window. Little did Mrs. Cockburn, when she
first discerned the genius of the boy, foresee that
he would live to make the vale of her nativity as
famous as Tempe. The age of the house, now
a picturesque ruin, may be guessed from the
sculptured coat of arms over the entrance, which
is that of Robert Rutherford, who acquired the
lands in 1700, and of Alison Ker his wife. It
occupies the site, and probably includes part, of
an ancient tower that served as shelter for a Jesuit
wandering in the dangerous times immediately
following the Reformation. In December is 1582,
Father Holt 'came to Cockburn House in
Tividale . . . tarried at Corbett House about
vii dayes . . . from that was conveyed by the
lard of Corbett to the larde lintounnes house
of fernileye on twede in Ettrick forest, and he
tarried ther xv dayes.1 About the middle of
1 Tanner's Collection, Bodleian.
the next century it was not only one of the
principal houses in the Shire,1 but one of the few
boasting a wood, and to this day it is surrounded
by some fine old timber. A more beautiful and
interesting stance is not to be found 'fast by the
River Tweed' in all its course. From a level
sunny sward, elevated by a steep bank perhaps a
hundred feet above the 'silvery stream,' the house
COAT OF ARMS ON FAIRNILEE HOUSE
(as decipherable in 1885).
looks right across the river to the mansion,
grounds, and 'sister heights of Yair.' Legends
float about the whole countryside; and quite
close to Fairnilee is the great prehistoric camp
of Rink, whence that mysterious roadway, the
Catrail, winds its way across streams and over
hills to the English Border. Fit nursery indeed
for the poetic and imaginative spirit of young
1 Selkirkshire, i. 554.
Alison Rutherford. Still in these prosaic days
its glamour lingers — witness a charming fairy tale,
'The Gold of Fairnilee,' in which Mr. Andrew
Lang has woven the stories and wonders of his
Up till the time of Queen Mary there were no
freehold lairds in Ettrick Forest. Except Thirlestane
and some other church property, everything
belonged to the Crown; and though there were
families who had occupied the same lands two
hundred years, they were only tenants, and had to
get their tacks renewed from time to time. Through
leases and feu-charters Fairnilee was held by the
ancient family of Ker up to 1700, when first John
and then Robert Rutherford (Mrs. Cockburn's
father) bought the barony. Robert's ancestry
it is not now possible to trace. It is known his
father was a bailie of Jedburgh, and his grandfather
owner of lands on Rule Water; but there
certainty stops, leaving only Nisbet's presumption
that he came of the line of Hundalee, a branch
of the Rutherfords of that ilk first mentioned in
a charter of 1215. An old MS. account of the
clan, however, derives the Fairnilee family from
a Richard of Edgerston, instead of a Richard of
Hundalee; and this, says Mr. Cockburn-Hood,
author of the Rutherfords of that Ilk, is somewhat
strengthened by the coat of arms in the
monument to Robert in the family burying-ground
at Jedburgh. It is said that the reason
why Fairnilee and his ancestors were buried,
not in the choir of Jedburgh, but in the Bellhouse
brae, was that Richard, first of the line,
falling in pursuit of Englishmen who had carried
off the Abbey bell, made a dying request that
he might be buried in the Bell-house. [Careful
research on the spot has failed to find a Fairnilee
tombstone either on the Bell-house brae or in the
choir of the Abbey.] Be his ancestry what it may,
Robert Rutherford of Fairnilee was a prosperous
man. In the family memoirs he is called 'the
Nottar,' short for notary-public or solicitor. He
also held the lucrative post of Deputy Receiver-General
of Supply for Scotland. By his first
wife, Bethia Lidderdale, he had two sons — David,
whose two daughters died unmarried, and Captain
William, who also died unmarried. It was
William's rejection by a young lady which gave
occasion to Mrs. Cockburn's parody quoted by
Sir Walter Scott. By his second wife, Alison,
only surviving child, at the time of her marriage,
of John Ker of Shaw, he had a numerous family:—
Robert, who married Anne, daughter of John
Pringle, Lord Haining, by his wife Anne,
daughter of Sir John Murray of Philiphaugh.
Their daughter Anne, heiress of Fairnilee,
married John Pringle of Crichton, son of that
Mark Pringle of the Haining family who killed
Scott of Raeburn (Sir Walter's collateral
ancestor) in a duel. Their son Mark succeeded
both to the Pringle estates of Haining
and Clifton and to the Rutherford estate of
Fairnilee. He married Miss Chalmers — the
'sweet Anne Page' of Mrs. Cockburn's letters.
The late Mrs. Pringle Pattison of Haining
(died 1898) was their granddaughter, to whose
heir, Professor A. Seth Pringle Pattison, Fairnilee
Samuel Rutherford of Faldonside.
John Rutherford, M.D.
Katherine, born 1699, married Robert, second son
of Sir John Swinton, and brother of Jean
Swinton who, marrying Professor Rutherford,
became maternal grandmother of Sir Walter
Scott. The author of Waverley was thus
doubly related to Mrs. Cockburn.
Jean, married James Turnbull of Currie: marriage-contract
Margaret, married A. D. Rutherford of Capehope.
Their daughter, Mrs. Cockburn's 'Niece
Scott,' became wife of Scott of Wauchope,
and entertained Burns (see p. 190 (a)).)
ALISON RUTHERFORD, born (27th September O.S.)
8th October 1713. Married, 25th March
1731, Patrick Cockburn, a younger son of
Adam Cockburn of Ormiston, Lord Justice-Clerk.
Save the glimpses afforded in her own memoir
and letters, it may be said that nothing is known
of Alison Rutherford's infancy and girlhood, but
her precocity. When she was married she was
only between seventeen and eighteen, but before
that she had had at least one serious affair of the
heart. So much, indeed, was predicted by Mr.
Freebairn, her 'professor of the French,' who in
1727 published at Edinburgh L'Eloge d'Ecosse et
des dames Ecossoises:-
'Mais, O ciel! quelle foule de jeunes Beautez
que le Tems n'a pas encore meuries ne vois-je
pas paroitre en les aimables personnes de
Mademoiselles Peggy Campbell, Murray, Pringle,
etc. etc., et Alice Rutherford! Voici une charmante
et nombreuse troupe, dont l'Amour va
bientôt combatre tous ceux qui renoncent à sa
souverainté. Les petits Cupidons sont de jour
au jour occupéz à forger des traits et à polir leurs
charmes naissantes, dont elles remporteront
bientôt une victoire complete sur les coeurs
meme les plus rebelles.'
Pretty, vivacious, intelligent, and fond of
dancing, the young beauty at once became one
of the 'toasts' of Edinburgh; and in her seventeenth
year 'had several matrimonial as well as
dancing lovers.' To one of these, she says, she
gave her hand and heart; but in her letters there
is evidence that of her heart she had already lost
a considerable portion to another — young John
Aikman (see pp. 55, 105). This poor fellow died
in London in his twenty-second year, only a month
or two after his sweetheart's marriage to Patrick
Cockburn. She never forgot him, devotedly
attached to her husband as she was during their
two-and-twenty years of married life. Mr. Cockburn
had passed advocate in 1728, but he appears
not to have practised his profession, or, if he did,
not to have succeeded at the bar. Probably he
had grown up in expectation of a competency
from his father or mother, who was a daughter
of the Earl of Haddington; but it is clear that
to the last he remained a poor man. John, his
elder brother, who got possession of the paternal
acres in 1714, was the famous 'Father of Scottish
husbandry,' and founder of the Ormiston Society.
His patriotic sacrifices in the cause of agricultural
progress so crippled him that in 1748 he had
to sell Ormiston to Lord Hopetoun; from him,
therefore, his brother Patrick and wife had little
to look for. Of Mrs. Cockburn in her youthful
beauty only one doubtful portrait is known to
exist, but after she had passed her fiftieth year
she sat for the miniature which is here reproduced.
'She had,' writes a lady to Charles Kirkpatrick
Sharpe, 'a pleasing countenance, and piqued herself
upon always dressing according to her own
taste, and not according to the dictates of fashion.
Her brown hair never grew grey, and she wore it
combed up upon a toupée — no cap — a lace hood tied
under her chin, and her sleeves puffed out in the
fashion of Queen Elizabeth, which is not uncommon
now, but at that time was quite peculiar to herself.'
By Sir Walter Scott, who was twenty-three when
she died, and who had many opportunities of knowing
her, Mrs. Cockburn was sincerely respected
and admired. He declares himself indebted to
her collection for much of the ballad of 'the Outlaw
Murray,' published in the Minstrelsy (1803), and
in a preface to her song, 'The Flowers of the
Forest,' says, 'Mrs. Cockburn has been dead hut
a few years. Even at an age advanced beyond
the usual bounds of humanity, she retained a play
of imagination and an activity of intellect, which
must have been attractive and delightful in
youth, but were almost preternatural at her period
of life. Her active benevolence, keeping pace
with her genius, rendered her equally an object of
love and admiration. The editor, who knew her
well, takes this opportunity of doing justice to
his own feelings; and they are in unison with all
who knew his regretted friend. These verses were
written at an early period of life, and without
peculiar relation to any event, unless it were the
depopulation of Ettrick Forest.' But, writing to
his friend Rose, twenty-two years later, Sir Walter 1
qualifies this statement by informing him that
when a great deal of distress and misfortune came
upon the Forest by seven Lairds becoming ruined
in one year, Mrs. Cockburn composed the fine
"I've seen the smiling of Fortune beguiling."'
The truth is, Scott's usual accuracy seems to have
failed him when writing of Mrs. Cockburn.
Describing his father in the fragment of Autobiography
written in 1808, he says: 'Let me
conclude this sketch with a few lines written by
the late Mrs. Cockburn. . . . We must hold
them to contain a striking likeness, since the
1 Scott's Letters, ii. 354.
original was recognised so soon as they were
a thing that's uncommon —
A youth of discretion,
Who, though vastly handsome,
To the friend in affliction,
The heart of affection,
Who may hear the last trump
Without dread of detection."'
But Mrs. Cockburn herself writes: 'You know
my earliest and much lov'd friend Mr. Swinton
[probably her sister Katherine's husband] has
gone to heaven. Twenty-six years ago I made
a toast to him which may be his epitaph—
To the friend of affliction, the soul of affection,
Who may hear the last trump without fear of detection.'
And if Scott was wrong in thinking Mrs.
Cockburn's lines referred to his father, Lockhart
was almost as certainly wrong in attributing
certain lines in praise of young Walter (quoted in
the fourth chapter of the Life) to Mrs. Cockburn.
They exhibit a finish and sustained grace which
would be looked for in vain in her other
Again, contributing his personal recollections
to Chambers's Scottish Songs (1829), Sir Walter
confounds her with Mrs. Catherine Cockburn, an
authoress of a very different stamp, who died in
1749, leaving a collection of works, 'Theological,
Moral, Dramatic, and Poetical,' to be published
after her death. In 1704 the Princess Sophia
had dubbed this Mrs. Catherine la nouvelle Sappho
Ecossoise. Mentioning that a turret in the old
house of Fairnilee was still shown as the place
where the poem was written, Sir Walter repeats
the story of the seven ruined lairds, and continues:
'Mrs. Cockburn was herself a keen
Whig. I remember having heard repeated her
parody of Prince Charles' proclamation in burlesque
verse to the tune of Clout the Caldron.
In the midst of the siege or blockade of the
Castle of Edinburgh, the carriage in which Mrs.
Cockburn was returning from a visit to Ravelstone
was stopped by the Highland Guard at
the West Port; and as she had a copy of
the parody about her person, she was not a
little alarmed at the consequences, especially
as the officer talked of searching the carriage
for letters and correspondence with the Whigs
in the city. Fortunately, the arms on the coach
were recognised as belonging to a gentleman
favourable to the cause of the Adventurer, so
that Mrs. Cockburn escaped, with the caution not
to carry political squibs about her person in the
future. Apparently she was fond of parody, as I
have heard a very clever one of her writing upon
the old song — "Nancy's to the greenwood gane."
The occasion of her writing it was the rejection
of her brother's hand by a fantastic young lady of
fashion. The first verse ran thus —
"Nancy's to the Assembly gane
To hear the fops a-chattering;
And Willie he has followed her
To win her love by flattering."
I further remember only the last verse, which
describes the sort of exquisite then in fashion—
"Wad ye hae him, bonny Nancy?
Na, I'll hae ane has learn'd to fence,
And that can please my fancy:
Ane that can flatter, bow, and dance,
And make love to the leddies;
That kens how folk behave in France,
And's bauld among the caddies"
(an old-fashioned species of serviceable attendants,
between the street-porter and the valet-de-place,
peculiar to Edinburgh. A great number
were always hanging about the doors of the
Assembly Rooms).' Sir Walter here repeats his
erroneous application to his father of the 'toast'
to Mr. Swinton, and continues: 'The intimacy
was great between my mother and Mrs. Cockburn.
She resided in Crichton Street, and my mother's
house being in George Square, the intercourse of
that day, which was of a very close and unceremonious
character, was constantly maintained with
little trouble. My mother and Mrs. Cockburn
were related — in what degree I know not, but
sufficiently near to induce Mrs. Cockburn to distinguish
her in her will. Mrs. Cockburn was
one of those persons whose talents for conversation
made a stronger impression on her contemporaries
than her writings can be expected to
produce. In person and feature she somewhat
resembled Queen Elizabeth, but the nose was
rather more aquiline. She was proud of her
auburn hair, which remained unbleached by time,
even when she was upwards of 80 years old. She
maintained the rank in the society of Edinburgh
which French women of talents usually do in that
of Paris; and her little parlour used to assemble
a very distinguished and accomplished circle,
among whom David Hume, John Home, Lord
Monboddo, and many other men of name were
frequently to be found. Her evening parties
were very frequent, and included society distinguished
both for condition and talents. The
petit souper, which always concluded the evening,
was like that of Stella, which she used to quote
on the occasion —
"A supper like her mighty self,
Four nothings on four plates of delf."
But they passed off more gaily than many costlier
entertainments. She spoke both wittily and well,
and maintained an extensive correspondence which,
if it continues to exist, must contain many things
highly curious and interesting. My recollection
is that her conversation brought her much nearer
to a Frenchwoman than to a native of England;
and, as I have the same impression with respect
to ladies of the same period and the same rank in
society, I am apt to think that the vieille cour of
Edinburgh rather resembled that of Paris than
that of St. James's; and particularly that the
Scotch imitated the Parisians in laying aside much
of the expensive form of these little parties, in
which wit and good humour were allowed to
supersede all occasion of display. The lodging
where Mrs. Cockburn received the best society of
her time would not now offer accommodation to
a very inferior person.'1 Lady Anne Lindsay,
herself a poetess, and the author of 'Auld Robin
Gray,' describes, as an intimate friend of her
mother (Lady Balcarres), 'Mrs. Cockburn, who
had goodness, genius, Utopianism, and a decided
passion for making of matches, for which reason
she was the confidante of all lovesick hearts' — a
character, it may be said, abundantly borne out
by her correspondence. Lady Balcarres looked
upon Mrs. Cockburn 'as a second mother; she
was ten years her senior, but her mind was so
gay, enthusiastic, and ardent, her visions were for
ever decked with such powers of fancy and such
infinite goodness of heart, her manners to young
people were so conciliatory and her tenets so mild,
though plentifully Utopian, that she was an invaluable
friend between the mother and the daughter.'
Here is what she thought of herself —
THE CHARACTER OF MRS. C____N
Born with too much sensibility to enjoy ease,
With high ideas of perfection which I cannot attain,
With understanding enough to feel I have too little,
1 Stenhouse, iv. 126.
Some strong beats from my heart misguide my head,
And I yield more to impulse than to reason.
More guided by compassion than by duty,
More hurt by pride than by remorse,
Experience hath taught me to conceal my errors,
But neither the Bible hath taught me to amend them,
Nor David Hume to be easy under them.
If I am never to be better and happier than I am,
I had better never been.
ANOTHER OF THE SAME, BY LORD ALEMORE.
(See pp. 100-104).
Born with too much fickleness ever to enjoy the present,
With the highest ideas of perfection to which I have
With so much understanding that I can get no improvement,
And, trusting too much to my head, misguided my heart,
I am moved more by whimsie than by reason,
More guided by passion than by duty.
Too much supported by pride to yield to remorse,
Hypocrisy has enabled me to conceal my errors;
But neither bath the Bible taught me to dread a future
Nor David Hume to be indifferent about it.
As I can neither be better nor happier than what
I must be shocked at the thought of not to be.
Notwithstanding several pious and evangelical aspirations to be found in her will, and here and
there in her letters, it is obvious that Mrs. Cockburn
was far from being an orthodox Calvinist.
If in words she condemned the scepticism of her
friend David Hume, it was in a tone of easy and
familiar banter, not with the severity of an outraged
believer. She confesses that Mr. Davidson,
the minister of Galashiels, was right when he said
she was 'not yet a Christian'; and in another
letter she makes no secret of her disbelief in
eternal damnation. That she was, however, imbued
with a spirit of the deepest awe and reverence
for the Creator and Sustainer of the universe
is evident; and as her years increase, one may
note a gradual approximation to the beliefs commonly
professed in Scotland. Her reigning
quality was an indomitable gaiety of heart and
mind, which no suffering or reverse could
daunton. From her teens, when she revelled in
the dance, to her fourscore years, when she
gathered round her the wit and fashion of
Edinburgh, her brightness never waned, nor
was her natural force abated. Her sunny
locks, dulled by no streak of grey even at eighty,
are a figure of her perennial youth and wit
shining undimmed to the very end. It is a
pleasant revelation. It proves that in enlightened
circles, Scotsmen and Scotswomen had already
shaken themselves free of the gloomy and puritanic
dogmas which weighed down the soul of
Burns, until with 'clear-headed scorn' he burst
his bonds asunder. She had what is sometimes
termed in a deprecating way a 'pagan joy of
life'; but that it should be pagan to be happy,
and Christian only to be miserable, Mrs. Cockburn
would never have admitted. Concerning her
literary gift, it would be easy to say too much in
praise. If she had not been fortunate in wedding
fine words to fine music in 'The Flowers of the
Forest,' it may well be doubted if her other
rhymes would have preserved her memory.
Neither her autobiography nor her memoir of
Ambassador Keith has half the charm of her
letters — written without reflection, even without
common care. These give a vivid and instructive
picture of society in Edinburgh just before
the advent of her great relative, Sir Walter Scott.
Perhaps, after all, it is the gossipy letter in which
she announced her discovery of the precocious boy
that will longest keep her memory green. It is
possible to imagine a day when even the 'Flowers
of the Forest' may cease to be sung save in corners
of the Forest itself; hut to that remotest day,
when the world shall cease to interest itself in the
author of Waverley, some interest must always
attach to the old lady whose bright perception
noted in the child of six the marks of his future
genius. Altogether, it was even a notable life.
Endowed with beauty and with wit, she married
early into an intellectual and polished society.
She had her own adventure in the '45. She was
closely concerned in some of the most striking
social events of her generation — the affairs of
Duke Hamilton, who married at midnight the
beautiful Gunning, and the Douglas Cause, which
divided the people more sharply and passionately
than ever did party politics. Not only did she
divine the genius of young Walter Scott, but she
gave Burns the motive for his earliest rhyme,
winning both his admiration and his friendship.
She knew every man and woman worth knowing
in the northern capital; and with one of the
greatest, David Hume, seems to have been on
terms of intimate and familiar acquaintance.
A SHORT ACCOUNT OF A LONG LIFE
[Mrs. Cockburn's Memoir of her own life, written
10th May 1784, and dedicated to the Rev.
Mr. Douglas of Galashiels.]
ASHORT account of a long life full of vicissitudes!
Human life is ever interesting
to human creatures, for we are all subject to the
same joys, passions, griefs, pains, and dissolution!
Born in the year 1713, 29th September, old
stile, the youngest of a numerous family, and
coming unexpectedly seven years after my Mother
had bore children, I was the little favourite of all
the family. My Mother dyed when I was ten
years old. My Father and sisters doated on me.
I was carressed in childhood, and indulged in
youth. My eldest sister became my Mother, she
was fourteen years older than me; she it was who
formed my taste for reading, which has ever
since been my greatest amusement. I cannot
recollect ever being taught to read, I suppose I
was begun so early and so easily that I never got
a formal lesson; and my Father taught me arithmetick
the same way.
My education was with the politest Lady of
the age, who had me as a boarder; and I had
Dancing, French, etc., in the common course.
Musick I would not go to, as I was disgusted
with hearing some Misses who had been taught
to squal horribly. As my preceptoress (for whose
memory I retain the utmost veneration) found
me averse to the needle, she made me read to the
family, and her sensible remarks has been of use
to me thro' Life. She always said Girls sow'd
naturally, and as she saw I never loved to be idle
a moment, and would not have patience to do
nothing, she was sure I would work enough, which
is true. As I grew up I was thought handsome;
my chief beauty was fair hair (then in fashion),
fine teath, a fresh complexion, a good dancer, and
very agile; apt to blush (which fair people always
are), and these were all my personal perfections.
I was early connected with the best families by
intimacy at school, and some of my most steady
friends thro' Life were my childhood companions.
At seventeen years a beloved Brother dyed: my
first grief was violent, as nature never afforded me
the relief of tears. It cost me a fever and a
quensy, to which I was subject ever after. In that
year I had several matrimonial as well as dancing
Lovers: — to one I gave my hand and heart. We
lived loving and beloved for twenty-two years.
No body kept a house of more resort. No body
more in the gay world. Our whole income was
£150 a year, and we never owed a shilling. An
only beloved Son was educated to be a phisician
— went thro' all the Coledges. A young nobleman
(a) took a most uncommon attachment to
my husband, and intreated him to take charge of
his estate of ,£10,000 a year, and would have no
Cautioner. We accordingly went to his Palace,
where my husband proved a blessing to Many.
£200 a year sallery, with free house and coal,
made us to send our son abroad, tho' my heart
dyed within me to part with him. I acquiesced
indeed, as I was fully assured of his Father's
tenderness being equal to mine, and his understanding
much superior. I never in my life
disputed a point but in sport, and to display
my powers of argument on the wrong side of the
question, a sort of sport he often led me into for
his amusement. I almost forget to mention a
memorable part of my life: we lived four years
with his venerable Father (b), during which time
I was as much married to a man of four score as
to one of twenty-three, for it was my highest
ambition to gain the heart and approbation of the
Father, as to secure the affections of the son.
And indeed I found the one was the most
essential means of doing the other: my husband
adored me for my unremitting attention to his
Father, and I was fully rewarded for intirely quiting
the scenes of publick admiration by being
truly beloved and admired at home. The good
old man's affection for me was infinitely more
pleasing than all the adulation I ever met with,
and I still remember it with pleasure.
I was married March 25th, 1730 (c); bore my
son 15 May 1732. When he was fit for school, we
gave up living in Edinburgh, and lived five years
in a country town, where there was a good master.
We lived in family with my beloved mother-sister;
at the removal of the master, we boarded
our son with him at Edinburgh. Let me with
pride record an uncommon bit of friendship my
husband performed. He had a near relation who
had been long his intimate friend: his affairs were
in great disorder, and was in hazard of being
obliged to sell his estate, (which) had been many
hundred years in the family. Mr. Cockburn
lifted all his stock, prevented the sale; and as he
knew he only could check the bad management of
his friend, we went and lived with him till affairs
were in a proper train. With some difficulty he
recovered his money, and we then settled in Edinburgh
to attend our son at Colledges; there we
remained as happy as human beings can be. I
can only remember one deep grief I sustain'd in
these happy years, it was the death of my
Brother's lamented and beloved Wife, who dyed
in child-bed, December 18th, 1737. The only
vent I had was a violent bleeding of the
It was in the year 1750 we went to the charge
of the Ducal estate: it would look like vanity to
say how much we were beloved in a Country
where we were strangers. The Duke engaged to
live abroad five years, and restrict his expenses to
£4000 a year. This both his health worn out
with Dissipation, and his estate by Extravagance,
required: and Mr. Cockburn would not undertake
the management without an absolute promise
(upon honour), that he would do so. Just as
things were in a train, and a load of debt clearing,
in less than two years the Duke returned; and
with three guineas in his pocket, and not credit
to raise £20, he married a young beauty without
a shilling. He wrote to his friend begging
Credit and pardon! What was to be done? Mr.
Cockburn and Mr. Stewart sent a Credit for
£30,000: no less would do; and they became
bound for that sum (for the Heir of an Entailed
Estate). The Duke, intoxicated with beauty, forgot
friendship, and let the man who saved his
life by sending him abroad, for he went to London
on purpose and saw him ship'd off; who also
saved his forfiture of titles and estates by preventing
his joining the rebels in the 1745; and
by whose credit alone he could come home to his
own house, shift for himself to find a place to live
in, tho' often wrote to about it. We must have
taken some paltry house in the village, or left the
affairs altogether, if a worthy and excellent old
Batchelor had not taken us and our domesticks
into his house in the neighbourhood, where we
boarded: and the old man said, had we always
staid with him gratis, he had been a rich man; for
he added that, by living gratis himself most of his
life in the family of Hamilton, he had contracted
forty thousand marks of debt. Indeed I found
him, as most single men are, most immoderately
cheated by his domesticks. Young men! trust no
Nobles ! Marry, be rich, be happy!
Here ends the First Chapter.
Now the scene changes, and after twenty-two
years of uncommon happiness, I have to recount
the sad reverse. But first! let me bow in grateful
thanks to the unerring Disposer of all events, who
sent the staff along with the rod, who preserv'd
my reason and the best use of it — resignation to
his Will! In the year 1753, my beloved husband
was seized with a bowel complaint, for which
all medicine proved vain: exercise, minerals — all
was tryed. A medicine he could not endure any
one but myself to administer, I have given at
all hours of the night: and, as his fondness for
me increas'd to such a pitch that I saw any other
attendant than myself gave him pain, I never
allow'd any to come near him. From a weak
habit of body I grew strong and healthy by
constant watching and perpetual anxiety. His
disease was dreadfully painful, but his fortitude
and patience were equal to it. He once told me
he was going to a mineral in a foreign Country;
I ask'd when I should get ready. 'You are not
to go with me now,' says he, 'it is too expensive
— I must go by myself.' — I vow'd I would not
stay behind.—'Well, well, we shall see,' and
smiled. I afterwards knew his meaning: he
wish'd to arm me for his Death. A niece of
mine who had been educated with us, was too full
of sensibility; and in a violent fit of pain (I of
despair), she fell into an hysterick fit; and from
that time till the day of her death never retain'd
a bit of meat or medicine on her stomach. She
was worn so weak as to be confin'd to bed; so
that my toils and cares were doubled. On the
10th of March 1753, we left our excellent, kind
Landlord with tears streaming from his venerable
eyes. My Niece's father came for her; she was
carried in a litter, laid round with hot bottles of
water to keep her alive, which were renewed every
stage. My Spouse and me in a carriage: slow
and dismal was our journey; and, to complete it,
we were cover'd with snow. We went to a house
we had order'd to be hired and furnish'd at
Musselburgh; which, in spite of much cleaning,
was so full of fleas there was no sleeping. My
Niece was carry'd to a Country house, where her
mother and sisters came to attend her. Judge
the state of my mind. But despair gave strength,
and the desire of chearing my husband kept really
up my own heart: he had a horse and chair in
which he air'd every day. The day before his
death, he went to Edinburgh by himself, and told
me he wou'd bring me a female Companion, as I
needed one. Surely he knew what happened; he
brought me Miss Violet Pringle. We had Rae
the surgeon and Dr. Rutherford (d) every day,
and found there Mr. Wood, a young man Mr.
Cockburn took a fancy to. That very night the
violence of the disease increas'd. Wood stay'd in
the house. Mr. Cockburn, on whom were the
sweats of death, beg'd me to lye down with him.
Wood was in the room, but I strip'd instantly and
was embraced in his cold wet arms with such affection,
dearer than the first embrace. Nature was
worn out, and I fell asleep. — He watch'd some
minutes, and then bade me go to my own bed: I
did so, and sleep was allow'd me. About 8 o'clock
I got up and apply'd the usual remedy. He found
all was over. He look'd to me and said, 'Alice!
it has seized my heart, while I can speak, I will
pray.' His words were — 'O my God! preserve
the dearest and the best of wives, and my dear
Son! — help me, Alice! — Adam will be kind
to you — go away.' He then thank'd Violet
Pringle and bid Mr. Wood do the last offices, as
he knew I was incapable. Those moments are as
fresh before me as on the 23rd of April, 1753.
As his disease was never perfectly understood, I
determined for the sake of his son to have the
body opened. The mad impatience I had to have
it performed was ridiculous ; and certainly I had
a secret hope that he might come alive. The
next folly was that I should have no mournings,
thinking I was immediately to follow; besides,
having seen joyful hearts in weeds, I thought the
Form below the sacredness of sorrow. My son
arrived from France in a very short time. The
pangs I felt when I saw him was unutterable.—
Beautiful he was in his dress, and sad it made him,
for he adored his father: — he lost in him father,
friend, and conductor. As it was terrible to live
in that house, I determined to board with a much
beloved brother whose wife was sister to my
spouse (d 2). My son, to perfect his medical
studies, went to Holland. I remain'd a year in a
sedate state of stupidity. As sleep had forsaken
me, I endeavour'd to bring it back by fatigue, so
got a heavy wheel to spin on: and if it was fair,
walk'd on one hidden walk two hours every day.
If I could not go out, I perform'd the same task
in the house. I succeeded at last. I let my small
house furnish'd, and after a year, a house which
was our property in Edinburgh being ill-used by
one who rented it for some years, I went to it and
had it almost new to furnish and to repair. My
son return'd and lived with me:—both he and
his friends thought our finances too straitned to
pursue his business; and the offer of the present of
a Cornetsy of Dragoons, which was worth £1000,
made him determine to go into the Army. A
severe present it was to me; but I was oblidged to
go and thank the then President of the Session (e),
who gave it, and who told me he was happy it
was in his power to return obligations he owed
to my son's Grandfather, who made his fortune.
He went into the 11th regiment of Dragoons in
the 1756 year of God. The clearing him out
and paying all extraordinary expenses made it
necessary to lift £500. Before he joined his
regiment he made a will in my favours writ by
his own hand, and, this instance as well as in
every other of his life, behaved to me as a son
and a friend. Alas! that I should be his heir!
He went to join his regiment, and our house
being too large, I sold it, and rented a house
in the Castlehill (f) twelve years. At my going
there, my sister-mother's (f2) only son, who
was to be bred to the Law, came to be my
boarder. I had him several years at £18 a year.
A pleasanter boy never was: a temper gentle as
a female and very good sense; happy for me to
have a companion I was so fond of. Another
resourse from sorrow in my lot was a family (to
whom I was obliged, and with whom we had lived
many years in the most intimate friendship)
attached me to them by every act of kindness
in my deep distress; so that I became in a
manner one of the family. The mother, a most
superior woman, was my model for wife and
mother: the eldest son known and esteemed not
only as the most agreable man of the age, but of a
larger share of genius than is common. As he
was often for months afflicted with the gout, it
became my pleasure and my business to amuse
him; and it pleased both my heart and my vanity
to see I succeeded: so that I may say I lived with
that family (g). No man had a greater taste for
Belle Lettre, so that this amusement in instruction
went hand in hand. In the year 1755 or 56, my
dear sister was seized with a strange illness. Her
ideas were darkened with the blackest melancholy.
Tho' her understanding was not overturned,
it was overwhelmed. She blamed herself for all
the miserys of human life, as if she had been the
Tempter that caused the fall of man. Her
reverys were full of horror: she saw war and
blood-shed, shipwrecks and earthquakes, and
moan'd over the miseries of mankind. If we
interrupted her with any common question or
discourse, she spoke with the same sense she
always did, and slept sometimes ten hours at a
time as sound as an infant. She retained no
food; and never had a natural passage. I let my
house in town and came to take care of her. In
this melancholly period my son's regiment was
ordered to Germany, and I lifted £200 I had of a
legacy from my dear brother, whose death a year
before was a second widowhood. I lent my son
the money for field equipage, etc. How I was
supported in this melancholly scene, my heart torn
with anxiety for my son, and my nephew sent to
Holand, so miserable and beloved an object for
ever in my sight, that I look back with astonishment
I outlived it; but the constant endeavour to
comfort as to cure my dear sister gave my mind
occupation, and internal prayer strengthen'd my
spirit. A year past in this way; with a terror
for every newspaper and for every battle. At
last I was advised to change the scene with
her, and she was brought near to Edinburgh, and
I went to my own house, where her son soon
join'd me and past Lawyer, after which we were
equal expences in house-keeping, which seldom
exceeded £60 the piece. I was three years
without seeing my son, tho' he was sent over to
England to buy horses, and return again with
them to Germany. During my sister's illness,
she had many times told us she was to live in
misery 15 years; — it was so, for she fell first
ill in the 1755, and dyed in the year 1770, just
in her seventieth year of her age. When her
body was opened, they found the guts turn'd the
wrong way; so that her torture was immense.
But by her illness she escap'd a more poignant
pain than the body can feel. In the 1768 or
69, my Nephew began to grow discontent with
his business. He did not come on in the Law;
and his uncle and he projected buying an uncultivated
estate, so as to give him occupation
of mind and body. As I was sure they must
borrow money for the purchase, and more for a
precarious improvement, I oppos'd it as much as
possible, to no effect. The purchase was made.
In a year's time they found the ruin that was
to ensue. A deep melancholly seized him; and
the agonies I suffered by daily witnessing deep
despair is inexpressible! One night he show'd
me an opium bottle (L. Laudnum bottle), and
ask'd me if drinking that would not cure all
heartaches. I assured him it would not, and
took it from him, tho' really I was not so much
alarm'd as I had cause to be the very next
morning, being the King's birth, month of June.
We just (had) removed to a house not half ready;
and in the utmost confusion. He got up by five
in the morning, took a pistol he had ready, and
lodged a ball in his head. As he found it had
not the effect, he fired another which went deeper,
but did not kill. How I did not hear the report
I know not, but I had layn in an agony of horror
without knowing why: so that when the dreadful
deed was told me, I only ask'd if he was dead.
When I found he was not, I went to him directly ;
but trembled so I could scarce walk. He ask'd
my pardon, embraced me, and cry'd in my arms
— dreadful was the scene altogether; and I
thought I should have dyed of the pain he
suffer'd in extracting the balls. In spite of
his numerous relations and my wide connections,
the unhappy affair never was heard of. For
40 days he was confin'd to bed and I to the
house; it passed for a fever: and were both
together visiting our friends in the town without
the least suspicion. His mind seem'd more
serene: his temper, always kind and placid, felt
more for me than for himself. Much discourse
we had, and I endeavoured to prevent his looking
on that fatal action as so very disgraceful as it
appear'd to him. Such is the power of custom:
what a Roman gloried in, a Briton thought most
contemptible. I must mention a circumstance so
strange that it deserves remark: on the very
hour on which he shot himself, his mother, who
always slept with the gentlewoman who had the
care of her, fell a trembling and crying thro' her
sleep, crying out, 'my son, Oh horror, blood,
blood!' Her woman had much ado to wake
her. She would not tell her dream, but repeated
'horror, horror,' and sent her in next day to
enquire after her son and me. She was told he
was in a fever — his mother seem'd not distressed
with it. After he was well and had a wig, she
came and saw him: and he frequently saw her.
She got out of her miserable body much about
her birthday, and I observed his spirits did not
stand any sort of shock: he was confused and
perturb'd. He had fitted up a room at his country
place, and after burying his mother, went frequently
Whilst I was mostly with my friends in the
country, a curious affair happen'd me, which
might have excited vanity, had not I foreseen
that by finding a Lover I should lose a Friend.
Happening to be more than commonly residing
near an old and intimate Friend I had known
from my earliest years, and lived in intimacy
with all my married life, he grew uncommonly
fond of me. I was not surprised, as we had
been always on an intimate and friendly footing.
For 12 years the fondness increas'd;
and at last produced what I had always forseen,
tho' I endeavour'd all I could to turn passion
back to friendship, and thought (vainly) I had
address enough to make it good. This was
one additional vexation unknown to many well-known,
and severely felt — let me drop a veil
over the foibles of a friend and my own
presumption. I was in my 57th year when
this affair commenced. My poor Nephew's
melancholly began to return; and the year after
the first attempt on his life, he ended it in the
same manner. Luckily for me, my son was here
with his regiment. He managed me with tenderness:
burned a long letter my Nephew had wrote
to me the night before his death. He said it
served no purpose, but to wound me deeper,
which was needless. He carried me out to Ayr,
to my most beloved and intimate friends, where
I gathered some strength of body and mind. I
had, a year before my Nephew's death, purchased,
by my son's consent, the house I now reside in (h),
and got it fitted up for him to live with me,
which greatly contributed to recover my health.
He was order'd to his regiment, and I passed
much of my time amongst my friends, of whom
were a few intimates in youth and sincere friends
thro' life — heaven blest me with a few remaining.
On his return home, he was seized with a violent
stomatick illness, which confined him long; and,
tho' he was remarkable for fortitude, at last
confined him to bed. Tho' he partly lost the
power of both hands and feet, his spirits never
sank; and he enjoy'd a book as his friend, in
that situation, without fretfulness or impatience.
Tho' always a plain dresser, he was finical in
cleanliness, and was shifted, shaved, and dress'd
every day in bed. A melancholly prospect it
was to me to think my son at middle life should
he cut off from action, and must no longer be a
member of society. But his spirit kept up mine,
and I only beg'd of God to continue that blessing,
while I should be content to employ all the rest
of my life in attending and amuseing him. He
took a resolution to go to Harrogate, and tho'
very lame, went by himself, and there perfectly
recover'd. But, alarm'd for fear of the return of
his malady, he sold his Commission, and came
home. A strong and early attachment to a family
where his Cusin (almost his sister by habitude)
had been the Wife and Mother, made him from
their infancy doat upon her children. My
intimacy with the father (i) lasted many years,
nor did the death of my Niece alter, but rather
increased it. He was fond of my son from a
boy, and he again lov'd no man so well. The
intimacy betwixt the families, always together,
brought about an event which proved fatal to me.
The fondness my son had for the children of his
beloved Cusin soften'd into the stronger passion
for her Daughter; and she loved him with the
utmost sincerity and tenderest affection: there
could he no reserve where habitual intimacy
dwelt. I was quite a stranger to this, and never
imagined she had seen him in any other light
than an uncle: they never told me till they
should try her father; and she gave a proof of
her affection stronger than could be expected from
youth and timidity. She would not let him
speak to her father, but took it on herself to
assure him the happiness of her life depended on
his consent. He had been a most indulgent
father: so much the more severe was it on her
to receive the utmost abuse, with orders never to
see or think of her Cusin more. I was in the
Country at this time, and when I came in I found
my son thoughtful — not melancholly. He soon
told me all that had pass'd; but her love for him
was a comfort. Tho' our finnances were not
great, yet our Capital was rather increased than
when his Father and I were married; and as her
Mother's portion was £2000, and she the only
younger child of the marriage, I saw no distress
in the affair. I wrote to my old Friend to tell
him so; as also that the lives of them depended
on their union. Indeed he had reason to see it,
for his Daughter grew very ill, so as to alarm
him, and to call a phisician. His answer was
such as to rouse my resentment and contempt;
so that I hardly felt a pang for determining never
more to see, to speak to, nor think of a man
whom I had loved for thirty years with sincere
affection, and whose life I had saved by my care
and attention. Mean time I did all I could to
encourage the lovers: and many happy hours
they had walking by themselves planning schemes
of life; but she was still firm not to marry
without her father's consent. I saw they were
both to be miserable and separated; I therefore
offered every thing in my power to join them.
At last a day was set; and I was prepared to see
them wedded. She came dress'd in black; he
challenged it; and she desired to speak to him
alone: they were two hours together. She came
to me all in tears, and bid me go and comfort
my son. He needed it indeed! They had bid
a final adieu. After this he plunged into dissipation.
He did everything to recover his spirits,
to no purpose. To be affronted and ill used by
the man on earth he loved most, to see his dear
Girl miserable, was too much; and the distress
I was in made it worse. His health got a shock.
A violent bleeding at the nose, for which he
would do nothing, was succeeded by a cough so
violent as to make him throw up blood; yet he
would not draw blood (j). I cannot recollect the
time of this dismal period. My constant apprehensions
took up my mind so much, I forgot all
times and seasons. Yet he kept up spirits, try'd
Goat's Whey, grew weaker every day — but I
sicken and can go no farther now. The deathbed
scene was severe; and the very day before
he dyed he sent for me and order'd his funerals;
also he was shaved and drest. How I am alive
I know not, after losing the care and comfort of
my whole life. After the last parting with his
Cusin, he never spoke of her but once, which was
to say he esteem'd her more than ever. She
was in town after he was wasting, and ask'd
to see him; but he shun'd her; and when he
made a will in her brother's favour, I knew it
meant her — the delicacy prevented. Fain I would
have ask'd him if he had anything to say to
her, but fear of agitating him prevented me.
When her father's affairs came out, he said that
explained to him all his behaviour; that concealing
his circumstances was the reason of it,
and pity'd him most sincerely.
I have thus mark'd the chief occurances of my
various life. Nothing remains but to thank,
with a grateful heart, the Merciful Disposer of
all events for preserving my reason under such
accute feelings as he formed me with; and to
pray that the closing scene may be render'd
after Sir Henry Raeburn
serene, thro' the influence and intercession of
the blessed Saviour.
To you, my young friend, I dedicate these
sheets, which are improper for any eye but those
of a partial friend. May God reward you for
your exact and kind attention to me and my
10th May 1784.
In her will, which was 'given up' by Mark
Pringle of Clifton and Alexander Keith, W.S.,
her executors, and confirmed 23rd Jan. 1795, Mrs.
Cockburn left property to the amount of £3800,
the bulk of which went to two nieces, Anne Pringle
and Mrs. Simpson. She mentions some of her
poorer relations in affectionate terms, and leaves
them small annuities; and frequently alludes to
her son, who predeceased her. She left a lock of
her hair for two hair-rings for 'my earliest and
most constant and affectionate friends, Mrs. Keith
of Ravelston and her brother, William Swinton.'
A ring with Sir Hugh Dalrymple's hair, intended
for Mrs. Dalrymple, is now to be given to her
son, Sir Hugh Dalrymple, 'for whom Mrs. Cockburn
has great affection.' 'I promised Mrs.
Walter Scott (Sir Walter's mother) my emerald
ring, with it she has my prayers for her and hers,
much attention she and her worthy husband paid
me in my hours of deepest distress, when my
son was dying.' She desires that her sister Fairnillie,
if she outlives her, may have twenty pounds
for mourning, besides the ring already mentioned;
'and also I leave her the charge of my favourite
cat.' She gives directions about her funeral, and
adds, 'Shorten or correct the epitaph to your taste'
(see p. 163). She was buried, not by the side of
her husband, but in Buccleuch Parish Churchyard
by the side of her son. A very plain tombstone
which marks the spot has the following simple
THE MEMORY OF
MRS. ALISON RUTHERFURD,
Widow of PATRICK COCKBURNE, Esq., Advocate,
who died 22 Novr. MDCCXCIV,
and of her son,
CAPTAIN ADAM COCKBURNE,
who died 22 August MDCCLXXX.
These lines are kept well to the top of the
stone, and a large space is left underneath, as if
for an epitaph. But, alas for the constancy of
mourning friends, no epitaph, either 'shortened
or corrected,' has ever been added.
NOTES TO MEMOIR
(a). — James, 6th Duke of Hamilton, b. 1724,
d. 1758, having married in 1752 Elizabeth,
younger of the two beautiful Miss Gunnings.
Horace Walpole thus describes the incident:—
'The event that has made most noise since my
last is the extempore wedding of the youngest of
the two Gunnings, who have made so vehement
a noise. About six weeks ago Duke Hamilton,
hot, debauched, extravagant, and equally damaged
in his fortune and his person, fell in love with
the youngest at a masquerade, and determined to
marry her in the spring. About a fortnight since,
at my lord Chesterfield's, Duke Hamilton made
violent love at one end of the room, while he was
playing at pharaoh at the other end: that is, he
saw neither the bank nor his own cards, which
were of £300 each. He soon lost a thousand.
Two nights afterwards, being left alone with her,
while her mother and sister were at Bedford House,
he found himself so impatient that he sent for a
parson. The doctor refused to perform the ceremony
without licence or ring; the Duke swore
he would send for the Archbishop — at last they
were married with a ring of the bed-curtain at
half an hour after twelve at night at Mayfair
Chapel.' He died in six years, and a twelvemonth
later his widow married Colonel John Campbell,
who became 5th Duke of Argyll. She was the
mother of two Dukes of Hamilton and two
Dukes of Argyll.
(b). — Contemporary opinion does not speak so
kindly as his daughter-in-law of the old Lord
Justice-Clerk. As one of the commissioners to
inquire into the massacre of Glencoe, he became
so unpopular that he wrote to Mr. Carstairs complaining
of the lies raised against him,' and
particularly of the Earl of Argyle, who in turn
complained of the authority given to the Lord
Justice-Clerk 'to seize persons, horses, and arms,
make close prisoners or otherwise as he sees fit.'
He is described, when he was fifty years old, as
a bigot to a fault, and hardly in common charity
with any man out of the verge of presbytery; but
otherwise a very fine gentleman in his person and
manners, just in his dealings, with good sense,
and of a sanguine complexion.' Dr. Houston,
however, speaks unfavourably of him. He says :
'Of all the (Whig) party, Lord Ormiston was the
most busy and zealous in suppressing the rebellion
(1715) and in oppressing the rebels, so that he
became universally hated in Scotland, where they
called him the curse of Scotland; and when ladies
were at cards playing the nine of diamonds,
commonly called the curse of Scotland, they called
it the Justice-Clerk.' He died in 1735, in the
seventy-ninth year of his age.
(c).— In the Ormiston Parish Register, the date
of the marriage is 12th March 1731 — no doubt
correctly. The year 1730 in the MS. must be a
mistake of the copyist, and the difference in the
days of the month possibly represents the period
between proclamation and marriage.
(d).—Dr. Rutherford was Sir Walter Scott's
maternal grandfather. The 'young man' must
have been the eminent surgeon who, in his old age,
under the cognomen of 'Kind old Sandy Wood,'
is represented in Kay's portraits passing along the
North Bridge with an umbrella under his arm —
he having been the first person in Edinburgh to
make use of one. After taking his diploma, he
first settled at Musselburgh, where Mr. Cockburn
died. When, having proposed for the hand of
Miss Veronica Chalmers, he was asked by her
father how he was going to support her, Wood
answered by producing his lancet-case. 'Vera is
yours,' said the old gentleman. He had the distinction
of being named in a fragmentary parody
of Childe Harold printed in Blackwood' s Magazine
for May 1818, and is also alluded to in a
spirit of playfulness and affection in a prophecy
put into the mouth of Meg Merrilees. Sir
Alexander Boswell wrote a warmly appreciative
epitaph on the Doctor.
(d 2).— Patrick Cockburn's sister Anne married
Sir John Inglis of Cramond. Of six sons, one
was the Peter Inglis of these letters; and of
six daughters one, married to Sir John Clerk of
Penicuik, was no doubt 'Niece Clerk ' so often
(e).— The Lord President who gave such prompt
proof of his gratitude was Robert Craigie of
Glendoick, who, passing advocate in 1710, attained
by slow and laborious industry to the highest
rank in his profession.
(f).—The new house was in Blair's Close. In
the gable of a house at the lower end of the
quadrangle, and directly facing the Castle, there
still remains a cannon-ball said to have been fired
from the half-moon battery in 1745. Blair's Close
is a narrow alley through this building. The
house Mrs. Cockburn occupied was the property
of her friends, the Bairds of Newbyth, and is
described in a disposition by Sir Robert (1694) as
'my lodging in the Castle Hill of Edinburgh
formerly possessed by the Duchess of Gordon,'
whose coronet, supported by deerhounds, was over
(f2).— Her eldest sister Katherine, Mrs. Swinton,
fourteen years her senior, who, on the death
of their mother, became a mother to Alison,
then only ten years old.
(g).— Seems to point to the family of John
Pringle, Lord Haining, and his wife, Ann Murray
of Philiphaugh, whose son Andrew Pringle, Lord
Alemoor, was much troubled with gout (see
(h).— 'The neat first floor of a house in Crichton
Street, with windows looking along the Potterrow.'
— Chambers's Traditions of Edinburgh.
(i).— John Pringle of Crichton, who had married
Mrs. Cockburn's niece, Anne Rutherford, heiress
of Fairnilee. Their daughter Anne was the object
of Captain Adam Cockburn's love. The Scottish
Nation (III. 308) mentions that John Pringle
continued to be engaged extensively in commercial
pursuits till the house with which he was connected
became bankrupt. He was then forced to
part with his lands in Midlothian, and his father-in-law,
Mr. Rutherford of Fairnilee, being involved
along with him, had to sell some of his estates.
(j).— It is not very clear whether this means
that Adam was averse to being bled by a surgeon,
or that he was of too pacific a disposition to draw
TO MISS CUMMING (a).
4th January 1760.
SUN, that ariseth on a New Year granted once
more to the mortal race of man, arise propitious!
Let thy rays cheer the heart and fortify
the nerves of my little Sylph! Warm and
benign like thine are the emanations of her soul.
Luminous and true as thy light are the images
of her fancy. Deep and dark as thy shadows
at eve is her memory of times that are past. But
thy midday beam drives the phantoms afar off,
and she shines in the lustre of true benevolence.
She shall live, O Sun, when thy influence is no
more! When the firmament in which thou presidest
shall be as a parchment roll — when the
elements shall cease, and all inanimate matter shall
return to its original nothing, she shall live and
rejoice in her course, every moment arising nearer
to Infinite perfection, perfectly restored to the
likeness of that Original of whom and for whom
Come, rosy health, and deck the cheek;
Come, gentle peace, of spirit meek,
Come, every fancy, new shapes taking,
Make gay the scene, asleep or waking.
Come, Melody, on soft air fleeting,
Attend my Sylph with gentle greeting!
And far he household care and strife,
And hopeless love, the bane of life;
All jealous fears, all heartfelt sorrow,
All anxious cares about to-morrow.
Little Sylph, that walks unseen
On the ice-besprinkled green,
Of mind elate, of stature small,
Though small yet great, though short yet tall,
Send to heaven thy matin song,
Softly sweet the notes prolong,
And beg thy friend from toils may cease,
And close this year her eyes in peace.
There, then, Miss Melpomene has thought fit
to go to bed for an afternoon nap, and she will
not give me another line, so you must even
take prose for the rest. . . . Make for me the
compliments of the season to all, especially
the patriarch (b). May he live a thousand
years, and more! Blessing to all the bairns and
mothers; long may they dance together! I hope
Lady Dalrymple will dance at Anne's wedding.
... Adieu, my dear Henefie. Fourth day of
the year 60.
(a) .— Lady Anne Lindsay describes Miss
Cumming as 'a young woman, or rather a young
lady, to whom I dare hardly, even at this moment,
give the title of our governess. She was a being
so perfectly fantastic, unlike to others, and wild,
that, when Nature made her, she broke the
mould.' Lady Balcarres had found her painting
butterflies in the garret of her aunt's house in
Edinburgh, and weeping because she was not
placed in the sphere of life for which she was
formed. 'She sang sweetly, wrote and worked
well, and my mother, amused with the variety
of her uncultivated talents, formed the plan of
putting into her hands as governess the care of
the persons, manners, accomplishments, and morals
of her daughters. At first Henrietta had her
mess with my mother's maid — tears flowed, she
starved herself; and, to make her happy, she was
permitted to dine with the family. The proposal
to give her £20 per annum nearly cost Henrietta
her life — as an act of friendship she was ready to
take care of us, but her soul spurned emolument.
Behold her then settled at Balcarres — the least
little woman that ever was seen for nothing,
fantastic in her dress and naïve in her manners,
her countenance pretty, her shape neat and nice.
In that casket was lodged more than Pandora's
box contained of powers of every kind — powers
of attaching, powers of injuring, powers of mind,
powers of genius, magnanimity, obstinacy, prejudice,
romance, and occasionally enthusiastic
devotion.' She seems to have enjoyed in a remarkable
degree the confidence of Mrs. Cockburn,
who commonly addressed her as Henny or
'Sylph.' To her brother, a herald in the Lyon
Office, Miss Cumming wrote beseeching him to
make up a tree of their family, 'taking the utmost
care to connect us with the family of A(ltyre), and
proceeding from Fergus the First, King of Scotland.
Let our grandfather match in the family
of Dumbalach, and let us be related somehow
to Lord Lovat, etc.' This vain and not very
scrupulous creature was married in 1771 to the
Rev. James Fordyce, D.D., of London, a popular
author and preacher, whose oratory and eloquence
were of so high an order as to earn the approbation
of David Garrick. Nothing could offer
a greater contrast to Miss Henrietta Cumming's
letter begging for a spurious ancestry than Mrs.
Fordyce's pious and pathetic account of her distinguished
husband's illness and death (Biographical
Dictionary of Eminent Scotsmen, ii. 375).
(b).— The 'patriarch' was James, 5th Earl of
Balcarres. Lady Dalrymple was Lady Balcarres's
mother, and Anne was her granddaughter, the
accomplished and beautiful Lady Anne Lindsay,
whose lively Recollections of the family life at
Balcarres may be read in the eighteenth chapter of
The Lives of the Lindsays.
Now for news. It is believed by everybody
but Mrs. Baird that Ambassador Keith (a)
is to be married immediately to Mally Cheape (b).
He is certainly with her every forenoon, dressed
like a goddess, his equipage waiting, and a perfect
bare face about it. I think Anne is staggered and
believes, as the devils do. It will disturb a fine
society, and I am really vexed about it. I fear
it is true.
(a).— See Mrs. Cockburn's memoir of Keith as
'Felix,' pp. 241, 254.
(b).— Miss Cheap was a daughter of Mr.
George Cheap, of the Cheaps of Rossie in Fife,
whose wife, an aunt of the Lord Chancellor
Wedderburn, died, leaving him six sons and two
beautiful daughters. Mally was the first love of
'Jupiter' Carlyle, who confesses she kept entire
possession of his heart from 1735 till 1753 'by
means of her coquetry and my irresolution. In
beauty she would have excelled most women of
her time, had she not been the worst dancer in
the world, which she could not be prevailed on to
leave off, though her envious rivals laughed and
rejoiced at her persevering folly. She was a great
mistress of conversation, having both wit and
humour ; and with an air of haughty prudery, had
enough of coquetry to attract and retain her
lovers, of whom she had many.' A young gentleman,
to whom she had early inclined, was prevented
from marrying her, and soon after fell at
Fontenoy. She rejected Ambassador Keith rather
than 'disturb a fine society.' (See Note to 'Felix,'
p. 254.) 'Anne' mentioned in this letter is Keith's
daughter, who lived to be one of Sir Walter Scott's
greatest friends the prototype of his 'Mrs.
TO DAVID HUME.
[Addressed on back — 'For David Hume,Esq., at his
Excellency's, Lord Hertford's, Paris.]
20th August 1764.
FROM the bleak hills of the north — from the
uncultured daughter of Caledon — will the
adored sage of France deign to receive a few lines
They come from the heart of a friend, and will
be delivered by the hand of an enemy — which, O
man of mode, is most indifferent to thee! Insensible
thou art alike to gratitude or resentment
— fit for the country that worships thee. Thou
art equally insensible to love or hate. A
momentary applause, ill begot and worse brought
up, an abortion, a fame not founded on truth,
has bewitched thee, and thou hast forgot those
who, overlooking thy errors, loved thy worth.
Idol of Gaul, I worship thee not. The very
cloven foot for which thou art worship'd I despise,
yet I remember thee with affection. I remember
that, in spite of vain philosophy, of dark doubts,
of toilsome learning, God had stamped his image
of benignity so strong upon thy heart that not
all the labours of thy head could efface it. Idol
of a foolish people, be not puffed up! It is easy
to overturn the faith of a multitude that is ready
to do evil. An apostle of less sense might bring
to that giddy nation Libertinism! Liberty they
are not born to! This will be sent to you by
your good friend Mr. Burnet, who goes much
such an errand as you have given yourself through
life, vizt., in search of truth; and I believe both
are equally impartial in the search, though, indeed,
he has more visible interests for darkning it than
ever you had. If, in the course of that enquiry,
anything cast up that can satisfy my curiosity, and
come sootier than the common course, I will
demand this piece of luxury from you, as I any
certain I would give you the same pleasure, were
it in my power. I had a letter lately from an old
intimate of Sir John Stewart's (a), which I for
your sake will transcribe. The gentleman is a
man of the world and of undoubted understanding.
The words are as follows: —
'My old and (in the days of old) my very
intimate companion hath made a strange sort of
exit. I was much shocked at reading in the
newspapers Sir John's dying declaration. It was
carrying the joke too far to be shuffleing the truth
and equivocating with his last breath. Andrew
Stewart whom, notwithstanding all aspersions of
the other part, I know to be a lad of as great
veracity and uprightness as exists, told me that
Madame Mignione, the mother, said to him there
was something so vif in Sir John's manner, and
particular in his features, that she was positive,
in spite of distance of time, she would know him
Here comes what I mark for you:—
'As his memory will not be savory, I hate to
add blemishes to it, but I tell you in confidence
that, tho' he had neither intellects nor learning
enough to expiscate the truth of so important a
truth, I found out by a tête-a-tête conversation I
had with him a considerable time before the Duke
of Douglas' death, that he had strongly imbibed
the modern pernicious, tho' fashionable, doctrine
of Materialism; and had not the least belief of
either good or evil spirits or of a future state.
He told me at the same time that he lookd on a
man as a fool who did not pursue his pleasures or
his interests in this world.'
My author adds — 'from this time I gave up
all communication with him, and never saw him
more.' I'm afraid this may prejudice you against
my side of the question; but, believe me, whatever
prejudices you may have, I have one stronger;
and that is being the sincere friend and willing
servant of Mr. Hume while A. COKBURNE.
It cannot add to your vanity to tell you that
you are often remember'd in our cups (b) and in
our conversations. You will hear that your tall
cuz Miss Hume (Mary Hutchison's daughter)
is now Countess of Hume (c). Most of our
Misses pay dear for their coronets, as they are
yet ignorant of the polite method of mending
what is ammiss at Home. Everybody here is
much as you left them. I am a little happier
haveing my son with me at present. He would
be the better of being in France a while. A
lady gave him for a toast, with a character which
you will find below:—
A true merry heart with a brow most severe,
A humour sarcastick—a truth most sincere,
A boldness and true independance of spirit.
If the fellow were rich — O, he would have much merit!
CASTLEHILL, BAIRD'S CLOSS,
August 20th, 1764.
Compliments to Madam Bouflours (d).
(a).— Sir John Stewart's son was declared, by a
decision of the House of Lords, lawful heir to the
estates of the last Duke of Douglas. This Duke
had an only sister, Lady Jane, one of the handsomest
and most accomplished women of her age,
whose engagement in early life to the Earl of Dalkeith,
afterwards Duke of Buccleuch, was broken
off. After rejecting many offers, she at last was
persuaded, at the mature age of forty-eight, into
a secret marriage with John, second son of Sir
Thomas Stewart of Grandtully. They went to
France, and, returning in three years, brought
two male children of whom they declared Lady
Jane had been delivered at one birth in July 1748,
when she was in her fifty-first year. After a
fruitless effort at reconciliation with her brother,
Lady Jane went to London, leaving the boys in
Edinburgh, where the younger died in 1753, his
unhappy mother, destitute of even the common
necessaries of life, following him in six months.
In 1759, her husband, who had been living mostly
in a debtor's prison, succeeded to the baronetcy,
and executed a bond in favour of the surviving
boy, designating him as his own son by Lady
Jane Douglas; and when the Duke died in 1761
young Stewart's guardians had him declared heir
in Scottish form before a jury. But the guardians
of the Duke of Hamilton, also a minor, contested
the succession, asserting that one of the boys had
been stolen soon after birth from parents of the
name of Mignon, and the other from parents of
the name of Sanry. After a long and exciting
trial, which ranged the people of Scotland into
two hostile parties, the famous Douglas Cause
was in 1767 decided by eight to seven judges of
the Court of Session against young Stewart. The
Lords having reversed this verdict, he was raised
to the peerage as Baron Douglas, and proved
himself one of Nature's noblemen—exemplary in
all the relations of life. Andrew Stewart mentioned
in the letter was a young lawyer employed
on the Duke of Hamilton's side to collect proof
against Archibald Stewart being the son of Lady
Jane Douglas. Sir John Stewart's dying declaration
in 1764 that Archibald and his twin brother
were born of Lady Jane, his lawful spouse, is
what Mrs. Cockburn's friend declares to he
'shuffleing the truth and equivocating with his last
breath.' Writing to Dr. Blair in 1769, Hume is
indignant at the decision of the House of Lords,
and speaks of 'poor Andrew Stewart who has
conducted that cause with singular ability and
integrity, and who was at last exposed to reproach,
which unfortunately can never be wiped off.'
(b).— Among the traditional anecdotes of
Hume's habits, one is that, going to sup with
Mrs. Cockburn, and not arriving till after the
choice of the good things had been consumed,
when some effort was made to cater for him, he
said, 'Trouble yourself very little about what you
have, or how it appears; you know I am no
epicure, but only a glutton.' These literary parties
at Mrs. Cockburn's appear to have been frequent
and agreeable. A gentleman still living (1846)
was present at many of them when a youth, and
particularly recollects one occasion when her son,
coming home tipsy, locked himself in the room
where the walking habiliments of the guests were
preserved. A general borrowing of articles of
clothing from surrounding neighbours took place,
and those which fell to Hume and Lord Monboddo
happened to produce a peculiarly ludicrous
effect.— Hill Burton's Life of Hume, ii. 449 1
(c).— Alexander, ninth Lord Home, a clergyman
of the Church of England, had for the
second of his three wives his cousin Marion,
daughter of the Hon. James Home of Ayton.
The philosopher, it will be remembered, changed
the spelling of his name from Home, the old
form, to Hume, the phonetic form — a change to
which he made grimly humorous allusion in his
1 Also Traditions of Edinburgh, pp. 72, 73.
(d).— Hippolyte de Saujon, wife of Comte de
Boufflers-Rouvel, mistress of Prince Conti, and
a very intimate friend of David Hume. See Life
of Hume, ii. 90.
TO DAVID HUME.
Edinburgh, Castle Hill, Sept. 21, 1765.
MOST people, Mr. Hume, are proud of being
thought to be well with the great, and
often pretend it when it is not true. It's my
misfortune to be known as your friend; and I
am now almost reduced to wish that I had enjoyed
that honour in a more private manner. But
I know no blessing in life that is not attended
with (almost) an equivalent of pain, and I must
submit to plague you and myself, who of all
things abhor asking favours. This will be
delivered to you by Mr. Scot, who is travelling
for his improvement. His father, who is a man
capable of unbounded generosity and friendship,
has been the friend of a man whom I most truly
value, I mean Mr. Pringle of Haining, now
member of parliament for Selkirkshirc (a). Mr.
Pringle writes to beg of me a line of introduction
for his young friend, who, he says, will have
seen nothing if he has not seen Mr. Hume.
His admiration of you was indeed independent
of the French taste; and I believe he might
have asked the same favour for his young friend
had you been in Jack's Land or James's Court (b)
What notice you take of this young gentleman,
then, Sir, shall be fairly stated to account; and
though in your last you upbraid Scotland for
taking no notice of your friend Lord Marischal,
I must beg leave to say I am not Scotland, nor
did you ever honour me so far as to propose
introducing me to that nobleman. What's more,
I really know that he shunned many who wished
for his acquaintance, and therefore, Sir, you need
not blame Scotland (c). Lord Marischal was
entered into the infirmities of old age before he
returned to his country; and at that time of
life ease and quiet is preferable to popular visits.
Indeed, my philosopher, I think you was not in
good humour last time you wrote. The statesman
prevailed, which is ever attended with a
severity and distance. There was nothing in
your letter pleased me but a wish to return to
your native land, where I sincerely wish to see
you, though not to dose or die, but to live and
laugh. I had a letter lately from a member of
parliament, who told me he was to apply to you
for a favour to a son of a friend of yours. I
was heartily glad he did not put it upon me to
ask this favour, for you will by-and-by look on
me as a dun; neither will I add anything farther
on that subject, because, if you are not willing
to serve that friend, I know not whom I write to.
You are not the D. H. I know, and therefore I
have no interest with you.
I am just returned from a Highland expedition,
and was much delighted with the magnificence of
nature in her awful simplicity. These mountains,
and torrents, and rocks, would almost convince
one that it was some being of infinite power that
had created them. Plain corn countries look as
if men had made them; but I defy all mankind
put together to make anything like the Pass of
Gilicranky. Was you ever in the Highlands?
Are you to remain in Paris? or do you go with
Lord Hertford? (d) I wish you to go with him.
I wish to break the hearts of all the Frenchwomen,
if they have any hearts; but I suspect,
for all the adulation you have met with amongst
them, that I am infinitely more your affectionate
friend and servant, A. COKBURNE.
Mrs. Hamilton is in Glasgow. I had a good
laugh at her with your last letter, and the mention
of a lover. I alleged her travels were not in vain,
and that she had imbibed the manners of the
country very fast. I was a week at Balcarres
lately, where the old lord asked for you, admired
you, disputed with you, confuted you, came over
to your opinion; but had no faith when I told
him you was tired of public life. ''Ods fish, is
the fellow a fool? what can a man of his talents
do in a poor ruined country like this?' Lady
Balcarres goes with her twelfth child, ten of whom
are living (e). Fife is in great commotion at present
with candidates. Your friends John Hume,
Willie Johnston, Sandy Wedderburn, Colonel Scot,
all appeared. None keeps the field but Sir John
Anstruther, and Mr. Alexander. I shall enclose
you a ballad on the occasion. This is unconscionably
long for a man of consequence. Once
(a).— John Pringle, son of Lord Haining and
brother of Lord Alemoor, both Lords of Session,
was at one time a merchant in Madeira. He sat
for the county from 1765 to 1786, when he
accepted the Chiltern Hundreds, dying unmarried
in 1792. His sister Anne, married to Mrs.
Cockburn's brother, is 'the Lady Fairnilee' of
(b).— To Jack's Land, a lofty stone tenement
in the Canongate, Hume came from Riddel's
Land, Lawnmarket, near the head of the West
Bow, in 1753, while engaged on his History of
England, nearly the whole of which work was
written in Jack's Land. James's Court, a huge
and lofty building at the south end of the Mound,
was mostly destroyed by fire in 1858, its site
being now partly occupied by Savings Bank and
Free Church offices. From the Embassy at Paris
Hume wrote to a friend in Edinburgh, 'I wish
twice or thrice a day for my easy chair, and my
retreat in James's Court. Never think, dear
Ferguson, that as long as you are master of your
own fireside and your own time you can be
unhappy, or that any other circumstance can add
to your enjoyment.'
(c).— For his share in the Jacobite rising of
1715, Earl Marischal had to escape to the
Continent, his titles attainted, and his estates
forfeited. Although actively employed till the
year before in the Pretender's interest, he took
no share in the '45, having gone to reside in
Prussia. In 1750, Frederick the Great sent him
as Ambassador to France, and later, when Prussian
Ambassador to Spain, he discovered the Bourbon
Family Compact, which he disclosed to the British
Prime Minister. Being pardoned, he was graciously
received by George II., and in 1764 he
bought back part of his ancestral land, meaning
to settle in Scotland. But, responding to an
earnest invitation from Frederick, he went back
to Prussia, where he was loaded with honour and
distinction, and known as 'the King's friend.'
He died at Potsdam, unmarried, in 1778.
(d).— Lord Hertford, Ambassador at Paris,
had been appointed Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland.
Hume did not go with him.
(e).— James, Earl of Balcarres (who had spoiled
his career by taking part with his father in the
'15), was a grey, gaunt man of three-and-fifty
when he married Miss Anne Dalrymple in her
twenty-third year. She had refused him at first,
but when she heard that, thinking himself near
his end, he had left her half his fortune, she 'first
endured, then pitied, then embraced,' becoming
the mother of eleven children — Mrs. Cockburn
says twelve. One of them was the bright and
gentle Lady Anne Barnard, who wrote 'Auld
Robin Gray,' and thus, like her friend Mrs.
Cockburn, achieved immortality by one song.
TO MISS HENRIETTA CUMMING.
YOUR Highland expedition entertained me
as much as St. Pierre's visit to the mountains
of Switzerland. I'm not sure whether you
or Rousseau writes best. Were I to return
adventure for adventure I'm not sure but
I would equal you. The variety of people and
characters I have seen and lived among for six
months afforded me agreeable observations. The
works of God have all some affinity; and, sure,
Taste is and always must he the same, for truth
is one. I join with you in adoring nature.
There are some noble minds like your mountains
that the heat cannot melt nor the rains dissolve.
Fixt they stand in all weathers, and, though
rough perhaps to appearance, are indeed friends
most permanent and unshaken. Others, smooth
and even, like verdant meads that tempt the
traveller, prove nought hut faithless hogs; and
slump you go every step.
TO MISS HENRIETTA CUMMING.
Fairnalee, Autumn, 1765 (?)
THE moon was eclipsed three or four hours
ago. As if she rejoiced again she shines
with redoubled splendour. She skews the embosomed
mountains that surround this spot, and
the blue stream that runs circular around it.
The half-naked oak is seen again in the small
pond on whose brink he grows, and the tall giants
look like shadows on the smooth-shaven green.
Happy the mind that resembles this night — clear,
light, and serene. Who can behold this midnight
scene without feeling what I cannot
The storm has desolated the trees: the ground
is strewed with their fallen honours. I don't
talk of the weather because I have nothing to
say, but because I sit in a closet that is just in
the garden, and shows me the scene. I feel
myself greatly resemble those stripped trees —
year after year has robbed me of my shelter and
my foliage — but this is melancholy.
Here comes a secret I wrote to a young farmer,
a lad very like one in The Gentle Shepherd. He
has been severely in love with a country coquette
for some years, and she keeps him on till he is
become the subject of much vulgar mirth — for
few can pity that passion: —
A RECEIPT FOR WOOING.
If your lass is coquettish and frisky,
Make up to her easy and briskly —
If she frown on ye, turn on your heel.
Make love to another, your heart to recover,
You'll quickly discover she'd keep you her lover,
Though her heart be as hard as the steel.
She will try all her tricks to entice ye,
Sometimes sweet, sometimes sour, sometimes spicy!
Affect all these humours yourself.
See that ye vex her, be sure to perplex her,
Provoke her and coax her, roast her and toast her,
She's as sure in your pouch as your pelf.
If your lassie is modest and shy,
Watch every cast of her eye;
If she blushes she's halflings your own.
Approach by degrees, her hand ye may seize,
And give it a squeeze, then down on your knees,
And prefer to kings or their crown!
If she answer you no way hut flying,
Depend on't she will be complying,
So follow as fast as you can.
But if coldly she stay, I'm afraid she'll say 'Nay.'
With such nymphs it's the way; then fast as ye may
Pray pack up your heart and be gone —
Ye may leave her to some other man!
TO DAVID HUME (at Mr. Couts in the Strand,
1st February 1766.
THOUGH I declare before God and man that
I am a Christian, in faith only, I mean, (for
in practice far short,) yet I do forgive you all
your sins of omission; only, indeed, because you
have taken care of my Rousseau. You are tolerably
good at drawing characters; and I am so
proud of finding the author, who alone had the
key of my heart, resemble my heart, that I am
certain you for once drew from the life. In every
article I am him, (a) except peevishness, which,
God willing, men oppressing, and time serving,
may bring about. A feeling heart is apt to sour;
a cool philosopher who has no guide but reason,
no aim but truth, no passions, no follies, hut love
of fame, (a breath blown over his tomb,) cannot
possibly grow peevish. They only live for their
sort of eternity; which we people of fancy, of
warmth and imagination, — we who believe in
higher scenes of existence, we epicures, who never
will cease from ideas of enjoyment, indulge in:
we grow impatient, we do not meet with that
perfection we are born with the ideas of, and
we grow peevish for want of them; we forget
we are in the nursery, and long for the dining-room.
This is my Rousseau's case, and will soon
be mine. In the mean time I am as jealous as he,
that any body should pay for my bills. At the same
time, sir, I never paid any man a higher compliment
than I did you, by being truly angry at you.
Infidel as you are, (and little, indeed, do I expect
from any such,) (b) I marked you down as a man
whom God had chosen to show his power upon;
and that he had compelled you to act as a
Christian, in spite of your contradiction. To set
an opportunity of serving ME, I own astonished
me; and I had all the anger a friend ought to
have. I have not been at courts. My heart is
yet simple, though I have lived long amongst
men. I said to myself, had David's son been in
my power! I felt what I would have done. I
had no indolence, no prudence, and I am apt to
suppose my friends of the same make with myself;
that is an error, however, I daily mend of, and by
and bye I shall be as much wrapped up in my
own shell, as I see all the reptiles around me are.
Your answer, however, satisfies me; and I still
believe (because it pleases me to believe) that you
would have served me, had it been in your power.
I have sent my son your letter, and now I must
transcribe a passage from his, which I would send
entire, if there was not a little family history in
it, not our own.
'If ever you write to D. Hume, you may ask
his opinion of the following supposition, — Suppose
the son of a friend who had been long dead or
absent were presented to us, it is evident that this
object would immediately revive its correlative
idea, and recall to our thoughts all our past
intimacies and familiarities, in more lively colours
than they would have otherwise appeared to us. —
Hume's Essays, page 88, vol. ii.'
He adds, 'were I sure his ideas remained the
same, I should go to London and be presented to
him.' So much for quarrels and family business.
I am glad to hear from your sister, there is no
if's of your coming to Scotland. I am glad, even
that you, infidel as you are, have chased the
gospel out of James's Court (c). But what shall
we do with you? you are spoiled; it's impossible
for me to retain you. I am a Christian. I
neither paint nor fricasy. My wit is much
abated, but I can play at quadrille and sleep
with you. Will that do? Lord bless you, bring
Rousseau here. Trees to shelter him! such
nonsense; there's as many trees in Scotland as
would hang all the rogues in England, every man
his tree. Tell him that, and he won't be afraid
of want of shelter. Sweet old man, he shall sit
beneath an oak and hear the Druid's songs. The
winds shall bring soft sounds to his ear, and our
nymphs with the songs of Selma shall remember
him of joys that are past (d). O bring him with
you; the English are not worthy of him; I will
have him! I cannot speak to him, but I know
his heart, and am certain I could please it. This
is a high pitch of vanity, but I am sure of it; and
it's the only coquetry I am mad about. Were
Voltaire to call at my door, I would say, I will
not see him. Bring my dear old Rousseau;
I am sure he is like my John Aikman (e). Bring
yourself, however, as fast as you can, because just
now we have a fancy for you. You are new, and
we grow impatient. If ye stay long, you will
grow stale like the conjuror or the Douglas
Cause. If you are not French enough to forget
old friends, you will rejoice with me that cousin
Baird is as happy as one can be, separated from
the lover of her youth, the friend of her heart,
and the father of her children * he has taken
all care of her, and she and the children * in
real affluence. O, rich she is, indeed, in such a
fine family. I look on her as a great patriarch,
monarch, and mother to a whole people. No He-patriarch
whatever will do so well as she will do
in that station; and, indeed, the female reigns
have always been the most glorious in Britain.
Mrs. Hamilton is well, and salutes you. Mrs.
Mure is big and well. This is all I have to say
except that I am truly yours.
(a).— 'Few self-drawn parallels have been more
utterly fallacious. Whatever common bond of
taste or imagination they may have had, this pure-minded
and kind-hearted woman had very little
indeed, either in heart or disposition, enjoyed by
her in common with the object of her enthusiasm;
and had the Confessions been then published, she
must have felt the almost shocking nature of the
comparison! — J. HILL BURTON.
(b).— 'Mrs. Cockburn's free and animated remarks,'
says Mr. Hill Burton, 'are written in
full assurance that neither adulation nor prosperity
would diminish the regard of that simple manly
* A piece torn off.
heart for the chosen friends he had left in his
(c).— An allusion to the fact that, by returning
to his house in Edinburgh, Hume had displaced
the Rev. Dr. Blair, who had occupied it in his
(d).— Hume brought Rousseau with him to
England in the beginning of 1766 — a kindness
which the eccentric Frenchman requited with his
usual suspicion and ingratitude.
(e).— The sweetheart of her girlhood. See
pages 105, 116.
TO MISS CUMMING.
ROUSSEAU has a pen that can wound to the
bottom of the heart. His common character
is that cursed, suspicious, querulous temper. David
Hume was warned of it, but his affection ran
away with him, and I am sorry for his disappointment.
In his (Rousseau's) long letter he accused
David Hume of the meanest things, which he is
incapable of, such as opening his (Rousseau's)
letters. It 's my firm opinion the poor man is
mad—suspicion is a never-failing attendant on
that disorder. Great genius with strong feelings
is apt to crack the machine, and I sincerely pity
him. I would not have David answer him in
public, and yet I fear he will be obliged to do it.
I am truly glad to get David home again; he's
a very old friend, and I've long had a habit of
liking him and being diverted with him.
TO MR. CHALMERS (a).
7th January 1767.
PEACE be with him, whoever he be, that
causeth the widow's hand to work with ease,
who maketh her paper and wax to abound! His
fame shall be as wide as words of ink can make
it: it shall not depend upon words made of air
that may be frozen or zephyred away as Boreas
or Zephurnia pleases. Lasting as paper, black as
ink, immortal as poets can render it, be the fame
of the Giver of the Gifts of Kings.
(a). — 'Bobby' Chalmers, Mrs. Cockburn's
Brownie,' was a solicitor who lived in Adam's
Buildings, a man of simple but of genuine and
upright character. He appears to have had considerable
means, and to have settled at Musselburgh,
where many letters were addressed to him
by Mrs. Cockburn. His daughter—Mrs. Cockburn's
' sweet Anne Page,'—became Mrs. Mark
Pringle of Clifton, Haining and Fairnilee.
TO MR. ROBERT CHALMERS.
THIS moment I am informed of the heavy
stroke you and Mrs. Chalmers have met
with. I thank God I can shed tears for the
sorrows of others, though I cannot for my own.
I should not say so, for to me it is a real grief to
lose a youth of such promising hopes, uncommonly
blest by nature and by fortune. I have wept for
him. Was he too good, do you think, to be left
to corrupt in this dissipated world? Is it a
favour of Heaven to him, and a chastisement to
us? I hope so I believe so. He is gone uncontaminated
to the God who made him. He
had beauty, parts, and fortune enough to have
made him fearfully corrupted. How happy is it
for him that he is called home early, before his
spirit was sullied by the contagion of the world!
I heartily pity his sisters! Alas! how can trash
compensate for the loss of a friend and brother?
My respects to his grandmother and aunt. I do
not wish them not to feel, but I hope Heaven will
support them under so heavy a stroke.
TO DAVID HUME.
[Addressed to David Hume, Esq., Secretary of State's
Ravelston, 1st June 1767.
I SEND you this, sir, to explain the hint in my
last. It comes by Mr. Keith, who is son to
an intimate friend of mine. He wishes your
countenance and advice in a way of life he is about
to pursue. He will tell you his intentions, and
you will know whether it is in your power to serve
him. I have no doubt of your complying if you
can when I tell you you cannot oblige me more,
nor have an opportunity of serving a more worthy
young man. Pray are we not to see you this
summer? Could you not be of the party with
the five Dutchesses that are to illuminate our
island? I am not in a talkative mood to-day,
which saves you from the trouble of reading four
pages.— I am, dear sir, yours,
I left the walls of Edinburgh yesterday quite
empty. This place belongs to the young gentleman's
father — only two miles from town, as wild
and romantick as the highlands.
TO MR. CHALMERS.
ALAS, your spouse and me never met. The
very day after your Miss Anne did me the
pleasure to drink tea with me, Halbert Duff,
who wanted to carry me west with him, found
out I was in a fever. I had not the sense to find
it out for myself, as I had been ill above a month,
and much deprest in spirit. I took it to be the
state of age approaching, and was setting my
mind to receive its cold approaches. However,
a fever commenced, with all the applications of
bleeding and blistering; and I suppose it was
worse than I apprehended, because Doctor
Rutherfurd came always thrice a day. It confined
me three weeks, and left me a very skeleton.
I am still weak, and eat far too little, but am
come out to fresh air, old friendship, perfect ease,
regular hours, and good milk in my friend's
house, Ravelston. I came here on the Tuesday,
and began to recruit on the road. I exchanged
a bow with your spouse, who was in a chaise. . .
I must find fault with all my countrywomen, who
pay so bad a compliment to my favourite sex
that none of them chooses the sacred hymeneal
tie that can live independent of it. It's really
very strange. I'm clear for burning Sir Charles
Grandison by the hands of the hangman. The
girls are all set agog seeking an ideal man, and
will have none of God's corrupted creatures. I
wonder why they wish for perfection. For my
share I would none on't — it would ruin all my
virtues and all my love. Where would be the
pleasure of mutual forbearance, of mutual forgiveness?
Even as a good housewife, I would
choose my lord and master should have many
faults, because there's so much glory in mending
them. One is prouder of darning an old tablecloth
than of sewing a new one. . . . I must go
walk. I have disobeyed orders by writing so
long a letter. They say I waste myself with
writing; but I deny it, for I think less when I
write than any other time.
TO MISS CUMMING.
I NEVER, I think, passed a busier time than I
have done since we parted. Good weather
and universal acquaintance is a most fatiguing
affair ; but I have little to complain of, since
both body and spirit is able for it all. On
Saturday we had a most tight hopp at Colonel
Harris's, where your friend Mrs. Cockburn
danced like a miss. 'It's a wonder to me that
woman holds out. She has more levity than
any girl of fifteen — would fain be thought
young, I suppose, and no doubt setting out for
a second venture!' 'You are mistaken, madame,
I know that woman perfectly well. It's her
humour to dance, and yours to talk. She will
do as she pleases, and allow you the same
freedom. And for a husband — she has too
great a regard for the male sex to appropriate
any one of them, and too great a regard
to truth to pretend to youth. But, for the
same reason, she will not affect the infirmities
of age; and if her vigour continue, will dance
as frankly with her grandson as with any
man whatever.' Never was any creature in
such spirit and drollery as Suff Johnston that
night — to the great admiration and amusement
of an American lady, who rather looked with the
eyes of wonder than of approbation. . . . Four
times five hours, Mrs. Harriet, did I spend in
the Session House upon the Douglas Cause, and
heard them speak
'About it and about it,
And prove a thing till all men doubt it.'
There's nothing else spoke of in town, and
though I was keen at first I am grown tired of
it. I think, Henn, I am entitled to all your
adventures, and all account of all the works you
have made under the sun, of the candlesticks you
have built and the birds you have drawn, of the
hearts you have won and those you have broke,
and whether Auntie Cowan was right when she
said Hendi Long was to declare himself your
slave with an honourable intention of becoming
your master? All these and much more, with
your dreams of the night and your flights of the
day, I desire may be faithfully transmitted.
These are the works suited to my taste. But
whenever you are idler than a summer fly, draw
me a bold stroke for a pair of ruffles, only the
edge thereof with much show and little work,
and I care not though it he fruits or birds instead
of flowers — for why confine to imitate only one
of the works?
TO MISS CUMMING AND LADY ANNE LINDSAY.
I AM greatly relieved, for I am not so sanguine
as other people to imagine a recovery in
old age after all symptoms of death, and I was
pleased with Mary Baird's idea. I told her
there was some hope last week; she thought a
little and said, 'Well, I'm sorry for it, for it
will he all to do over again — all the grief to them
and pain to him, and how long can it last?' I
thank you for taking me into the room and
letting me see the venerable scene. Your letter
found me in bed this morning, and I shed tears
— a dew Heaven has denied me for real heartaches,
but they come from approbation — it was
indeed gratitude to Heaven for taking away my
patriarch without a pang. I have kissed his cold
cheek — I see him. He liked me, and I truly
respected and admired him. I am happy at his
tranquil death. He was 'a man that, take him
all in all, we shall not see his like again.' Yet
Colin is wonderfully like him. They (Colin
and Robert) drank tea with me yesterday. Do
ye know they are better companions to me than
Sir This or Mr. That? I carried in your letter
to Lady Dumfries (a); and she showed me hers
from Lady Margaret. Jeanie read out your
letter; and, when you imputed the easy passage
to temperance Lady Dumfries' eyes run over,
and she found a lump in her throat. How hard
it is to be yoked to one whom you hope to part
from eternally. She feels it. The news has
thinned the playhouse to-night; the Dalziel
family were going out and did not. Every
proper respect is paid to the remains of our
patriarch. Brutified as Dumfries is, there was a
ball he and his family were asked to. 'Na, na,'
says he, Mrs. Janet, we will see what comes of
our uncle Balcarres first. If we do not respect
the dead, we'll never be respected by the living.'
Jeanie Duff told me this, and said he ought never
to have spoke again. [The conclusion of this letter
is addressed to a daughter of the deceased Earl.]
My dear Lady Anne, your letter I found
to-night when I came from a long tour of sick
people. I am a good deal fatigued with seeing
much distress, though I was comforted with
seeing Mrs. Scott (b). She is really recovering
and very happy. My next scene was a wife
that is sorry she cannot be sorry that her mate
is dying. She is low-spirited, but not grieved.
Grief is a pleasure for an object of worth, but
the pangs the unworthy give to worthy minds
is the bitterness of death. Much have you to
see, much to observe, for you are born with a
mind — which is not so common as we vulgarly
imagine. And alas! much have you to feel!
Look on it early as a nursery where you are to
be whipped into good order and a perfect
acquiescence with the Divine Will. The
Almighty Maker of souls, who has various
methods of restoring them to the divine image
— it is impossible His power can fail — impossible
for His image to he eternally obliterated—
impossible that sin, misery, and discord can be
eternal. Look then on the erring sons of men
as on wretched prisoners, bound in fetters for a
time; but recollect that they are and must be
eternal as well as you, and that in the endless
ages of Eternity they will be restored to order.
This faith, which is sincerely mine, makes me
see things in very different lights from what
others do, and perhaps is the key to my whole
conduct. Clean and unclean are welcome to
me — I know that, with all our thousand errors
flesh is heir to, we will one day be all right.
Death has set me into the other world so far, I
forget this. See that you give your mother some
castor in wine, when she goes to bed. It saved
my brain once, after long fatigue — half-a-teaspoonful,
mixed with her little finger with white
wine, will compose her beyond what ye can
imagine — see it be done. Yes, I will come over.
I am not now the most cheerful companion, but
assure your mother I am a friend. She is
directly a widow at the same year of her life I
was left one.
(a).— Lady Dumfries, half-sister to Lady Balcarres,
whose husband's death is the occasion of
writing. After the death of her first husband,
the Earl of Dumfries and Stair, she married
Alexander, third son of the Earl of Aberdeen.
Jeanie Duff, her sister, became wife to Sir Hugh
Dalrymple of North Berwick.
(b) — Mother of Sir Walter Scott.
TO LADIES ANNE AND MARGARET LINDSAY.
[Same occasion, I768].
THIS has been a useful lesson to you, my
children. Die you must — live you must,
and eternally too, whether you will or not. There
are no precepts for life so eligible or so well-bred
as those Jesus Christ gives in a very few words.
Read what he says — he is the best-natured teacher
you can meet with: he is never angry but at
hypocrites. Had we as great access to the human
heart as he had, would we be as good-natured?
Would we bless those who curse us? Yet to be
his disciples we must do so. Your letter reached
me, Anne, when I was with a friend in the
country. It had everything in it to delight me,
and I read it with pride, for it had that kindness
of heart too, without which all the rest is but
whipped cream. The mother of the family I am
now with was my school companion fifty years
ago. I recommend it to you to lay in these kind
of treasures for old age — they are the coals that,
laid up in summer, keep us warm in winter;
no money can purchase them after the chill of
life begins to creep on. Let kindness therefore
be the moving spring in your souls; it produces
happiness in this world and beatitude in the next.
No matter though you are sometimes cheated and
deceived — that must happen through life. You
will cheat yourself most if you lose that blessed
disposition of which you have so truly the seeds.
The Scripture calls it charity — I call it kindness;
chuse which name you like best, but keep the
thing, my child!
TO DAVID HUME.
[Addressed to David Hume, Esq., Brewers Street,
Castlehill, December 16th, .
MOST satisfactory, dear Phil., is your account
of all your animal functions. God long
preserve thy five wits — for what has a man to do
under the sun but to eat, drink, and be merry?
I also perfectly rejoice at the state of your avarice
and ambition. I really believe Nature, in forming
you, (for ye know God did not make you,) took
such just proportions of matter, and such a due
mixture of passions and appetites as just served
the purpose of one another; and all this you
impute to reason, who has nothing to do in the
matter. Did either avarice or ambition bear
sway, your stomach would not be so good. Who
ever heard of avarice being satisfied before? It
is like the barren field, which sayeth it never hath
enough. And for ambition to wait! — satisfied
avarice, with ambition a waiter at his back, is a
new figure. I wish you would lend this group of
patient passions to the present play-wrights, for
they are run scarce of characters. There is, however,
just one fault in your form, which, if God
had made you, would not have happened; you
want something to preponderate, some moving
principle. And now have I found an occupation
just suited to me. I durst not try to mend my
Maker's works, but surely the works of Nature
may be turned as I please. And to show you I
was not slow about making you descend from
your Parisian, your Engloisian, your Bathate
schemes, I went over that moment to the house
you mentioned; it has a good prospect, and a
bad, a very bad, aspect. It has a bank of earth
before it and the sun, — no windows to the west,
— nothing but the cold north, with distant views
of verdure and sunshine, which it can never hope
to partake of. In short, I would as soon be the
soul of an unburied sinner wandering about the
river Styx, as live in these houses. They have
one poor parlour, and a tolerable room off a floor.
£73! I would not take one of them gratis,
unless it was for my son's sake; it would save
him a jointure in a year's time. Now, mind you
must not let Allan know who writes you this
account; for I dare say you would not willingly
make me an enemy. In reality, they are had
unwholesome houses (a). But I have a great
mind to determine your motions by fixing you
in George Street [? Square], where two excellent
houses are to be let or sold.
You have no notion of our city now; it has
expanded itself prodigiously; these houses lie in
the eye of the sun, just by the Meadow, of easy
access for carriages; and will have markets, and
every thing convenient, even a chapel! You have
many acquaintances in that street, — the Carres;
Brown, Eliston; Pringle, Crichton; Mrs. Carr,
Cavers; Captain Napier and his wife, your
cousin, etc. Cousin Baird has advertised all this
land to sell; and, as we will probably be to flit,
I would think of your little house if I were not
determined against the north side of the town,
Now I think on't, I will take Scott of Harden's
house for you directly; it has garden, coachhouse,
etc. etc., and then your avarice will speak
of itself. I shall also secure you in a wife, without
putting you to any trouble about resolving.
Make ye friends with Lord Monbodo? no, that's
out of my power (b): I have not now such influence
with him as I have had; but I can teach
you a way to bring it about when you come down.
Manager's box in the playhouse; Mrs. Ross;
Cards; not play at cards? Goodness! how little
you know of our world. Dear man, you can be
member of the Capilaire, and then have Sunday
set apart for that and topeing (c), besides parties
all the week long. I confess the ladies are still
backward in that article, which is owing either
to that jade Fortune, or these days' husbands, I
can't tell which. But no fear, come along; bring
you vices we shall find objects for them. As for
the Godly, there is not one here. They are all
gone to England to Whitefield and Wesley.
Even Peggy Kyle is now a candlemaker, and
not a preacher. All, all are worshippers of
Mammon. I am to dine with Baron Mure tomorrow,
and shall remember you. The Baron
is quite sober, and Mrs. Mure drinks hard; every
thing is changed since you were here — quite
topsy-turvy. I am grown a laddier. I hate
any man that's above sixteen: your Joseph is
one of my greatest Joes. There's young Balcarres,
young Culloden, young Newton Don,
young Crichton, and many more; they are by
far the finest company (d).
I intend going to East Lothian some time in
the holidays to see poor Sir Hew Dalrymple and
cousin Baird. You see I have answered all your
commissions faithfully. I want the size, complexion,
age, and fortune of your wife. Send me
that and the thing is done. Your house is taken,
and we expect you in April, the gowk season.
I wish you could send me Bogle's Black Rod
pamphlet; I can't get it. Pray be good to poor
Rousseau. You are a good Christian after all.
It was jealousy alone, and over affection for you,
that put him mad.
List of your friends: Chas. St. Clair and family
happy with a grandson. Carres, elegant, well,
and easy. Lord Alemoor in the gout. Jock
Swinton (who is proud of your remembrance) is
well, sober, and diligent. Adam never writes;
I am angry at him just now; but I know what
he waits for — La. Balcarres and her lovely lasses
in town for the winter. The town is too big,
and I am the reverse of you; I am grown too
little, and hide myself in my own shell. I am,
yours faithfully, A. COKBURNE.
(a) .— The house to which Mrs. Cockburn had
such violent objection was in Ramsay Gardens.
'I had taken,' wrote Hume in 1769, 'one of
Allan Ramsay's houses, but gave it up again on
the representation of some of my friends in Edinburgh,
who said that a house on the north side
of a high hill in the 56th degree of latitude could
not be healthful. But I now repent it, though
I have my old house to retreat to till I get a
better.' There is a friendly familiarity in the
mention of 'Allan,' which speaks well for the
terms on which the son of the poet of The Gentle
Shepherd stood with both lady and philosopher.
(b). — James Burnett, Lord Monboddo, one of
the most eccentric and most learned judges that
ever sat upon the Scottish Bench. The very
night of his return from college in Holland, half
undressed and with his nightcap on his head, he
was carried along with a dense mob and compelled
to witness the hanging of Porteous in the Grassmarket.
It was the Douglas Cause that first
brought him into prominence; and, after serving
as Sheriff of Kincardine, he was raised to the
bench in 1767 — just the year before Hume
appears to have asked Mrs. Cockburn to promote
their friendship. In his work on the origin of
language, Lord Monboddo, anticipating the theory
of evolution, maintained that men were derived
from monkeys and once had tails — an opinion
then hailed with derision. His wife, a Miss
Farquharson, related to Marischal Keith, possessed
great beauty and accomplishments, which were
enhanced in her daughter Elizabeth, in whom
they evoked the admiration of Burns (see p. 188).
She refused many an eligible offer that she might
devote herself to the care and comfort of her
father. Very fond of horseback, the judge had
a great contempt for carriages; and often, when
leaving Court on a rainy day, he would walk
home on foot, hiring a sedan-chair for his wig.
Nearly every year he used to ride up and down
to London, where he was treated with great distinction,
the King, it was said, finding much
pleasure in his conversation.
(c). — The Capillaire Club 'was composed of
all those who were inclined to be witty and
joyous,' and in 1774 had nearly 200 ladies and
gentlemen of the first distinction at its annual
ball, the Duchess of Douglas and Mrs. Scott of
Balcomie making a most brilliant appearance.
Mrs. Scott's jewels alone were estimated above
£30,000. Mr. Hill Burton's uncharitable surmise
that the Capillaire was 'some very wicked
club then in existence in Edinburgh' is pleasantly
refuted by its gift, that same year, of twenty
guineas to the Charity Workhouse.
(d). — Alexander, Earl of Balcarres, had just
succeeded to the title on the death of his father,
20th February 1768. Young Culloden was son
of Lord President Forbes. Young Newton-Don
was probably Alexander, who succeeded as fifth
Baronet in 1773, and whose two young daughters
were drowned in the Eden in 1795. Young
Crichton was Mark, grandson of the duellist
Mark Pringle of Haining, who bought Crichton
in Midlothian after his return from a long and
adventurous exile. Young Mark never succeeded
to Crichton, his father, John Pringle, having to
sell it on becoming bankrupt.
TO MR. CHALMERS.
HEAVEN'S best guardians attend my dear
Browny. I am not very well, not very
ill. If you can cure two-score and seventeen you
may do so, but I am indifferent; I sincerely
rejoice that the wife of my Browny's bosom is
preserved to him, and to me, and to all who love
and value — I won't say what. You ask my
commands. I order you to bid Peggy Crawfurd
court Adam Cockburn. I am far from certain
that she would succeed, but it will be very
honourable, and he will refuse her genteelly, or
take her kindly, and truly sans jointures and all
the et-ceteras of the present times. If you find
time, a letter will be a regale to — Your friend,
TO MISS CUMMING.
I HAD just now a visit from the Soph (a),
whose absence I see will give you no pain.
How comes it that so few tempers can mix in
society — in any intimate society? Alas, how
will we make a part in that grand chorus of
Eternal Harmony if we carry with us so many
discordant strings? But may we hope that death
will set us free from a thousand prejudices and
passions that flesh is heir to? Much reason have
to hope what it is so much my interest to believe;
and yet I thank God, my passions are not of the
discordant kind. Though I suffer more by affection
than those who feel only for themselves, I am
content to take the lot God sends us as patiently
as I can: yet there is a Magosis (?) in my fate
somewhat uncommon — I have the fate of losing
friends in such various ways that it is wonderful.
If God intends my heart to be entirely devoted
to Him, oh may He soon make it so! But
perhaps the divorce from what it loves best is
(a).— Miss Sophia Johnstone, daughter of the
Laird of Hilton, who persuaded his wife to let
the girl grow up 'a child of nature,' absolutely
without education, which, he said, was all nonsense.
After being called in jest Hilton's 'natural'
daughter, in a few years she passed bonâ fide for
his illegitimate child. 'I scarce think,' says Lady
Anne Lindsay, 'that any system of education
could have made this woman one of the fair sex.
Nature seemed to have entered into the jest,
and hesitated to the last whether to make her a
boy or a girl. Her taste led her to hunt with her
brothers, to wrestle with the stable-boys, and to
saw wood with the carpenter. She worked well
in iron, could shoe a horse quicker than the smith,
made excellent trunks, played well on the fiddle,
sang a man's song in a bass voice, and was by
many people suspected of being one. She learnt
to write of the butler, at her own request, and
had a taste for reading which she greatly improved.
She came to spend a few months with my mother
soon after her marriage; and at the time I am
speaking of had been with her thirteen years,
making Balcarres her headquarters.' Between
Soph and Miss Cumming there was unquenchable
dislike. Sir Walter Scott, writing in 1823 to
Lady Anne, says: 'Well do I remember Soph's
jockey coat, masculine stride, strong voice, and,
occasionally, round oath. I remember also many
of her songs, for example —
"Eh! quo' the tod, it's a braw licht nicht,
The wind's i' the west and the mune shines bricht," etc.
Moreover, did I not see her kick my poor sister's
shins under the card-table at Mrs. Cockburn's
for moving her feet in some way inconvenient
to the said Soph, who added at the same time to
her pedestrian correction this exclamation (how
acceptable to a miss in her teens your ladyship
may believe), "What is the lassie wabster, wabster,
wabstering that gate for?" In short, I saw this
extraordinary original both at home and at Mrs.
Cockburn's, and am like to laugh even now whenever
I think of her.' Poor Soph had a miserable
ending. A sceptic, without hope, 'but not without
terror,' she lived to extreme old age, and latterly
in great misery through penuriousness, her first
salutation to visitors being always, 'What hae ye
brocht, what hae ye brocht?' — stretching out her
skinny arm to receive the offering.
TO MISS CUMMING.
OF all the sounds I ever heard (and my soul
has soared to heaven before now), of all the
sounds I ever heard, Colonel Reed's flute — well,
it is amazing the powers of it. It thrills to your
very heart. He plays in any taste you please and
composes what he plays. You know my taste is
the penseroso, and so it is his. He played me five
acts of a tragedy that went to my heart, and I
spoke in to myself all the words of it. I would
not let him speak the epilogue. You must hear
him, Sylph. O how I regretted your absence
to-night, but here is a letter will bring harmony
enough to you. My niece Clerk (d 2, p. 27)
was so good as entertain me with Colonel Reed
to-night (a). He is a gentle, melancholy, tall, well-bred,
lean man; and, for his flute, it speaks all
languages. But those sounds that come from the
heart to the heart — I never could have conceived it.
It had a dying fall — I was afraid I could not bear
it when I heard it perfectly. I can think of
nothing but that flute, so good-night, good Sylph.
(a). — Afterwards General Reid, who left
£5,000 to found a Chair of Music in Edinburgh
TO MISS CUMMING.
ON Wednesday I gave a ball. How do ye
think I contrived to stretch out this house
to hold twenty-two people, and had nine couple
always dancing? Yet this is true; it is also true
that we had a table covered with divers eatables
all the time, and that everybody eat when they
were hungry and drank when they were dry, but
nobody ever sat down. I think my house, like
my purse, is just the widow's cruse. I must tell
you my party of dancers. Captain Bob Dalrymple
was king of the ball, as it was his bespeaking.
Tell Lady Balcarres that. As a nephew
she will take delight in him: he is my first
favourite. Well, for men, there was Bob and
Hew, young men both; Peter Inglis; a Mr.
Bruce, a lawyer; then Jock Swinton and Jock
Turnbull. Then, for women, there were Tibbie
Hall, my two nieces (Miss Rutherfurds — Nannie
and Peggie), Agnes Keith, Christy Pringle, Babie
Carnegie, Christy Anderson, Jeanie Rutherford.
Mrs. Mure and Violy Pringle (b, p. 104) came and
danced a reel and went off. Now for our dance.
Our fiddler sat where the cupboard is, and they
danced in both rooms; the table was stuffed
into the window and we had plenty of room.
It made the bairns all vastly happy. Next day
I went to the Assembly with all these misses.
Never was so handsome an Assembly. There
were seven sets — one all quality ladies and all
handsome; one called the maiden set, for they
admitted no married women; one called the
heartsome set, which was led off by Lady Christian
Erskine, in which danced Mrs. Horn, Suff Johnston,
Anne Keith. Bess St. Clair and Lady Dunmore
humbly begged to be admitted to stand at
the foot, which was granted. Suff was my bedfellow
all night, and is just gone.
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS (a).
[Address. — For Mr. Douglas, Minister of the
Gospel at Galashiels, to the Care of Lady
Fairnilee, with a parcel.]
Crichton Street [Edinburgh], 22nd March 1773.
SIR, — I have at last made good my promise
of sending you Mr. Davison's letters.
They will show you, whatever I am now, I was
then honour'd with the friendship of a real saint,
for such he was, as much as mortal infirmitys
could permit (b). There is 17 letters which you
may give in charge to Lady Fairnilee, when you
are done with them. I'm sure you people in
the country will be enjoying a perfect new
pleasure, for I believe none living ever saw such
a March befor. You will not even envy me the
pleasure I lately had of supping in company with
Mrs. Yates, who in her own proper character
is a sensible, lively, well-bred woman (c). The
good weather and sermon week has thin'd the
town pretty much, but I feel no blanks in my
village yet. Wishing you everything that 's
realy good for you, I am, sir, your most
humble servant, AL. COKBURNE.
Note on margin of outer leaf — There's to be
a Tradgedy exhibited in the Grass Market tomorrow
for the benefit of the storemasters (d).
(a). — The Reverend Robert Douglas, minister
of Galashiels from 1770 to 1820, was born in
1746 at Kenmore, of which parish his father was
minister before his translation to Jedburgh. Dr.
Somerville, in his Life and Times, records that
Mr. Douglas was considered to owe his presentation
to Jedburgh to his successful exertions in
preventing Kenmore parishioners from joining
the Pretender in 1745, and tells a story much
to his honour. He had been introduced to the
Duke of Cumberland as a man who had done the
state some service, and the Duke promised to
take the first opportunity of rewarding him. A
short time afterwards, hearing that two or three
men of his parish had been seized with arms in
their hands, and were about to be executed,
Mr. Douglas rode more than 20 miles to the
Duke's headquarters to remind him of his
promise, and offering to abandon any personal
claim on his favour if the men's lives were
spared. After an obstinate struggle, he succeeded
in his object, and was not himself a loser by his
generosity. The Jedburgh congregation, strongly
prejudiced in favour of the youngest son of
Boston of Ettrick, author of the Fourfold State,
and already successful in rejecting one presentee
of Lord Lothian, made strenuous efforts to prevent
the settlement of Mr. Douglas, urging he
was disqualified by an unrepealed Act of Assembly
expressly prohibiting the removal to the Lowlands
of any settled minister 'having Irish' — that is,
able to speak Gaelic! All objections, however,
were repelled by the Assembly, and Mr. Douglas,
who had been nominated by the Earl of Breadalbane
with consent of the Marquis of Lothian,
was ordained in 1758. This gave rise to a
large secession, called by the name of Relief,
under Mr. Boston. The magistrates shamefully
prostituted their authority to render Mr.
Douglas's incumbency unpleasant, but his uncommon
prudence and agreeable manners had a
visible effect in blunting the edge of opposition,
and restoring the good temper of the parish.
His son, Robert Douglas, minister of Galashiels,
Mrs. Cockburn's constant correspondent from
1773 until her death in 1794, married Robina,
daughter of Edward Lothian, jeweller, Edinburgh,
and had issue — George, merchant in Glasgow;
Helen, wife of Rev. John Thomson of Maxton;
Arabella, who died in Edinburgh in 1876; and
Beatrice; besides others who died in infancy.
To Mr. R. D. Thomson of Edinburgh and Mr.
J. S. Thomson of Carlisle (Dr. Douglas's grandson
and great-grandson) the public are indebted
for the preservation of Mrs. Cockburn's letters,
and for liberty to print them in these pages.
Dr. Douglas, who sold the first acres of Abbotsford
to Sir Walter Scott, and enjoyed the intimate
friendship of the author of Waverley, was the
'reverend minister' to whom Scott addressed
'Paul's Letter' on religion in France. Belonging
to the Broad or Moderate section of the Church,
devoid of bigotry, and taking a large view of his
duty, he looked upon all his parishioners, churchfolk
or dissenters, as having claims upon him both
spiritual and temporal. When the nascent woollen
trade of the town was in great difficulties, he freely
advanced assistance from his private means — an
evidence of generosity and public spirit which was
deeply appreciated. The year before his death
Dr. Douglas was presented by the now prosperous
manufacturers with a silver cup (still in Mr.
Thomson's possession) on which was engraved a
poetic dedication by that Galashiels Laureate
who, to Sir Walter's inarticulate delight, used to
refer to himself and the Last Minstrel as we
Hail, rev'rend Doctor. Dearer still
Now when thy light is all down hill!
There was a time, and not far gone,
When you stood forth, and stood alone;
When our frail bark was tempest-tost,
And neared the shallow, rocky coast,
Thou cheer'd the crew! A fav'ring gale
Auspicious fills the swelling sail;
The vessel stands again to sea,
And rides the waves triumphantly!
So, in the Autumn of thy days,
Accept our gratitude and praise,
To cheer thee in thy latter end!
Our Guide, our Pastor, and our Friend!
Besides a pamphlet on Oaths in 1783, Mr
Douglas wrote a statistical account of Galashiels
Parish in 1790, and in 1798 A Survey of the
Agriculture of Roxburghshire and Selkirkshire, for
which he was admirably qualified. He is also
credited with having written a memoir of John
Logan, the Scots minister-poet, for an edition
of his poems published in 1812. From the
University of Aberdeen he received the degree
of D.D. in 1797.
(b). — The Rev. Henry Davidson, though lacking
the virile strength in mind and body of his
successor, Dr. Douglas, was a remarkable man
enough. Born in 1687, he was ordained minister
of Galashiels in 1714. Thirteen years later
much against the wishes of her family, he married
Katherine, the amiable and accomplished daughter
of Sir James Scott of Gala by his wife Euphame,
daughter of Sir William Douglas of Cavers; but
she died in childbirth a twelvemonth after the
wedding. It was a stroke he never got over,
He secluded himself from society, never permitting
himself to allude to what had happened,
He was the last survivor of 'the Twelve Apostles'
who protested against the General Assembly's conREV.
After Sir Henry Raeburn, R.A.
demnation of the Marrow of Modern Divinity;
but after the death of his friend Boston of Ettrick,
he cooled in his devotion to government by presbytery,
and became an 'Independent' in everything
short of his retention of the benefice.
About 1735 he actually discontinued administering
the Sacrament, and used to go down to
Maxton on Sunday evenings to join in the Communion
of a small body of seceding Congregationalists!
Although he paid no attention to
Church Courts of any kind, his co-presbyters
not only refrained from prosecuting, but connived
with his people, who would not hear of him
giving up his charge when he expressed his
willingness to do so. A collection of his Letters
to Christian Friends was published in 1811,
prefaced by a memoir which must have been
written by Dr. Douglas, who takes care to dissociate
himself from approval of every expression
and sentiment in the letters. Truth to say, they
are almost hysterically evangelical, and carry self-depreciation
and spiritual humiliation to a point
hardly compatible with robust intelligence. He
was a great reader of books of all kinds, and 'at
one time was so fond of reading, he rose at three
in the morning' (see page 173, and Selkirkshire,
(c). — Mrs. Yates was born in London of Scots
parents, her father being a well-to-do sea-captain,
who gave her an excellent education. Of surpassing
beauty, tall and commanding in figure,
with a full, clear, and mellifluous voice, together
with a well-cultivated taste and judgment, Mrs.
Yates had few superiors on the stage — not excepting
even Mrs. Siddons herself. For her performances
in Edinburgh she was in 1785 paid
one hundred guineas a night, although then 57
years of age. 'Though accustomed to the highest
circles, possessed of a fortune realised by her own
talents, and standing high in the applause of the
world, she was remarkable for simplicity and the
absence of everything like professional affectation'
(Kay's Portraits, ii. 206).
(d). — Storemaster = tenant of a sheep-farm.
Two men were hanged for sheep-stealing in the
Grassmarket on 24th March 1773.
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
Crichton Street, 13th March 1774.
THANK you, sir, for your entertaining
account of the cruel hunt. I am heartily
glad the noble animal had his revenge on one
of the two-footed brutes who used him ill. It
was fine his dyeing and nicking them out of their
intended barbarity (a). Tell Lady Fairnilee I'm
surprised at her want of politesse to our cousin
Duke (b) — she ought to have sent her fox in a
bag for his amusement. Indeed, if I had been
in spirits at the time, I had determined to send
her a card from his Grace, beging the favour, but
Mrs. Home's death put all sports out of my
head. I enclose you a simple epitaph with no
merit but truth in it. I have not been in the
playhouse, nor in any house but my own and the
house of prayer, this winter; but heard everybody
delighted with Foot's Nabob (c). This
night they play Size Stoops to Conquer. I have
seen a very good new comedy lately — The School
for Wives; but just now it's unfashionable to
read anything but Lord Kaims (d). I hope when
you had the power of making the Duke hear,
that you pour'd in salutary words. He has to
all accounts very good dispositions, generous
humane, with perfect good manners, but an
unlucky reserve of temper, and a bashfulness
that hurts him. This is the character I get
from all who know him. He wants but a good
wife to compleat him. I am glad to hear Gala
has got a son; I heartily wish them joy (e).
And maidens may
Rew sore the day,
Plums not to get —
E'en tho' so fit.
(If ever you saw greater
nonsense, you have been
Thank ye for rebuses — had not Miss Mary
Pringle explained, my numscul had puzzled to
no purpose. Keep these letters till I see you
at Tweedside, and believe me, sir, your friend
(a). — A stag, attracted by oat sheaves set out
for sheep during an exceptionally severe winter,
having been caught at Middlestead, near Selkirk,
it was resolved by the gentlemen of the county
to revive in Ettrick Forest the ancient glories of
the chase. While penned in a barn, it sprang
at a man who was cruelly ill-using it, goring
him with its antlers so that he died in a few
days. With its feet tied, the stag was carried
ignominiously in a cart to Midlem, where the
Laird of Gala was waiting with his hounds. It
made a splendid run, but was caught up near
Ettrick Bridge, so lame that it could not be
kept for another hunt, as the sportsmen had
(b). — Probably John, 3rd Duke of Roxburgh
(the book collector), who died 1804, aged 64, and
unmarried. Mrs. Cockburn's mother was a
(c). — On this occasion Foote came from Dublin
to perform seven nights, for which he received
£250. Once when driven back by a snowstorm
from Erickstane to Moffat, Foote was amazed to
find on the panel of his carriage a scrap of poetry
in which the spirit of the North-wind was represented
as exclaiming —
'Let not one foot, tis my behest, profane
The sacred snows which lie on Erickstane.'
With the author of the jeu d'esprit, Mr. M'Culloch
of Ardwell, Foote was soon on genial terms, and
never afterwards visited Scotland without spending
an evening or two with him and his friends, at
Springfield on Leith Walk.
(d). — Henry Home took the title of his paternal
estate of Kames on being elevated to the Bench.
Scholar, litterateur, philosopher, judge — and in
all these capacities entitled to respect — Lord
Kames had a vein of what was then considered
rough eccentricity, but would now he called a very
different name. Nothing is more amazing than
the number of eminent Senators of the Scots Court
of Justice at that time who, with much mental
culture and refinement, showed the utmost coarseness
in speech and behaviour. Amongst his
lordship's singularities, which were not a few, was
his constant use of a certain word, which he used
freely even on the bench. James Boswell pillories
it in his Court of Session Garland —
Alemoor the judgment as illegal blames,
''Tis equity, you b—h,' replies Lord Kames.
A week or so before his death, after bidding a
solemn adieu to all his fellow-judges, he turned
round at the door, took a last look at his sorrowing
brethren, and exclaimed, 'Fare ye a' weel, ye
b—s.' Yet nothing could be more touching
or dignified than his last words to an old friend:
'I feel that I am dying. I leave this world in
peace and good-will to all mankind. You know
the dread I had of outliving my faculties; of that
I trust there is now no probability, my body
decays so fast.' He died in 1782, in his 87th
year; but of all his numerous works, so much
run after in Mrs. Cockburn's time, not one is now
read save by an occasional student of the age in
which he lived. It was probably his Sketches of the
History of Man, published in 1774, that was setting
Edinburgh agog when Mrs. Cockburn wrote.
(e). — John Scott of Gala, who married Anne,
only daughter of Colonel M'Dougall of Makerston.
It was their third son, John, whose birth
is here noted. Mrs. Cockburn's doggerel seems
to cover some obscure allusion to the Sour Plums
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
Sunday night, 6 o'clock, 7th day of the year .
THERE certainly can be no sin in writing to
a divine on that day appointed for men
to rest from labour and to acknowledge their
Maker. . . . As I am a sort of universal Christian,
not violently wedded to any sect whatever, I am
not much against Confession, though I despise a
mortal's absolution. . . . Let us drop this to trifle
a little. Your forrest pack is well described. I
do not like your Deer so well — any wit upon
infirmity and disease I disapprove of. The Highlander
is good. Is it decent to make our member
a horn planter? our judge a drammer? Neither
is true. It is me, I suppose, whom Cupid makes
follow the judge — poor fellow, he has no connection
with our affairs. By the by, it is always alleged
that women and clergymen are aptest to abuse one
another. How should that happen, think ye? —
with the weak pious sex, as David Hume calls us,
or with you teachers of brotherly love? . . . I
am to have with me to-night Lady Don, her son
and daughter, her brother Charles and his wife,
with Miss Murray; and my addition to their
party is my niece Anne, nephew Mark, and
Captain Pringle — a most happy group of lovers.
For all of them are lovers, for which cause I love
them all. It is perfectly delightful to see Charles
Murray and his wee sweet wifie. He loves her
with that sacred sweet affection that may be seen
by men and angels; and she looks to him as
wishing still to please him more, or guess which
way to do it. Lady Don's delight in them and
in her own children warms every heart ; and
good Peggy Murray, mother to a large family
(including her own mother), has the cheerfulness
of a life well spent in every look. You know
the merits of our own boy and girl, so I need not
say I have the best of company, much better'd by
Captain Pringle's humour, who has a great deal.
I send you a sheet wrote by a brother clergyman,
with a view of Captain Pringle's house drawn
upon it, and his machine for travelling on ice. . . .
Monday, 6 at night. Our company last night
pleasant as I hoped. You will not think this
morning's visitors inferior when I tell you I
had Mr. Brown, minister, Miss Balderston, Mrs.
David Dalrymple, and Miss Chisholm. . . . I
expect Pringle of Crichton and his family — tomorrow
makes his son major. I go to solemnize
the festival. Years slip on. I cried for joy when
his mother was born! I never cried for her
death! I see your Sir Robert Fletcher is married.
So is Willie Hope (thank God), and my nephew
Charles Inglis was his best man. . . I wonder
whether I will send you a lobster or a lady's
pocket-book for your New Year gift? . . .
Cherish your mother, love your sister, and your
friend, AL. COKBURNE.
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
7th February 1775.
To be sure, Love, which means the same thing
with charity, covereth a multitude of faults.
It's likely enough I thought your last a very
pretty letter on account of its being illuminated
by that brightness. This vile storm has prevented
Laird and Lady from making out their jaunt,
which I regret much, as we have a very busy
town at present. Dancing-assembly, playhouse,
Concert, and Kirk — I have not seen Edinburgh
so gay these 20 years. It's very certain Major
Fletcher is married to a Miss Hunter. He was
at his father's house at that time, but whether he
is there or gone to London now I know not.
For your other question I know Miss Rattray a
little, a fine girl she is. She is an intimate friend
of Jeanie Rutherfurd's, the Doctor's daughter (a).
I knew her also with her cousin Mrs. Horn,
where she stayed very often. She is not handsome;
but a modest, genteel girl. I think I'm
entitled to know why you wish to be introduced
to her; and if your reasons are satisfactory it may
be brought about by Jeany Ruth[erfurd].
(a). — Within a year Miss Jeany Rutherfurd,
aunt of Sir Walter Scott, was married to Colonel
Wm. Russell of Ashiestiel.
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
29 Mch., [about 1775].
THANK you, dear sir, for your amendments
of me — it is your office to mend us; and,
so far from being averse to being mended, I
really am willing, and that, they say, is a great
point! I am very certain that no woman ought
to write anything but from the heart to the heart;
never for the public eye without male correction.
And I am very proud to see my thoughts ranged
into proper order. . . . I could never show them,
they were so naked. You must know, my feelings
and ideas are so strong and so swift they
run away upon paper without once asking me
leave. I never in my life thought a moment
on what I was to write; and I never read over
what I write. . . . I have often been vexed that
the sentiments of the mind and feelings of the
heart are obliged to wear the heavy garb of
sylabs, monosylabs, verbs, nouns, and trash that
torment youth to learn, and which I am certain
is of no use among our elder brothers of the
Creation, the Angels. I don't know how they
discourse; but sure I am it is not in many words,
which is a wearyness to the spirit. You will see
I am confin'd to females much at present. By
the by, I've just looked at your criticism of something
you call inaccurate. It is my placing mind
before bone. Now certainly unless our facultys
ride as our parliaments used to do — the youngest
foremost — I gave the preference to that I esteemed
most. It is, however, a gross error now I think
on't, for we certainly have bone before we
have mind: and you have placed them right.
Besides, it sounds better, and I like sound!
There is a spring weather might inspire any
mortal whose mind was not overcast! But it's
hard. The gloom thickens as we grow less able
to bear its baleful influence. Age has only one
hope and many fears. Adieu, dear sir, you shall
be my old wife when I write.
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
28th January 1776.
SUNDAY morning, 6 o'clock — 14 days and 3
hours since the death of Lord Alemoor (a).
I thank you, dear sir, for your consolatory paper.
It is well written: if it were worse, or even indifferent,
still should I be grateful for your
friendly attention. I sent it to Miss Pringle (b),
and will surely send it with this to Fairnilee. I am,
sir, a veteran in sorrow. No human heart was
ever more fortunate than mine in its warmest
connexions. The accidental friends of my youth
(which can have no judgement for a proper
election) have been what my most mature judgement
would have glory'd in acquiring, had the
acquisition been to make. When you are told I
survived my lover, my Husband and guide of
my youth, and after him the brother of my heart,
nearest in age to myself, you will think it a
wonder I need consolation! My heart should be
petrify'd, or purify'd beyond the feelings of griefe
or any other passion! But I'm not so constituted.
God did not make me either a saint
or a stone. In loseing Lord Alemoor I have
lost the friend and early companion of both those
friends, and my greatest support under these
losses. His superior understanding knew how to
overcome as well as his tenderness knew how
to sooth the passions. He wished me to rely on
his friendship, and I did so. I have no extravagant
passions of griefe to conquer. I saw and
embraced his cold clay with the same feeling that
I kneel before my God. I neither need reason
nor religion to support this loss. Both of them
teach me what I have lost. The more I am
mistress of my reason the more I feel my want.
There lyes by me a book which he commissioned
partly at my desire, and some transcripts of it
in the reviews pleased him. It was the last
book was read to him, for that was the constant
amusement in the gout-bed. Half the first volume
we heard read and observed upon. I have read
the second. It is my only amusement, but when I
come to anything pleases me, how much do I feel!
I remember every observation, not now, but 20
years back, for much his sisters and I had of that
amusement with him. There was at Haining an
old firr tree I had known for 40 years; it made
the house smoak; it was cut down; I cry'd for
it. One hates to loss an object they are accustom'd
to, even the old and useless. What is
it then to loss a 40 years' friend with all his great
facultys fresh and entire, one on whose wisdom
and counsel you could depend! Under the
shadow of his wing you sat safe and sheltered
from the storm; and it appears to me as if light,
heat, and air were taken from me. Indeed, his
influence was great and beneficent. It's amazing
to see the combinations he made. This is a very
general observation. But I lose my own sorrows
in that of his sisters. Next year is my grand
climaterick, so it's probable the separation will
not be long. He has left a brother worthy of being
his brother (c). In every word and action he is
what hearts could wish but few could hope. A
good symptom that an idea of virtue and worth
still remains in this dissolute, licentious age (when
hardly any one that dyes escapes being hawk'd
through the streets in ridiculous Elegy) is when
the Funeral went up, the whole Canongate was
lined with people in the attitude of Sorrow, and
not a word, but deepest silence. You are too
young, sir, yet to know what it is to part with
the companions of your youth and the friends of
your age. We must submit to it as we must to
death, however abhorrent to our nature. And
when we know that 'must' is imposed upon us
by the God who made and therefore loves us, we
submit the better. Adieu! May you be as
happy in your friends through life as I have
been, whatever the parting cost you! I would
rather be the friend of the deceast Lord Alemoor
as Empress of Russia.
(a). — Andrew Pringle, Lord Alemoor, was the
eldest son of John Pringle, Lord Haining, and a
nephew of Mark, who killed Scott of Raeburn in
1707. After having filled the offices of Sheriff
of Selkirk and Solicitor-General, he became a
Lord of Session, taking for his title that part of
the paternal estate which was in ancient times held
by the Achilmeres of that ilk for a broad arrow
head at the feast of the Elevation of the Holy
Cross in the royal hunts at Ettrick Forest. 'Lord
Alemoor' had been an alternative title of the
Earl of Tarras, the object of whose marriage to
the heiress of Buccleuch, while they were yet boy
and girl, was foiled by the lady's early death.
(See History of Selkirkshire, i. 427, ii. 309.) 'His
abilities as a lawyer, and his integrity as a judge,
have long been admired. His decisions were the
result of deliberate consideration, founded on law,
tempered with equity; and his opinions were
delivered in such an easy flow of eloquence, and
with such dignity of expression as captivated
every hearer and commanded attention' (Senators
of College of Justice, 523).
(b). — Probably Lord Alemoor's sister, Violet
Pringle, who died on the 21st April 1821, aged
ninety-six — a lady of marked individuality of
character, well brought out in her portrait by
Raeburn, here reproduced.
(c). — John Pringle, then M.P. for Selkirkshire,
a bachelor like his brother, Lord Alemoor.
TO MR. CHALMERS.
AS I had a warning bell in the shape, or rather
sound, of a cough lately, a day in bed put
me in remembrance of all I ought to do beneath
the sun before I went above it. Amongst the
rest I remembered my promise to you, and in
doing so remembered with some satisfaction that
I never broke a promise in all my long life. No
doubt you would think yourself greatly obliged
to me if in my last will I bequeathed you some
hundreds of the King's image in gold or paper —
how much more are you obliged to me for send
ing you the soul of a man (a), superior to all
after Sir Henry Raeburn
kings for real worth and native humour! If I
were not certain that you will truly value the
gift, you should not have it. No, indeed, for I
much value them; and so you may see by the way
I dispose of them. While my friends flourished
around me, I was a conceited creature. I set a
value on myself because they did, and I thought
them perfect judges. Now I find it was mere
partiality. My value is sunk as they disappeared.
John Aikman's affection, tenderness, and sympathy
for me surpassed the love of women! The
pleasing big tear to his memory only allows me
to bid you adieu. Continue to be as benevolent
as he was. Adieu!
(a). — Her early love, who died just after she was
married, but before she was nineteen, and whose
memory and letters she appears to have guarded
through all the years of her happy married life.
That she made no secret of her early attachment
is evident from her pathetic reference in a letter
to David Hume (page 55). 'Bring Rousseau
here. O bring him with you! I am sure he is
like my John Aikman.'
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
MY good father confessor, you almost reconcile
me to a part of my creed in which I have
ever been very defective. I believe some Hell
must be; yet creatures who come here without
their own consent, and whose existence in iniquity
cannot last above 70 years, the first and last ten
being an O — that even Banker Fordyce (a) should
be through all eternity a miserable villain is
against my ideas of Almighty power and Almighty
justice and goodness. . . . Here is the very
finest spring day ever I saw. I could enjoy it
in the country; but here when I go out I am
in the midst of my creditors. I owe visits to
everybody, and cannot think of paying, I am
such a bankrupt. I hate visiting, unless the sick
or sorry, or to dine and sup with the hospitable
and merry. . . . The English patriots are afraid
of putting the sword into the hands of the Scots.
They endeavour to blast our loyal laurels and
call our zeal for government unconstitutional.
Who would be a British King? His firm friends
are traitors, his rebellious subjects patriots and
supporters of Liberty. Great drumming and
piping here — but men very scarce. If you had
seen the beautiful eyes and red lips of her who
read your letter last night with approbation, you
would have been undone. Good-night.
(a). — One of an Aberdeen family of 21 children,
Alexander Fordyce attained unenviable celebrity
as the cause of one of the most disastrous financial
collapses ever experienced in Great Britain, involving
not only himself but many others in
irretrievable ruin. He took advantage of his high
reputation to draw not only the public but his
relatives into trusting him, with the result that
many families were plunged into poverty, one
brother driven to death, and another to insanity.
It was, however, the hapless fate that overtook
his wife, Lady Margaret Lindsay of Balcarres,
which most aroused the anger of her old friend
Mrs. Cockburn. 'Beauty and grace formed her
figure,' says her sister Lady Anne. Her conversation
was as gay as enlightened, and had so
much brilliancy of wit that nothing could have
saved her from envy but the softness of her
manner, which so veiled its point that the listener
went away charmed with a beautiful woman without
having found out that her capacity was even
greater than her beauty. Her eyes were dark
blue and full of animation when she smiled; but
it was the eyelids which gave them that singular
expression of beatitude which involuntarily suggested
the word angel. Her hair was auburn,
inclining to red, her nose Greek approaching to
aquiline, her mouth surrounded with smiles which
showed a set of teeth pure and fine. Her form
and stature had the fulness of youth's first bloom,
while her skin and complexion had all its lustre
and delicacy; but the turn of her face and throat
— it was Grecian beauty's own self! Never have I
heard any voice in singing so melodious; it had
perfect affinity with her appearance, and possessed
a natural affecttuoso which surprised tears from the
listener — he knew not why. Languages were
easy to her, and she could argue with a discrimination
and justice rarely to be met. Her memory
retained everything. With these varied accomplishments,
let me not omit her perfect benevolence,
her tenderness for the suffering of others, her
patience with their infirmities, her purity of
principle, her natural piety — deep and calm.'
That this description was not biassed by a sister's
partiality the recorded admiration of her contemporaries
is abundant proof. Her youthful beauty
it was that inspired Sheridan's oft-quoted lines:—
'Marked you her eye of heavenly blue?
Marked you her cheek of rosy hue?
That eye in liquid circles roving,
That cheek abashed at man's approving:
The one Love's arrows darting round,
The other blushing at the wound!'
While yet but seventeen this beautiful and
sensitive girl was married to 'banker Fordyce.'
In two years the long-gathering storm had burst,
and Lady Margaret found herself the ruined wife
of a ruined and disgraced man. Yet there are
few things in the literature of misfortune more
pathetic than the letter she wrote on hearing of
the catastrophe. 'The dread tongue of malice
and the triumph of those who are not our friends,
I own, is a hard thing to bear; but, while you
know, and I am convinced of, the rectitude of
your intentions, the lenient hand of Time, and,
may I add, the soothing attentions of a wife, will
get the better of all these misfortunes, and we
shall yet be happy. I have sometimes told you
I was a philosopher and could be an economist.
I come now to the test, and I am too proud to
be caught shrinking back like a coward. . . .
Yet we have all a vulnerable part, my dear
husband — mine is in the thought of your unhappiness.
Let me, if possible, see you that I may
pour the balm of consolation into your wounded
mind, and I shall then hope the time may not
be far off when I may sign myself your happy
as well as affectionate wife.' Fordyce seems
to have died two or three years after his bankruptcy.
'Her later years, long after Mr. Fordyce's
death, were troubled by the attachment of a man
who sacrificed her life and happiness to his selfishness,
and whose conduct, says Lady Anne, ''while
it inspired her with the disdain of him that he
merited, also affected the sweetness and peaceableness
of her gentle nature. With grief I saw
that a deep resentment corroded her heart. At
length, at the earnest instance of my affection and
on calmer views of things, I prevailed on her upon
a solemn occasion of religious duty to abjure for
ever a sentiment which was so contrary to the
spirit of Christian forgiveness of injuries. She
did so when taking the sacrament in Dublin, and
peace was restored to her mind. Happy after
the chagrins suffered by her heart to fix her
thoughts on a better world, and after some painful
years of regret spent in the passage from
youth to age, from beauty in all its radiance to
decay, the heart and hand of a person of her own
time of life being offered to her — one who as
he then acknowledged had been attached to her
almost from infancy — it was to the surprise of
her acquaintance, but not of the friends who knew
the nature of her mind, that she accepted of him,
and in the society of his young family by a former
wife, who were devoted to her, she found that
comfort in her advanced life which she braved
the smiles of the world to fold to her heart.
During two years Margaret enjoyed contentment
in its fullest extent, and seemed happier than I had
ever known her." ' — Lives of the Lindsays, vol. ii.
p. 337, etc.
TO [LADY BALCARRES?]
IAM sorry that Love, the best attribute of the
Deity, should prove the most unfortunate to
humanity. Is it that we are formed only for the
love of the Deity that in our worshipping his
images on earth we are eternally chastised
Either the image moulders to clay, or we find it is
but a mock resemblance; we find we are deluded
continually in that heart-search. The Deity has
ordered us to keep his likeness. If we do so,
our love will be universal and productive as his
inanimate representative the Sun. This general
beneficence for ever rewards the possessor — when
we grow particular we grow miserable: our
household gods are overthrown by every chambermaid.
And we may pretend what we please, but
I aver that the crime we wonder at in the Jews
is still the very crime of all nations — I mean
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
28th November 1775.
YOU mistake vastly, my young pastor, if you
imagine that city life is the scene of dissipation.
No, no; it is in the wilds of the Forest
we are kept up in a sort of enthusiasm either of
mirth and society, or of rebussing and rhyming.
. . I saw none but the sick and afflicted
till I broke out like a star in the Peers Assembly,
where I walked in by myself at 9 o'clock. I was
so surrounded by men that I saw no women till
near 10; and then was as much rejoiced over by
the women. You seem dubious what to call me
in the . . ? . . way: I begin to he so myself about
my sex. I certainly had more men following me
than any woman there, and the women for that
reason followed me too, though some I do think
for my own sake — particularly Tibbie Hall and
Mary Pringle. A vast exhibition of vanity, say
you, in this old lady! Very true, reverend sir,
and I will be vain while I live of the attention
and good-will of all my compatriots. Ay, and
try to keep it up; for there is nothing so pleasant
and wholesome to the human heart as to love and
be loved. . . . I wish to change your genius.
You have a good deal of it and it is lost in
rebuses. That letter of Hangingshaw is worth
10,000 rebuses. . . . As for printing, never fear.
I hate print, and though I have been sung at
wells to the flowers of the forrest (a), I never
was in print that anybody but a street singer
could decipher. I have many curious researches
to set you on: I wish you to tell me why I
should have suffered real martyrdom all last
winter by the distress of my son, why I should
foresee he was a cripple for life, submitting to
that patiently, and willing to devote every hour
I lived to attending upon him; yet, now
that he writes me he is in perfect health, walks
to miles a day, in fine spirits and happy, I
do not feel as much joy as I suffered misery?
Answer all this . . . Yes, the Crichton fraternity
is very uncommon (b). Affection in that family
does not depend on duty — it flows from the
heart. The children tire when they are a day
away from their father, because he is their playfellow
and best friend. I see no young man
equal to Mark for manners, principles, and dispositions.
I may be partial; yet I am apt to
see clearest where 1 love dearest. Adieu! Write
me when you will and what comes uppermost,
as I do.
(a). — This is Mrs. Cockburn's only direct
mention of the song which was to make her
name and memory imperishable; and it is otherwise
of interest, revealing, as it does, her pride in
its popularity, already won. Wells like those of
Moffat, Dunse, and St. Ronans were then the
great holiday resort of rank and fashion, so that
to be 'sung at Wells' was proof of acceptance
and approbation in cultivated circles. So much
indeed did Mrs. Cockburn come to be identified
with her song that she was wont to be asked for
copies of it in her own handwriting. One of
these, written for Lady Helen Hall of Dunglass,
is here reproduced, with permission of Miss
Russell of Ashiestiel, Lady Helen's granddaughter.
Her ladyship, who was a Douglas, daughter of
the fourth Earl of Selkirk, married Sir James,
nephew of Mrs. Cockburn's attached friend 'Tib
Hall.' One of her sons was Captain Basil Hall,
R.N., to whose reverent vigilance Sir Walter Scott
was intrusted when he made his last hopeless
voyage to the Mediterranean in search of health.
FLOWERS OF THE FORREST.
(FOR LADY HELEN HALL.)
I've seen the smileing of fortune beguileing,
I've felt all its favours and found its decay.
Sweet was its blessing, kind its carressing;
But now it is fled — fled far, far away.
I've seen the Forrest, adorned the formost
With flowers of the fairest most pleasant and gay.
Sae bonny was their blooming, their scents the air
But now they are withered and wade all away.
I've seen the morning with gold the hills adorning
In loud tempest storming befor midle day.
I've seen Tweed's silver stream, shining in the sunny
Grow drumly and dark as it roll'd on its way.
O fickle Fortune! why this cruel sporting?
Why thus torment us poor sons of a day?
Nae mair y'r smiles can chear me, nae mair y'r frowns
can fear me,
For the flowers of the Forrest are a' wade away.
(A real picture of the author's feelings.)
Stenhouse, in his notes to Johnson's Scots Musical
Museum, attributes the origin of the song to a
somewhat Arcadian incident: — 'A gentleman of
her acquaintance, in passing through a sequestered
but romantic glen, observed a shepherd at some
distance tending his flocks, and amusing himself
at intervals by playing on a flute. The scene
altogether was very interesting, and, being passionately
fond of music, he drew nearer the spot, and
listened for some time unobserved to the attractive
but artless strains of the young shepherd. One
of the airs in particular appeared so exquisitely
wild and pathetic that he could no longer refrain
from discovering himself, in order to obtain some
information respecting it from the rural performer.
On inquiry, he learned that it was "The Flowers
of the Forest." This intelligence exciting his
curiosity, he was determined if possible to obtain
possession of the air. He accordingly prevailed
on the young man to play it over and over until
he picked up every note, which he immediately
committed to paper on his return home. Delighted
with this new discovery, as he supposed,
he lost no time in communicating it to Miss
Rutherford, who not only recognised the tune,
but likewise repeated some detached lines of the
old ballad. Anxious, however, to have a set of
verses adapted to his favourite melody, and well
aware that few, if any, were better qualified than
Miss Rutherford for such a task, he took the
liberty of begging this favour at her hand. She
obligingly consented, and in a few days thereafter
he had the pleasure of receiving the stanzas from
the fair author.' Not content with this fanciful
and unauthenticated legend, the authors of Scottish
Songstresses have gone further and identified this
gentleman of her acquaintance with her lover,
John Aikman — a very gratuitous assumption.
The entire story is incompatible with the only
authentic statement of the song's origin — that
it was written on the occasion of a financial
catastrophe involving the ruin of several Forest
Lairds. Indeed, the verses bear internal evidence
to that effect, their one motif being the fickleness
of fortune and the uncertainty of riches. Unlike
the lines by Miss Jean Elliot, Mrs. Cockburn's
do not carry one reference to the fatal day of
Flodden. That they referred to misfortune is
indeed evident from Mrs. Cockburn's wish expressed
to her friend Douglas when recording
happier times — 'I wish I could write a ballad
called "the Forest restored."' There is thus no
room for the shepherd and his flute, or for the
romantic explanation how music came to be
wedded to fit words. Nevertheless, it is true
that the pathetic 'owrecome' of the song —
The flowers o' the forest are a' wede away,
connects it indissolubly with the disastrous battle;
and to the end of time it will be Flodden and the
loss of men that those who hear it will think of,
not adversity and the loss of means. It is doubtful
if the air to which Mrs. Cockburn's words
are now sung is that for which they were originally
written, the probability being that they were
meant to be sung to the real old air of the
'Flowers of the Forest,' now exclusively identified
with Miss Jean Elliot's verses. That air is very
old, having been given in Skene's MS. Collection of
c. 1640 ; whereas there is no mention of the modern
tune before c. 1790, when it was published in the
Scots Musical Museum with 'elegant' words (now
neglected) by Miss Anne Home of Greenlaws. 1
Whether it was Mrs. Cockburn who first wrote
her song, or Miss Elliot, is a question about
which there has been great diversity of opinion.
At whatever time it may have been written, Mrs.
Cockburn's was first printed in the Blackbird, a
collection published in 1764, whereas we have it
on very high authority indeed that Miss Elliot's
was not written for at least two years after that
date. Answering an inquiry about the ballad
from his friend Rose, Sir Walter Scott says:—
'The only good stanzas beginning "There was
a lilting at our ewes' milking," were written by
Miss Elliot, aunt of the late Lord Minto, in
imitation of an old song now forgotten. I have
spoken to her about it; she said the first verse
was original, and that there were others, but she
only remembered one line —
I ride single on my saddle
Since the flowers of the forest are all wede away.
Dr. Somerville, still alive (1825), was in the house
of Minto when the imitation was written.' Now,
1 Afterwards wife of the celebrated John Hunter.
in the reverend doctor's Life and Times the period
of his tutorship at Minto extends from 1767 to
1772, which quite settles the question of priority.
Mrs. Cockburn was fifty-two when her verses
appeared in the Blackbird; but if the story about
the piping shepherd and the young musical amateur
be correct, they must have been written at least
thirty-four years earlier, while she was still Miss
Rutherford. That a girl of seventeen should
write lines so full of reflection and pathos and on
such a theme is not impossible, but it is very
unlikely. If her song takes the pas in age, it
must give place to Miss Elliot's in point of merit.
When Pinkerton published the latter in 1781, he
thought it necessary to assure his readers that 'the
stanzas here given form a complete copy of this
exquisite dirge. The inimitable beauty of the
original induced a variety of versifiers to mingle
stanzas of their own composure. But it is the
painful though almost necessary duty of an editor,
by the touchstone of truth, to discriminate such
dross from the gold of antiquity! Sir Walter
himself, noticing it in the Minstrelsy, observed that
the 'manner of the ancient minstrels was so
happily imitated that it required the most positive
evidence to convince him that the song was of
modern date.' And yet we find him, twenty
years later, assuring Mr. Rose that he 'never
thought it ancient, though ben trovato!' Burns
had a surer instinct — 'This fine ballad is even a
more palpable imitation than Hardi Knute. The
manners are indeed old, hut the language is of
yesterday: its author must very soon be discovered.'
Much as he admired Miss Elliot's
'fine ballad,' the Bard was even more indebted to
Mrs. Cockburn's, for it seems to have inspired
his own first recorded rhymes. It is a little song,
which he says he composed at seventeen, eleven
years after 'The Flowers of the Forest' had
appeared in the Lark, which Burns possessed.
The similarity in idea and expression is frequent
Loud tempests storming before middle day.
— Mrs. Cockburn.
Lang or noon loud tempests storming. — Burns.
Grow drumly and dark. — Mrs. Cockburn.
Grew black and daring. — Burns.
Swelling drumlie wave. — Burns.
Oh fickle Fortune, why this cruel sporting?
— Mrs. Cockburn.
Though fickle Fortune has deceived me, — Burns.
Nae mair your smiles can cheer me,
Nae mair your frowns can fear me. — Mrs. Cockburn,
I bear a heart shall support me still. — Burns.
Silver stream shining in the sunny beam.
— Mrs. Cockburn.
Crystal stream . . . gaily in the sunny beam. — Burns.
(b). — The family of Pringle of Crichton.
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
7 April .
YOU will see by the enclosed I intended well
to you last week. I have no letter this
week from Fairnilee. . . . I am not in a writing
mood — there's one of my amusements forsaking
me. To what will age bring me? I tire of
society, I hate men, books are not new, politicks
is gloomy, dismal, terrible; and the worst of it is,
I sleep less than ever. But it's no matter. Sir
James Naismith is brought to bed of two sons,
and my neighbour Horseburgh will soon be
marryd to Miss Turnbull of Know, a fine girl,
and I am glad of that. Sir Alexander Don, instead
of being mary'd, is scamperd of to London.
The King intends to go to Hanover and leave
the mad people of England to be governd by the
madman Chattham. I think he is much in the
right. I would do so if I were him. (With two
Note. — Sir James Naesmyth of Posso, 2nd
Baronet, married Jean Keith, said to he a greatgranddaughter
of the Earl Marischal. He died
in 1779. Sir Alexander Don, 5th Baronet, of
Newton Don, born 1751, married in 1778 Lady
Henrietta Cunningham, daughter and heiress of
the 13th Earl of Glencairn. Their grandson, Sir
William Don, having left the army deeply in debt,
had to part with what remained of his estate, and
became a well-known actor, dying in 1861 in
Australia, where he was touring with a company.
See notes by Mr. C. B. Balfour (now of Newton
Don) in Berwickshire Nat. Club Transactions,
TO THE REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
15 Nov. 1777.
Saterdar night 15 of the gloomy
month in which the people of england
Hang and drown themselves.
I RECEIVED your Sunday's oblation with pleasure.
It is perhaps the best letter you ever
wrote or will write in your life ; and as I know
you honest and sincere, I must realy doubt your
taste and judgement when you say it is cold and
uninteresting! We cannot always be animated
with passions: is not reason as good? And if
we describe or paint pourtraits of manners and
1 Partly printed in Lockhart's Life of Scott, vol. i. p. 119
(10 vol. ed.; Edin. 1862).
reason on them, is it not more usefull and as entertaining
as Declamation? You really write well,
Douglas. Sorry I am to say by the company you
were in, you were oblidged to be a Hogarth.
Nothing can be truly more burlesque than a
general of an army in a black coat a manager of
campaignes at a fireside, over a smocking bowl of
punch: or a farmer, country laird, or shope keeper
siting in council on the greatest affairs in the
Brittish empire. At the same time, I worship the
giver of that liberty of thought, speach, and sentiment
that gives every one the power of thinking,
and the liberty of speaking what they think. At
the moment I rejoice in this, I deprecate the wrath
of Heaven for all its best blessings being abused!
most for those who wear the garb and pretend
to teach the peaceable doctrines of the Friend of
Mankind, whose precepts in worldly politicks went
no further than 'Give unto Cæsar that which is
Cæsar's,' but taught every human heart to love
his neighbour as himself, and to pray for their
enemys, to bless those who curse you. That last
maxim I confess I cannot attain. Though I will
not injure, I realy hate people who curse me.
How shall I mend that, Doctor? In return for
your history of the harvest months I shortly
give you mine. A month or more was passed
agreeably in East Lothian — the granary of Scotland.
I saw the barnyards full and fields bare
when I left it the first week of September. I
dined in twenty rich familys — great deserts of
fruit. At Tyninghame 19 dishes — pine-apples,
four grapes of various kinds, venison, etc. etc.
I was always happy to get home to North Berwick
with Sir Hew and his children, who had more
fancy and less meat. After we came to town, I
spent a week and more at Cramond, where a neat
occonomy with a genteelv plenty — without bustle
or parade, or any more disturbance than the sun
makes in his usual round — went on without interruption.
They are not rich and have no vanity,
so enough neatness and welcome is there for ever.
A young girl just come from the board-school is
their only daughter. She is not a beauty, but so
comely you look for ever to her. The freshness
of youth and the unaffected innocence of it,
together with a proper polite behaviour, makes
her a charming girl. She plays well, but I
liked her best in a game at romps with her father.
From thence all our Cramond family to the
amount of 9 went and dined with my excellent
friends at Ravelston (a). I carryd my little
bandbox there, and determined to stay a week
with a friend of 50 years' standing, whose
heart is as warm as her temper is cool, and whose
judgement is strengthened by experience and not
impaired by years. She understands exactly how
to throw in a word that ends all political disputes.
She has two daughters and two sons. If I had the
wishing cap, they should be mine: but so they are,
as it is. There I got the news of my friend
Menzies's death. I felt for his family and friends,
not for myself, and I found myself uneasy till I
should pay that duty to a recent widow from a
real friend, in which I had felt comfort myself. I
went and stayd two nights there with much self-satisfaction,
because I think I did her good, tho'
neither of us either cryd or lamented. I never
shed a tear of greife in my life, and I thank God
the tears I ever had flow yet as they ever did, tho'
the occasions are seldom. A genrous deed, a
feeling sentiment, a pious prayer, never fails to
bring those pleasing dews, which are lockd up in
the hard frost of affliction. The first time 1
heard you pray I was ashamed to show my face,
because nobody can understand my temper hut
myself. I last night sup'd in Mr. Walter Scot's.
He has the most extraordinary genius of a boy I
ever saw. He was reading a poem to his mother
when I went in. I made him read on. It was
the description of a shipwreck. His passion rose
with the storm: he lifted his eyes and hands.
'There's the mast gone,' says he, 'crash it goes,
they will all perish.' After his agitation he turns
to me, 'That is too melancholy,' says he, 'I had
better read you somewhat more amusing.' I preferd
a little chat, and askd his opinion of Milton
and other books he was reading, which he gave
me. Wonderfull. indeed one of his observations
was — how strange it was that Adam, just new
come into the world, should know everything!
'That must be the poet's fancy,' says he; but
when he was told he was created perfect by God
Himself, he instantly yielded. When he was
taken to bed last night, he told his aunt he liked
that lady. 'What lady?' says she. 'Why, Mrs.
Cokburne, for I think she's a virtuoso like
myself.' 'Dear Walter,' says aunt, 'what is a
virtuoso?' 'Don't ye know? why, it's one who
wishes and will know everything?' Now, sir,
you will think this a very silly story. Pray, what
age do you suppose this boy to be? Name it
now, before I tell you. Why, 12 or 14? — no
such thing. He is not quite six years old. He
has a lame leg for which he was a year at Bath,
and has acquired the perfect English accent which
he has not lost since he came (b), and he reads like
a Garrick. You will alow this an uncommon
exotick? You will also alow this to be a pretty
long letter. You owe it to lazyness and to a
certain tiredness that grows dayly of that frivolous
company that makes me yawn. I begin to
like my own company best of any. I hope you
will often through this winter be with Brother
and Lady — I am sure they will be the better of
your prayers and company. — Yours sincerely,
I had a visit of Lord Advocate (c) before he
went to London. The members are all summoned.
I wonder if any news will come this night?
Remember to put in all the s's and offs and ands
I forget while I write. Remember I am old. I
don't see well: read me fair. I must tell you of
a weding I have heard of — the Countess of
Sutherland, 10 years old, to Mr. Weemys' son,
15. I leave you to make the remarks (d).
Have you read a history of — I forget his name
— on the cause of the fall of the Roman Empire?
By Gibbons, is the name. I wish you to read it
and give me your sentiments of it.
No terrible news yet.
(a). — Alexander Keith of Ravelston, Midlothian,
married Johanna, daughter of John
Swinton of that Ilk, and by her had four sons
and two daughters. He died in 1792. In 1822
his son was created a baronet, but on his death,
ten years later, the title became extinct. There
was a hot dispute between this family and Bishop
Keith, the well-known ecclesiastical historian, concerning
their respective priority as representatives
of the family of the Earls Marischal, the Bishop,
in 1750,/publishing 'an answer to the unfriendly
representations of Mr. Alexander Keith, Junior,
(b). — 'In the matter of pronunciation,' says
Lockhart, 'Mrs. Cockburn was not, probably, a
very accurate judge. All that can be said is, that
if at this early period he had acquired anything
which could be justly described as an English
accent, he soon lost and never again recovered it.
In after life his tone and accent remained broadly
(c). — The Lord Advocate was Henry Dundas,
the famous statesman and supporter of Pitt. In
1777 he was member for Midlothian, a constituency
which he exchanged in 1787 for that of the
city. In 1802 he became Viscount Melville and
Baron Dunira, and in 1806 was arraigned before
the Peers on a charge of malversation of public
funds while First Lord of the Admiralty. By large
majorities he was declared not guilty of any of the
ten charges preferred against him, while of the
fourth, which accused him of applying £10,000
to his own uses, he was unanimously acquitted.
He was immediately restored to his place in the
Privy Council, from which he had been struck out
by the King. The lofty column and statue in St.
Andrew Square, Edinburgh, were erected in his
(d). — It is to be feared that 'a hate of gossip
parlance' was not one of Mrs. Cockburn's virtues,
at least when there was a wedding in the wind.
Elizabeth, Countess of Sutherland, only child of
William, 17th Earl, was confirmed in the title by
the House of Lords in 1771, and in 1785
married Sir George Granville, second Marquis of
Stafford, created Duke of Sutherland in 1833.
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
[Sunday, 4th January 1778.]
AS this is Sunday night, and the first day I have
been alone with my family since I left the
Forrest, I dedicate a few moments of the 4th day
of the year to my spiritual Father. This will
come with your New Year pocket-book. It is
not so entertaining as usual, tho' the prints of
actresses are good. I got yours from Fairnilee,
and am happy the Christmas passed so well; for
decline and disease must cast a damp upon mirth.
Indeed, mirth is but the crackling of thorns under
a pot. . . . Real kindness, good will with cheerfulness,
which ever attends humanity, warms the
heart; and such I dare say you found at Fairnilee,
tho' distress and old age was there. Your last
puzzle has puzzled many. Mary Pringle gave
it up. A gent'man last night, with whom I dined
and also sup'd, was a little fou, and said it was
'woman' — nay, swore it could be nothing else.
However, it can be no woman but mother Eve.
I wish with all my heart she had choak'd on the
apple, and then I had not been born to sin and
sorrow. I have many advisers to apply for a
commission to my son to have the honour of
going to be starved and shot in America, but I
decline the honour. An only son that has served
20 years — little he has profited! No! No! I am
satisfyd with honour, I now want ease and profit.
At the same time I greatly applaud our young
nobles, espashily Duke Hamilton, who asks only
a captain's comission in a regiment of his own
raising. He writes beautifully to his friends on
the occasion; says he prefers a life of action, tho'
attended with danger and fatigue, to a life of
idleness and dissipation without pleasure; and he
finds no alternative. Duke of Athole too, tho'
married, goes. Lord Macleod's regiment is
almost compleat. Lord M'Donald and Gordon
Fyvie's all filled. So much for Scots spirit.
The King has no truer friends, and he knows it.
It's said there are letters from Sir William Erskine,
and Lady Colville's Brother arrived last night
with the accounts of Washington's defeat, wounded
and prisoner, but terrible slaughter on both sides.
I have seen so many tears and horrors already
from this cursed war, I am sure it is sent for a
scourge. Mark Pringle was in a French coffeehouse
when the news of Bourgoigne's defeat came,
and was not able to sustain the insolence and
rejoicing. How deep one must feel in a hostile
country. Befor I shut this I hope to add a
pleasing P.S. Comfort my old Brother and keep
up Lady's spirits; and so God bless you this
year and all the years of your life. Amen!
Tuesday morning. — No news, no, no. We have
found out the charade — the forbidden. . ? . .
begot wo! and man's side produced her. Adieu!
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
I GOT yours, and accordingly enclosed the
presbytery affair to Captain Napier. Here
is his answer. You judge perfectly right as to
the use I make of letters, if they happen to divert
me. And, in case you doubt of my communicative
disposition, I will tell you I transcribed part
of the elegie you wrote on a certain lady and sent
it to her. Probably you may find her answer also
in this. I think it the first of dutys to spread
LOVE from heart to heart. Our sex now droops
for want of that pleasing admiration, that distinguishing
praise from the other sex which I
knew and rejoiced in many years ago. I assure
you, love of a proper admiration was a spur to
my wishing to excell, and tho' I was early totally
engaged in Love — yet, for that reason, I wishd
the approbation of others that my lover might
be more confirmed in his choice. Now there is
such a want of attention in the men to the most
amiable objects that the spirits of the women are
languid, and I think the commerce between the
sexes is now totally at an end in every respect
but by appetite or avarice. In my younger days
our men were bred in France, and they could
profess an admiration of a fine woman without
being in love with her, or having any design on
her, legal or illegal. Now a man looks at a fine
woman as he does at a haunch of venison; and
if she has sweet sauce (plenty of siller), could be
prevailed on to take her. Such is the effects of
our English connection! . . . Tuesday last Adam
had asked Captain M'Dowal and his lady to
dine with us; and as I resolved to do her all
the honour I could, I bespoke Mrs. Menzies,
Miss Shaw, Miss Johnston, our parson, and my
nephew Pat Inglis. Mrs. Menzies has most
politely or rather humanely asked a visit from
Mrs. M'Dowal. Indeed she is far above the
little, very little, scruples of her sex. Mrs.
M'Dowal is most interesting. She is as tall as
Mrs. Menzies — finely made — an air of dignified
melancholy. Her face is beautiful, her language
real (not plebeian) English; her voice sonorous,
her manner modest, but neither awkward, afraid,
or ashamed, tho' I am certain this was the first
company of ladies she ever had been in, perhaps
in her life. I feel great regard for that girl — her
behaviour has been so uncommon. Mr. Rigg's
miniatures still hang in my parlor, and are greatly
admired. I have endeavoured to prompt him to
pursue the bent of genius and add industry and
art to nature. I have offered to introduce him
to Miss Forbes, who is an original genius improved
in Italy. . . . This will come with Mark
and Violy Pringle to Fairnilee. So farewell! I
have taken a detestation of lyeing epithets of
humble servants and stuff, and dear Sir and nonsense.
Pliny and Cicero and Paul never begun
their letters with 'dr. Sir' nor ended with 'humble
servants.' Don't you hate it?
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
1778, April 3.
DON'T you think, Mr. Douglas, that the
subterraneous combustibles laid on for the
general conflagration is beginning to pierce thro'
the earth? What with the Sun above and them
below, it is comfortably warm. I wish the blaze
were begun: it will be a noble vision. . . . Well,
I sent yours to Lord Napier, and suppose you
have his answer by this time. And for your
wager with the Miss Pringles, Violy first took
it for a burlesque on one of them, which was a
sight I could not see. Then she said it was an
ideal lady framed out of your own brain. As for
me, I am sure I laid the saddle on the right mare.
You seem surprised and pleas'd with my tranquillity
of temper in the midst of various distresses!
Don't you know I am now a hardy
veteran? Twenty-five years I have felt a new
rod (no — 'scourge' I should call it) every year;
and though my feelings are as acute as ever, I
am so innured to suffer, I would not live now
without pain of mind. I have no doubt of my
Great Physician's skill and goodness, and live in
hopes of perfect recovery whenever my frame is
mouldering in the dust. Did Lady tell you I
had dined with Mr. Main and saw your sister
and Mr. Rigg? Miss Ann Pringle would fain
see Mr. Rigg's miniatures, but they are away.
Farewell! Write as often and as long as you
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
1778, November 16, Monday.
IT is a method of mine to write whenever I am
alone, because by that method I have a tête-à-tête
with a friend; and, better than that, I have
the lead . . . No contradiction, no interruption
— just as you do on Sunday. Fine, that's fine:
so have at! And, after reading the longest letters
ever you writ, with all your pros and cons, I tell
you you cannot write but at the back window at
Fairnilee; and more than that, tho' they may
now have no fodder for your beast, you have two
legs, and it is more your duty now to be with
my old dear than ever it was. I wish you had
only seen him as I did, a Sunday without prayers.
He was wearied of his life; and, very odd but
true, though he never looks on at cards, he
wearies when they are not there. I am happy
to hear he enjoyed the sight of his excellent
grandson. Now, Douglas, the 50 reasons you
give for not going! These are absolutely wrong,
because how should an old man be eased of pain
and vexation but by prayer and hope? And,
unless Lucifer and his crew come there, surely he
is entitled to be prayed for and with? This I
am sure Lady will join me in. You cannot
doubt my sweet Anne? And, tho' Mr. Pringle
has not been much accustomed to these services,
he always liked and funned with you, and likely
may come to think prayer is necessary and fit for
a poor dependent being. You will have heard
Mark is arrived? My sweet Anne is happy with
his arrival. They are uncommon children. I
am terrified God take them too soon, to reward
their piety. You remember the story of the
priestess of the Sun whose 2 sons carried her to
the temple? She instantly prayed the Gods to
reward their piety, and they dropp'd down dead.
An early death saves much sin and sorrow; but
I believe in purgatory; and am certain I have
been in it now 25 years 5 months. I think I
grow worse by punishment. Some of my friends
say I am sensibly better — more a christian, more
patient, more bearable. For my own share, I
am only sensible of being more unhappy, and
only patient because I cannot help it. Were you
a true catholick, you would order me some bodily
crucifixions to cure my soul! Leave that to
Nature. Old age brings pains enow; and I
hope and believe they are salutary. As yet I
have felt no effects of old age but loss of teeth
and appetite, for which I care not a farthing.
But my soul grows more acute as my scabbard
decays; and I think, think till I am sick of
thinking. The look back: the look forward:
and the look present. Well, the back scene is
beautiful. Its edifices are noble, built by harmony
and love. The present scene is dark, cold,
gloomy, full of clouds and biting frosts. The
scene to come is — sickness, pain, poverty, Death.
The next is putrefaction, worms, and graves;
and does my restless active spirit live or die with
worms? No! Angels, friends long lost, I see
again. Am I arraigned for evil deeds in the
body? I never injured one, I have helped some;
but I am so imperfect I dare not look up to
Perfection. Well then, remember you have there
a Brother and a Friend. You are tried by a just
judge, one who knows what we are made of, and
knows we are frail. Did He descend from
Heaven in vain? Did he wear our form, and
is it possible to suppose he will not restore the
image first given and lost — restore it even to
Doctor Dod (a), and a much worse man, Alexander
Fordyce (page 107). Having ended my
theological disquisition, for which thank God you
have no power to put me in the Inquisition, I
proceed to inform you that I gave your letter to
a cuz-german of Lord Marchmont's, who assures
me it shall be transmitted to his Lady, who best
knows the hours of soft solicitation. But, as he
is prejudiced against the father, why always
apply to him? Is there no other patron to whom
he might be recommended. Borthwick Kirk is
vacant already, and no helper to an old man, and
the people complain loudly. But I'm sorry your
young friend is so worthy, for Sandy Cuningham
succeeds John M'Kenzie; and Alexander Fordyce's
lady, for his merits? has got £400 a year pension.
Lady Advocate's gallant insists on £400 a year
to marry her when divorced (b). It's a pity,
Douglas, you are not a knave, and I am not a
—, otherwise I could give you a fine dinner
instead of saying 'God bless you.' This will not
go till Wednesday, but it's writ Saterday. If
anything new occurs, it shall be left open.
Monday 16. — Mark came in to me last night.
It's long since I found joy; and I did feel it.
He is a delight. Felix is printed on his face.
He found me with my old sister at neighbour
Horseburgh's. This is so long a letter, I will
(a). — The Rev. Dr. Dodd, a popular preacher,
author of a series of edifying books, editor of the
Christian Magazine, and a King's chaplain, was
hanged in 1777 for forging the name of his patron,
Lord Chesterfield, to a bond for £4200, notwithstanding
extraordinary efforts by Dr. Johnson and
others to secure a pardon. Of his fifty-five works
he is now best known by his Beauties of Shakspeare.
(b). — With his wife, a daughter of Captain
Rannie of Melville, Mr. Henry Dundas (afterwards
Lord Melville) was said to get a fortune of
£100,000. After the marriage was dissolved he
married in 1793 Lady Jane, a daughter of Lord
Hopetoun. — Biographical Dictionary of Eminent
Scotsmen, ii. 202.
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
5th Janny. 1779.
THANKS, dear sir, for your prayers, your
vision, and your historyetts. I think you
lay some stress on the old maid condition — you
think those who live long unloved and unloving
become in time not lovely? Why, it is not impossible!
For a heart that wants objects to
expand it is very apt to close; and even with
all the cares, anxieties, and thousand heart-aches
the connubial state is subject to, I think it preferable
to the single. Many a good man have I
seen ruined by the want of that softening humanising
connection. I go further — I think a bad
wife far better than none. Indeed, I am not sure
but a termagant is the greatest blessing a man
can have: it teaches him patience, humility,
resignation, bearance and forbearance, which are
all the Christian Cardinals. Judge, then, if I can
refuse you any favour that can conduce to your
happiness here or hereafter. If the female in
question prove a vixen, so much the better. If
she is saintlike, mild, you will be the worse man,
yet fancy yourself better. Give her the song,
then; and, as she has a taste for soft sadness, you
may ask the favour of Lady Fairnilee to show
you my 'Farewell to Fairnilee,' dated 1st November
'78. I fear, for your soul's sake, she has
little of the devil in her — because those feelings
are unnatural to that clever, active, diabolical
woman you should have. Therefore I hope she
won't have ye. I write all the clash to Lady,
and put up all I can for her. To say truth, none
of it is pleasing. It appears at present the men
are all fools or knaves, as most are bankrupts;
the women both wh—s and fools, because they
appear infamous upon record in public courts.
There is so many rich people given way just now
as is really fearsome. Our imaginary riches are
over, and all it has produced is enriching the
ground which soon nobody will possess, and
mending the roads nobody will travel. This is
quite the case in Airshire. Thank God, my
journey cannot be long. I make the way as
pleasant as I can, but cannot help remembering
better days, when such and such there were, and
were to me most dear (a). I shall make Mark
tell me the heroine of your vision — by the connection
of ideas I should suppose it Maria? I
fancy it was the same night I fancied a very near
friend of mine was accused of being false to a
lady by her nearest friends; and, all I could say,
he would not vindicate himself. He said they
might think or say as they pleased — he valued
them not a straw. But the lady knew him. I
endeavoured to make him take off the aspersion;
and, in the heat of the contest, lost my sleep.
Vision is all —. I send you four franks,
which must serve for two years. I have a niece
to send to India soon with her husband. They
go to Bengal and are gone to London. They
sail with Captain Snow. If they can serve you,
let me know. Captain Sands belongs to the
Company and is a Captain in the East India
Service. Your pocket-book will come with this.
I'm glad your horse is lame — it will keep you
near Fairnilee. My good wishes to your mother
and sister, though unknown. Continue to pray
for me, etc. A. C.
Tuesday, past 12 at night, 5th of '79.
(a). — 'I cannot but remember such things were,
That were most precious to me.'
— MACBETH Act iv. sc. 3.
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
THANK you, good sir, for my evening's
entertainment. Who do ye think read it
to me? The very lady you had in your eye
when you mention the Attalanticks as for male
readers! Are you really so unknowing in the
world as to fancy a man would read a sermon?
You blame my communicative disposition. I
can't help it. I never in my life could enjoy a
good thing alone, by which means my moorfowl
are always kept the fully proper time, till I can
gather friends to eat them. Now, as for secrets,
I never have any or seek any. They are generally
only interesting to those to whom they
appertain, and if anybody honours me with their
confidence, they are perfectly safe, being totally
forgot in a day's time. I am delighted with
your seceders, and am glad to see the Christian
and natural humanity can dwell even in the heart
of our most absurd sectarys. God bless the
good people for being kind to the poor old man.
Will you give him a shilling from me, which I
enclose. I know it's your New Year's gift you
want, and here it comes, as also the Sermon,
which nobody has seen but Mrs. Simon, Mrs.
Keith and her family, and Violy Pringle and
hers. As I have five 2-oz. packets to send
Mark Pringle this week, I enclosed your letter
amongst them. I have sent him Lord Gardenstone's
code of laws for Laurencekirk, which is a
most classical performance, and his adopting 500
industrious people is an action worthy of Pliny.
I perfectly worship him. It's the finest amusement
ever an old Batchelor hit on — have you read
it? (a) I lately got a loan of a deistical Liturgy.
Amongst the various sects in London that is one
— a publick worship founded by a Deist —
prayers, responses, psalms. I enclose you my
sentiments on it, tho' I enlarged the Idea to
the gentleman who lent it me. I gave Lady
Ormiston a read of it. . . . And now you have
got 2 old ladys' opinions, I must tell you Tib
Hall's. She never thinks like other people.
She says it is certainly a take-in — that some
sincere Christian, to gather the free-thinkers to
worship God, has constructed it. I send you
also a balad composed by Shirreff Cockburn, and
given in with his own hand to print. A report
went for 2 days that his head was turned. No
wonder! Such stuff as it was! However, you
must send it back. He has catch'd the robbers,
so shall wear bays, if he pleases, tho' a worse poet
I never saw (b).
I am at present confined with the gout, my
foot is swell'd and red, but I have not much pain.
. . . All our gay people are fond of the playhouse
this winter, and commend the performers
greatly. Neither Adam nor I go to any publick
place. . . . Sans more, yours,
(a). — Francis Garden, born 1721, took his
seat on the bench as Lord Gardenstone in 1764.
When he commenced the improvements on
Laurencekirk in 1768, it was a village of six or
seven houses, which in 1783 had increased to
above seventy, with more than 500 of a population.
Furnishing particulars of its administration
to the Duke of Atholl, he said: 'I have
tried a variety of the pleasures which mankind
pursue, but never relished any so much as the
pleasure arising from the progress of my village.'
Probably on account of his success with Laurencekirk,
Lord Gardenstone was asked by the Board
of Manufactures in 1780 to report upon Galashiels,
which he did in a letter containing a severe
rebuke to the Laird of Gala for his want of
liberality and excessive ground-rents. In early
life, Mr. Garden 'was one of those heroes of the
bar who, after a night of hard drinking, without
having been to bed, or studied their causes, would
plead with great eloquence upon the mere strength
of what they had picked up from the opposing
counsel.' He consumed immense quantities of
snuff, which he carried in a leathern pocket made
for the purpose. He used to say if he had a
dozen noses, he would give them all snuff. Being
very plainly dressed, and travelling on the outside
of the coach from London, he was once rudely
repelled by a party of young bucks, who sent a
message that they kept no company with outside
passengers.' Hiring a chaise and four, he contrived
to arrive at the next stage precisely at the
same time as the coach. The youngsters, much
surprised, made inquiry as to his identity, on
learning which, they sent a polite card of apology
and requesting the honour of his company to
dinner. It was now Lord Gardenstone's turn to
send a verbal answer that he 'kept no company
with people whose pride would not permit them
to use their fellow-travellers with civility.'
(b). — Alexander Cockburn of Cockpen, then
Sheriff of Midlothian, was father of the celebrated
Lord Cockburn. His wife was a sister of that
Miss Rannie whose marriage with Henry Dundas,
Lord Melville, was ultimately dissolved. In
1784 he succeeded in getting a threatening mob
of bread-rioters to disperse, but there is no record
of the capture of robbers mentioned by Mrs.
Cockburn, to whom, by the way, he does not
appear to have been related.
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
Crichton Street, [1st Novr. 1788, or earlier.]
I SHOULD have thanked you before now, sir,
for your good epistle, but I have lost the
power of the pen. What it would say if it went
as usual would be far from pleasing to the reader,
as whatever I ever wrote was either the feelings
of my heart or the visions of my imagination.
Neither of these faculties have any illumination
at present. Much do I wish for a sacred enthusiasm
that would transplant me to the world of
spirits; but even there I either fail in Faith
or in fancy. The feelings of my mind have
weakened its vehicle. Of course, it must fail;
and I submit to the will of God and His laws
of nature. The best thing you can do for me
is to pray for me. I mean only for strength of
mind and heavenly aid. This world and its
goods can give me nothing. I agree with you
that the smaller teasing evils of life does more
mischiefe to the spirit than real and great afflictions.
But our Father and Physician knows best
what bitters to administer to different constitutions
so as to restore the soul in such health as
to be well enough to meet with Him. You
should be often with my old Brother and his
goodwoman. Adieu! good pastor. I am, as
ever, your friend, A. COKBURNE.
My pastor here has lost his father, for whom
he mourns, though he was long past four score.
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
Jan. 14, 1781.
I SHOULD befor now have wrote you in
return for the history of the inspired Hoy,
which I have published faithfully, and have got
several subscriptions, which I have given to his
cuz Jamie Hoy to gather for him, as I did not
chose to take in money. Jamie supp'd with me
last night, and gave a specimen of the poems,
which, all things considered, is amazing (a). The
Duke of Gordon has taken a passion for Jamie
Hoy, and has secured him to himself. He is
to study the stars with the Duke, and the earth
with the dutchess. Mr. Carmichael of Hailes
dined in town with his wife, in Captain Clerk's,
went to the Coffee House to read the news, and
drop'd down dead. They have lived in great
harmony many years — a most benevolent couple,
kind to man and beast. I send your yearly
quota of dress'd ladys — you will have a large
seraglio of them by this time. . . . You will be
sorry for poor Jenny Scot — a sad marriage
indeed! But it's well she escaped with life.
There's a report that 2 soldiers are taken up
for the murder, but I fear it was himself.
(a). — The young man here referred to was
the author of Poems on Various Subjects, by John
Hoy, junr., published in Edinburgh in 1781.
Although one of Mr. Douglas's parishioners, he
had no personal acquaintance with him until introduced
by a very laudatory letter from Dr. Blair.
The rhetorician, no mean judge, thought the
verses 'considerably above the common run of
our minor poets,' though he could not advise their
publication, there was so little chance of reaping
any benefit or gain by it. He recommended Hoy
to the minister's attention, observing that the
openings of genius which he seems to discover
beyond the common, entitle him to some notice
and regard.' This was in October 1780; and
Mr. Douglas appears to have lost no time in
getting a selection from the poems ready for the
printer. Both his name and Mrs. Cockburn's
are in the list of subscribers, along with many of
their friends — Sir Walter Scott's mother amongst
them. Mr. Douglas contributes a preface and
short memoir, certain faults in the original MS. of
which are gently and firmly criticised by Dr. Blair
in a characteristic letter which has been preserved.
Hoy was a native of Gattonside, his father having
by hard labour and rigid economy brought up a
large family on the produce of five or six acres
of poor land. Violent palpitation of the heart
prevented John from undergoing the fatigue of a
mile's walk to school, or joining in the sports of
boys, his only amusements being to walk slowly
by his mother's side, or to learn the alphabet from
his father. As soon as he could read, he devoured
every book that came in his way, the first time
he read a good poem exercising such effect upon
his mind that poetry became a passion with him.
He aspired to imitate his favourite authors before
he had learned to write. Without help but a
few rude lines which a neighbour gave him to
copy, he was soon able to preserve his little pieces
from oblivion, and after six weeks' instruction
from a master (the only schooling of his life!),
he attained a considerable degree of perfection.
Reading Pope's Homer, he became eager to know
the original. Procuring a Greek grammar and
dictionary, and finding their explanations in
Latin, he soon, with the help of a Latin-English
dictionary, was able to understand them, and in
a few years could read Homer with tolerable ease!
When his poems were nearly ready for the press,
his disease cut short his life at the age of twenty-five.
'With composure and serenity he ended a
short life of woe; earnestly entreating with his
latest breath that his poems might still be published,
if there was any reasonable prospect of
their contributing for a little while to avert impending
poverty from a brother whom he loved,
and whom nature seemed to have fashioned in the
same delicate mould.' Of the poems, it cannot
he said that fate has been unkind in permitting
them to sink unnoticed in the ocean of oblivion.
They are truly marvellous productions, considering
their author's circumstances; but they deal
mostly with the loves and sentiments of Damon,
Cynthia, and Delia, after the manner of that
period. Their faultless metre and ingenious
rhymes could not save them from the doom
which overtakes artificiality and mere laboured
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
1781 2nd Feby.
THAT I feel very sincerely for you, dear sir, you
cannot doubt (a). You know how much I
have suffered by the death of friends. I need not
instruct you in resignation; but I must just put
you in mind you have a mother whose heart will
be sorrowed. I hear you was at my dear Brother's
funeral (b): you never buryd an honester man!
Glad was I of his escape! I hope you see Lady and
Anne often — they need society. Adieu! Heaven
comfort you, prays your friend, A. C.
(a). — News had just arrived of the death in
India of Captain Walter Douglas, Deputy Adjutant-General,
and brother of the minister of
Galashiels, to whom he left a considerable
(b). — Robert Rutherford, Laird of Fairnilee.
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
Ayr. Sunday, .4th Mch. 1781.
IT rejoiced my heart to hear my good Pope
Innocent had got a substantial proof of a
brother's affection, and to think how happy a
mother must be. (I was once a mother!) I
know you will receive good fortune with thankfulness,
as you received oppression with spirit. I
got yours with the news of our poet being gone
to sing with the seraphs. . . . I enclose you a
line I had from Sir Alexander Dick, from which
you will see he is a subscriber. . . .
[Sir A. Dick (9th Feby. 1781) says, '. . . You
deserve applause for patronising this uncommon
production of the Teviotdale mountains. My
old acquaintances Thomson and Armstrong were
hatch'd there, and old Allan Ramsay from the
neighbouring hills to the west.']
Lord Kames, ½ guinea, 4 copies.
Wauchope of Niddrie, ½ guinea, 4 copies.
Miss Anne Keith, 2S. 6d.
TO MR. CHALMERS.
[The year after her son's death.] 1781.
I TOOK an airing for my health lately, and
came in so sick I dined on valerian and
snakewort, a drug I heartily abhor. I intended
that day to dine with you, as I know your viands
are always tempting, and I wish to be tempted —
tempted. But Satan would not let me come, he
confined me to my couch. Now, sir, I beg
pardon for being old and weak, for upon my
honour I cannot help it. I love my friends, if
possible, more than ever, but you see I must lie
horizontal ways. This season puts me in mind
of what Swift says to Stella —
So little gets for what she gives
We really wonder how she lives.
I declare I am so weak I can hardly walk; meantime
I cannot for the soul of me get my soul at
rest. I must know how you are; send Anne to
tell me. It's a little angelick figure that makes
me think of those I am going to. Adieu, my
dear friends! I imagine I may write after I am
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
15th Mch. [1781 ?].
ONE week Lady neglected to send in your
letter; two weeks I was in the country —
taken by the neck, my head being so fixed to one
posture as it had been laid on a block. I considered
during this state that I had longer than
any of my cotemporarys enjoyd the use of all
my members and facultys, that all the severe
inflictions I had received was of the mental kind,
and I hoped a universal rhumatism might happen
to obliterate some of those mental pains. You
cannot conceive with what fortitude I received the
idea and resigned my body to purgatory for the
good of my soul; yet I have got the power of my
neck again, and my head can turn to right and
left — not cleverly yet, but without much pain.
Lord be thanked, Lady has escaped! We got a
sad alarm about her by the carrier. Cholack (?) is
a clever fellow — whip, Jack, and be gone! What
a mercy he left her. Indeed I am thankful for it.
You say you can't write to me but when you are
merry, melancholy, or in love. Melancholy or in
love is the same thing. It is a sad passion and
destroys all mirth. Even mutual love is a curse,
and attended with perpetual distress. I will tell
you my Idea of Love. No unworthy mind is
capable of it. It is a touchstone. The coarse,
unfeeling soul cannot conceive it. They cannot
feel for it. They do not believe in it, or if they
see it they look on it as a disease, and try harsh,
external medicines which resemble blisters inflamed.
I have had many patients in this disease,
and always found it a very fatal one to my sex.
Now, why the noblest passion of the soul should
he the cause of more pain than any other, I have
long tryd to find out; but you must help me. I
will tell you my reveries about it. It is planted
in the soul for the noblest object and by the
noblest. It is to live for ever while all others are
gone — when hope is lost in certainty, faith in
fruition, and compassion has no object. That
glorious passion which meets with continued disappointments
here will then meet its object and
live for ever enraptured by the benign influences of
the supreme beauty. I said before none but noble
souls are capable of a steady, firm, and real affection;
and I'm afraid I gave much of it to our
sex, though I would do injustice to yours and to
truth if I did not confess I have seen as firm in
yours, as fervid, ay, and as delicate, though not
commonly — not commonly delicate. Do you
know, I'm convinced a mind incapable of love is
also so of devotion; but both are unhappy in this
state — troubled at doubts, fears, darkness, disappointments.
Indeed, did the finer feelings of
that noble passion find full completion here, we
should never think of Heaven, nor care to change
our present state. Enough of this. I like your
scheme of instruction, as fit to teach the most
common people to give a reason for the faith that
is in them. At the same time, it is somewhat dangerous
ever to let them know it was ever doubted.
They have not time to reason back and for, and
it's the better for them. Your next subject will
be more interesting, as whatever touches the heart
must always affect us more than what is apply'd
to the head. I think our preachers in common
are too great reasoners. Every mortal has passions.
Hope and fear are the springs of action,
and they cannot be too much applyd to. Common
minds must have fear. They would not understand
my idea of Hell, which is simply this — feeling
myself unworthy of my Maker's favour and
being debarred his presence.
Have ye read Blair's Sermons? (a) I have,
and think that one on the death of Christ the
noblest grand production I ever saw on the subject.
This is holy week in our chappel. I'm
not overfond of Mr. Touch's helpers. Dr.
M'Night is a scholastick drone, with vile
language; Johnston of Leith a vile, affected
pathetick (b). I'm certain he does not feel
what he says, or he would touch me; and he
never does but with what I am sorry to feel for
any fellow creature — tho' I have too often cause
to feel it both for myself and others. Guess what
it is, and believe me I have never felt it for you;
but I am sincerely your friend, which is better
than humble servant, A. C.
(a). — The Rev. Dr. Hugh Blair, whose lectures on
'Rhetoric and Belles Lettres' led to the foundation
of a rhetoric class in Edinburgh University
and the appointment of himself as first Professor.
When Creech, the bookseller (Burns's friend),
offered Dr. Blair a hundred guineas for his first
volume of sermons, he was incredulous, and exclaimed,
'Will you, indeed?' Yet so far did
their popularity exceed all expectation that the
publishers presented the author with two additional
sums of money. George III. had the
sermons read to him by the eloquent Earl of
Mansfield, with the result that a pension of £200
was settled on the reverend professor. With all
his sense, Blair was vain, susceptible of flattery,
and something of a fop. When being fitted with
new clothes, he made the tailor lay the mirror on
the floor, and then stood over it on tiptoe to see
how the skirts hung! His wig, frizzed and
powdered to perfection, was adjusted to a hair's-breadth,
his gown scrupulously arranged on his
shoulders, his hands always of spotless white. He
died four days before the close of last century in
his 83rd year. — Kay, i. 121.
(b). — — Mrs. Cockburn attended Buccleuch
Church (then a Chapel of Ease), not more than
two minutes' walk from her house. Before Dr.
Touch resigned the charge in 1808, the congregation
had gradually dwindled away till the seat
rents dropped from £150 to less than £30 per
annum. By the efforts of Sir Henry Moncrieff
and his colleague in St. Cuthbert's, the debt was
cleared, Dr. Touch had an annuity of £80, a large
addition was made, and an endowment founded
before a new minister was inducted in 1813. Dr.
Thomas M'Knight, who had been an unsuccessful
candidate for the second Canongate charge in
1789, vainly opposed the celebrated Sir John Leslie
for the vacant chair of Mathematics in Edinburgh
University, Leslie being charged by the clergy
with infidelity. Dr. Johnston, minister of North
Leith, left a reputation much at variance with
Mrs. Cockburn's unsparing criticism. So deep
was the esteem felt for him by his parishioners in
Newhaven that the fishwives selling to a higgling
customer would say, 'Na, na, I wadna gie them
to the Doctor himsel' for that siller.' Arriving
at a cottage one day, and being told that Adam
L——, the guidman, was away fishing, Dr. Johnston
proceeded to catechise the mistress, as was
then the custom. 'Can you tell me, Jenny, what
was the cause of Adam's fall?' "'Deed, sir, it
was naething but drink,' answered Janet, at the
same time calling to her husband, 'Adam, ye may
as weel get up, for the Doctor kens brawly
what's the matter; some clashin' deevils o'
neibours hae telt him a' aboot it.' — Kay, ii. 344
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
4 May 1782.
I HAVE got 24 subscribers, and as Mr. Bell
took so large a share, we all wish you to employ
him as your bookseller. My nephew Wat
Scot is to dine with me — he still looks melancholy.
No time for news, but marriages may do. —
Douglas of Cavers to Lady Charlotte Stewart;
Jamie Ranny, wine merchant, to Miss Mure,
eldest daughter to Baron Mure (a).
(a). — 'Wat Scot' was no doubt Mr. Scott of
Wauchope, husband of Mrs. Cockburn's niece
Elizabeth, who exchanged poetic addresses with
Burns, and entertained him on his border tour
(see p. 191). George Douglas of Cavers was
married, 10th July 1782, to Lady Grace, daughter
of Francis, 8th Earl of Moray. Lady Grace lived
till 1846, surviving her husband thirty-one years.
Bell, Rannie & Co., the well-known firm of wine
merchants, date their business from 1715. The
Rannies were connected with Rannie of Melville,
whose daughter married Henry Dundas, afterwards
Lord Melville. Her sister, marrying
Sheriff Cockburn, became mother of the illustrious
Henry, Lord Cockburn.
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
20th Decr. 1782.
THANK you, good sir, for the excellent
epitaphs. They are far the best I have
seen (a). May mine be prophetick in the last
line. I allow for the partiality of a friend in the
character. I am certain I was supported by
Heaven to bear and outlive the heartfelt sorrows
I have endured, but I am much afraid it was
merely a merciful gift, and I had no share in it.
For I am not half so devout as I was in my days
of prosperity. Tho' affliction has not overwhelmed
my reason, it has deadened my heart; and as I
have neither hope nor ambition in this life, I
cannot rouse my stupid ideas to that blessed state
where all my hopes ought to be centred. I go
on like a machine, and wish my God would
direct me every action of my life; but indeed I
am far from that state of mind I wish for. I'm
much pleased with my son's character justly
mark'd in one line — 'Endeared him to the few to
whom he condescended to make himself known.'
That is truly characteristic. He had a reserve
that grieved me much, because he could not communicate
his griefs, and even try'd to hide from me
the pains of Death. . . . I am sorry for Baby Scot
(c. p.175). She's a sweet girl, and I hope something
may be done in time (b). Speak to Mrs. Plummer
about her — she will get her parents to change her
or climate. I am curious to know the subject of
your publication. You will have acquired one of
Sterne's cardinal virtues, but you must get a son
and plant a tree before you are complete! Lord
Kames is writing yet — anecdotes of his life. He
is also sitting to a statuary for his statue in marble,
to be placed in the middle of a superb monument,
of which he has got a model. Somebody rejoiced
to see him so cleverly employed. What?' says
he, 'should I sit with my finger on my cheek,
waiting till Death take me?' We authors,
Douglas, carry vanity to the grave with us. I
believe it's as great an enlivener of life as Hope.
. . . Are you not laughing now at me classing
myself with the authors? But I assure you I
have seen myself in print; and once in a paragraph
from Newcastle did I read an address of
my own in Shakspear's stile to the King for the
Peace. How it got there I never could learn. I
want you to put in droll ballad verse an address
to the patriotick gentleman who will have an
internal defence from the wives and mothers of
Scotland, offering themselves with their pockers
and spits to beat off all invaders, if they will
allow their honest husbands to make meal and
malt for them, and not turn them all into idle
redcoats! In former times I could have sung
their internal defence into great ridicule, as I
think it deserves. A merry Xmass to you and
your good mother and sisters. — I am, dear sir,
yours sincerely, A. COKBURNE.
The beautiful Anne Chalmers has your charades
and has never returned them.
(a). — The epitaphs here mentioned were found
beside Mrs. Cockburn's brief autobiography at
Abbotsford. Neither appears on the headstone
in Buccleuch Church burying-ground, but its
simple inscription has been kept well to the top,
as if to leave room for an addition. In her will
Mrs. Cockburn says, 'Shorten or correct the
epitaph to your taste' — evidently in the expectation
that Dr. Douglas's would be made use of.
Probably sincere enough, it is in the turgid and
laboured style too common in epitaphs a hundred
EPITAPH ON MRS. COCKBURN,
Written by the Rev. Dr. Douglas, Minister of Galashiels.
Daughter to ROBERT RUTHERFURD, Esqre. of Fairnillee,
long the happy wife — longer the afflicted widow
of PATRICK COCKBURN, Esqre.,
of the ancient family of Ormistoun.
Once a joyful mother,
She had the mortification to outlive her only child,
And bore the extremes of human happiness and misery
with equality of temper,
Which rarely accompanies
Warm affections and exquisite sensibility!
In this manner,
Without ostentation, she gave substantial evidence
That the doctrines and comforts of Christianity
Had taken deep hold of a mind
Which Nature had liberally furnished
With all those rare endowments
That please and charm and win the soul.
She lives in the memory of the
She lives in the hearts of her
She lives in the bosom of her
Near to the Mother
Lies the son of her love,
Captain ADAM COCKBURN, of 11th Regiment Dragoons,
the last of an ancient and illustrious race.
Had he lived in an age and nation
Where the mean arts of corruption and servility
Triumphed not over merit,
His military talents and skill in his profession,
and his Roman virtue,
Would have drawn him forth to public notice
and raised him to stations
Equal in trust and in honour to those
Which, in another line,
His ancestors filled with universal applause.
His manly and honourable spirit
Endeared him to the few to whom he condescended
to make himself known;
And disposed him to leave without regret
So totally opposed to that
Where a mind like his is naturally formed
(b). — Mrs. Plummer of Middlestead; either
the widow of Dr. Andrew Plummer (herself a
Plummer and daughter of William Plummer, who
married Miss Ker of Sunderland Hall) or the
wife of her son, Andrew Plummer, Sheriff of
the Forest, and a learned antiquary. The latter
was a Miss Pringle of Torwoodlee, and lived a
widow for many years.
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
26 March 1783.
THOUGH I have neither time nor inclination,
I must send you a line to acknowledge the
pamphlet, which shall be returned next week. I
wrote Lady to tell you that Mr. Keith was much
pleased with your pamphlet. Miss Johnston is
to recommend it to Drumelzier and Mr. Chartris,
who are both non-jurors. They will bring it in
fashion; but nobody reads to get principles — only
to get amusement. I don't think the fate of
Messina (b) so bad as the fate of Britain — to go
altogether is nothing compared to being hanged,
or deserving to be hanged, one by one. By what
I have read of the army pamphlet I see the
difference of the wit of the times you distinguish,
and justly. I've just read the 46th Psalm: it
is very exact indeed and à propos. Preach upon
it. Adieu! Very glad Baba Scot is better:
she's a good girl.
(a). — A pamphlet entitled Observations on the
Nature of Oaths and the danger of multiplying them
was published by Dr. Douglas in 1783. It extends
to 103 pages, and is a well-written, well-reasoned
treatise. Election oaths are particularly considered,
and remarks introduced on the proposed alterations
respecting the qualifications of freeholders
in Scotland. Discussing bribery in its effects
upon candidate as well as elector, Dr. Douglas
says, the mind which stoops to offer bribes will
also stoop to take them. "I have bought you,"
said a member of parliament to his constituents,
"and, by God, I will sell you!"' On the
question of representation the author falls back
on this general principle — neither to confine the
precious privilege of electing representatives in
parliament to the few, nor yet to prostitute it to
(b). — Messina was half destroyed by an earthquake
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
Edin., 3 June 1784.
LADY FAIRNALEE and Mrs. Cokburne
join in wishing all health and happiness to
Mr. Douglas and his bride. They drank their
healths yesterday along with the King's in Lady
Fairnalee's house, where Mr. Mark [Pringle], Miss
Anne Pringle, and Miss Murray sincerely joined.
. . . Mrs. Siddons continues to make work for
Doctors, shoemakers, etc. 'The Fatal Marriage'
murdered half the women, besides loss of shoes
and gown tails.
Note. — Mr. Douglas was married to Robina,
daughter of Mr. George Lothian, jeweller in
Edinburgh, on 4th June 1784.
13th June 1784.
I AM in high provocation with the gay world.
One would think the very mention of a
Christian duty scares them from their pleasures.
Nobody of fashion would attend Mrs. Siddons,
because she acted for charity! . . . What can be
the reason, think ye? . . . I dined yesterday with
Lady Fair[nilee], Lady Don, Miss Murray, and
Don Mark. I got a fine sleep after the fatigue
of her stair. The influenza has come here. The
treasurer has had it, but is so well again as to go
to dinner yesterday where Mrs. Siddons is to be
till Glasgow theatre open. Our lawyers have
presented her with a grand tea-tray with a fine
inscription. Her curtsey of leave brought the
tears into every eye. She needs no words: she
can speak with every gesture, every motion.
Note. — On this, her first visit to Edinburgh,
the rage for seeing Mrs. Siddons was so great
that one day there were 2557 applications for
630 places, and many even came from Newcastle
to witness her performances. She played eleven
nights, exclusive of the Charity Workhouse
benefit. At her own benefit she drew £350,
and a party of gentlemen presented her with
£260, besides which she shared £50 a night.
On the piece of plate was engraved — 'As a mark
of esteem for superior genius and unrivalled
talents, this vase is respectfully inscribed with the
name of SIDDONS. Edinburgh, 9th June 1784'
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
Crichton St., Edin., 20 Sept. 1784.
TO give up a correspondence of many years'
standing, just upon the man's being married,
has a very bad appearance for the lady. It looks
as if he had jilted her and she had taken umbrage.
To prevent all suspicions of that kind, which
might hurt both your character and hers, I once
more take up the pen, tho' after an intermission
of so many months I have much less to say than
if I had wrot every week. . . And I suppose
you are now so lulled in the lap of domestic
felicity your thoughts have hardly once wandered
into this city. . . We heard Mrs. Scot, Gala
had been dangerously ill. I hope she is recovering:
what a loss she would be to her family!
As my parson Touch must be upsides with you
in some shape or other, he went north 3 weeks
ago on a matrimonial affair; and he writes me
he had married — his sister, to a very good
man in very good circumstances, but does not
mention of what profession. He says when he
went north the fields and inhabitants looked both
wretched; but 14 days' fine hot weather had
altered the face of things entirely. . . . Never
was I too hot in September before — except dancing
in our birthdays — heigh how!
'The spell has ceased in Ossian's Hall,' etc.
Now, as sister is to add a line and writes a good
large hand, I leave room for her, etc. etc.,
Then, in clumsy round hand:—
Good Rev. Sir, Mrs. Cokburne has left blank
paper for me to fill up, but that is more than I
can do at present, having nothing to say that's
worth. So with my sincere good wishes to you
and your family, I am, Sir, your most humble
servant, M. R[UTHERFURD].
Windmill Street, 21 Sept. 84.
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
Galashiels, 17th October 1784.
Postscript. — The Lady,
Nell Murray, Nell
Molison, Colonel Lyon,
and Dr. Ruth[erford],
are just gone after
supper. Lady would
not write a scrap, and
said the piece here was
too small for her hand.
Mind to read this last —
and to keep the lobster
claws for gumsticks.
Mrs. Simpson, America,
brought a Dun: on club
night — Sunday. This
is the blank fill'd up.
Threescore and eleven
[years] and nine days
past since the nativity
of A. C., who has seen
much, felt much, and
yet thanks God, who
made her immortal, and
that now He is and
must be her Creator.
And therefore, after this
post- or ante-script, I
will begin my letter;
A vast deal of waste-paper! and no comodity
am I so carefull of as witness every friend of
mine who, when they see an inch of paper, says,
'that's a note from Mrs.—.' Well, we
shall see if thrift makes me fill it up. Don't you
think following the impromptu is quite necessary
in correspondence? Had I had time, the moment
I received my birthday letter, I had fifty fine,
sincere, sentimental, pious, gratfull things to say;
but they come and they come like bees out of a
scap, not to suck flowers, not to make honney,
but merely to buz, buz and disturb one's train
of thoughts crowding in a heap of corporeal
figures, which puts to flight all one's mental ideas,
and leaves nothing but curls and hoops and caps
and ribbons, etc. Now, a week has elapsed, and
it is not for want of reading if I forget you.
I send seri-comick, celestial, terrestrial Hally's
heavenly earthly letters. A lady, a particular
favourite, was alone with me when I got it. You
are right not to trust me with good letters. You
might as well send me an ortolon to eat alone.
That she heard me read the letter, that she put
it in her pocket, is as certain as that many have
read it, tho' it discovers my antiquity day and
date. That it met with applause you will be
sure ; but (to mortify you and myself) I read it
to one lady, no bad critick, and religious too.
She stopd me and said it was a shame to treat
sacred subjects in so ludicrous a manner! I put
my letter halfway read in my pocket, and said I
would not cast pearls befor swine, and askd her
whether she worshipd God or the devil? Lady,
who never forgets birthdays, kept the 1st of
October alone. She obliged me to give her a
feast on the 8th, which I believe was some
haddocks and minced colops. So we solemnized
the funeral of my both year and baptised the 71.
I never was very vain in my youth. I am not
sure if ever I was so vain of any Lover or admirer
as I was of the heavenly affection of your predecessor,
whom, by his own assignation, I rode
over from Fairnalee at 6 in the morning to meet
him in bed (see b, p. 88). He had his fine white
bushy hair under a fine holland nightcap; sheets,
shirt as white as snow; a large bible open on a
table by his bed, with his watch. He embraced
me with fervor, and said I would not repent losing
some hours' sleep to see for the last time an old
man who was going home. He naturally fell
into a description of his malady, checkd himself
and said it was a shame to complain of a bad road
to a happy home. 'And there,' he says, 'is my
passport' — pointing to his bible — 'let me beg, my
young friend, you will study it. You are not
yet a Christian' (he said true), 'but you have an
inquiring mind and cannot fail to be one.' Then
he prayd fervently for me and said he was wasted,
blessd some particular friends, and bid me farewell.
I never was so happy in a morning as I
was rideing home. The impression, the picture
was engravers on my mind. Instantly, I wrote
it to David Hume. But the reason why David
did not know he was a Christian was a total want
of fire, of ethereal fire. He was phlematick
material; and I dare say will now wonder he is
alive, and to know what nonsense he wrote!
Such a length of letter and I am not begun yet!
Don't let your wife see my letters: she'll think
I'm crazy. I dined with Lady and Nell to-day,
and they are to play at tredril (a) and eat potatoes
with me. This is the common course. You may
believe the Jamaica news (b) hurts Nell greatly,
but Nell is a composed real Christian and realy
trusts in God, without suspecting a grain of the
Devil presides over human affairs. Poor P—h,
I believe, must wait your Time for luck: he is
expected here every day. The most foolish folly
of this foolish age is Baloon-madness, which has
siezed mobs and monarchs. Our boys mocks it
here every day — a fine waste of straw and gray
paper. Poor Babie Scot! (c) I pity her very much.
I hope she will not soon come home. As I am
confessor to many, I wish I had the power of
absolution, or at least the power of quieting disturbed
spirits. It is severe to see a wounded
spirit; but the one I know is not self-wounded,
and so I hope it will heal. Service to your fireside,
and bid them eat a lobster to my health. —
Yours, A. COKBURNE.
Unless the Lady fill up the hiatus in the beginning,
it must go as it is, and she is very averse
to writing. My only time to myself is from 5
to 7, when all others drink tea, and I read, work,
(a). — Tredrille, a game at cards for three
persons. 'I was playing at eighteenpenny tredrille
with the Duchess of Newcastle and Lady Browne.'
— H. WALPOLE.
(b).— Nell Murray, probably of the Philiphaugh
family. After being ruined by electioneering
expenses and the burning of his residence, the
laird went to the West Indies. It is no doubt he
who is alluded to by Mrs. Cockburn as 'poor
(c). — Miss Barbara Scott, daughter of John
Scott of Gala, then in her nineteenth year. She
died in 1844. at Rothesay, where there is a tablet
to her memory in St. Mary's Chapel. Her brother,
Sir George Scott, K.C.B., was a distinguished
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
1784, 16th Novr..
SEE how much better example is than precept.
I have been counselling him to marry very
long to no purpose; but you married on 4th
June, and Parson Touch married on the 15th
November. O! to whom? to whom? Why,
neither to youth, beauty, nor siller. Very strange
— ay, but very true. Flora M'Donald, now Mrs.
Touch, is middle-aged, comely, sensible, and
truly accomplished, particularly in musick. . . .
Touch informed me of it on Saturday, and yesterday
I saw them set out after the ceremony at
4 o'clock in 2 chaises for the Ferry. . . . My
heart is heavy, for your admired Mrs. Simson's
most worthy husband is dangerously ill. What
a ruin his loss would be to a helpless woman and
5 young ones — the youngest a month old, whom
she is nursing! Pray for them and for yours,
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
1784 (November 26), Friday morning.
I RECEIVED yours last night when I came
home at 11 o'clock from sitting all the afternoon
and evening with the afflicted widow, seeing
her suckle her infant and hearing her recount the
thousand proofs of her worthy husband's affection
to her, and fatherly care of her mother and young
brothers all in America. You may believe I had
no relish for puns — a species of wit only tolerable
when one lets one by accident, and never fails to
raise a laugh — like any other explosion, though it
leaves no savoury remembrance. I should be extremely
sorry for the industrious inhabitants of
your village if it were not for the benevolence and
generous compassion of the Lord of the Manor,
whose heart must at present be softened by his
own sorrows. This is one feature of the word
you wish me to define; and you must allow I
could not give you a more living example. But
I do not confine sensibility to compassion. If it
were definable, I think it is a quick perception
and feeling for everything great, good, or beautiful.
One who has it strong flows into tears of pleasure
on reading or hearing of a generous action; and
shudders at hearing of a cruelty. I have seen
people mistake a selfish little mean pride, apt to
take the pet, for sensibility — which, examined, is
mere want of sense. . . . The Lady, Miss Murray,
and I dined with Mark yesterday on a haggis. —
Yours, A. C.
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
28 Dec. 1784.
HAPPY years to you and your cara sposa.
have only time to tell you Lady got your
excellent letter and goose; but, poor body, had
nigh gone to drink nectar and eat ambrosia. . . .
It was the Galashiels disease attacked her; and,
now it's over, I hope she'll be better of it. As
I never encourage married men in amours, I will
add no more to your seraglio; but I send you
a douce useful almanac and a ginger cake to eat
with your holyday drams.
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
I RECEIVED yours and fox-tail safe, for which
I thank you; and also for your making so
long a discourse on so short a text. One error
I must remind you of. You mention a lady of
72 — once admired. That lady begs leave to
inform you she has more admirers and real lovers
now than she had at 17, and refers to your own
feelings of her perfections! This same storm has
prevented me from joining in any one of the
annual festivals. I did indeed dine with Mr.
Pringle on Christmas day, but have never stir'd
since. Thanks to my attractions, my friends
come to me, and in the midst of the season of
feasts, I never want a party at night who are contented
with my humble fare. Doctor Boerhaave
said, and it's true, none but fools or beggars can
starve of cold. To show I am none of these, I
am clad this moment, and always, in a scarlet
flannel short gown over all my cloaths. Some
of my lovers allege it is coquetry — I look so
handsome in it. N'importe, I'm warm, and
determined not to seek pleasure, but enjoy as
much ease as possible. . . . You don't crave your
almanack, so I suppose you have got one? I had
one ready for you, though you know I have never
indulged you in a seraglio of dress'd women since
you was married! Lady sup'd with me New Year
Night, and we have not met since. But I see
Nell Murray every day, and niece Simpson is my
sure hand, and feeds me and my people with nice
drams and sweet breads. Talking of that, I send
you a ginger cake for your morning dram.
There's a horrid rap! Ah! it's Mrs. M'Kay.
If Mr. Main's with you, my respects to him.
Mrs. Mackay sends her compliments.
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
PRAY, how is Mrs. Scot? (a) I feel much for
the distress of that excellent young woman.
. . . In calamity who can help but the God who
formed the heart to feel it? Reason is of no
use, religion of less. . . . In the meantime, if she
could adopt personal severities, it would do well—
ride in rain, wind, and storm till fatigued to
death: or spin on a great wheel and never sit
down till weariness of nature makes her. I do
assure you I have gone through all these exercises,
and have reason to bless God my reason was preserved
and health now more than belongs to my
age. Tell Mrs. Scot how much I feel for her;
bid her toyl herself, and she will recover to bless
so many who love her and depend on her.
(a) .—Probably Mrs. Scott of Gala (Anne, only
daughter of Colonel M'Dougall of Makerston).
Her husband, John Scott, died in 1785. Their
second son, Admiral Sir George Scott, had a most
distinguished career, and died in 1841, at the
age of seventy-two.
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
January 18, 1786.
WHETHER the snow will please to let you
receive this and your almanac I know not;
but I shall perform my part, and trust only to your
friend Jenny to convey it to the carrier. Yours
by Mr. Paterson I received; but there was no
carriers in, I was told, by whom I could write.
I hope you and sposa keeps one another warm?
She has a toast in her will keep her right enough.
Now, if it should be a Miss, mind I am the first
that toasted her. Lady has not seen me for some
days — to-day she keeps as sacred to her husband's
memory. He went to Heaven to-day, it seems.
Were I to remember all the days on which I
met severe separations — but they have made to
me all days alike a perfect —. I had hopes of
sending you a read of interesting memoirs wrote
by a friend of mine; but there is such a demand
for them, I cannot this week. We have had
variety of shipwrecks and severe distress; but my
sorrow is [for] a poor lady who was set ashore
for sickness, to come by land. When she arrived,
a perfect stranger, the ship was wrecked — her
husband and three daughters drown'd. I could
shoot her out of charity.
TO MR. CHALMERS.
ROBIE ANDERSON is to be married to Lady
Anne Charteris; Macdowell of Logan to
Lucy Johnstone. Anti-marriages — a young
knight about a year married has left his wife, as
she is a devil and he cannot live in peace. Lewis
of France has sent his wife to meditate in the
country. You'll see a man here burned his wife
just for a Sunday's amusement.
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
1786, 15 Oct., Sunday.
I APPOINTED this day, when free of interruption,
to thank you for my birthday letter
and to obey your pastoral directions by looking
back on a very long life. If I were to judge from
the various scenes I have been placed in, my
memory would make me believe that instead of 73,
I have lived 300 years. I can this moment figure
myself running as fast as a greyhound in a hot
summer day to have the pleasure of plunging into
Tweed to cool me. I see myself made up like a
clew, with my feet wrapt in a peticoat, on the
declivity of the hill at Fair[nalee], letting myself
roll down to the bottom with infinite delight. As
for the chace of the silver spoon at the end of the
rainbow, nothing could exceed my ardour except
my faith, which excelled it. I can see myself the
first favourite at Lamotte's dancing, and recollect
turning pale and red with the ambition of applause.
I advance to the age of admiration and assemblies.
I was a prude when young; and remarkably
grave. It was owing to a consciousness that I
would not pass unobserved, and a fear of giving
offence or incurring censure. I loved dancing
exceedingly, because I danced well. At 17 my
career was stopt. I was married, properly speaking,
to a man of 75, my father-in-law. I lived
with him 4 years, and as an ambition had seized
me to make him fond of me, knowing also nothing
could please his son so much, I bestowed all
my time and study to gain his approbation. He
disapproved of plays and assemblys: I never went
to one (see b, page 25). Soon the joys and cares
of a mother fill'd my whole heart.
The various places of residence, the many uncommon
joys and sorrows I have felt, the most
acute sorrows with high strung passions, makes it
amazing how at so late a period I have strength
to record it. I was 22 years united to a lover
and a friend; 50 years a happy tho' anxious
mother, now 33 years a widow. See, then, if I
have not lived 300years. Now I feel all the
blessings of old age, and thank my Creator and
Preserver that he did not hear my prayers for
death when my mind was in a tumult of passion
and despair. I now seem to myself seated on
a height under a serene sky, looking back on
the tempest I have escaped, and thankful to my
Preserver for allowing me ease — tho' no strength
— eyesight, and a capacity to be amused with it;
kind friends and a heart grateful and cheered by
their kindness; no anxious cares for futurity; no
desires for what is out of my power; a wish to
make everybody as happy as I am, or, at least,
less miserable; a violent desire to be more devout
than I am. I pray to be so, for God himself only
can infuse the love of himself into the human soul.
And, waiting patiently, I answer myself, 'You
are seeking pleasure here that belongs to a future
world.' Am I right? And now, for constitution
of body, I think mine is what it ever was — never
strong, but clean and free of gross humours. I
never could eat as much as to feel repletion, nor
drink as much as to feel any great degree of
intoxication. Not but I have been often enlivened
with a glass of Fairnalee ale. You see, temperance
is no virtue in me — merely constitutional. Now,
my receit for health is also the same exactly —
clean in my person, and, when needful, a dose of
elixir. So endeth the chapter of egotism.
I had a wedding in my house on Friday — your
cusin Jenny, my little buttler, to a Mr. Robison,
a friseur, and really a very genteel lad and in
good business. I am truly sorry to part with my
Jenny. She has been 6 years with me, but I
hope she has a prospect of being as happy as
she deserves. She and her caro sposo, with their
attendants, are gone to the Erse Kirk — they are
all Braes of Athole people. I never saw a neater
young couple. They have both seen good company;
for ye know a friseur is admitted to the
very best. . . . Love to your spouse and blessing
to the young Douglas. — Yours sincerely,
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
1786, 30th Dec., Saturday.
SUCH a combustion as your last letter has
raised! You know I cannot enjoy any
'goodys' alone, so I sent it with Nell Murray
to the Lady. When I sent for it, they returned
me one dated 17th November. I have scolded,
Lady has scolded, Nell has sworn: letter more I
cannot get; but I remember the contents. No
wonder you preached on Death! I daresay you
never was so terrifyd at it as when it threatened
by the measles? Thank God your boy is preserved
to you! . . . You say you have grown
indolent in preaching since you were married; by
the same rule you should neither shave nor shift.
However, I hope it's only the desire of shining
is abated. . . . I have only time to wish Mrs.
Douglas many happy returns of the season, and
to ask whether you will have a he or a she
almanack. . . . The town is at present agog with
the ploughman poet, who receives adulation with
native dignity, and is the very figure of his profession
— strong and coarse — but has a most
enthusiastick heart of LOVE. He has seen
dutchess Gordon and all the gay world. His
favrite for looks and manners is Bess Burnet —
no bad judge indeed (a).
(a). — To Thomson, then busy with his work
on Scottish song, Burns wrote in 1793: 'The
three stanzas beginning, "I hae seen the smiling
o' fortune beguiling," are worthy of a place, were
it but to immortalise the author of them, who
is an old lady of my acquaintance and at this
moment living in Edinburgh.' He might have
added that from these stanzas he had derived one
of his own earliest inspirations, much of the sentiment,
and not a few of the actual words and
phrases, of his song, 'I dream'd I lay,' written
when he was seventeen, being identical with those
in the 'Flowers of the Forest' (see p. 119, note a).
Bess Burnet, the attached and dutiful daughter of
Lord Monboddo (see p. 76, note b), preserved
herself in maiden meditation, fancy free,' although
much courted and admired, not less for
her gifts of mind than for her charm of person.
Burns fell a helpless victim to her beauty, and in
his address to 'Edina, Scotia's darling seat,'
mentions her by name, her alone of all the
dwellers in the capital: —
'Thy daughters bright thy walks adorn,
Gay as the gilded summer sky,
Sweet as the dewy milk-white thorn,
Dear as the raptured thrill of joy.
Fair Burnet strikes the adoring eye,
Heaven's beauties on my fancy shine;
I see the Sire of Love on high,
And own his work indeed divine!'
Nor was the impression transitory and fleeting,
like too many which fell on his susceptible soul.
At the close of 1786 he writes, 'There has not
been anything nearly like her in all the combinations
of Beauty, Grace, and Goodness the great
Creator has formed, since Milton's Eve, on the
first day of her existence.' And to Alexander Cunningham,
three years later still, he declares, 'Miss
Burnet is not more dear to her guardian angel,
nor his grace of Queensberry to the powers of
Darkness, than my friend Cunningham to me.'
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
10th Jan. 1787.
I KNOW you will be angry at the size of my
paper, but my neck and head are not in tift
for writing. Sorry I am my poems are not returned
from Niece Scot (a), though she promised
them this week. The one I admired most is
'The Cottar's Saturday Night.' The man will
be spoiled, if he can spoil, but he keeps his simple
at manners and quite sober. No doubt he will be
the Hunters' Ball to-morrow, which has made all
women and miliners mad. Not a gauze fantasy of
cap under two geanys, many ten, twelve, oh! oh!
I have had more pleasure, I'm sure, in cloathing
a dirty, naked foundling of 10 years old. I
collected pence till I got her clean and whole, and
now am to seek service for her. I partly envy
you the enjoyment of good Mrs. Pringle and her
excellent family. When you see any of them, give
my love, tho' Mrs. Plumer has forsaken me. Do
you never go to Ashiesteel? I think a visit there
would be charitable, and you can hardly see two
more agreeable women and fine weans. . . .
You'll receive your almanac, as also a ginger cake
for your morning dram. Adieu, dear Sir, yours,
(a). — In February 1787, a few weeks after
meeting him in Edinburgh, Mrs. Scott of
Wauchope (born Elizabeth Rutherford and niece
of Mrs. Cockburn) sent a rhyming epistle to
Burns of considerable point and merit, and had
the high distinction of receiving a reply in the
poet's happiest manner. One verse of it has
become as familiar as 'Tam o' Shanter,' or 'The
Epistle to Davie': —
'E'en then a wish (I mind its power) —
A wish that to my latest hour
Shall strongly heave my breast —
That I for puir auld Scotland's sake
Some usefu' plan or book could make,
Or sing a song at least.'
It was natural that Burns, journeying through the
Border in May of the same year, should visit his
correspondent; but it seems to have been something
of a disenchantment: 'Set out next morning
(10th) for Wauchope, the seat of Mrs. Scott.
Mr. Scott exactly the figure and face commonly
given to Sancho Panza — very shrewd in his
farming matters. . . . Mrs. Scott all the sense,
taste, intrepidity of face, and bold critical decision
which usually distinguish female authors.' A few
days later he writes down another lady as 'fully
more clever in the fine arts and sciences than my
friend Lady Wauchope, without her consummate
assurance of her own abilities'; while in August
he says of Mrs. Dawson of Paisley, that 'like
old Lady Wauchope, and still more like Mrs.
C— her conversation is pregnant with strong
sense and just remark, but, like them, a certain
air of self-importance and a duresse in the eye
seem to indicate, as the Ayrshire wife observed of
her cow, that "she had a mind o' her ain." ' Can
Mrs. C— have stood for Mrs. Cockburn
herself? Elizabeth, wife of Walter Scott of
Wauchope, and daughter of David Rutherford,
Counsellor at Edinburgh, was born in 1729, and
died in her sixtieth year. She had an uncontrollable
propensity to rhyme, in which she grew by
practice to have considerable aptitude. She wrote
verses in her eleventh year. Her poems languished
unhonoured of the press till 1807, when 'Alonzo
and Cora, with other original poems, principally
elegiac,' were published in London, at the
instance of her relatives. The volume, which
derives its principal value from Burns's poetical
reply, is now extremely difficult to procure.
According to the Musical Museum, she was early
taught Latin and French, and became proficient
in many branches of belles lettres. It is stated that
having shown an early predilection for poetry,
she was benefited by the advice of Allan Ramsay,
and that she was intimate with Dr. Blacklock,
who constantly mentioned Miss Rutherford as a
writer whose talents were superior, and whose
poetry was deserving of praise. . . . 'Our poetess
was no less celebrated for her personal attractions
than for her intellectual endowments. The youth
who shared her affections, and with whom she was
supposed to have consented to pass the remainder
of her days, was unfortunately drowned in his
passage to Ireland; and the recollection of his
disastrous fate clouded her future prospects.' At
rather an advanced period of life she married
Mr. Walter Scott of Wauchope, near Hawick, a
country gentleman of considerable property. (See
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
1787, 16th Jany.
ONE of the under officers of my household,
commonly called the water wife, being often
in a state of intoxication, I had again and again
ordered her dismission, but found I had as little
power in giving or retracting offices as the King
of Britain, unless my premier chused it. I then
enquired what extraordinary merits she had to
counterbalance her enormities, and was informed
a little ragged child who got our scum-milk, and
whom I had always supposed to be her own bastard
she bore 9 years ago, was only a foundling which
the parish had given her to suckle, her own child
having died, and that she had maintained the
child ever since, having nothing from the Kirk
Session but her nurse fee. I have got the little
creature some clean clothes, and find her the
cleverest errand goer I ever saw, most distinct at
a long message and as literal as Homer's messengers.
. . . Now, Mrs. Douglas's uncle, Mr.
Tod, is father of the Orphan Hospital. . . . If
this poor child grows up under the wing of the
water wife — alas, she has fine black eyes! In
short, I have set my heart on preventing her
from being damned; so if you will petition Mr.
Tod, you will oblige me and do an act of charity.
. . . I congratulate you on getting my niece,
Mrs. Sands, for a neighbour.
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
12 October, .
THANK you, good friend, for your annual.
How long think you that duty will call on
you? I am severely colded and stupified with
deaths of near connections all around me; but
cannot miss the opportunity of sending you a
plaister for your pains. It's a particular paper
made with tar. . . . I take the opportunity of
Anne Pringle to send this, as she goes to the
Forrest Frolick (a). Merry may they be!
(a) .— See verses, page 262.
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
1787 or 1789.
YOU'LL see I did not set your errand, when
I tell you I have this moment a letter from
Miss Johnstone (a), telling me Drumelzier is
willing to sign any paper for Mr. Gillon you
please, if he knew the mode of doing so. But
she says any papers sent to him must be franked,
or sent by a weekly carrier.
(a). — 'Suff Johnstone,' hardly recognisable
under the unwonted title of 'Miss.' (See a, p. 79.)
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
12 July 1787.
MUCH joy of your Edward! It's a grand
name : never call him Ned. I do not
wonder you are in love with niece Craigy. She
is the sweetest of her daughters, as Milton says.
My love to her and all my children. Alas! the
place of my nativity is a wreck, like myself; but
no M'Nab nor Time can ruin original beauties —
hills, rivers, woods — no, no! I write from my
bed, very weak. Remember in your prayers your
real friend, AL. COKBURNE.
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
30th January 1788.
LADY has kidnapd my sermon till she get a
lady to read it to her, for you know neither
her nor Nell ever read. I thank ye for it; but,
do you know, I am afraid of too much respect.
I'm such a cocquet, I like LOVE better than
reverence. Hume Rigg has left a hundred
(a). — James Hume Rigg of Morton, an extensive
shareholder in the Bank of Scotland, and
possessed of a very ample fortune, was said to
be somewhat parsimonious. His wife, a sister
of Sir John Sinclair of Ulbster, being of a more
liberal disposition, it frequently happened that
their opinions in matters of fashion and etiquette
were widely at variance. Dr. Gloag, one of the
ministers of Edinburgh, having been invited to
dinner, was entertained in a plain hut very substantial
manner. On taking leave he was pressed
by the lady to repeat his visit a few days afterwards.
'This,' said she, 'is one of Mr. Hume's
quiet affairs: the next will be mine.' Dr. Gloag
kept his appointment; and was astonished to find
himself one of a large party, for whom a sumptuous
dinner had been prepared in a style of splendour,
and with an array of waiting-men, for which he
was little prepared. Mr. Rigg had no children
to inherit his wealth — a circumstance which
grieved him deeply; and by a will supposed to
have been made in one of his fretful moods a
short time before his demise, he left only a small
jointure to his widow, Patrick Rigg of Dounfield
succeeding to the whole of his property. Mr.
Hume Rigg's house at the bottom of Gosford's
Close (now removed to make way for George IV.
Bridge) had spacious dining and drawing-rooms,
the bedrooms proportionally large and elegant.
The lobbies were all of variegated marble, and
the staircase of massive mahogany; but such was
the confined entry to this sumptuous mansion, that
it was impossible to get a sedan-chair near the
door! Mrs. Rigg was a lady of uncommon
vivacity and gaiety of spirit; and her youthful
fancies were not easily sobered down to the quiet
cool domestic enjoyments of mature age. She
was one of the most agile and graceful dancers
of the age, and an excellent violin player; and
has been known frequently to accompany her
movements on the light fantastic toe by the inspiring
strains of her own cremona. — Kay's Portraits,
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
1788, 5th Feby., Tuesday.
WELL, sir, everybody has read and approved,
especially us old women. We are willing
to appropriate the character on the 16th page,
which, tho' bestow'd on the masculine gender,
yet we think we may equally claim it. There
is something natural in respecting age. I can
remember, when I was 7 or 8 years old, there was
a very ancient gardener at Fairnilee, almost blind.
He employ'd me to clip his white beard every
Saturday, which I perform'd with the greatest
pride and pleasure. He was great grandson to
the Taits of Pirn — a most venerable man; and
when he pray'd God to bless me, I felt myself
blest. I have often admired Job's Elihu, and his
apology for speaking before his seniors. I was
a little (or not a little) vain just now. An old
admirer of mine has found out I am still alive
and in his neighbourhood. He was keen of
coming to see me. The last time we met was
in the 1745. Our acquaintance commenced in
the 1735. He is now past fourscore, and deaf.
He had better been blind, for me. But I am
to have an interpreter with a strong voice. If
he arrives before your carrier goes, I shall inform
you of our Congress. This town is in
the high meridian of madness. They are usually
gay, at least dissipated, at this season, but this
year more extravagant than ever — 3, 7, or 10
gueanys for a cap serves one night. More long
dinners than ever. Nothing is a — no bankruptzy
is a beacon. Mrs. Fall is much praised and much
pity'd — she's a noble creature. Hume Rigg has
disappointed his widow nobly. She expected sums
immense by will. No such will; just her jointure
of £150. But the heir is gen'rous and makes
it £300. You may judge what a begar she
would be with £150: her husband shew'd a
gentleman one year's millener bill he had pay'd
for her — just neat £500. As I am to have a
hagis feast to-day, I must not waste myself. Lady
is ill or well as she used to be. She dines with
Haining to-day. Dutchess Argyle visits Lady
Eglinton for her kindness to her son. The kindness
to my son was and is the strong tye I have.
I hardly think my gratitude would have extended
so far. Adieu for to-day.
Wednesday, 12 o'clock. — I find winter by no
means favourable to venerable amours. My swain
has never arrived; we had a hagis of the nicest gusto
— one man and four women. Are you fond of
poetry? Do ye know Burns? I am to get a
very pretty little thing he calls 'The Rosebud.'
Maybe, I'll send next week. With love to your
Adieu for this!
I wish you joy of excellent neighbors. I wish I
could write a Balad called 'The Forrest restored.'
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
1788, 6th October.
SO I see what it is to have agreeable neighbours!
Old friends are quite forgot! Five
or six months did not use to pass and neither the
Lady nor Mrs. C. hear a word from Parson
Douglas. However, such is my generosity, I am
happier to be neglected by my friend sfrom the
pleasures of my friends than by any distressful
circumstance. It is almost time, however, to
refresh your memory, and to tell you both Lady
and I are alive. Though frail in our understanders,
our understanding remains such as it
was. My greatest complaint is an activity of
mind, and an incapacity of body to obey its
master's commands. Upon the whole, none who
has numbered 3 score and 15 years has less reason
to complain. Then, if I had leg-capacity, perhaps
I would be trotting about, disturbing young merry
people with old wives' tales. Now, as we vet'rans
must find fault with the age we live in, I sit in
my scorner's chair, and ridicule all the present
fashions. I am as little successful as others of
my brother preachers. I've got but one face set
out with innocent boldness and one bosom without
the appearance of a nurse. I undertook lately
to soften a calous heart; but it would not do —
not a spunk of heat or light could be brought out.
My compliments to Mr. Ogilvy — I love everything
belonging to his excellent father.
1788, October 8th. — Thanks, my good friend,
for your excellent birthday letter. Mine was
wrot same day as yours to me. We heard after
that you had a daughter, and laughed at your
Highland blood that made you think a daughter
not worth writing about.
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
1788, 12 November.
WHAT is become of you, Friend Douglas?
It is just 2 months and 4 days since you
wrote, and both Lady and I wrote to you after.
We suspect our letters have miscarried. We are
all anxious about our good King, and in expectation
of a grand Comet. If it be commissioned
to destroy this globe, no doubt we will be terrified;
but when we reflect that we are promised a new
Heavens and a new earth in which dwelleth
righteousness, the change will be charming.
Pray let us know how Mrs. Douglas is, and yourself,
and all your concerns in which I wish you all
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
1788, 11 December.
DEAR PARSON, — I had your most excellent
epistle yesterday; and tho', to be sure, it is
not quite so sublime as Pliny's epistles, which is
my present study, yet it entertained me as well
— especially the account of your bum-battery.
Before I proceed, as I have been a fellow sufferer
by having a foundation laid on pyles, I must tell
you when that happens again, get a heap of leeks
boyl'd and put in a metal close stool, sit on it
as hot as you can bear it, and so long as it is
hot. Then hap yourself with warm flannel below.
I have also a reciet for an ointment. Here it is,
that I may end my phisical subject at once: 'For
the Pyles — Take an ounce diapalma, melt it down
very thin with the oyle of camomile; put to it
a scruple of saffron finely pounded, 3 grains
opium; mix all together and annoint the part.'
I have seen this give immediate ease. I suppose
you have some 'pothecary or other? He may
really give you a box gratis for the secret. My
fingers and my fancy are both so frozen, I must
leave and apply to Pliny. . . . Your kind enquiry
after my little Jenny cost me a message just
to tell her, and proud she is of it. She was
married October was 2 year to a friseur, a very
good lad — his name Robison, too. She has born
and nurs'd two sons, a John and a Paul. The
eldest dyed of the smallpox last week; her
husband has had them and Paul also, and are
well. Never was King so sincerely prayed for
by all sorts of people. A German chapel affected
me most. It was a charity sermon with hymns.
A verse was sung about the King. It was stop'd
by a sudden ejaculation from every mouth — 'O
God, restore the King,' and they all burst into
tears. See how goodness excels every shining
talent. We have a regency and no regency every
day. It will be a bad presage if the prince change
all his father's friends. . . . I've heard nothing,
and long to see nobody but the coalman. We are
miserable citizens — neither coal nor water to be
had. . . . Lady is lazy, and will not come out.
I never stir but 'but a house and ben a house.'
I've got a present of a fine large Gentle Shepherd
with delightful cuts — fine rural landscapes. Cause
Andrew Plumer get it. It is an honour justly
due our Scots Bard. Can you explain my feeling
— I cannot? I read it thro' t'other day and
cry'd the whole time tears of pleasure. Adieu,
my good friend, peace, health, LOVE, and plenty
attend your Christmas. Amen.
TO MR. CHALMERS.
I HAVE not broke cover these three weeks;
even in a chair been coughing with the
utmost vigour. If I live till April, I may be
able to see you — indeed, I am growing very frail.
You are well off that has such a companion as
my sweet Anne Page. My Anne Pr[ingle] was
at the Archers last night, where was six set (my
fair American came here at eleven to supper, and
was in fine spirits with a country bumpkin) — people
all merry; and men, women, and matrons danced.
I love to hear of it, it's like the days of my zenith
and health. Peace be restored to us. Amen!
. . . Now for news. I had a letter from Mark
Pringle, where he says, 'The parties themselves
being hurried, requested me to inform you that
Mr. Shaw and Mrs. Menzies joined hands Thursday
in St. Martin's Church, in presence of your
humble servant (who acted as father and gave the
lady away), Lady Townsend, Miss Townsend, and
Miss Montgomery. They set out immediately
for Plymouth, 30th April.' With my love to
the lassies, and thanks for all your good things,
I am, dear Browny, yours, A. COKBURNE.
Me come! Alas, alas! Long since I was in
TO MR. CHALMERS.
I WAS yesterday on a grand expedition — went
with Violy Pringle and Lady Fair[nalee] in
a carriage to see Raeburn's pictures. Wonderful
was the sights I saw — Edinburgh, going out of
town; the Tron Kirk, my delight; view of the
South Bridge, College, etc. As for Raeburn,
nothing can equal that picture of Sir John and
Lady Clerk. Lady Arniston looked so glad to
see me, I had almost kissed her. Tib Hall — her
very self. After all this, I dined with Lady Don
— a farewell dinner to our dear American family,
who sail to-morrow. God grant a safe voyage!
What a charge for a mother, five fine creatures!
No, no, for all your questions. Lady Fairnalee
and all the Pringles well. Mark arrived at eleven
last night. I must go back to Raeburn. There
is John Macgowan in high beauty: he's very
nicely drest; he really makes as good a figure
as any in the room. I wish I saw you and your
two nymphs on one canvas: you sitting, Kate
giving you tea or wine, Anne at the harpsicord.
I am sorry you still feel you have a jawbone.
My tongue has done a great deal of business, for
at last it has pushed out two teeth that were very
fashious. My blessing to the misses, and believe
me, though sans teeth, never sans love to you,
while A. COKBURNE.
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
1789, 12 January.
THO' my frozen fingers can hardly hold the
pen, I will not omit writing you, as you are
in distress. Well do I know that dreadful state of
suspence — a state, too, perfectly void of common
sense, for we suffer it even when there is absolute
certainty of the event. I have often wondered
why infants were born just to cry and to dye —
just to bring grief to parents. But could we
peep thro' the curtain of mortality and see
them amongst angels singing hallelujahs to their
Creator, early snatch'd from sin and sorrow, we
would rejoice an heir of glory was produced by
us. And perhaps the affliction we suffer is a
necessary tho' unpalatable medicine to cure many
errors. Why are we so apt to forget our Maker
in prosperity, yet come crying for help whenever
we are in distress? It's mean, and perfectly provoking
to be conscious of that meanness; yet I
confess I feel it is true. I gave Lady your letter
to read, and she seriously sympathises with you
and Mrs. Douglas. We were sure all was not
well with you when you did not write. I hope
your bodily complaint is better. You were right
to leave a cold house. Warmth is absolutely
necessary for you. It's all I can do to keep
vital heat in my old bones. God bless you and
your excellent wife. Amen!
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
1789, 1st March, Sunday.
THANK you, father Douglas, for your agreeable
communication. It does one's soul
good to serve such worthy characters. O ye
froward, flattering, foolish race of reptiles, how
poor is your appearance on earth or in heaven
compared to that worthy mother now posting
thro' hell to Heaven. Pray, would it not be
lawful to shorten the passage — half the quantity
I sent would set her free? I succeeded in my
begging wonderfully, as you will see by my last.
I have even returned money: such is the power
of your pen. For your letter went a-begging.
I enclose you Mrs. Mackay's answer. Parson
Touch came in yesterday. I told him I would
give him a letter of yours to read, as it was
pleasing to see such people existed in low life.
Wish'd I could name as many in high under such
circumstances. At the same time told him my
collection was full, as I did not want his money.
He would not be refused, so I took his shilling.
Now you will be amazed not to see a farthing
from myself: be thankful I have purloined none
of your charity. I have a wright, Tom Miller,
who works journeyman work. He has a wife
and 3 bairns. His wife has a father and mother
past fourscore. My good Tom could not think
of their starving alone without help, so he took
a house near him, where his wife attends them,
and halves the little meal they have with them.
The mother has been looked on for death these
10 days; and his wife sits up every night. She
was nursing, but Tom made her take off the
child, and he keeps it and feeds it all night after
working sore all day. Tom says, 'No fear of
them, God will send strength.' Does not Tom
deserve all my mites I can spare at present?
You will get 2 mutchkins of laudanum well wrapt
up in rags. . . . News! It's said there's a beast
or a fish they call the Cracken in the sea, which
is the reason of the scarcity of fish. It devours
legions, it is 3 miles long, has 3 hills on its back.
They have a map of it. I looked for it in Job,
and it is surely the Leviathan. Read it. You
will see it is impossible to kill it. More news!
I had a present to-day of artichokes and of mushrooms.
Is this March? Take care not to trust
laudanum to children.
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
1789, April 28.
WELL, I have obeyed your commands and
succeeded wonderfully. I cannot place all
the merit to my great influence with the men;
I really impute it to the power of your pen.
Colonel Lyon read your letter in my Sunday's
club, which was declared to he an excellent letter.
He subscribed, and I shall note a list of them
below. Meantime I was ask'd for whose benefit
it was, the man being dead and no family. I
supposed it was for the benefit of many souls.
I enclose you a letter of Mrs. Mackay's, after
seeing yours; so I sent her half of my subscription
papers. How dare you grudge the Thanksgiving
Day (a), that rejoiced the hearts of
thousands. The 5000 charity children singing
an anthem delighted me, especially as my sweet
Queen shed tears of — of — we have not a name
for that emotion. What pleased me most was the
mob hissing Fox and Lord Stormont. . . . Lady
is crippling a bit, and I am shot through the
right wing, so that it's difficult to hold the pen.
(a). — Thanksgiving on 3rd April 1789, for
George III.'s recovery from illness.
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
DEAR SIR, — I had both your letters, the one
per post as also the other, [which] I sent to
my cousin Mackay. For, tho' I had used my
interest before I heard from you for Mr. Singers,
— who is a little man with a large family and little
wife, who brings and nurses him a child every
2 years at least, and he has not got a kirk — I
wish'd heartily for him. However, I enclose you
Mrs. Mackay's answer to both. You see she
admires your epistolary talents, and is also to lay
out her money in your fashion. You will rejoice
at her account of the King, and you will for
once admire the dutchess of Gordon. Her second
daughter is to be married soon to Sir Robert
Sinclair of Murkle and Stevenson. They are first
cousins. I rejoice your child is restor'd to you,
and that you and Mrs. Douglas are at home
again. Indeed, it is a pleasant thing to feel oneself
beloved in youth. I have enjoyd that pleasure
with some degree of vanity. In old age I
enjoy it with gratitude — by far the pleasantest
feeling of the two. I am glad you sought your
Almanack — here it comes, a perfect beau. If
you are still bad of the fundamentals, take a
teaspoonful flour of brimston equaly mixt with
sugar in a draught of sweet whey every morning
— probatum est. I am afraid my niece, Mrs. Scot,
is dying. She is in for a dropsy and astma. She
is the most extraordinary woman I ever knew.
The activity of her mind has destroyed a strong
constitution. There was not the minutest article
of food or wear of 20 she did not attend to.
All the same, I have lying by me as many elegant
poems as will make a large volume. She has
writ for them. I hope she will put them in
proper hands. It's a pity they should be lost,
and perhaps they might bring something to her
sister's family (a). Nelly Murray promises to
give this to your mother's care. She is gone to
hear Mr. Merton's funeral sermon by Mr.
Hardy. . . .
I have not, and never can have, anything to do
with the Regent or his people.
(a). — See p. 190, note a.
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
13 Jan. 1790.
THOU hast a most lively imagination, Monsieur
Douglas! You fancy you wrote me a
birthday letter and a New Year Ode. I have
often done the same in bed — written long letters
to my friends and really thought I had sent them.
Thank you, then, for remembering me even in
idea. . . . I'm not in the humour of writing.
I have a friend dangerously ill (Mrs. Keith), and
my good tenant Miss Duncan is about to have
her hand cut off. I hope she'll die first. I
tremble at amputation.
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
1790, Jan. 20
WELL, I have got a letter from you at last,
yet I still regrate 3 I have lost. I can
only account for it by jealousy. Tom Tod is
a great jo of mine, and I suppose has kidnapped
the letter from his nephew; and I doubt not
that, considering my youth and beauty with your
known partiality for me, Mrs. Douglas may
keep up these letters — a common trick with
jealous wives. You see I'm rather in better
spirits than when I wrote last. The good old
lady stood the amputation with wonderful spirit,
and is recovering well. But alas! to want an
arm! So far, mine is of no use. I have a
horrid rheumatism in my right arm; and when
I begin to make wry faces at it — 'Ye're no
blate, Mrs. Cokburne,' says I, 'really bold to
complain. Thank God you have your arm as
good. If you had lost one?' My friend,
Mrs. Keith, whose affection to me from her
17th year, and begun in the 1747, has been
unremitted, is, I fear, in a declining way. She
never has got the better of a cold she caught in
the Tron Kirk, time of the Sacrament. Indeed,
it should not have been opened till the walls
were dry. No, I do not feel for Death now,
as I have done. It would be an unnatural folly
in one who has one foot in the grave. How
I envy worthy Mr. Cranston's translation! I
knew him well, and on a very trying occasion
he has sustained many sorrows with true resignation.
Now he knows why. I was asked to
your goose by Lady, but could not go. It's a
bad feast season to me, for I can eat no goose,
nor hardly either flesh or fowl. Fish and herbs
are my food. My arm bids me have done. . . .
Love to my rival. AL. COKBURNE.
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
1790, Jan. 25.
AT last I have got your last year's letter out
of a porter's pocket — as black as Beelze,
but the inside quite legible; so that as my friend
Mrs. Keith is now able to be a little amused, I
sent it to her. She is fond of your letters: you
must acknowledge she is a woman of taste. I
send your Almanack instead of a letter. Lady is
hirpling terribly, poor wife. She crawl'd here
yesterday, only for half an hour, for which I
did not thank her.
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
20 April 1790.
I CANNOT recollect the thousand nothings
that prevented my writing on receipt of
your last letter that you had sprained your arm.
This town has really suffered a damp by the
melancholy murder of Sir George Ramsay —
nothing else has been spoke of. His widow is
in terrible grief — can neither swallow, nor shed
Note.—Macrae of Holmains, a first-rate shot,
was said to have maintained his accuracy of aim
by constant firing at a barber's block kept for
the purpose. Having beat a footman of Sir
George Ramsay of Banff one evening at the
theatre, Macrae informed Sir George of the
circumstance on meeting him next day in the
street. Sir George said the man was Lady
Ramsay's footman, and he had no concern in
the matter. Macrae then went and made an
apology to Lady Ramsay. The footman, however,
having raised an action against him, Macrae
wrote Sir George, insolently insisting that, if the
prosecution were not dropped, the man should be
dismissed from his situation. In civil and forbearing
terms, Sir George expressed a hope that
Macrae, on reconsideration, would not think it
incumbent on him to interfere in any respect,
especially as the man was far from well. Macrae's
answer was to reiterate the demand in a note
delivered by his friend, Mr. Amory, who, on
Sir George repeating his refusal to turn the man
off, said he had been directed by his principal
to say he thought Sir George not a gentleman,
but on the contrary a scoundrel. On the parties
meeting on 14th April at Musselburgh, Macrae
offered, if Sir George would dismiss his servant,
to fully apologise for the message delivered by
his friend. Sir George's second, on the other
hand, offered, if Macrae made ample apology, to
pledge himself that Sir George would either make
the footman stop the prosecution or dismiss him.
Two hours having passed without bringing the
parties to an accommodation, they took up a
position at fourteen yards' distance, firing at the
same instant. Sir George received a bullet in his
body, of which he died on the 16th. So strong
was public feeling against Macrae that he dared
not face his trial, and fled to France, where he
died in 1820, thirty years after the fatal encounter.
I HAD a visit yesterday from the Dowager
Lady Balcarres and her two fair daughters,
Lady Anne and Lady Margaret, who, I assure
you, are so far from being the worse of the
wearing, that they are handsomer than ever.
Lady Anne is grown, not jolly, but plump,
which has greatly improved her looks.
Note. — See p. 48 note (e), and p. 107 note (a).
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
3 October .
DEAR PARSON, — One of your Galashiels
weavers is fabricating a gown for me, and
I am very impatient for my Galashiels Grey. I
have no doubt of making the weaver's fortune,
for everybody follows my lead. I brought the
bums in mode; but they increased them to an
enormous size. I hope soon to get the better
of the iron stanchels the women wear on their
necks. I see no danger, and wonder why they
guard so strongly where there's no attack.
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
12th October 1790.
BLOW, blow, ye winter's wind; thou art not
so unkind as hostile fleets when join'd.
Your birthday favour arrived just as I had
called for my cloak to go in to the Lady, who
has kept the 8th of October 30 years; else I
should forget it, were it not for you and her.
Well, I hope Mrs. Douglas obey'd and delay'd
her production till that day? Instead of a frock,
I think you are entitled to a bottle of sack. I
wish I were rich enough to send it. It's a lucky
year for the Douglases. You'll have heard there's
a young laird of Cavers, which every body is glad
of, none so much as the good dowager, as you
see by the enclosed. Mr. Douglas, too, is grown
Lord Douglas — quite the reverse of his native
land, where all the Lords are grown 'Masters' (a).
I see by yours you think different lights of
religion is necessary. Hell seems more useful to
the common people, tho' it has had a bad effect
on the poor showman of the hellification. A
crazy creature went and told him he certainly
would go to hell, for if it were not in his heart,
he could not have shown it. The poor man
turn'd melancholy; good Mr. Erskine visited
him and assured him the show was quite innocent,
and would rather do good; but he drown'd himself.
I don't know if you know Andrew Stewart.
He is to be married to-day to a beautiful girl of
22. I forget her name. I knew him well 37
years ago — a hansom man, past major. I have
seen a happy couple with as great disparity, tho'
I do not approve of January and May. Indeed,
the seasons seem to be changed — warm winters
and cold summers; and now, when I expected my
old friend October a clear-headed, cheerful fellow,
behold he begins to bluster like September. He
roars so, I cannot hear myself think. Our birthday
company was Miss Sophy Johnston, Miss
Molison, Miss Murray, Miss Simpson, Lady, and
me. O, Lady's 2 men, vizt., Colonel Lyon and
Peter Inglis. Lady fell asleep and could not
assemble with me and the rest. At night I drank
my Laureate's health. My present reading is the
Great Frederick of Prussia's history. A greater
robberer and murderer is not in any history. I
am ashamed of the enthusiasm I once possessed
for him. I wish I were done with him : he puts
me out of temper. . . . A. C.
Remember my love to the Torwoodly and
(a). — Lord Douglas (see p. 40) was born in
France, where titles of nobility were being
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
9 January 1791.
I THINK, friend Douglas, if you had been dead,
you would have wrote us word. Lady and
I have many conjectures about you, as we miss
our New Year letter, and your almanac lies unasked
for. I fear, indeed, you are in some distress,
which God mend, if it is so. The weather is so
tempestuous, Nell Murray has never got to your
mother's to ask for you, but believe me, we are
all most sincerely yours.
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
12 Oct. 1791.
IN times of old the poet Laureate got a butt
of sack and a thousand something — pounds,
merks, or crowns. Sure I am, not a crowned
head ever got so good a birthday sonnet. I
never get leave to keep it, so many desire copies.
Vanity makes me lend it. Mrs. Touch is a
copier. I believe she thinks Mrs. Douglas an
object of envy. Now, as I cannot pretend to
puncheons, etc., I send you a cake carminative,
as also a pikinini bottle of Come-fort. A bliss oft
wished for seldom comes amiss, though some say
Carminative and Diuretick will damp all passion
sympathetic. The passion must be very slender,
if it can't pardon the offender. Now, I've let
out my full flow of nonsense — just in stile with
the Laureate gifts — nonsense for sense. Tell
Mrs. Douglas to return little bottlie full of [ ? ]
from her cow. I have a fancy that country milk
will be a draught of health; and I wish for my
bottle, that it may be renewed at Christmas — the
only birthday I have kept these many years. I
sent a line to your mother, as also a read of yours.
It is delightful to make a mother happy. Nephew
Peter Inglis has begged a read of yours to your
good friend Mrs. Craigy. I have a periodical
headache, and here it is; so God bless you.
With a cake and a bottle of antiventosity drops.
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
11 Mch. .
I WRITE chiefly to bid you tell your carrier to
change his quarters, or nobody can trust anything
to Galashiels. I have such a history about
the bundle I sent as would amaze you, and the
grossest impertinence to my maid. I am delighted
with Logan. Read Howard's character at end of
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
1st Sept. .
I AM truly thankful for my capacity of being
entertained with cards and novels. I see
some (and ye know there cannot be many) of
my contemporaries so tired of life and so unwilling
to quit it — they are truly 'objects.' . . . How
happy am I whose utmost ambition is to sit easy
and stretch my legs from my parlour to my bed-chamber.
My mind, however, is active enough.
I fight for the King of Sweden, I wear the French
national cockade pinned to my chair, I recommend
Britton to God Almighty to give us peace
or war as he sees best.
TO MR. CHALMERS.
A LIBERAL heart deviseth liberal things; yet
you did not know what you sent will grace
my birthday — the first I have kept at home.
Good Lady Fair[nalee] made me keep it with
her for twenty-five years; and she insists on me
giving her a dinner that day. I have not been
down my stair since that day twelvemonths.
More venerable than me! That 's impossible.
I set down my years to sum them up, and see —
A virgin, . 17
A wife, . 22
A mother, . 49
A widow, . 39
A goodly sum! and really, to be a woman of a
hundred and twenty-seven, I write tolerable,
though I can hardly read it myself. . . . Would
I had the power to remove pain. No; bodily
evil is soul's physick. Our Master knows best.
I hope we will not need the grace of patience in
the other world — much needed here, . . You
said you had sent a little bottle, instead of which
it was the widow's cruse. . . . It's a pity a
woman does not mend with age, as wine does.
Shall I tell you my company? First your lover,
our Lady Fairnalee, with her miss; secondly,
niece Simpson and her miss; Suff Johnstone and
me made a woman; Colonel Lyon, nephew Peter
Inglis, and the Laird of Dunnottar. I enjoyed
my friends, for spirit was willing — flesh weak
indeed. — Yours sincerely, A. C.
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
10 January 1792.
HEALTH, love, peace, and plenty lie with my
good parson Douglas! With my blessing
I send your annual almanac. Question to answer:—
A young lady, whose beloved husband died
suddenly lately, wishes to know the opinion of
divines whether we shall know our former friends
in the next world; also of the intermediate
state (a). I write from my bed, where I have
lain seven weeks, and am a living skeleton. Pray
for patience and submission to your sincere friend,
(a). — Charlotte, youngest daughter of William
Baird of Newbyth, and sister of General Sir David
Baird, married Lord Haddo, eldest son of the
third Earl of Aberdeen, in 1782. He died in
1791, in his 27th year, leaving six sons and a
daughter to the care of his young and sorrowing
widow. The Bairds of Newbyth were intimate
friends of Mrs. Cockburn.
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
1792, Wed., Feby. I know not what.
YOUR new year letter answered our demand;
it has gone among many ladies who take
copies. The young widow is Lady Haddo,
whose lover, husband, and friend died in a
moment. Sudden death has been very fashionable
of late. I go piece-meal. I am deaf, blind,
and lame, but content, because I know God
made me and knows best how to take down his
own work. See me when you come among your
old wives, and in the meantime pray for me. I
can see no more. A. C.
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
13 October 1792.
I HAD a very long letter from my cousin, Mrs.
Farquharson, with wedding gloves. I hear
all the widow ladies are displeased — 'What made
her marry? She was rich enough,' etc. etc. I
say this is 'sour plums!' The misses, too,
wonder he did not take a younger wife — '£5000
a year and only one daughter.' What a blessing
will she be to that daughter! Mrs. Mackay was
form'd for riches; and being step-mother, much
is now in her power. The gentleman would take
none of her £10,000, gave a handsome jointure,
has taken a furnished house, 14 Princes Street,
at 20 guineas a month. Meantime she is gone
to see her dominions — two furnished houses — one
at Marle Lee, another at Innercaul, a fine highland
place. He is rather an old man, was a
companion of the General's, and, I suppose,
wanted only a sensible, cheerful companion. . . .
I see you have no connection with the Russel
family — he would not suit you. . . . The French
philosophy begins to prevail here. The Colliers
see no reason why the Duke of Buccleugh should
sit idle and they dig. They have read Payne,
and so our coals are dayly dearer. The success
of the French army, too, is encouraging, but Sir
Robert Keith writes that it is all french gasconade
— not a word of truth. But I must have done —
blind, blind! . . . I have hardly eyes to give
my love to Mrs. Douglas and blessing to the
Babes. A. COKBURNE.
Note. — Oct. 4, 1792. At her Grace the Duchess
Dowager of Atholl's apartments in the Abbey of
Holyrood-house, James Farquharson of Invercauld
to the Honr. Mrs. Mackay, widow of Lieut.-
General Mackay, and daughter of the late Sir
William Carr of Etall, Bt. — Scots Magazine, 1792
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
9th Oct. 1793.
DEAR DOUGLAS, — Never anything came so
apropos as yours — nine of us round the
table. An excellent reader did justice to your
real inspired muse, and your health went round
in a bumper. I will write when I am able; but
weak, very weak this machine. The inhabitant,
however, thanks you sincerely.
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
'YOU have lived so long!'
What? Can I help it? These are the
first words of your letter, Douglas. I'm sure I
am as weary of it as you can be; and yet it's
very impious and ungrateful to say so, as I have
every blessing that fourscore can enjoy, and not
a gray hair in my head, nor a spoil'd tooth in my
mouth. Yet I have plenty of hair, and can send
you a lock if you won't believe me. I can also
send you plenty of teeth to convince you. Like
a female, I begin with my remaining beauties!
Next, free from pain and distress. When my
maidens carry me from my bed to my chair or
vice versa, I sing to them all the way to cheer the
weariness of attendance. Both my maids were
taken ill — my particular attendant has been ill 5
weeks, the other a sprained leg. Good luck, all
my domesticks are my friends. A married one
sent in a daughter of 10 year old, and I am very
well served. Next, I come to my friends — you
know they love me. But some go to Heaven and
leave me. Mrs. Keith, Ravelston, and I were
as sister souls from ten years old; and pleasing
is the memory of days that are past. . . . Now,
I inform you your goose was eat here, and was a
goose of great character — fat, juicy, etc., and your
healths were faithfully drunk. Lady Fairnalee
and her family, niece Simson and hers, friend
Peacock, our only man, for men are always scarce
in the holydays. All I shall mention of politicks is
to tell you my first toast is our Provost Elder (a)
and our King. I'm quite in love with the
provost's excellent fancey of sending the King
his hansel of a Scots Bannock, and Sir John
Sinclair (b), the real Scots man, has sent such
gowns as never was seen for beauty to the Queen
and Dutchess of York. All our ladies went to
see them. They are Shetland wool, spun to 4
spynle in the pound, beautifully diversified — dark
purple clouds on the bright white, with silver
stars among the clouds. There is also a charming
vest for the Prince of Wales. Happy, happy
George! Oh miserable Louis Bourbon! I do
think Satan has got permission to rule in France
for a season. I believe I wrot you before of a
visit I had from Mr. and Mrs. Farquharson.
Mark and Anne dined with them. Everybody
pleased with him — a sensible well-bred man. . . .
This is Friday. Before Wednesday you'll be
tired of my scrawls. Mark told me of a sermon
of yours, but did not send it. It's not easy for
me to read writ now, but your hand is print. I
will send your Almanac . . . and a read of Dr.
Hardy's sensible pamphlet The Patriot (c). I
cannot give it, as you'll see it is a present from the
Author. I wish you would let your wife rest.
You a farmer! that never gives rest to your
ground! Fy, fy! I won't suffer it. A poor
young man just left a widower with 6 infants —
by the same bad management. A daughter of
President Dundas (?) she was. Adieu! My kind
love to Mrs. Douglas. I send a pock of nuts to
the Infantry. Sunday endeth what began I forget
(a). — Thomas Elder of Forneth was three times
Lord Provost of Edinburgh. During his second
term, 1792-94, he had a post of heavy responsibility
in consequence of the disturbances and
agitation fomented by the 'Friends of the
People.' In December 1793, assisted by only a
few of the respectable citizens, he ventured to
suppress two meetings of the famous British Convention,
taking ten or twelve of the leaders
prisoners. Next year the Council voted him a
piece of plate for his spirited and prudent conduct
during these commotions, and on the formation
of the Royal Edinburgh Volunteers he became,
by unanimous vote, their first Lieutenant-Colonel.
In 1795 he was appointed Postmaster-General for
Scotland, and in 1797, at the request of the
Senatus, he sat to Sir Henry Raeburn for a portrait
intended for the College library. The Lord
Provost, it was allowed on all hands, says the
editor of Kay, 'cut a most martial figure in his
bandeliers of a Saturday; but was not quite the
fittest person for a drill, being unused to the
complicated evolutions which it was his duty to
direct.' At first, he had made up his mind to
enter the ranks as a private, and only accepted
the colonelcy from a sense of duty and loyalty
to the King.
(b).--Than Sir John Sinclair of Ulbster, 'the
Scottish Patriot,' no man ever laboured with
greater zeal, or more disinterestedly to promote
the interests of his country. In 1770, while yet
but sixteen, he succeeded to the family estate,
amounting to upwards of 60,000 acres, but yielding
a rental of only £2300, half of which went on
interest of burdens. To construct a road over
Ben Cheilt the young laird surveyed the ground,
marked out the line; and assembling over 1200
farmers and labourers well equipped with tools,
made a road which had hardly been passable for
horses in the morning, practicable for carriages
before night — a work of truly indomitable resolution
for a lad of eighteen. Nor did his life belie
its promise. He was unwearied in his labours
for the public weal, especially the advancement of
agriculture. His success at home, coupled with
prolonged travel throughout the Continent, led
to acquaintance with the most famous and influential
men in Europe. He had no less than
twenty-five foreign diplomas, and had corresponded
not only with Continental statesmen, but with
Presidents Washington, Jefferson, and Adams.
(c). — The pamphlet was written in refutation of
Tom Paine, and in favour of limited monarchy.
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
Sunday, 3 Nov. 1793.
IT would be a sin to neglect my laureate's
pension. I'm incapable of writing. This
comes with your 100 gallons butt of sack, though
it is transmogrifyd into two wind expellers — a
bottle and a cake. I want your allowance to put
my last birthday poem into the Edinburgh
Magazine, or some popular paper — it's like
will never be seen again. I pass you a poem.
I wish for a prayer to teach me not only patience
on the road, but also thankfulness for so many
blessings. Amongst the chief I reckon the unremitting
care and attention of my niece Simpson,
for whom I ask a prayer. My love to your wife
and blessing to the babes — give them plenty of
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
31 Dec. 1793.
MANY happy years to you and yours, dear
Laureate. My vanity has spread your
fame as a poet far and near. I believe 40 copies
of it has been taken. It has been at Plymouth,
at Bath, and in Fife. Mrs. Craigy — but I need
not name them all. I am proud, too, that I have
done much good to your uncle, the father of the
orphans. I heard he had lost his rest with
apprehensions of a french invasion. Something
compell'd me to write to him. He came to
thank me, and we had a 2 hours' chat. I hear
he is better. I assured him his presence would
save the city. . . . Miss Shaw writes that Satan
himself must submit to the French Convention,
and be no longer Lord Beelzebub, but only
citizen ci-devant Satan. I never yet thanked you
for my milk, which introduced a new restorative
which I find agrees with me — vizt., a mutckin of
milk warm with raw sugar and a small table spoonfull
of rum. Tho' I am better of it, I yet have no
strength to write. I send you per bearer a couple
tusk fish, as you have plenty of butter and eggs —
also a bottlie of drams after cheese, etc. God
bless you all, prays your ancient friend,
TO REV. MR. DOUGLAS.
1794, Tuesday, 11th Feby.
FY! fye! my Laureate, neither to break bread
nor pray for me! As I had promised you
a book I am very fond of — being the only Revolution
I wish for — somebody had borrowed it, I
knew not whom, so says I, 'Douglas has lost his
legacy.' A day or two ago it arrived; and now,
to prevent such another affair, I send it. A much
admir'd line in my birthday poem put it in my
head to send it now, and not wait for making
it a legacy. Lord Alemoor used to call it Mrs.
Cokburne's romance (a). If you knew how fatigued
I am with fliting, you would not wonder that I
bid you Adieu.
(a). — Worthington on the Millennium.
[Mrs. Cockburn died 22nd November 1794.]
THE STORY OF 'FELIX '
THE STORY OF 'FELIX.'
YOU desired me, my Lord,1 to give you my
reasons for naming a worthy gentleman
lately dead, 'Felix.' Your desires are to me
commands. I commence Biographer at once;
and though perhaps my ideas of felicity may not
intirely suit the present taste, yet such they will
ever remain with me.
My Felix, whose memory I revere, and whom
I am to prove, as well as assert, the happiest
mortal I ever knew, was born in the north of
Scotland. His father was an officer, who married
his mother when a widow, and as he was the
only child son of a marriage, he had the advantage
of having a sister. Whoever has belonged early
to a fraternal society must at once see the advantage
a human mind has by a habitude of
Luckily for him his parents were not rich.
He told me he was accustomed to go bare-footed
till he was fifteen years old; and as at that
1 Earl of Haddington, from whom there is a letter to Sir
Walter Scott, with the MS.
period poverty was no hindrance to literature,
Felix was taught all sorts of classical learning,
without any particular view of profit or application
to any one. He was born with quickness
of apprehension; and a memory so tenacious
[that] it never lost what it once received. Full
of ideas and knowledge, he was rather petulant
when young; but still, born under happy
auspieces, love, which (when genuine) can make
a fool wise, conducted him to the most amiable
woman, whose hand and heart he acquired,
independant of all advantages of fortune. She
indeed left an opulent family by moonlight, and
married the man of her choice. See him, then,
at twenty-one married to the Mrs. of his heart:
and in a few years father of many children.
Straitned in circumstances they surely were;
but he could walk 20 miles without being tired;
and she could sit at home to teach her children
— for which reason their children (none of which
were ever at any other school but their own)
thought, read, spoke, and wrote better than any
Observe, then, that the vanity which might
have led him on to perpetual petulance was
changed into other objects: he forgot himself,
and only saw his children — vanity grew into
affection. During this period of his life, and
the times in which he lived, pleasure run high
in Scotland. Some remains there were of our
French connexions, and we were not Anglois
enough to place the whole delights of life in the
table (in eating) — there was gaming, drinking,
and galantry to women then in fashion. No
man was more in fashion than Felix! During
the festive years of life, no man enjoy'd more
the pleasures of society, nor with higher relish
— though he was never known to deviate one
moment from his conjugal attachment; or ever
from vanity or vice attempted to seduce unwary
hearts. He was a gallant man, but not a man
of gallantry. So far I have conducted my Felix
to all the sorts of pleasure unmixt with remorse:
And here I must breathe before I see
him weeping over the Mistress of his affections,
and the mother of his infants. There is a
pleasure in such a grief — it mends the heart:—
while regret for the bad conduct or baseness of
the living renders it hard, cold, and insensible.
Happy in thy tears, my Felix! and now for
ever happy in the society of her who caused them.
End of the 1st Book.
Having conducted my happy man from childhood
to middle age; he had so far a taste of
sorrow as to give a relish to better fortunes.
Just as he was left with five children to feel the
dreadful blank in his heart, and the straitned
situation of his fortune, two things happen'd
that made him easy. An uncle dyed and left
him as much as could sustain his family in a
frugal, decent manner; and he had the good
fortune to have his sister, a woman of excellent
sense and great good-nature, living with him
unmarried. To her care he left his children,
and accepted the offer of going abroad with a
nobleman who found his knowledge and parts
would be of use to him as secretary to an
Embassy. He soon distinguish'd himself, and
was promoted to an Envoy or resident at various
Courts — an employment most suited to his
genius of any, as he had great facility in adopting
languages and manners, and a natural love
of all the elegant draperies of life. Thus he
enjoyed all that his ambition could aim at, in
those very years, when the mind, quiting the
tenderer affections, grows up into those pursuits
of bustle and ecclat: as he had no love of
money, and found it impossible to save anything
worth considering, he never retrenched
those expenses which were better bestow'd in
doing honour to the court he served. Fortune,
however, came unasked. An old foreigner, who
had been long a resident at the Court of
Vienna, and who gave it up on account of his
years, grew acquainted with the Hero of my
story, and extremely fond of him. He told
him, though he was too infirm to act in a
publick capacity, yet long custom made it
absolutely necessary for his existence to know
what was passing in the world: for which reason
he intreated Felix to accept his Hotel and
equipage of all kinds; to live with him at his
expenses. He assured him it in reality would
cost him nothing, as he was determined always
to live as he had done, having not one relation
in the world that he knew. Felix was so importuned
that he could not refuse the old gentleman;
and it was during his life-time that he
saved four or five thousand pounds, which he
settled on his three Daughters: — his eldest son
being in a handsome rank in the army; his
second in the navy, where they both served
with honour and reputation. The old foreigner
wish'd to make Felix heir to all he had; but
that he would by no means allow, and convinced
him how hurtful such a step might be to his
character. He therefore enquired about and
found some distant relation on whom he perswaded
him to settle his effects, only accepting
a present of plate.
Twenty years roll'd on in this honourable
and agreeable exile, when his health beginning
to break, he desired to be recall'd; which his
Sovereign immediately granted; and as a mark
of his royal approbation, settled £1000 yearly
on him for life, with a survivancy of £300
a year to his Daughters after his decease.
End of the 2nd Book.
Behold the happiest of the sons of men arrived
in his native land rich and independant. See
him in the arms of his children and friends
bedew'd with the tears of joy and affection. A
strong fit of rhumatism had convinced [him]
he ought to return: and the first day of the
new year after his arrival, he embraced each of
his three Daughters and presented them with
bonds to the amount of the sum he had saved
— a most unexpected present; and he then told
them how he came to have so much.
His original sense, much improved by seeing
various climes, courts, and manners, made him
courted by all men of taste. No table of
elegance was notified or adorned without Felix
made one. He forgot not, however, the friends
of his youth: I was in his house when I saw
him lead in an old, poor, worn-out gentleman
whom he early loved, and forever carressed;
while he supported his feeble steps of age with
all the tenderness a mother has for a child. I
saw no more, for my eyes were dim with tears!
He had in these later years so uncommon a
share of health and faculties that his age was
forgot; neither indeed was he old, for I have
been told he indulged himself with a mistress,
which however neither perverted his heart nor
drain'd his purse. We may call it immoral or
not, as we please. After living in all the High
Stile of Courts, he establish'd a certain ettdicatt
of living, very like the plain opulence fifty years
back: — scottish broth, boyle, fish, and roast
every day, and never deviated into two services.
He never was one day, if fair, but he walked
five miles after he was 75: if it was bad weather,
he read novels all the forenoon; and bought
every one that was the production of a female,
as he aver'd women knew the human heart
better than men, and had a nicer sense of
morals. He pity'd men who were too wise to
be amused with novels; and insisted that nothing
but want of heart or imagination could
deprive them of so elegant an entertainment.
He never heard a tender Scots Song without his
eyes overflowing. I never saw him heated or
angry, except at affectation of any kind: it was
his only sarcasm, and he loved to disect it and
ridicule it — and yet — but this is the only Hiatus.
Every year he went to London, merely to
see his Sovereign, to whom he was so much
beholden. At last he was settled in everything
to his utmost wish: fortune pour'd more upon
him than he ever expected, ask'd, or wish'd for.
Both his sons were knighted: both put into
the highest employments the Sovereign had to
bestow. He received the honours done his
family with amazement, gratitude, and humility.
But to prove my first proposition past dispute;
though he was born in a Country noted for
envy, the joy of their promotion was general
and national; every one thought themselves
honour'd by the honours confer'd on the Felix
family: it was a general rejoycing; nor was there
one degrading word utter'd to pull down those
whom the King delighted to honour.
In all the Annals of Briton [Britain], I defy
any of my Brother Biographers to produce me
such a similar case. Behold him through the
three stages of life: his youth spent in the highest
enjoyment human nature can possess — love, friendship,
and paternal affection; see him in middle
age in as high a state as the highest ambition
could frame a wish for. Behold him in old age,
attended, carress'd, and almost adored by his
children; his three daughters his companions as
his friends! proud of their father: every thought
was employ'd to amuse or to oblige him; while
all that ambition could frame in the air-built
castles was realized in his sons — full of years
and full of honours. It pleased heaven still to
distinguish him above the race of men! Without
one faculty decay'd, his mind and body in full
vigour, at the age of 76, a sudden stroke, unattended
with pain, took him from this world.
The tears shed over his grave were the tears of
affection, of approbation, without the poignancy
of bitter affliction. While he lived he made all
happy around him, and none miserable by his
Here ends my history! All who live have a
history that stands in [the] Eternal Records! I
do not pretend to aver the most happy here is a
favourite of Heaven. Hereafter we shall know!
let us now submit.
In Edinburgh society Mrs. Cockburn's friend
'Felix' was commonly known as 'Ambassador
Keith.' He was the only son of Colonel Keith
of Craig in Kincardineshire, his mother being
Agnes, daughter of Robert Murray of Murrayshall,
Stirlingshire. The lady who 'left an opulent
family by moonlight' to marry Robert Keith,
while he was yet but one-and-twenty, was
Margaret, daughter of Sir William Cunningham
of Caprington. Another daughter, Ann, became
second wife to Sir Robert Dalrymple, grandson
of the first Viscount Stair and second cousin of
the famous Marshal Earl of that name — a connection
which had considerable influence in the
career of 'Felix.' It was in 1743 that Keith,
newly widowed, went abroad as Secretary to the
Forces, with the combined armies under Lord
Stair; and on the marshal's return in disgust
after the battle of Dettingen, Keith's well-proved
capacity led to his appointment as Under-Secretary
of Foreign Affairs, under Lord Sandwich. Early
in 1748 he distinguished himself by the success
with which he negotiated certain points in the
treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, soon after the signature
of which he was appointed to the important embassy
of Vienna. There he remained until the avowed
coalition between Austria and France, in 1757,
led to the recall of the British embassy. From
Vienna Keith was sent to St. Petersburg, where
he arrived in March 1758, in the sixtieth year of
his age. It was during the reign of the Empress
Elizabeth, who, imprisoning Ivan VI., the rightful
heir, had seized the throne for herself. Intrigue
succeeded intrigue at the Russian court, Elizabeth
being an idle, superstitious woman of lax morals,
and constantly under the influence of favourites.
Keith appears to have been much in the confidence
of her nephew and heir, the Grand Duke Peter,
and of his duchess — afterwards the infamous
Empress Catherine. Feeling, however, that he
had not been of any use in his post,' and 'seeing
very little hopes of things mending here for sonic
time,' he wrote home in 1760 requesting his recall.
This was refused, and two years later the British
ambassador sent home a graphic account of the
revolution by which Catherine dethroned her
husband and seized the reins of power. In a
separate letter sent by the same messenger, Keith
says, as 'I am not so happy as to be in the
Empress's favour, it is my earnest desire to have
my recall sent to me as soon as possible,' a request
urgently repeated two days later. According to
his son's Memoirs, there had been an unworthy
intrigue on the part of a junior scion of the
diplomatic body to fasten on Mr. Keith the imputation
of conduct towards the Empress, while
yet Grand Duchess, equally foreign to his head
and heart.' This intrigue, which is bluntly
described in another account as 'a charge of improper
conduct with the Czarevna,' appears to
have been without foundation. Apart from the
absolute, I might say the lowest, submission on
the part of Mr. —' by whom the fama was
spread, the Czarewitch's confidence and trust in
the British ambassador, both before and after his
accession to the crown, render the imputation
incredible. Be that as it may, Keith hurried home
immediately after Catherine's usurpation; and
seems to have at once taken up his abode in
Scotland. For the first ten years after his return
he resided in a villa called the 'Hermitage,' where,
like his brother-in-law, Sir Alexander Dick, he
indulged in the pleasures of gardening. The
finest, if not the first, melons grown in Scotland
are said to have been sent home by him from the
southern provinces of Russia. With him lived
his stepsister, a nonagenarian, who lived till she
achieved her century, and his three daughters,
Agnes, 'Jannie,' and Anne — a happy and contented
family. Jupiter Carlyle, the genial minister
of Inveresk, however, says that Keith on his return
complained that the society of Edinburgh was
altered much for the worse. Scottish lairds did not
now make it a part of their education to pass two
years at least abroad, whence they returned, that
portion of them who had good sense, with their
minds enlarged and their manners improved. They
found themselves now better employed in remaining
at home, cultivating their fields; but they
were less qualified for conversation, and could talk
of nothing but dung and bullocks. Keith's complaints
of their dulness were confirmed by his son,
Sir Robert, who came to stay for three months,
but returned at the end of one. The ambassador
had recourse to our order who had, till lately,
never been thought good company; so that finding
Blair and Robertson and Jardine and myself,
to whom he afterwards added Ferguson, good
company, he appointed us Ambassador's Chaplains,
and required our attendance at least once a week
to dinner at his house. He was soon chosen a
member of the Poker Club, which was entirely to
his taste.' He appears to have made frequent
journeys to London, where his intimate knowledge
of Continental politics was greatly valued.
'I went,' says Dr. Carlyle, 'with Captain Lyon
and his lady to a ridotta at the Haymarket, where
there were not fewer than 1500 people. This,
Robert Keith, the ambassador, told me was a proof
of the greatness and opulence of London, for he
had stood in the entry and seen all the ladies come
in, and was certain not half of them were of the
Court end of the town, for he knew every one
of them.1 He describes Mr. Keith as 'a very
1 Carlyle's Autobiography, p. 187.
agreeable man, with much knowledge of modern
history and genealogy, and a pleasing talker,
though without wit and humour.' Comparing him
with his friend, Mr. Hepburn of Keith, Lady
Dick remarked that 'while Keith told her nothing
but what she knew before, though in a very agreeable
manner, Hepburn never said anything that
wasn't new — the difference between ability and
genius.'1 Happy as Keith appears to have been
with his family, he at one time contemplated a
second venture in matrimony. Carlyle, mentioning
a fastidious lady (Miss Mally Cheape) who
had refused himself and another admirer because
they were or had been clergymen, says she rejected
Ambassador Keith because, while his rank balanced
the difference of age, she could not bear the idea
of quarrelling with his daughters, her companions,
and not much younger than herself. At last, after
having rejected rich and poor, young and old, to
the number of half a score, she gave her hand at
forty-five to the worst-tempered and most foolish
of all her lovers, with whom she lived a miserable
life until they parted. That his daughters were
devoted to Mr. Keith is evident from the touching
terms in which Anne announced his death
(21st September 1774) to his son, Sir Robert.2
Two days before his death, he had a conversation
with his daughter Nancy, 'enumerating all the good
1 Carlyle's Autobiography, p. 207.
2 Memoirs of Sir R. M. Keith, by Mrs. Gillespie Smyth
pp. 73, 403-4.
things of his life — his worthy parents, his genteel
education, his angel of a wife, his comfort in his
children, their honourable and easy situation, his
own consciousness of goodwill to all men and the
goodwill he had met with — all he dwelt upon
with pleasure.' 'Felix,' indeed, Mrs. Cockburn
might truly call him. Of his daughters, Anne
lived to enjoy the privilege of the friendship of
Sir Walter Scott, who has immortalised her in
the character of 'Mrs. Bethune Baliol,' and who
in a letter, dated 13th June 1818, acknowledging
a ring of hers sent as a memorial, paid a most
beautiful tribute to her character, her abilities, and
her disposition. Keith's two sons, Sir Robert
and Sir Basil, have their chronicles written in the
Memoirs of the former, published in 1849. In
his Journal of a Scottish Tour in 1790,1 'R. L. W.
says, 'We dined at Lord Ankerville's, who had
Sir R. M. Keith to meet us. Of the urbanity and
vivacity of this gentleman I had heard much, but
found him equal to report. He was replete with
anecdote. I recollect one, of the famous General
Mustapha, who commanded the Turkish artillery
above twenty years. He was a Briton, but no
one could discover and he never would divulge his
birth. On dispatching a courier to Sir Robert at
Vienna, nature was too strong within him. "Tell
him," said Mustapha, "my name is Campbell.
He may not remember me from that; he will if
1 Journal of a Tour from London to Elgin, by R. L. W.;
Edinburgh, 1897,.p. 55.
you tell him I was his schoolmate at Prestonpans."'
Mr. A. H. Anderson, to whom I am indebted,
not only for the identification of 'Felix,' but for
much information concerning him and his family,
hazards the very likely guess that 'Mustapha'
may have been a son of Colin Campbell (brother
of Sir James Campbell of Aberuchill), who was
collector of customs at Prestonpans up to 1737,
when Sir Robert was a schoolboy of seven. As
a man, he was the essence of gaiety and geniality.
At a bright and jovial gathering of fifteen young
men, mostly Scots, at Richmond, 'Bob Keith
sang all his ludicrous songs and repeated all his
comic verses, and gave us a foretaste of that
delightful company which he continued to be
till the end of his days.' Apparently he was of
one mind with Gratiano —
'With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come!
And let my liver rather heat with wine
Than my heart cool with mortifying groans.'
'I had the joy of seeing Sir Robert Keith,'
writes Mrs. Cockburn, 'the very day he dined
with you. He is ten years younger since I saw
him, which is twelve years ago. Bless us!
how we talked! — in short, we could not get
speech for speaking. . . . My Anne thought fit
for love of him to take the blybs: it's better it
struck out on the skin, so it was but skin deep.'
In 1795, after seeing some friends (the Prussian
Minister among them) who had been dining with
him into their carriages, he fell down on the
threshold of his door at Hammersmith, and died
in the arms of his servant. In the Musical Museum
(iv. 300) there is mention of the Memoirs of Sir
R. M. Keith, and Madame P—llie, containing
anecdotes of his private life, which appeared in
Ruddiman's Weekly Magazine for August 1772;
and a specimen of his powers of parody is copied
from the Caledoniad, published in London in
THE PRETENDER'S MANIFESTO.
To the Tune — Clout the Caldron.
HAVE you any laws to mend?
Or have you any grievance?
I am a Hero to my trade,
And truly a most leal prince,
Would you have war, would you have peace,
Would you be free of taxes?
Come chapping to my father's door
You need not doubt of access.
Religion, laws, and liberty,
Ye ken are bonny words, sirs,
They shall be all made sure to you,
If ye'll fight wi' your swords, sirs.
The nation's debt we soon shall pay
If ye'll support our right, boys;
No sooner we are brought in play
Than all things shall be tight, boys.
Ye ken that by an Union base,
Your ancient Kingdom's undone,
That all your ladies, lords, and lairds
Gangs up and lives at London.
Nae langer that we will allow,
For crack — it goes asunder,
What took sic pain and times to do;
And let the world wonder.
I'm sure for seven years and mair
Ye 've heard of sad oppression,
And this is all the good ye got
O' the Hanover succession.
For absolute power and popery
Ye ken it's a' but nonsense,
I here swear to secure to you
Your liberty of conscience.
And for your mair encouragement
Ye shall be pardoned byganes;
Nae mair fight on the Continent,
And leave behind your dry banes.
Then come away and dinna stay,
What gars ye look sac laundart?
I'd have ye run and not delay
To join my Father's standard.
SONG BY MRS. COCKBURN.
ALL health be round Balcarras' board,1
May mirth and joy still flow,
And may my lady and my lord
Ne'er taste of future woe!
Come, fill a bumper to the brim,
And here's to her and here's to him.
Fa, la, etc.
1 James, 5th Earl of Balcarres, married Anne, grandd
Sir Hew Dalrymple.
For here, by brandy vine inspir'd,
The frolic took its birth,
While Horn and Soph and all conspired
To spread around the mirth.
St. Andrews still remembered be
For mirth and joy and loyalty.
Fa, la, etc.
To the jolly Colonel and his spouse,1
Pray see a health go round,
For such a pair in any house
Is seldom to be found,
And here's to charming Elphinstone,2
May she soon of two make one!
Fa, la, etc.
To Guadaloupe's fair Governess,3
We next due honours pay,
And to the lad that she likes best,
Though he be far away.
Fly, gentle peace, with downy wing,
And to her arms her soldier bring.
Fa, la, etc.
1 General R. Dalrymple Horn Elphinstone married Mary, daughter
of Sir John Elphinstone of Logie.
2 Miss Peggy Elphinstone.
3 Colonel Dalrymple, Governor of Guadaloupe, married a daughter
of Mr. Douglas of St. Christopher's.
Come crown the goblet once again,
And see it quickly done,
A cup of thanks we owe, that 's plain,
To Neptune's gallant son.
O all the powers of mirth forbid,
That we forget our noble Kyde.1
Fa, la, etc.
Now lovely nymphs and loving swains,
Across pray join your hands,
We mean to pay you for your pains,
For this our song commands.
To laugh and love and live in bliss,
Behold how good a thing it is
For neighbours thus to love and kiss.
Fa, la, etc.
VERSES BY MRS. COCKBURN.
'On a gentleman of ample fortune whose house was burnt
whose affairs were ruined, and who was forced to go abroad
when far advanced in life.' This refers to Murray of Philiphaugh,
whose house of Hangingshaw was burned in April 1768.
Tune — Braes of Yarrow.
FAREWELL! farewell to Yarrow's streams!
Farewell! farewell that pleasant dwelling,
Where often still my fancy dreams
Of joy that's past the power of telling.
1 Captain Kyde.
In days of joy, of mirth, and glee,
Thy halls with music still resounded —
Thy master kind, thy mistress free:
Their cheer and goodness were unbounded.
Ah, see that seat of joy and mirth,
Where every guest was gay and cheerful,
By flames now levell'd to the earth,
And all around grown dark and fearful!
Behold those tenants of the Vale
Are now obliged to change their master.
With heavy hearts they tell the tale,
And weep for his and their disaster.
Ah, hapless friend! I mourn thy fate.
Too much, too much, I feel thy sorrow —
To seek an unknown clime so late,
And leave thy sweet, thy native Yarrow.
May Heaven, who over all presides,
Secure thee peace, secure thee plenty;
The sun's the same that rich provides
The earth with all that's good and dainty.
VERSES WROTE BY MRS. COCKBURN (PROBABLY
ABOUT 1761) ON THE BACK OF A PICTURE
OF SIR HEW DALRYMPLE.1
To the tune of All you ladies now on land.
LOOK behind and you shall see
A portrait just and true.
Here's of mankind th' epitome
Formed in our right Sir Hew —
Sprightly, witty, gay, and glad,
Thoughtful, serious, sour, and sad,
Pray is not this Sir Hew?
Ever varying, yet the same,
We find our friend Sir Hew.
Fond of public life and fame,
And of the private too —
Though public life is his desire,
He warms his shins at his own fire —
Who is not like Sir Hew?
Once an amorous swain, Sir Hew,
As e'er piped on the plain:
As witness Helen Cantilew
Of sixty years and twain.
1 Sir Hew Dalrymple, second baronet of North Berwick, was
member for Haddingtonshire, and died at London 1790.
But now, on soul of woman bent,1
He skorns her earthly tenement —
Woe's me for poor Sir Hew!
Humane and gen'rous drops the tear,
Most genuine and true,
For woes that others feel and bear,
From gentle, kind Sir Hew.
Though out of sight is out of mind,
Yet see him, and he's always kind —
Our worthy friend Sir Hew.
To all below him mild and just,
And to his friendships true,
Forsakes no friend: betrays no trust:
Adore him in this view!
Yet fog or rain will cramp his heart,
One hour he'll act a different part —
Who is not like Sir Hew?
Nature cried (who form'd this man
A little odd and new),
'Try, Art, to spoil him, if you can,
For I have made Sir Hew.'
Art, fond of spoiling Nature's trade,
Said — 'Let him be a member made,
Then know your own Sir Hew.'
1 Sir Hew had declared to the lady that he once admired her
person, but now only her good understanding and mental accomplishments.
For twenty years she tries her tricks,
And sends him to the senate;
Shows factions, parties, politics,
And yet — the devil 's in it —
The man grows very little worse,
His heart is sounder than his purse,
Pray, sirs, is this not true?
POEM ON A BALL AT SELKIRK,
THE Duke of Buccleugh
Was merry enough,
And danced till he wearied
Wi' Mary and Annie,
Twa Pringles richt bonnie,
As ever were reared.
The lads were richt scanty,
The lasses were plenty,
All looking for spouses.
And some, it is said,
Cuddled three in a bed —
So crammed were the Houses.
Sweet Tods in their teens,
Short Willie of Weens,
And lang Jock o' Gala,
Wi' Plumner sae stout
That he drank them all out —
The feat we'll remember
Of Roxburgh's member,
This 12th of October.
He bumpered till four,
Took his coach at the door,
And galloped home sober.
By a wife and a maid
A plot was there laid
With nodding and winking.
Was it not rare done —
They got Scott o' Harden
To reel without drinking!
Good Haining resisted,
Tho' ladies insisted —
He 'd dance none, the fouter!
Yet, if I heard aright,
The very next night
He danc'd with a souter.
CHRONOLOGY— MRS. COCKBURN AND
REV, DR. DOUGLAS.
MRS. C.'S AGE.
1713. 8th October. Alison Rutherford born at Fairnilee
10 1723. Mother died.
15 1728. Patrick Cockburn admitted advocate.
16 1729. Elizabeth Rutherford, niece, born.
18 1731. 12th March. Marriage of Patrick Cockburn
Alison Rutherford, Mrs. Cockburn's brother
19 1732. 15th May. Adam born, only child.
22 1735. Lord Justice-Clerk Cockburn (father-in-law) died.
24 1737. Brother's wife died in childbed.
32 1745. Adventure with Prince Charlie's guard.
33 1746. Rev. Dr. Douglas born.
35 1748. Husband's brother sells family estate of Ormiston
37 1750. Mr. Cockburn goes to Hamilton Palace as Commissioner
39 1752. Left Hamilton Palace for house in neighbourhood.
40 1753. Removed to Musselburgh, where, on 23rd April
Mr. Cockburn died. Mrs. Cockburn boards
with brother-in-law. Son goes to Holland.
41 1754. Removed to Edinburgh, where joined by
John Pringle, Lord Haining, died, aged 80.
42 1755. Sister seized with strange illness.
MRS C.'S AGE. YEAR.
43 1756. Adam obtains cornetcy in 11th Dragoons. Mrs.
Cockburn removes to Blair's Close, Castle
Hill. Nephew boards with her.
45 1758. Death of John Cockburn 'of Ormiston' —
husband's elder brother.
46 1759. Robert Burns born.
50 1763. David Rutherford of Capehope died (brother).
51 1764. Son's regiment ordered to Germany. 'Flowers
of the Forest' published in The Blackbird, a
collection of songs. First published letter to
55 1768. Hangingshaw House burned. Poem on event.
56 1769. Purchased house in Crichton Street, Edinburgh.
57 1770. Offer of marriage from old friend. Death of
sister. Sister's son commits suicide (second
attempt). Rev. Robert Douglas ordained
minister of Galashiels.
58 1771. Sir Walter Scott born.
60 1773. Mrs. Cockburn's first known letter to Rev. Mr.
61 1774 Death of Ambassador Keith ('Felix').
63 1776. David Hume died, aged 65. Death of Andrew
Pringle, Lord Alemoor.
64 1777. Mrs. Cockburn discerns genius in young Walter
Scott — aged six.
65 1778. 'Farewell to Fairnilee.'
67 1780. Captain Adam Cockburn died — aged 48.
70 1783. Rev. Mr. Douglas publishes pamphlet on 'Oaths.'
71 1784. " " married to Miss Robina Lothian.
73 1786. Burns in Edinburgh.
74 1787. 'Fairnilee a wreck.'
77 1790. Mr. Douglas wrote Statistical Account of Galashiels.
MRS C.'S AGE. YEAR.
79 1792. John Pringle of Haining died.
81 1794. 22nd November. Mrs. Cockburn died.
1795. Death of Sir R. Murray Keith, son of 'Felix.'
1796. Burns died.
1797. Rev. Mr. Douglas made D.D. of Aberdeen.
1798. Rev. Dr. Douglas published Survey of Roxburghshire
1811. " " sold first part of Abbotsford to
Sir Walter Scott.
1819. " " presented with silver cup from
1820. " " died in 74th year, and 51st of
Cite this Document
Letters and Memoirs of Her Own Life, By Mrs Alison Rutherford or Cockburn. Also 'Felix', a Biographical Sketch and Various Songs. 2023. In The Corpus of Modern Scottish Writing. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved 29 November 2023, from http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/cmsw/document/?documentid=88.
"Letters and Memoirs of Her Own Life, By Mrs Alison Rutherford or Cockburn. Also 'Felix', a Biographical Sketch and Various Songs." The Corpus of Modern Scottish Writing. Glasgow: University of Glasgow, 2023. Web. 29 November 2023. http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/cmsw/document/?documentid=88.
The Corpus of Modern Scottish Writing, s.v., "Letters and Memoirs of Her Own Life, By Mrs Alison Rutherford or Cockburn. Also 'Felix', a Biographical Sketch and Various Songs," accessed 29 November 2023, http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/cmsw/document/?documentid=88.
If your style guide prefers a single bibliography entry for this resource, we recommend:
The Corpus of Modern Scottish Writing. 2023. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/cmsw/.
Letters and Memoirs of Her Own Life, By Mrs Alison Rutherford or Cockburn. Also 'Felix', a Biographical Sketch and Various Songs.
|Title||Letters and Memoirs of Her Own Life, By Mrs Alison Rutherford or Cockburn. Also 'Felix', a Biographical Sketch and Various Songs.|
|Year of publication||1900|
Author information: Cockburn, Alison
|Year of birth||1713|
|Place of birth||Fairnalee, Selkirkshire, Scotland|
|Locations where resident||Edinburgh|