Complete Songs Of Robert Burns - online book

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PREFACE
xv
and publishing the work. Burns neither expected nor received reward, and the tacit understanding between the two continued, and the connexion remained unbroken, up to the death of Burns in 1796. Burns always knew Johnson as an 'honest worthy fellow,' and in his first extant letter said that he had ' met with few whose sentiments were so congenial with his own.' Johnson seems to have belonged to the social Crochallan Club, and must have had some qualifications to be admitted as one of its members, considering that among them were ' rantin roarin Willy' Dunbar, the President; the grisly philosopher—printer Smellie; the iras­cible Latinist Nicol, the writer Cunningham, 'auld Tennant' of Glenconner, Masterton the composer of Willy brew'd a peck o' maut, and probably Henry Erskine, the most brilliant member of the Scottish bar. This was the society in which Burns re­created himself after dining with more formal company in the then New Town.
It was after the inspiring Highland tours, in which Burns had laid in a good stock of new poetic ideas, that he set to work in Edinburgh to reorganize the Museum. The venerable author of Tullochgorum, and other friends, were put under contribution, so much so that about this time Burns informed a correspondent that he had ' collected, begged, borrowed, and stolen all the" songs' he could find \ An accident which confined him to the house for a considerable time enabled him within ten months from the publication of the first volume to issue the second volume of a hundred songs, of which forty were his own, all bright and merry and flashing with wit and humour. In the buoyant and aggressive preface he remarks that ' ignorance and prejudice may perhaps affect to sneer at the sImplicity of the poetry or music of some of these pieces, but their having been for ages the favourites of Nature's judges—the common people—was to the Editor a suf­ficient test of their merit.' Here we have partly exposed the reason why Burns concealed himself, and the meaning of the phrase put against many of his songs, ' Mr. Burns's old words.'
The third volume, containing a ' naming preface,' took nearly twi' years to complete and publish. During the interval he was
1 Works, iv. 298.






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