Complete Songs Of Robert Burns - online book

360+ songs with lyrics, sheet music, historical notes & glossary.

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editions it is the most Important authority on the works of Burns. It contains, moreover, his most happy and spontaneous effusions, published with their melodies, as he wrote them, free from outside interference. Johnson without remark acted upon instructions, accepted what was sent to him, and printed the verses with the tunes selected. And Burns, by portraying in that collection the morals and manners of his tountry with a rare fidelity and sympathetic humour, became famous.
But in the meanwhile Burns had become associated with another publication. Immediately after the appearance of the fourth volume of Johnson's Museum, George Thomson, a govern­ment clerk and amateur musician (who, by the way, always de­spised the Museum), applied to Burns to assist him with verses for a collection of twenty-five Scottish airs which he would select. He said he wanted the poetry Improved for ' some charming melodies,' and he would ' spare neither pains nor expense in the publication.' He declared himself in favour of ' English' verses, which English ' becomes more and more the language of Scotland'; and he said elsewhere, but not to Burns, that the vernacular was to be avoided as much as possible, ' because young people are taught to consider it vulgar,' and, with an eye to business, 'we must accommodate our tastes to our readers.' How the partner­ship with this opportunist in art was maintained is set out in the long series of letters now in Brechin Castle. It is amusing to remember that Thomson, who engaged Burns to destroy th® Scottish vernacular, should have been the unconscious instrument of its preservation. Burns, although fully occupied with Johnson, promptly accepted the invitation conveyed to him, but with con­ditions. He would accept no wages,- fee, or hire, he would alter no songs unless he could amend them, and his own would be ' either above or below price,' and,- if not approved, they could be rejected without offence. ' I have long ago,' he says, ' made up my mind as to my reputation of authorship, and have nothing to be pleased or offended at your adoption or rejection of my verses.'
The conventional clerk, who was very early Impressed with the genius, enthusiasm, and industry of his correspondent, rapidly extended his aim, and resolved to include in his collection ' every Scotch air and song worth singing.' All through the long corre-