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without doors, or soothing and secluded in the evening within. Both felt the acutest sentiment of tenderness for the animal tribes, and strongly interposed their voice for the innoceñt and persecuted: Burns in the tone of indignant execration, and Cowper in that of mild complaint. Both took penetrating views of human character, and their veneration for what worth it possesses gave them a satirical tendency against its vicious errors, but still preserving the original difference of their characters, it shows itself in Burns with a vigorous coarseness, and in Cowper with an arch and polished naïveté.
My pleasures too begin. But me, perhaps,
Me oft has fancy, ludicrous and wild,
I gaed to rest.
The auld clay biggin',
About the riggin'.
We may compare their manner of introducing the same picturesque object in the following passages :
The redbreast warbles still, but is content
Nae mair the grove with airy concert rings,
Proud o' the height o' some bit half-lang tree.--Burns. To those the reader may add (for the passages are too well known to require quotation) a comparison of the tame hare and the woodman's dog of Cowper with the wounded hare and the shepherd's dog of Burns; and of the delineations of winter scenery with which the works of both abound. From the whole of this estimate, it will probably appear that Burns excels Cowper in genius less than he is excelled in taste.
If, therefore, the admirers of the one be superior in zeal, those of the other are probably superior in number; both having many
friends, but Cowper no foes. The latter, it may likewise be added, writing under a deep conviction of his own demerits, delights to enumerate with grateful humility and to dwell on every little pleasing circumstance of his condition; while Burns, under a contrary impression, betrays in the effusions of his genius a stern and haughty discontent with a portion so unworthy of his claims and capacity of enjoyment. The comparison shall be closed by remarking that both its celebrated subjects occasionally indulge in relaxing the elaboration of their compositions and sliding into a carelessness which renders some passages very unequal to the excellence of the rest.
By ALEXANDER PETERKIN.
A Review of the Life of Robert Burns and of various Criticisms
on his Character and Writings, 1813.
We do not intend in the following remarks either to repeat merely what has been already said by others or to anticipate the contents of the volumes now presented to the public. Our object is to supply defects where these seem to exist—to correct errors, and to
misrepresentations. To this task we wish to carry feelings uninfluenced by any unworthy purposes. We engage in it, we trust, with a temper suited to the object; and if we venture to applaud or condemn aught which presents itself for consideration, this shall not be done without exhibiting the evidence on which our opinions rest.
It is a remark too trite, perhaps, to require repetition, that the writings of Robert Burns are, in Scotland, the most popular of any works of fancy, ancient or modern-that there is scarcely a house in the kingdom which does not contain a copy of his poems—and that there are few individuals elevated above the clods of the valley who are not familiar with the productions of his muse. The tendency of works so widely circulated and so highly esteemed is evidently a matter of no trivial moment. Bilt the personal character of the poet has, since his death, been in some measure inseparably blended with that of his writings; and in attempting to form an accurate estimate of the latter it is necessary to consider the former, and the influence on public feeling which belongs to their united power.
Various individuals, who talk and write with authority, have affected to represent the joint tendency of Burns's personal character and writings as morally pernicious. Much unwarrantable assumption, calumny, and drivelling fanaticism have been wasted to stain unworthily the memory of Burns; while the sweetest flowers in his writings have yielded to the enemies of his fame the venom which issues from their stings. We do not mean to insinuate that all the shallow moralisings which we have heard and read are on a level, or spring from malignity; 'but it is impossible to dissemble our conviction that a great portion of that debasing passion has been indulged by many at the expense of truth and of Burns. But whether those personages have been animated by correct motives, or the reverse, in the statements which they have rather too rashly hazarded, we think we shall be able, in some very important instances, to show that those statements are untrue—to strip them of the pure robe which is thrown around them as a disguise, and to expose in light the naked deformity of their aspect. We do not dream of asserting that Robert Burns was immaculate and perfect; he was a man like his censors, and had his failings; but with all his faults he was not a bad man, nor can we silently allow him to be gibbeted to our countrymen as “a blackguard," tarnished with blemishes which his heart and his conduct never knew. We cannot suffer his foibles to be displayed as the vital part of a character distinguished for many excellences; and we aspire to the interesting task of examining, without scruple, the genuine character of Burns and of his writings, and trying, by the test of proof, the moral and literary critiques which have been put forth with a specious and somewhat ostentatious seeming of reverence for religion and virtue.
Some of the strictures on Burns's life and writings, to which we shall advert, have been ascribed to gentlemen of high note among the periodical authors of the day. This matters little. It, indeed, only serves to rouse a keener purpose of correcting their errors, for which we have not