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small school at Alloway Mill, about a mile off; but the anxiety for his instruction was not easily satisfied, and William Burness soon took the chief part in bringing to the immediate vicinity a young man whom he knew, to teach his own along with the neighbours' children, at once more ably, and, doubtless, more under hints from parental notice. Burness himself was a thinking, reading man, with views of his own even on points of orthodoxy: he ruled his family with a firm hand, attentive to every detail of their conduct; nor need it be specially inferred from the household priesthood of the “ Cottar's Saturday Night,” how their progress in the Shorter Catechisin and Bible knowledge was directly seen to, at leisure hours or stated intervals.

But the early tutor of Burns and of his next brother, Gilbert, deserves particular mention, as having contributed no slight share among the favourable influences, mental if not moral, wbich were then profited by. John Murdoch was no common pedagogue, having already, at the age of eighteen, begun to apply improved methods of teaching, afterwards developed by him in publication. He saw the germs of solid ability in the elder of the two boys, making him a favourite pupil, though fancying Gilbert the livelier. He was careful to impress the precise mean. ing of every word, and, to prevent mere learning by rote, made them frequently turn passages of verse into natural prose order. Among his branches of education was that of vocal psalmody with regard to which Robert was peculiarly dull, and his attempte tuneless. Murdoch, for his own improvement, subsequently be gan to learn French, and imparted the benefit of his proficiency to young Burns; he became afterwards, also, the instigator to his acquiring soine Latin : in the former of which accomplish. ments the poet somewhat plumed himself in later life.

The positive amount of imparted and regular scholarly learning he possessed in the end was not great, indeed, as distinguished from knowledge acquired at random, by unguided effort; yet Shakspeare had scarcely greater, allowing a good deal for a darker age, which was in reality more alive to classical influence. The chief difference seems to have lain in the Scotch peasant's self-educating disadvantages, his poorer country, and the less generous time on which he was cast; under impulses less sustained by common sympathy, less tending to direct emolument, and less accustomed to indulgence or balanced by a view to success in the world. Conceivable ambition of that kind was not very high near Ayr, before steam-engines worked, or profitable books were common, where the drama had never flourished; and such ambition did not 80 much as enter into the minds of William Burness and John Murdoch, whose teaching combined but two objects,-present fitnosa to take up a farın, or perhaps enter the parochial ministry, and future welfare in another world. Nor can the merit be added to Murdoch's side, that he even insisted on blending the two har moniously: his intellectual creed might quite agree with that of his humble patron, yet most undoubtedly his practice did not. Having obtained a better situation, and come to spend his fare. well night, he brought, among other parting gifts-what the father would infallibly have forbidden had he known more of general literature—the T'itus Andronicus of Shakspeare, which Murdoch began to read aloud. It is curious that Robert was then the chief objector to this work of an earlier prodigy; soon stubbornly threatening, if it were left, to burn it for the savage element of tragedy it displayed; whercupon the tutor, declaring that he liked such sensibility, defended his pupil from all charge of ingratitude, and left a French comedy, the School for Love, instead.

Mr Murdoch not long afterwards resumed his preceptorship, when elected English teacher at Ayr, whither Robert was sent for a short period, between times of field-work; though the fore mer was eventually obliged to resign his place, from the consequences of disrespectful language on his part when “one evening ovortaken in liquor,” about the parish minister. But the father himself took up the educational duty when otherwise unfulfilled : even mingling it with the joint labour required by a small farm aow entered on through assistance from his kind employer This change was still with a view to keep his children under hie own eye, until, to use the son's own words, " they could decern between good and evil;" and in order that, continuing in their peasant station, they might not be “marched off to be among the little underlings about a farm-house.” The lease of a farm on the master's estate had been ventured on, to justify which needed every effort froin them all; while, as they accompanied him at work, he "was at great pains to lead the conversation to such subjects as might tend to increase our knowledge, or confirm us in virtuous habits." Books were borrowed by him for their behoof, chiefly containing scientific information. From Stackhouse's History of the Bible, taken in by parts, “Robert collected,” says his brother, "a competent knowledge of ancient history; for no book was so voluminous as to slacken his industry, or so antiquated as to damp his researches." And let one notable trait be included in the picture of the father, to whom, above all, was owing, probably, what was most ethereal and heaven-born in the mingled product of Burns's genius : taking it from the authority of that more worldly source, Mr Murdoch, whose respect for William Burness seems to have approached affection. "I think I never saw him angry but twice; the one time it was with the foreman of the band for not reaping the field as he was desired ; and the other time it was with an old man for using smutty inu. endoes and double entendres. Were every foul-mouthed old man to receive a seasonable check in this way, it would be to the advantage of the rising generation. I shall only add, that ho carefully practised every known duty, and avoided everything that was criminal; or, in the apostle's words, Ilerein did he exercise himself, in living a life void of offence towards God and towards men. Oh for a world of men of such dispositions !"

Robert Burns had other teachers, too ; teachers of that secret and congenial kind who have most to do with the poetic training. The facts above given, indeed, with a few irregular ekingsout at odd times, comprehend the whole of his forinal schooling ; which was both small and short, compared with the average in Scotland for his own rank. But in his infant and boyish days, as he has told us, he “owed much to an old woinan who resided in the family, remarkable for her ignorance, credulity, and superstition ; she had, I suppose, the largest collection in the country of tales and songs concerning devils, ghosts, fairies, brownies, witches, warlocks, spunkies, kelpies, elf-candles, dead-lights, wraiths, apparitions, cantraips, giants, enchanted towers, dragons, and other trumpery. This cultivated the latent seeds of poetry but had so strong an effect on my imagination, that to this hour, in my nocturnal rambles, 1 sometimes keep a sharp look-out in suspicious places ; and though nobody can be more sceptical than I am in such matters, yet it often takes an effort of philosophy to Bhake off these idle terrors." From this catalogue of legendary wonders and terrors-enumerated so superciliously, with such a superior air of eighteenth-century knowledge and of contempt for the humble instrument, poor Betty Davidson, whose mirthful temperament made her a great favourite with the children--there is plainly obvious a defect of the constructive instinct as well as of the reverent spirit, aggravated by the period he lived in, and characteristic of his works on the whole ; though not incompa. tible with lingering side-glances of association or humour, as admirably exemplified in “ Tam O'Shanter.” He seldom attempted any composition depending for its interest on the story, or upon the historical basis. His preference of the lyric to the ballad, and his subjection to single strong impulses, rather than his mastery of varied tendencies; with the slighting opinion he has critically ex pressed as to fine relics of the old Border minstrelsy, now aduired all bear out the view which his life impresses that if Burns's selfeducation bad less over-balanced the authoritative training he received, or could that age have remedied the want by any one prevalent idea, he would in all likelihood have been a more perfect poet, and a steadier, happier, better man. Even political excite. ment came too late for him. The great Revolutionary movement could not yet influence his earlier time of youth, to form him, as it almost certainly would have done, into the truest and most ardent of poets for the people—the only inspired voice to herald Radicalism wisely and gradually, or save its martyrs from being

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wasted ; and his gifts were destined to be scattered on innumerable stray objects, his fine ecstasy to be lavished without proportion to the cause, his fiery energy to be spent, squandered, and made & Suriosity, with artificial revivals and refreshments of it that were yet more pitiable.

The first book he read in private, besides the few school-manuals, was The Life of Hannibal, lent him by his young teacher; the next, The History of Sir William Wallace, borrowed from a neighbouring blacksmith. Both “gave him more pleasure than any two books he ever read after ;" the first arousing martial enthusiasm ;" the second “poured a Scottish prejudice into my veins, which will boil along there till the flood-gates of life shut in eternal rest.” Addison soon became a favourite author; so, among others, borrowed from various sources, did Pope, Homer in translation, and Allan Ramsay. An odd volume of English history, a collection of Letters, Locke's celebrated Essay, Taylor On Origina Sin, The Ready Reckoner, Hervey's Meditations among the Tombs, the Spectator, and a Select Collection of English Songs,The Lark," were the chief works in that little medley which opened the world of letters to Robert Burns's early life. He made The Lurk his vade mecum which “he pored over, driving his cart, or walking to labour-song by song, verse by verse-carefully noting (what he thought) the true, tender, or sublime, (as distinguished) froin affectation and fustian,"

Then there was still another extra-academical teacher, most important of all. For the same blacksmith who lent the Life of Wallace possessed also a daughter of fourteen, who, coming to help the harvest of the Burnesses hard by, when the eldest son was “ in my fifteenth autumn,” became his partner on the corn rig. Nelly Kilpatrick by name, a bonnie, sweet, sonsie lass," unwittingly to herself initiated him, he has said, in that delicious passion he was to feel so often, and so to raise above its objects, and to have so dangerous a power of cominunicating. She sang a song. made by a country laird's son on one of his father's maids, and its air caught upon the tuneless ear which Mr Murdoch had found so dull; for the voice was sweet among the banded reapers, with their sounding hooks, before the rustling fall of corn ; so that he saw no reason for not rhyming too, to the same tune, about a different subject; and he strung his first song in honour of Nelly's charms. Afterwards he thought it “ very puerile and silly;" but his heart never failed on that account "to melt, and his blood to sally at the remembrance of the cause itself. To others, at times, he was not a popular character,"--a “rude ard clownish solitaire," -obliged to share the hardship and toil incurred by the father for his family's sake; doing the work of a man, though & boy in years ; his naturally robust frame having no generous diet to nourish it, his shoulders beginning to stoop already, a

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pervous disorder to affect his heart, the unsocial habits required by economy bringing moodiness on his brow.

With the song and the harvest seem to have ended all care for the simple blacksmith's daughter ; and the embryo time itsen was ended, with almost all the teaching he was to receive from other instruotors than Nature and his own experience. In oppo. sition even to his father's wishes, however, “ he gave his manners a brush" at a country dancing-school: the elder Burns was strong in his antipathies, and sometimes in his anger, against which the son had nevertheless in this case persevered. This he deeply repented in later years; afterwards tracing, to a sort of dislike to himself for that disobedience, a main cause of " the dissipation which marked my succeeding years." The vicinity to Ayr soon furnished a social attraction, or allowed of easy resort for juvenile debating. He spent the evenings in the way after his own heart; adding, to rustic courtships of his own, a confidantship in "half the loves of the parish of Tarbolton." Early ingrained piety and virtuj kept” him for several years, however, “ within the line of inno. cence." “ The great misfortune of my life was to want an aim. I had felt early some stirrings of ambition, but they were the blind gropings of Homer's Cyclops round the walls of his cave."

The farın had been so unproductive as to involve the whole family in distress; and although William Burness succeeded in obtaining another, with better expectations of the result, at Lochlea, near Tarbolton, yet the speculation turned out in the end still more disastrous. The change for Robert was at least advanta. geous, so far as regarded an alteration of local scenery, wilder and more marked in character; as well as new neighbours, and fresh opportunities of gaining knowledge, or comparing it with that of others in the same circumstances. During this period he acquired some of the elements of mathematics, and associated with a young men's club at Tarbolton, where he ultimately became a FreeMason. His understanding and power of argument were developed as vigorously as his fancy or sentiment, and by more rapid degrees. When roused to emotion on a subject, be could overwhelm an antagonist by a voluble force of language which astonished the hearers; while at the same time, occasionad effusions in verse were handed about, from his growing practice with the pen, and produced a considerable reputation in the district. Elegant letter-writing began to be a favourite branch of his leisure pursuits--on the model of Queen Anne's reign-to regular corre. spondents whose replies he encouraged, that he might keep them beside copies of his own epistles, for careful comparison or improvement; and he “ carried this wbim so far, that though I had pot three farthings' worth of business in the world, yet almost every post brought me as many letters as if I had been a broad plodding Bon of day-book and ledger.” Thus life passed till his twenty.

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