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PRINTED FOR T. CADELL AND W. DAVIES, STRAND;
AND W. CREECH, AT EDINBURGH;
6 recat. 1o 19.34
When you were stationed on our coast about twelve years ago, you first recommended to my particular notice the poems of the Ayrshire ploughman, whose works, published for the benefit of his widow and children, I now present to you. In a distant region of the world, whither the service of your country has carried you, you will, I know, receive with kindness this proof of my regard ; not perhaps without some surprise on finding that I have been engaged in editing these volumes, nor without some curiosity to know how I was qualified for such an undertaking. These points I will briefly explain.
Having occasion to make an excursion to the county of Dumfries, in the summer of 1792, I had there an opportunity of seeing and conversing with Burns. It has been my fortune to
know some men of high reputation in literature, as well as in public life; but never to meet any one who, in the course of a single interview, communicated to me so strong an impression of the force and versatility of his talents. After this I read the poems then published with greater interest and attention, and with a full conviction that, extraordinary as they are, they afford but an inadequate proof of the powers of their unfortunate author,
Four years afterwards, Burns terminated his career. Among those whom the charms of his genius had attached to him, was one with whom I have been bound in the ties of friendship from early life-Mr. John Syme, of Ryedale. This gentleman after the death of Burns, promoted with the utmost zeal a subscription for the support of the widow and children, to which their relief from immediate distress is to be ascribed ; and in conjunction with other friends of this virtuous and destitute family, he projected the publication of these volumes for their benefit, by which the return of want might be prevented or prolonged.
To this last undertaking an editor and biographer was wanting, and Mr. Syme's modesty opposed a barrier to his assuming an office, for which he was in other respects peculiarly quali