A Letter to a Friend of Robert Burns: Occasioned by an Intended Republication of the Account of the Life of Burns, by Dr. Currie, and of the Selection Made by Him from His Letters (Google eBook)

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Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown, 1816 - 37 pages
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Page 23 - O'er a' the ills of life victorious. What a lesson do these words convey of charitable indulgence for the vicious habits of the principal actor in this scene, and of those who resemble him ! — Men who to the rigidly virtuous are objects almost of loathing, and whom therefore they cannot serve ! The poet, penetrating the unsightly and disgusting surfaces of things, has unveiled with exquisite skill the finer ties of imagination and feeling, that often bind these beings to practices productive of...
Page 29 - But the leading vice in Burns's character, and the cardinal deformity, indeed, of all his productions, was his contempt, or affectation of contempt, for prudence, decency, and regularity ; and his admiration of thoughtlessness, oddity, and vehement sensibility ; — his belief, in short, in the dispensing power of genius and social feeling, in all matters of morality and common sense.
Page 7 - Though they may gang a kennin' wrang, To step aside is human: One point must still be greatly dark, The moving why they do it; And just as lamely can ye mark How far perhaps they rue it. Who made the heart, 'tis He alone Decidedly can try us; He knows each chord, — its various tone, Each spring, — its various bias: The Deacon's Masterpiece 1 803 Then at the balance let's be mute ; We never can adjust it; What's done we partly may compute, But know not what's resisted.
Page 11 - The life of Johnson by Boswell had broken through many pre-existing delicacies, and afforded the British public an opportunity of acquiring experience, which before it had happily wanted ; nevertheless, at the time when the illselected medley of Burns's correspondence first appeared, little progress had been made (nor is it likely that, by the mass of mankind, much ever will be made) in determining what portion of these confidential communications escapes the pen in courteous, yet often innocent,...
Page 14 - Wordsworth well and truly observes, that " biography, though differing in some essentials from works of fiction, is nevertheless like them an art — an art, the laws of which are determined by the imperfections of our nature, and the constitution of society. Truth is not here as in the sciences and in natural philosophy, to be sought without scruple, and promulgated for its own sake, upon the mere chance of its being serviceable ; but only for obviously justifying purposes, moral or intellectual.
Page 14 - ... essentials from works of fiction, is nevertheless, like them, an art, — an art, the laws of which are determined by the imperfections of our nature, and the constitution of society. Truth is not here, as in the sciences, and in natural philosophy, to be sought without scruple, and promulgated for its own sake, upon the mere chance of its being serviceable; but only for obviously justifying purposes, moral or intellectual. Silence is a privilege of the grave, a right of the departed : let him,...
Page 12 - Critics upon works of fiction have laid it down as a rule, that remoteness of place, in fixing the choice of a subject, and in prescribing the mode of treating it, is equal in effect to distance of time ; — restraints may be thrown off accordingly. Judge then of the delusions which artificial distinctions impose, when to a man like...
Page 17 - Our business is with their books, to understand and to enjoy them. And of poets more especially it is true, that if their works be good, they contain within themselves all that is necessary to their being comprehended and relished.
Page 19 - I own, comparatively of little importance, while we are engaged in reading the Iliad, the Eneid, the tragedies of Othello and King Lear, whether the authors of these poems were good or bad men; whether they lived happily or miserably.
Page 23 - This reprobate sits down to his cups, while the storm is roaring, and heaven and earth are in confusion; — the night is driven on by song and tumultuous noise — laughter and jest thicken as the beverage improves upon the palate— conjugal fidelity archly bends to the service of general benevolence — selfishness is not absent, but wearing the mask of social cordiality — and, while these various elements of humanity are blended into one proud and happy composition of elated spirits, the anger...

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