Page:Merry Muses of Caledonia.djvu/14

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( viii )

open to grave suspicion, seeing that he himself thus writes to Thomson in November, 1794:—

"I myself have lately seen a couple of ballads sung through the streets of Dumfries with my name at the head of them as the author though it was the first time I had ever seen them."

Thomson himself (Sept., 1793,) falls into the error of supposing that the free-spoken ditty, "The other night with all her charms," was an original production, for he wrote upon the margin the words, " Unpublishable surely," though the truth is that Burns quoted it from the D'Urfey collection. A more mischievous sort of evidence is that which is based on the contents of certain old publications, upon which the flight of time has conferred that arbitrary authority usually associated in the popular mind with "gude black prent." It is one of these whose contents and title-page we have reproduced, and which may be said to embrace the whole subject, that we propose to examine in the light of the information we have been enabled to collect. A short time before Burns's introduction to Edinburgh society, William Smellie, Lord Newton, Charles Hay, and a few more wits of the Parliament House, had founded a convivial club called "The Crochallan Fencibles" (a mock allusion to the Buonaparte Volunteer movement), which met in a tavern kept by a genial old Highlandman named "Daunie Douglas," whose favourite song, "Cro Chalien," suggested the dual designation of the Club. Smellie introduced Burns as a member in January, 1787. Cleghorn also appears to have been on the muster-roll of this rollicking regiment, which supplies a key to much of Burns's correspondence with him. How the revelry of the boon companions was stimulated and diversified may be easily imagined.