Page:Merry Muses of Caledonia.djvu/26

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( xx )

and hotch-potch preface, most of which is taken from Robert Chambers without acknowledgment, the editor or compiler goes on to say:—

"This note is therefore written to point out Burns's share in this Collection of Merry Songs—a share which was chiefly that of collector, and not that of author; besides, to request of the limited number of antiquarian admirers, into whose hands the volume will find its way, that they will be careful of it, and keep it out of the way of youth, innocence, and beauty. To gratify the aforesaid antiquaries two letters of the Great Poet are now given for the first time, and also an unpublished poem from the original manuscript in Burns's own writing."

An attempt is made to separate the compositions ascribed to Burns from the others, with the result that only twelve pieces, out of a total of eighty-two, are laid to the charge of the illustrious name under cover of which the sordid wretches hoped to drive a roaring "antiquarian" trade in the literary department. The unpublished poem introduced with such a flourish of trumpets is "The Court of Equity," published privately in pamphlet form about 1810, and of which the version given is both inaccurate and incomplete, as we have proved by comparing it with the Egerton MSS. in the British Museum. We have seen another version as an appendix to an Alnwick edition of Burns, published about the same date; a third will be found in the Aldine edition of 1893; while a fourth, for private circulation, was published in Glasgow about half-a-dozen years ago. An edition, "printed for the author," was published in Edinburgh in 1910. The majority of these are either garbled or incomplete. The letters are confidential communications, shamelessly filched from private repositories. One of them addressed to James Johnson, from Mauchline, 25th May, 1788, will be found in Paterson's Scott Douglas (Vol. v., p. 125), and also in