Page:Merry Muses of Caledonia.djvu/17

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( xi )

most convincing evidence of their untenability, and possessed, moreover, of the most overweening confidence in his own judgment. He was so prejudiced and pronounced in most of his estimates of men and things that one of his friends has described him as a man

"So over violent or over civil,
That every man with him was God or Devil."

In his youth he became obsessed with the idea that the latter portion of Burns's career was a continuous descent morally and physically, and he doggedly adhered to this belief to the end of his days. His opinions in 1878, when he edited The National Burns, are identical with those he held in 1847, when, in the 143rd number of Hogg's Instructor, he passed merciless judgment on Burns, based on gutter gossip of Dumfries raked together with set purpose more than half a century after the Poet had gone to his rest. He was challenged at the time by Hugh Macdonald, the well-known author of Rambles Round Glasgow, and an edifying newspaper controversy ensued which was afterwards published in pamphlet form, copies of which are now extremely rare.[1] With the evidence then at command, and which of course fell immeasurably short of what is now available, Macdonald so pulverised him that Gilfillan lost his temper and made matters worse by dragging into the controversy the authorship of the Merry Muses. To reproduce the flimsy grounds on which he sought to incriminate Bums were to repeat the original offence. The only part of the evidence submitted which is deserving of notice is his quotations from Byron's Journal and letters.

  1. For reprint of same see Burns Chronicle (No. IV., 1895).