( xxiv )
data may be a wanting. In Burns's last interview with Maria Riddel, Professor Wilson says:—
"He expressed deep contrition for having been betrayed by his inferior nature and sympathy with the dissolute, into impurities in verse, which he knew were floating about among people of loose lives, and might, on his death, be collected to the hurt of his moral character. Never had Burns been 'hired minstrel of voluptuous blandishment,' nor by such unguarded freedom of speech had he ever sought to corrupt, but in emulating the ribald wit and coarse humour of some of the worst old ballads current among the lower orders of the people, of whom the moral and religious are often tolerant of indecencies to a strange degree, he felt he had sinned against his genius."
He has been more sinned against than sinning. The testimony of such a man as Robert Burns, on anything affecting himself, is worth a whole library of conjecture. With him the unpardonable sin was the sin of lying; therefore let the truth be spoken as the best means of rebutting the falsehoods and misrepresentations which, like fungus growths, have gathered round the musty nastiness of the publications we have pilloried. Scott Douglas (Paterson's Ed., Vol. V., p. 310) makes mention of "a lot of Pickering MSS. doubtless yet in existence," from which it may be inferred that he did not peruse them; we are therefore left to guess on what authority he ascribes "The Trogger" to Burns, a stanza of which he quotes in the same edition (Vol. III., p. 247). In the Kilmarnock Edition (Vol. II., p. 417) he plainly informs his readers that he never saw these MSS., but that Mr. Greenshields of Kerse, Lesmahago, had "kindly favoured him with transcripts of some, and interesting information regarding others." On 9th June, 1871, the same gentleman (he goes on to say) wrote to him in the following terms:—"On broad
- See Kilmarnock Edition, Vol. II., p. 343.