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had made on the lands of Abbotsford; but on discover. ing that this intelligent operative, from whose converse he had enjoyed so much delight throughout the week, was a Baptist preacher on Sabbath, Scott never spoke with him more. Hugh Miller, in his “Scenes and Legends of the North of Scotland” (his first prose work), has not scrupled to present his readers with one of the finest illustrations of unostentatious Christian philanthropy, in the person of an humble Baptist shoemaker.
Burns did embody at once in his intuitions and ideas-very distinctly embody--the spirit of the age, in certain of its aspects; he had, indeed, an affection for the antique, but the dead past did not, as in the case of Scott, swallow up his sympathies for the living present. What, then, was necessary to complete his representative character? assuredly neither native force nor established and diffusive fame. The foremost man of all his time, after gauging his intellectual capacity, pronounced him fitted to excel in whatever walk of ambition he had chosen to exert his faculties. And in our day we are witnesses of what could scarcely have been predicted in his own, the voice that first rose in lowly cadence in that “auld clay biggin' by the banks o' bonny Doon," is now
heard on every wave, and sounds on every sea." Yet, despite his superior endowments and preeminent fame, there is a fatal flaw in the character of Burns which prevents us assigning him the position we claim for Hugh Miller. We allude, as our readers will easily comprehend, to the discord between the poet and the man, which has always constituted the chief diffi. culty with the critics of our national bard. There is a point of view from which Burns appears altogether lovely; and there is a point from which he appears quite the opposite of attractive. As either of these phases of his character is dwelt upon too exclusively, we obtain a false, or at best, imperfect view of Burns as a whole. Few, indeed, of his biographers, have been able to hold the balance with that scrupulous exactness even-handed justice demands—extenuating nothing, nor yet setting down aught in malice. Certainly it is with no feeling of regret we have observed, the more attractive features of his character are the features on which writers in general have loved to linger. It is perhaps well that such should have been the case. Gloating over the errors of humanity or the aberrations of genius, displays no amiable feeling; and his must ever be a thankless task who seeks to break the spell by nature bound around the voiceless dead. Yet without gloating over, while in point of fact mourning, the errors of the bard, we cannot forget the jarring and the dissonance between his higher and his lower, his nobler and baser self. The powers of light and darkness seem to have been mated within him, and to have waged a terrible, and but too equal strife, during his entire earthly pilgrimage; now beckoning him to heaven, now bending him to earth; and alternately, as either principle waxed or waned, Burns is seen soaring into the region of the holiest sentiment, or sunk in the mire of an odious sensuality. Nor let it be supposed there is anything incongruous in all this. Man is neither an angel nor a demon; the wheat and the tares grow together in the soil of the human heart; and unless we shut our eyes to facts, there is no denying that black and polluting passions were often the tenants of the breast which poured forth the address to the mountain daisy, and that the bosom which heaved with emotions of the most touching tenderness and exquisite sensibility, was often set on fire of hell.
We say not these things because we have any pleasure in calling attention to the failings and shortcomings of one of whom Scotland has so much reason to be proud. Nor do we homologate, in any measure, the untenable opinion held by certain narrow souls, that Burns was wanting in what modern moralists have called the religious sentiment. The very opposite we believe to have been the case. Again and again throughout his letters we meet the genuine outbreathing of this sentiment. It is related by his brother Gilbert how very profoundly Burns was impressed with the solemn beauty and power of the words, “Let us worship God.” That this simple utterance, heard from childhood beneath the paternal rooftree, known by him as the call which summoned
thousands of Scottish households, to offer up to heaven the morning and the evening sacrifice---should have so completely penetrated his soul, and bowed it beneath a sense of the awe and mystery of the infinite and the unseen, tells in language neither to be mistaken nor misinterpreted, the depth of religious feeling which, like a fountain sealed, lay struggling for utterance within his soul. Pity it was that this religious sentiment, naturally so deep and ardent, was not permitted to work itself clear of the dross which had gathered round it,
staining the white radiance of eternity.” The men and the times on which he had fallen, in great part prevented this. That latent scepticism which good old Wodrow, in his Analecta, mourns as having entered the Church of Scotland, had, in Burns' day, borne some of its most noxious fruits. A false philosophy had eaten out the heart of the historic religion of Scotland amongst Scottish literati and Scottish theologians. The church of Knox, Melville, and Henderson, was now represented by Dr. William Robertson and Dr. Hugh Blair. Unhappily, the New-Light priesthood found in the rustio bard at once a powerful and popular ally; for, without doubt, the controversies into which he plunged with its approbation, exerted a most sinister influence, at a most critical hour, on his religious nature. Cut off, not by any innate want of sympathy, but by a fatal misdirection of his faculties, from the creed of his country--nay, publicly pitted against it, as the fighting man of the illuminati of his age-Burns missed becoming Scotland's representative man.
Thus has it come to pass that neither in Abbotsford nor in Ayrshire-not by the banks of the Doon, but by the Bay of Cromarty, must we seek the embodiment of the genius and tendencies of our country. We again repeat, that however great, however potential in their respective individualities Scott and Burns undoubtedly were, the defects we have pointed out are fatal to their claims as representative men.
A nation with such glorious souvenirs of freedom, could not crown the laureate of feudalism; and though he who sang “A man's a man for a' that,” and “Scots wha hae wi' Wallace bled,” has infinitely higher claims, yet a nation whose religious struggles surpassed even the splendour of her conflicts for civil freedom, cannot call the author of the “Holy Fair" a type of the children of the covenant.
In his “Sartor Resartus,” Carlyle, with that felicitous pictorial power for which he stands unrivalled among modern writers, has gathered up into a single sentence that photographs on the mind for ever, a magnificent image of the influence and the unity of mankind. “On the hardest adamant some footprint of us is stamped inon the last rear of the host shall be read traces of the earliest van." Subordinated to this general unity, and infolded in its ample circumference, lie the various