Charles Rogers.

The book of Robert Burns; genealogical and historical memoirs of the poet, his associates and those celebrated in his writings online

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Hamilton), he had four sons ; also seven daughters, Anne Baxter,
Mary Louisa, Christina Wilson, Barbara Adair, Louisa Campbell,
Frances Wallace, and Henrietta Liston.

Christina Wilson, the third daughter, bom 16th September 1799,
married the Rev. Robert Balfour Graham, minister of Stenton,
afterwards of North Berwick, with issue. Henrietta Liston, the
youngest daughter, bom 26th February 1809, married James Dal-
mahoy, surgeon in the H.E.LC.S.

Of the four sons, George James, the eldest, was bom on the 10th
October 1797. In 1843 he was admitted minister of Monkton, Ayr-
shire, in succession to the Rev. Thomas Bums, the Poet's nephew,
who joined the Free Church. He continued to minister at Monkton
till 1877, when he resigned his charge, and took up his residence at

VOL. n. B



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10 THE BOOK OF ROBERT BURNS.

Hythe, in England. He died in 1878, in his eighty-second year.
A man of considerable theological learning, he received the degree
of D.D. Subsequent to his death was issued from his pen a small
brochure entitled Songs and Miscellaneous Pieces. Two of his
songs, "Lang, lang Syne," and "The Auld Manse," are widely
popular.

James Adair, the second son, bom 25th June 1801, became Pro-
fessor of Surgery in the University of Glasgow. Francis Bawdon
Hastings, the third son, was bom on 10th August 1807, and
Archibald, the fourth son, was bom 8th September 1810. The
first wife of Dr. Archibald Lawrie, Anne Adair, died 12th Feb-
ruary 1822; he married, secondly, Mary Howison, who died
26th January 1863.



JESSIE LEWARS.

John Lewaks, supervisor of Excise at Dumfries, died in that town
on the 22nd April 1789, in the 69th year of his age.^ He had a
son John, and two daughters, Mary and Jessie.

John Lewars the younger became an officer of Excise, and had
the distinction of giving official instructions to the Poet on his
joining the service. Latterly he was one of the Bard's most
cherished associates ; he was a close attendant upon him in his last
hours, and to Mr. James Burnes in Montrose conveyed the tidings
of his death. Having attained the rank of supervisor, he retired
from the revenue service in 1825. He some time rented the farm
of Lauder in the parish of Carlaverock, but ultimately retired to

Tomlwtone inscription in St. Michael's Churchyard, Dumfries.



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JESSIE LEWARS. 11

Ryedale Cottage, Troqueer, where he died in September 1826. In
1799 he married Barbara Howe, of the parish of Gretna, with issue
a son, John, and a daughter, Bessie. John died abroad, unmarried.
Bessie married, in 1827, William Montgomery, who rented the farm
of Hermitage in the parish of Urr, Kirkcudbrightshire, with issue
three sons, Andrew, Hugh, and William.

Mary, elder daughter of John Lewars senior, married William
Hyslop, builder, Dumfries, with issue a son and daughter.

Jessie, younger daughter, was bom about the year 1778, and
after her father's death in 1789 took up her abode with her brother,
who occupied a small dwelling at Mill Brae (now Bums Street),
Dumfries, immediately opposite the Poet's residence. The two
families became intimate, Jessie being an especial favourite of Mrs.
Burns, also of the Poet. One day, when the Poet was visiting
Mr. Lewars, she chanced to sing the formerly popular song, known
as "The Robin cam' to the Wren's Nest." Having become
interested in the air, he remarked that if it would gratify the singer
he would compose for it new words. Accordingly he, on a stray
bit of paper, composed the song embraced in the two following
stanzas : —

O wert thou in the caald blast,

On yonder lea, on yonder lea,
My plaidie to the angry airt^

rd shelter thee, I'd shelter thee ;
Or did misfortune's bitter storms

Around thee blaw, around thee blaw,
Thy bield should be my bosom,

To share it a', to share it a'.

Or were I in the wildest waste,

Sae bleak and bare, sae bleak and bare,
The desert were a Paradise,

K thou wert there, if thou wert there ;



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12 THE BOOK OF ROBERT BURNS.

Or were I monarch o' the globe,

AV^i' thee to reign, wi* thee to reign ;
The brightest jewel in my crown

Wad be my queen, wad l)e my queen.

These verses, many years afterwards, when Jessie Lewars was a
widow, attracted the regard of Felix Mendelssohn, who united them
to an air of exquisite pathos/

At the time when he composed these verses, Bums was in feeble
health. During the six months of illness which preceded his death,
Jessie Lewars ministered to him with an affectionate solicitude.
Deeply grateful for her kind services, he made her the theme of
the latter efforts of his Muse.

As, in April 1796, he was handed by Miss Lewars on his sick-bed
a refreshing draught, he inscribed with his diamond these lines
upon the goblet : —

Fill me with the rosy wine.
Call a toast, a toast divine ;
Give the Poet's darling flame.
Lovely Jessie be her name ;
Then thou mayest freely boast,
Thou hast given a peerless toast.

In one of his professional visits, Mr. Brown, the surgeon, brought
to the Poet an advertising sheet setting forth the contents of a
menagerie then being exhibited in the town. Remarking that his
amiable nurse w^as interested in the advertisement, he on the back
of it inscribed with red pencil these lines : —

' Dr. Robert Chambers's Life and Works but *'The Wren," No. 483 of Johnson's

of Bums, vol. iv. 194, 195. According to Mr. Museum, — Library Edition of Burns's Works,

Scott Douglas, the air which Jessie Lewars lit 297, 816.
played was not **The Wren's Nest," No. 406,



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JESSIE LEWARS. 13

Talk not to me of savages

From Afric's burning sun ;
Xo savage e'er could rend my heart,

As, Jessie, thou hast done :
But Jessie's lovely hand in mine,

A mutual faith to plight,
Not even to view the heavenly choir

Would be so blest a sight^

And so to the gentle attendant of his sick-chamber did the
Poet continue to express his appreciation and gratitude in warm
love-breathings. Moved by her benevolence, he composed these
stanzas : —

Here's a health to ane I loe dear,

Hero's a health to ane I loe dear ;
Thou art sweet as the smile when fond lovers meet.

And soft as their parting tear — Jessie.

Altho' thou maim never be mine,

Altho' even hope is denied ;
Tis sweeter for thee despairing.

Than ought in the world beside— Jessie.

I mourn thro' the gay, gaudy day,

As hopeless I muse on thy charms ;
But welcome the dream o' sweet slumber,

For then I am lockt in thine arms— Jessie.

I guess by the dear angel smile,

I guess by the love-rolling e'e ;
But why urge the tender confession

'Gainst Fortune's fell, cruel decree 1

Jessie fell sick, and the Poet indulged a more serious strain : —

' Transcribed from the original M.S. in possession of Mrs. Howat, Custleview, Stirling, grand-
daughter of Jessie Lewars.



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14 THE BOOK OF ROBERT BURNS.

Say, sages, what's the charm on earth

Can turn Death's dart aside 1
It is not purity and worth,

£l8e Jessie had not died.

When his fair attendant recovered, his Muse awoke a strain of even
loftier praise : —

But rarely seen since Nature's birth,

The natives of the sky ;
Tet still one seraph's left on earth,

For Jessie did not die.

During his illness the Poet despatched a letter to Mr. James
Johnson, publisher of the Scots Musical Museum, which bears to
have been delivered to him by post on the I7th June 1796. The
letter concludes : —

My wife has a very particular friend, a young lady who sings well, to whom
she wishes to present the Scots Musical Museum, If you have a spare copy,
will you be so obliging as to send it by the very first fly, as I am anxious to
have it soon.

To the request of the dying Bard his correspondent attended at
once, and, on their reception at Dumfries, the volumes were forth-
with placed in Miss Lewars's hands. On the back of the title-page
of the first volume the Poet inscribed these lines : —

Thine be the volumes, Jessie fair,
And with them take the Poet's prayer :
That Fate may in her fairest page.
With ev'ry kindliest, best presage
Of future bliss, enrol thy name :
With native worth and spotless fame.
And wakeful caution, still aware
Of ill — but chief man's felon snare ;



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JESSIE LEWARS. 15

All blameless joys on earth we find,
And all the treasures of the mind —
These be thy guardian and reward ;
So prays thy faithful friend, the Bard.



R. BURNS.^



Dumfries, June 26/^, 1796.



In the possession of Miss Lewars's family is a thin quarto volume
by Dr. Wolcott, entitled '^ Pindarinia, by Peter Pindar, 1794," in-
scribed "-4 Madlle. J. LewarSy un petit gage de Vamitie. R. Burns."

To the close of the Poet's life Miss Lewars attended him with
an affectionate solicitude, and some days before his death she and
her brother received his four small boys into their dwelling. They
were removed under the plea of securing quietness, but they were,
subsequent to the Poet's death on the 21st July, kept under Miss
Lewars's care till a movement on behalf of the Poet's family had
made some progress. Robert, the Poet's eldest son, remained with
the Lewars about a year.

On the 3rd of June 1799 Miss Lewars was married to James
Thomson, writer, Dumfries. At the great festival in honour of the
sons of the Poet held near the Ayr Monument, Mr. and Mrs. Thomson
were assigned seats next to the Poet's relatives, on the right hand of
the chairman. Mr. Thomson died on the 5th May 1849. Mrs.
Thomson thereafter resided at Maxwelltown, near Dumfries, till her
death, which took place on the 26th May 1855, when she had
attained her seventy-seventh year. Her remains and those of her
husband were deposited in St. Michael's Churchyard, near to the Poet's
resting-place. There they are commemorated on a mural tablet.

Of the marriage of James Thomson and Jessie Lewars were born
five sons and two daughters. The sons were James, bom 1800,

1 From the original in the possession of Mrs. Howat. At the commencement of lino 6th the Poet
inadvertently substitutes "while " for " with."



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16 THE BOOK OF ROBERT BURNS.

died in 1820; John, born 1802, who served his father in the
writing business, and died in 1834; William, bom 1805: he
commanded a vessel in the merchant service, and died at the Cape
of Good Hope on the 8th December 1858 ; Thomas, bom 1st
January 1810, and died August 1825; and Alexander, born 11th
December 1814, and died 18th March 1859.

The elder daughter, Mary, born 25th June 1807, married, 30th
March 1840, George Montgomery, merchant, Dumfries, who died
28th September 1843, with issue a son, George, and a daughter,
Jessie Lewars.

George, bom 26th May 1843, is a merchant in Dundee. He
married, first, Alice Walker, with issue a son and daughter ; secondly
Isabella, daughter of David Niven, writer, Dundee, with issue a son
and daughter.

Jessie Lewars, only daughter of George Montgomery and Mary
Thomson, spouses, married, 2nd April 1861, William Howat, mer-
chant, Dumfries, now of Castleview, Stirling, with issue three sons
and three daughters.

Jessie, younger daughter of James Thomson and Jessie Lewars,
was born 16th June 1816 ; she died unmarried in September 1877.



ISABELLA LINDSAY.

During his Border tour in May 1787, the Poet was at Jedburgh
attracted by a bright and graceful maiden, whom he thus
introduces in his Journal : —

Miss Lindsay, a good-humoured, amiable girl : rather short and embonpoint^
but handsome and extremely graceful — beautiful hazel eyes, full of spirit and
sparkling with delicious moisture — an engaging face, un tout ensemble that speaks
her of the first order of female minds.



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ISABELLA LINDSAY. 17

These entries follow : —

Get hold of Miss lindsiiy's arm . . . Miss seems very well pleased with my
hardship's distinguishing her; and after some slight qualms, which I could
easily mark, she sets the titter round at defiance, and kindly allows me to keep
my hold. . . . Miss Lindsay and myself go to see Esther, a very remarkahle
woman for reciting poetry of all kinds. ... I walk in Esthei-'s ^ garden with
Miss Lindsay, and after some little cliit-chat of the tender kind, I presented her
with a proof print of my «o6, which she accepted with something more tender

than gratitude. She told me many little stories which Miss had retailed

concerning her and me, with prolonging pleasure— ^God hless her.

In closing the narrative of his visit to Jedburgh, the Poet has
these words : —

Sweet Isahella Lindsay, may peace dwell in thy bosom, uninterrupted,
except by the tumultuous throbbings of rapturous love! That love-kindling
eye must beam on another, not on me — that graceful form must bless another's
arms, not mine.

Daughter of Dr. Robert Lindsay, by his wife Jean Gumming,
Isabella Lindsay was born at Jedburgh on the 28th September
1764.' Her father, who practised as a physician in the place, was
dead at the time when the Poet met her, and she, along with a
younger sister, Margaret, was then resident with a brother, who had
as a physician succeeded to their father's medical practice. On the
14th June 1787, thirty-four days after she had on the 11th of
May parted with the Poet, Isabella was married to Mr. Adam
Armstrong, her engagement with whom, well known in the locality,
had induced some unamiable persons of her own sex, to keenly
censure her easy manners with the Poet. With her husband, who
was in the employment of the Russian Government, she left Jedburgh

^ Esther Easton, the ^-ife of a working gardener ; she possessed an nncommon memory and
other gifts.
' Jedburgh Parish Register.
VOU II. C



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18 THE BOOK OF ROBERT BURNS.

on the 4tli of July, and, embarking for Russia on the 17th of the
month, they landed at St. Petersburg on the 10th of August. Mrs.
Armstrong did not return to Scotland. She died young, leaving
four children, of whom Samuel, the eldest, was born on the 21st
April 1788.^ Robert, the youngest son, became a general in the
Russian service, and so lately as 1856 held office as Director of the
Imperial Mint at St. Petersburg. Possessed by that gentleman's
representatives is the historically interesting mansion at Jedburgh,
known as Queen Mary's House, now occupied by Mr. A. C. Mounsey,
master of the grammar school.

Margaret Lindsay, Isabella's younger sister, described in his
Border Journal by the Poet as "a bonnie, strappin', rosy, sonsie
lass," died at Jedburgh not long after the Poet's visit, at the age
of twenty-two.



JOHN LOGAN OF LAIGHT AND KNOCKSHINNOCH.

The noted "Black Agnes," Countess of Dunbar, succeeded in 1346
to the lands of Cumnock in Ayrshire. These lands continued in
the ownership of the Dunbars for a course of centuries, and from
the last of these Ayrsliire landowners James Logan of Lagwine,
near Carsphairn in Galloway, purchased, about the middle of the
eighteenth century, the small estate of Knockshinnoch, in the parish
of New Cumnock. He married Margaret Begg, daughter of the laird
of Domel, in the parish of Auchinleck.

In the lands of Knockshinnoch James Logan was succeeded by

' Several of these facts and dates are obtained of Thomson's Seasons (Dublin, 1768), now in
from family memoranda of Mr. and Mrs. Arm- the possession of Mr. Mounsej of the grammar
strong inscribed inside the boards of a small copy school of Jedburgh.



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JOHN LOGAN OF LAIGHT. 19

his son, John, who mamed Martha, only child of Captain Macadam
of Laight and Carca, on the banks of the Afton. On the death of
his father-in-law he removed to the mansion of Laight, that estate
immediately bordering his own possession. Inheriting vigorous
powers from his mother, he associated with persons of intelligence
and culture. Bums was recommended to his notice by Gavin
Hamilton, \\4th whom he was on terms of intimacy. When the
Poet was spending a few days at Kilmarnock in the beginning of
August 1786, waiting upon the distribution of his first edition, he
from thence despatched to Mr. Logan the following letter : —

Sir, — I gratefully thank you for your kind offices in promoting my sub-
scription, and still more for your very friendly letter — the first was doing me
a favor, but the last was doing me an honor. I am in such a bustle at
present, preparing for my West-India voyage, as I expect a letter every day
from the master of the vessel, to repair directly to Greenock — that I am
under a necessity to return you the subscription bills, and trouble you
M'ith tlie quantum of copies till called for, or otherwise transmitted to the
gentlemen who have subscribed. ... If orders from Greenock do not hinder,
I intend doing myself the honor of waiting on you Wednesday the 16th inst
I am much hurt, sir, that I must trouble you with the copies; but, circum-
stanced as I am, I know no other way your friends can be supplied.

With Mr. Logan the Poet maintained a considerable intimacy ;
he visited him occasionally during his frequent journeys between
Ellisland and Mauchline. In a letter dated Ellisland, 7th August
1789, he intimates that he has therewith transmitted for his private
perusal his poem of ** The Kirk's Alarm," remarking that it was the
first copy he had sent into Ayrshire, excepting a few stanzas he had
handed to Gavin Hamilton. The Poet also informs his correspon-
dent that he had composed three and a half stanzas of a poetical
epistle to him, but that a prosaic mood had overcome him. The
epistle was therefore not forthcoming, but to the copy of " The



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20 THE BOOK OF ROBERT BURNS.

Kirk's Alarm " were, for his friend's benefit, appended these

lines : —

Alton's Laird ! Afton's Laird !

When your pen can be spared,
A copy of this I bequeath.

On the same sicker score

As I mentioned before.
To that trusty auld worthy, Clackleith,

Afton's Laird !
To that trusty aukl worthy, Clackleith.

Burns continued, in the course of his rides to and from Ayrshire,
to visit Mr. Logan at Laight, in Glen Afton, and during one of his
visits, apparently in 1791, he composed his exquisite pastoral song,
"Afton Water."

Mr. Logan latterly resided at Ayr, where he died on the
9th March 1816. Of his several children, John, the eldest son, a
major in the army, succeeded him in his estates. Becoming heavily
involved, he was under the necessity of alienating his possessions.
Ilis daughter married in 1834 Mr. John Dunbar of New Cumnock,
and the event of their golden wedding was celebrated in
February 1884.



JEAN LORIMER.

Jean Lorimer was a conspicuous heroine of the Poet's fancy. To
her personal history we are introduced in the marriage register of
Dumfries by the following entry: — "October 4, 1772. William
Lorimer, merchant in this place, son to John Lorimer in the parish
of Moffat, and Agnes Carson, daughter of John Carson, in the
parish of Morton, proclaimed." As in 1775 we find William
Lorimer resident with his family at Craigieburn, in the neighbour-



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JEAN LORIMER. 21

hood of Moflfat, it may be assumed that he had then or previously
succeeded to his father s inheritance — probably the lease of Craigie-
bum farm. William Lorimer next appears as resident on the farm
of Kemmis-hall on the Nith, about two miles below Ellisland. At
that period, he, in addition to his business as a farmer, conducted
merchandise at Dumfries, dealing in spirits, tea, and other excisable
articles. Consequent on his commercial relations, the Poet, who
then protected the revenue interests of ten parishes, formed his
acquaintance about the year 1790, and a warm intimacy ensued.

Mrs. Lorimer s friendship was indeed not to be coveted. She
largely imbibed whisky and other stimulants, and was frequently
intoxicated. Presuming on her husband's intimacy with the Poet,
she subjected him to the suspicion of illicit dealing, to an extent
that a revenue officer might scarcely overlook. It is related that
on one occasion the Poet was, through Mrs. Lorimer s imprudence,
placed in circumstances in which his friendship was subjected to a
considerable strain. Having arrived one evening at Mr. Lorimer s
farm, he put up his horse, and, entering the house by the back door,
passed into the kitchen. There he found Mrs. Lorimer and her
maidens occupied in preparing tallow candles, then an article of
Excise. Embarrassed by the spectacle, the Poet, with the remark,
" You're thrang, I see," passed hastily into the parlour.

Among the members of Mr. Lorimer s family circle his daughter
Jean attracted the kindly notice both of the Poet and his wife.
Jean Lorimer w^as born in September 1775, when her parents were
resident at Craigieburn ; consequently, when the Poet and his wife
formed her acquaintance in 1791, she was in her sixteenth year.
She was then peculiarly engaging. Tall of stature and of graceful
proportions, she was of a delicate complexion, while her light blue
eyes dazzled by the warmth of her manners. Among her other
admirers was Mr. John Gillespie, a brother officer of the Poet,



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22 THE BOOK OF ROBERT BURNS.

settled at Dumfries. Revealing his attachment to the Poet, he
proceeded on his friend's behalf to celebrate his charmer. In
allusion to the romantic spot of her birth, his verses began : —

Sweet closes the evening on Cralgiebum Wood,

And blythely awaukens the morrow ;
But the pride o' the spring in the Craigiebum Wood

Can yield me nought but sorrow.

At a subsequent period, Burns, on the suggestion of Mr. George
Thomson, produced the song in an amended version, being that
included in the ordinary editions of his works. In the new version
the song commences thus : —

Sweet fa's the eve on Craigiebum,

And blythe awakes the morrow ;
But a' the pride o* spring's return

Can yield me nocht but sorrow.

By the Poet other songs followed, addressed to his friend's fair
enslaver. These included the stanzas beginning, "Come, let me
take thee to my breast," and the song " Poortith Cauld." The latter
contains these two verses in gentle allusion to the rejection of her
suitor on account of his poverty : —

Her e*en sae bonnie blue betray

How she repays my passion ;
But prudence is her o'erword aye.

She talks o' rank and fashion.

How blest the simple cotter's fate !

He woos his artless dearie \
The silly bogles, wealth and state,

Can never make him eerie.

If the fair inspirer of the Poet's muse was inclined more to
reciprocate the affection of an opulent than of a sincere and



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JEA N L O RIMER. 23

unsophisticated lover, she was in her election doomed to a sad and
bitter disappointment. A young man named Whelpdale, from the
county of Cumberland, had, as a farmer, settled at Barnhill, near
Moffat. At the residence of a neighbour, Mr. Johnston, farmer at
Drumcrieff, where Miss Lorimer chanced to be on a visit, Mr.
Whelpdale met her. Smitten by her charms, he professed his
attachment, and his love was reciprocated. After a brief acquaint-
ance, he one evening in March 1793 took her aside, and, protesting
he could no longer live apart from her society, persuaded her to
elope with him to Gretna Green, that there they might be married.
Believing that her husband's prosperity would sufficiently condone
the offence of an irregular marriage, she unhappily listened to the
solicitation made to her. At Gretna she became the wife of one
who, then on the verge of bankruptcy, was hopelessly reckless,
prodigal, and extravagant. The married pair returned to Barnhill,
but, after an interval of a few months, Mr. AVhelpdale absconded
from his creditors, leaving his deeply-injured wife no alternative
but to seek*shelter under the parental roof. There ensued the usual
desertion, which disappointed neighbours mete out to the victims of
imprudence. Burns was true. In his former heroine he recognised
one who had become unfortunate because she was trustful, and she
was still his Chloris. In his ode beginning, " Sae flaxen were her
ringlets," he particularly celebrates her charms.

Unfortunate as an agriculturist, also in his commercial relations,
William Lorimer removed from Kemmis-hall to Dumfries. Miss
Lorimer, as she elected to be called, ignoring her wedded name, now
became a regular visitor in the Poet's family ; and the Poet's wife,
whose Christian name was the same as her own, viewed without a
spark of jealousy the compliments lavished in verse by her husband
upon the younger Jean, in the hope that these tributes to her
beauty might in some degree mitigate her great sorrow.



Online LibraryCharles RogersThe book of Robert Burns; genealogical and historical memoirs of the poet, his associates and those celebrated in his writings → online text (page 2 of 33)