Alexander Boswell.

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Glasgow :

Printed by Robert Anderson,

23 Ann Street.



T is rather surprising that none of the
literary friends of the late Sir Alexander
BoswELL have, as yet, attempted a col-
lection of his writings That

the whole will be published at some future period, we
have no doubt." So wrote, in 1840, that venerable
and accomplished litteraieur, Mr. James Paterson.
Thirty years have elapsed since the suggestion he
proffered and the hope he indicated were made
public, yet the one has not been acted upon, and the
other has never been realised. Nobody essayed the
task, and it has been left undone. I cannot flatter
myself that it has been performed even now. But by
protracted research in the Advocates' Library and the



British Museum, as well as by correspondence with
all known custodiers of the Author's MSS., no acces-
sible source remains unexplored which could contribute
to the attractions, enhance the interest, or verify the
accuracy of the present volume. Should the work be
accepted as a cairn of remembrance to the character
and capacity of a man too little kno^\^l by the new
generation of his countrymen, the object for which
it was undertaken will have been most gratifyingly


London, April, 1871.



Preface, xiii

Memoir, xxi

The Maid of Isla, 5

Let My Lass be Young, 7

East Nuik o' Fife, 8

Jenny's Bawbee, ii

Jenny Dang the Weaver, ...... 14

The Change of Edinburgh, 15

Larghan Clanbrassil, . . . . . . • ^7

Shelah O'Neal, 18

Taste Life's glad moments, ...... 19

Come rest ye here, Johnnie, 21

On the Fidelity of the Highlanders in the Rebellion, 1745-6, 23

Ah, Life is but a Dream! 25

Drinking Song — Here's a Toast, 26

Braes of Ochtertyre, ....... 27

The Exile's Return, 29

Captain O'Flyn and Miss Dolly O'Lynn, . . . .31



The Old Chieftain to his Sons,
Edinburgh; or, The Ancient Royalty,
Clan-Alpin's Vow, ......

Sir Albon, .......

Tintoc Tap, with Johnie Bell and the Kelpy, .

Epistle to the Edinburgh Reviewers,

Songs in the Justiciar}' Opera,

Skeldon Haughs; or, The Sow is Flitted,

Elegaic Ode to the Memory of Dr. William Han'ey

For the Harveian Anniversary, 1816,


Fugitive Pieces:—
Michael's Dinner; or, Staunch Friends to Refonn
Bannocks o' Barley Meal,
On the Death of James Boswell,
Verses recited at a Bums Anniversary Dinner
To the Memoiy of Bums,

To the Same,

Sung at a Yeomanry Dinner, .
Lochside and Damback; or, The Curlers,
The Swallow's Lament, ....
Poor Robin hops round your kitchen,
The Ayrshire Yeomen, ....

Political Song,

The Old Beau,

A Hint to the Hen-peck't,

Lines on the Death of Lord Montgomerie,

Masonic Song,


XV 11

The Piper and Trihodyan,

A Fragment,

Yes! tears must flow,
Monody on the Battle of Waterloo, .
Epitaph on the late Alexander Wood,
Long Live George the Fourth our King,
Here below in a Vale of Trial,
Curse God and Die,





Ah, life is but a dream! .....

Ah I Mary, sweetest maid, fareweel,

Ah! who shall breathe upon the oaten reed? .

Arg)'ll is my name, and you may think it strange,

At Willie's wedding o' the green,

Auld gudeman, ye're a drunken carle,

Come rest ye here, Johnnie — what news frae the

Crawford o' Kerse sat in his ha',

** Curse God and die! " — creation's foe,

Enough of rain, of hail, and snow, .

Fair Reform — celestial maid,

Fatal the cause to the sons of the hill,

Good humour reigns round, I presume,
Gude night, and joy be wi' ye a',

Harsh is he who brands with shame,

HechI what a change ha'c wc now in this toun













Here below in a vale of trial, ...... 222

Here's a toast — chari^e your glasses — your Innnpci:^ are out, 26

I met four chaps yon birks amang, . . . . .II

In India's clime I pass'd my time, ..... 205

Larghan Clanbrassil, how sweet is thy sound I . . • 17
Let feckless cliiels, like crucket weans, . . . -195
Let my lass be young, my wine be old, .... 7

Oft I went to her, 18

On charms of wit and beauty, . . . . . -31
Our mither's got anither wean, 210

Poor Robin hops round your kitchen, . . . -199

Quick beats my fever'd brain, 27

Roll on, dark Ayr— thy troubled stream, . . . 208

Said old Pat Cole to me, ...... 206

Saw ye my Trumpeter? . . . . . .141

Strike, strike the harp, strike loud and long, . . .171

The early morn, in sober gray, . . . . .Si

The parting look, the parting tear, 71

The Piper pech'd and the Piper blew, . . . 115

Taste life's glad moments, . . . . . -19

There is a pang when kindred spirits part, . . . 1S7

To greet the sun, from many a bough, . .191

To regions afar, where Sol's temperate beam, . . . 19S

There was a time when this dull breast, . . .214


'Twa.s once, in political strife, .....

^^'lin i» the votive stone a name to save, .

Vain thought I But had Bums ever witnessed a meetinj

Victor}^! at thy proud name, .....

What! bid a man sing? ......

While Bmnswick's race o'er Britain's Isle,

Ve lads of Ayr, when first we met, ....
Ve're a blob roun' and ripe, .....
Yes I tears must flow; ye mourn the brave I
Vc young Reviewers! listen to my strain!
You're welcome, Farmer, to our ancient town!






NTERWOVEN with some of the saddest, as
witli some of the proudest, national memories,
few names stand higher on the bead-roll of
Scottish patriotism, valour, and literature than that of
BoswELL. Although for generations intimately iden-
tified with Ayrshire, which will ever be associated in
the popular mind as its legitimate home, the ances-
tral tree was planted, took root, and first flourished in
a more northern county. Genealogists have ascertained
that they " came in with the Conqueror," that Sir
John' Boswell acquired the lands of Balmuto, Fife,
in the 14th century, and in 1504 the Estate of
Auchinleck was bestowed by James IV. upon
Thomas, son of Boswell of Balmuto (a descendant
of whom afterwards purchased Balmuto from his
kinsman). He, in i^ursuing the fortunes of his royal


master, fell on the fatal field of Flodden, and was
succeeded by David, who had another charter granted
him by James V. in 15 14, which in turn was followed
by a third deed conferring the right to the Barony in
1 53 1. Dispensing with further details, including
items of the deepest interest, ^^-ith which, however, it
would be unjustifiable to encumber these pages, it is
enough to say that, from that remote period till now
Auchinleck has remained in the undisturbed possession
of the descendants of him who sealed his loyalty with
his life upwards of three hundred and fifty years ago.
Its more immediately recent owners were the Senator of
the College of Justice, who took his judicial title from
the patrimonial acres (a man not more distinguished
for his legal acumen than for his homely pungent wit);
and the illustrious author of the '• Life of Johnson,"
whose reputation promises to be as enduring as the
English language itself — the most ardent of his
admirers and the most caustic of his critics being
unanimous in their verdict that he has given us incom-
parably the best biography the world has ever seen,
or is ever likely to enjoy.

Under this classic roof-tree, Alexander Boswell,
Author of the Poems and Songs comprised in the
present volume, first saw the light. In the Boswell-


Johnson coiTCspondence, the great lexicographer is
thus apprised of the auspicious event : —

"Edinburgh, October 24tli, 1775.
"My Dear Sir,

" If I had not been informed that you were
at Paris, you should have had a letter from me by the earliest
opportunity, announcing the birth of my son on the 9th inst.
I have named him Alexander, after my father."

It has been often said, and nearly as often proved,
that fe\v men have ever made a figure in the world
without possessing predominating qualities which were
mainly inherited from the maternal side. Even such
an expert as Professor Huxley in the analysis of race
has adopted this theory. Unquestionably the Poet
owed a great deal to his mother (daughter of David
Montgomery, of Lainshaw), a woman of high mental
calibre, combined with rare resources of practical
sagacity.'-' If her celebrated husband was a big
ship, under full canvas, in the literary fleet of his

* In Murray's edition of "Boswell's Life of Johnson," Croker
says in a note: "Sir Alexander Boswell was a high-spirited,
clever, and amiable gentleman, and, like his father, of a frank
and social disposition. It is said that he did not relish the
recollection of his father's devotion to Dr. Johnson, but, like old
Lord Auchinleck, considered it a kind of derogation."


day, she was the ballast to steady the erratic craft,
and bring it safely and triumphantly to haven, when,
otherwise, it might have been drifting hopelessly,
because rudderless, out to sea. Alexander's boyhood
was gilded with the glow of a chivalry that grew
with his growth, and became almost a passion in his
maturer years. Returning homewards from Cumnock
one afternoon, he encountered two lads much taller
than himself belabouring a poor travelling tinker, who,
in her defencelessness, frantically appealed to him for
help. The response was ready and effective. Going
up to the more powerful of the twain, with poHte
irony he inquired what honour was to be gained by
molesting a shoeless beggar, who had given them no
provocation? In genuine Scotch fashion the cowardly
"bully" answered — "What hae ye to dae wi't?" and
the next moment was prostrate on his back; his
companion, dreading a similar fate, meanwhile dis-
creetly showing a clean pair of heels. The future
laird was thus left master of the situation, and the old
crone showered benisons on her juvenile protector so
lavishly that he was glad to retire into the policies of

Having distinguished himself as an Eton Scholar,
he in due course passed to the University of Oxford,


where, however, he was out-distanced in the race
for academic honours by his only brother James.
This gentleman died in his forty-third year, too soon
for his fame, but not before he had left his mark on the
literature of his time. Elected a Fellow of Brazenose
College upon the Vinerian foundation, he became con-
spicuous for his classical emdition. As Mr. Malone's
literary executor, he gave to the world that commen-
tator's Shakespeare in 2 1 volumes, enriching the work
with elaborate notes of his own, and vindicating the
reputation of his friend in an essay which is regarded
as a model of controversial writing. The brothers
were devotedly attached to each other, having many
sympathies in common; and the lines found in Sir
Alexander's pocket-book when he was borne wounded
from the field at Auchtertool'-' form a touching tribute
of fraternal affection to the memory of one who was
within three short weeks to be followed to the
shadows of " the silent land." A double curriculum
of such a costly nature was not defrayed without
considerable sacrifices, but these were cheerfully
undergone by Johnson's biographer, who was bound
up in the hope — which had become a ruling passion —

* See page 187.


of seeing his sons assume their befitting place in society
as youths of culture. If the strain on the paternal
purse was severe, it was amply justified by the result,
the full happiness of which, however, the doting father
was not spared to enjoy. He died on 19th May,
1795, before his heir- had completed his twentieth
year. Immediately on his accession to the Auchin-
leck estates, the new proprietor made ''the grand
tour," then considered an indispensable complement
to the training of every gentleman in his station.
With keen powers of observation, he could not fail to
reap the rewards of enlightened travel; and the influ
ence of his sojourn on the continent of Europe can
be easily discerned throughout his earlier efiusions.
Yet it neither loosened, nor weakened, the ties of
home, whither he soon returned to settle do^\'n perma-
nently under the spell of a new and a stronger bond.

On 26th November, 1799, Mr. Boswell married
Grace, fifth daughter of Thomas Gumming, banker,
Edinburgh, and representative of the ancient family of
Erenside. Of this felicitous union there were four
children : — James, the late Baronet; Theresa, married
to Sir William Francis Eliott, of Stobs and Wells,
Bart.j Grace Jane (who died early); and Margaret
Emily, married to General Vassall.


MEMOIR. \\\\\

At the beginning of this century the stout hearts
and brawny arms that farmed Auchinleck had no
reason to mourn over the curse of absenteeism. other advantages residential proprietorship
brought with it the stimulus of personal intercourse
and example. The management of the ancestral
acres, which required scmpulous care and attention,
gave jNIr. Boswell a practical knowledge of, and :
interest in, all agricultural improvements. Of th
modern appliances by which these could then be
fonvarded he was not slow to avail himself, so far as
his means would prudently admit. By inheritance
one of the owners of the soil, by sympathy he be-
came one of its cultivators, encouraging the humblest
of the tenantry to vie with the most pretentious of
their peers, not only in making both ends meet, but
also in having something provided for fouler weather
than any to be found on the most portentous Rent-
Day. Their successes at ploughing matches and cattle
shows he rejoiced in as much as if they had been of
his own achievement. Thus coming in and going
out among them, the relations between landlord and
tenant stood upon a flimily, rather tlian upon a
coldly formal, footing. No wonder that such a man
speedily became a power for good in the uplands of


Ayrshire. Nor did the responsibilities of his estate
monopoHse his restless energies. The circle of his
usefulness gradually widened, first extending to the
whole of his native county, and latterly embracing
the nation itself in its beneficent sweep. As a Road
Trustee, Commissioner of Supply, and Colonel of
Yeomanry, as well as in his general magisterial
capacity, Mr. Boswell found full scope for his varied
talents and acquirements, which were ungrudgingly laid
under contribution for the public service. Indeed,
none of his contemporaries took such a prominent or
such an efticient part in Ayrshire affairs; and his
activity in civil and military administration is more
suggestive of Indian orders in council, with their dual
governing and soldierly functions, than of the require-
ments that could reasonably be expected of a Scottish
country gentleman some fifty years ago.

Yet, apprehensive of the dulness which proverbi-
ally deadens effort in the restraint of "all work and
no play," ample precautions were adopted to ward off
that contingency. Like Christopher North, whom he
resembled either in his "jacket" or in his "slippers,"
and to whom he bore no unworthy affinity in robust-
ness and elasticity of intellect, as well as in fineness of
physique, Alexander Boswell was " a muscular Christ-


ian" long before "Tom Brown's School-days," or when
that abused phrase was held to canonize University
athletes. What a noble pair, gun or rod in hand, on
the hill-side, in the woods, by the trouting stream !
The laird of Auchinlcck's love of manly outdoor
exercises was almost equalled by his prowess, which,
recorded in detail, would half illustrate a book of
sports. He began with the turf, which, however, was
subsequently relinquished for the chase. So bewitch-
ing was the resonance of the traditional Tally-ho ! that
he rode to his own hounds, of which he kept a small
but superior pack, for several seasons. In him, too,
coursing claimed a keen votary, as the annals of " The
Kyle Club" can testify. No reader of his works
need be assured how enthusiastically he threw himself
into the most exhilarating of all our national games.
Despite its local colouring, every true curler will appre-
ciate the verisimilitude of the sketch entitled " Loch-
side and Damback." So faithfully are the features
of a parish bonspiel reproduced that you can almost
see the anxious skips dispensing praise or blame in
gestures more significant than their words, and hear
the roar of the "channel-stane" as it speeds on its mis-
sion of making or unmaking a decisive " head." The
scene could have been depicted only by a knight of


of these boxes became his sole employment." From
this obscure nucleus, then, has grown up a staple trade
in which many hundreds of cunning artificers are now
profitably engaged, and the demands upon which
have become so incessant and exacting, that they
cannot be met without the agency of steam. Another
interesting fact in relation to this species of skilled
labour is, that the greatest portrait painter of our day
tried his " 'prentice han'" on these box-lids and —
failing! threw up his village indenture in disgust, little
dreaming that an artistic career so unpromisingly begun
would be crowned by his adding "A.R.S.A." to a
name which was then, as for long subsequently, plain
Daniel Macnee.

The birth and infancy of the Auchinleck Press are
best described by its founder. In a letter of date 5th
May, 181 9, and addressed to Dr. Dibdin, he says: —
" Having resolved to reprint 2. facsimile oi 2^ black-letter
tract in my possession, which was considered to be
unique, vizt., The Disputation between John Knox and
the Abbot of Crossraguell, for this purpose I was con-
strained to purchase two small founts of black-letter
and to have punches cut out for eighteen or twenty
double letters and contractions. I was then enlisted
and articled into the service, and, being infected with


the iype-^Qxtx, the fits have periodically returned. In
the year 1815, having viewed a portable press, invented
by Mr. John Ruthven, an ingenious printer in Edin-
burgh, I purchased one, and commenced compositor.
At this period my brother, having it in contemplation
to present 'Barnfield' to the Roxburghe Club, and not
aware of the poverty and insignificance of my establish-
ment, expressed a wish that this tract should issue
from the Auchinleck Press. I determined to gratify
him, and the portable press being too small for general
purposes, I exchanged it for one of Ruthven's full-
sized ones; and having increased my stock to eight
small founts (Roman and Italic), with the necessary
appurtenances, I placed the whole in a cottage, built
originally for another purpose, very pleasantly situ-
ated on the bank of a rivulet, although concealed
by the surrounding wood, not a quarter of a mile
from my house." Hence emanated about forty dis-
tinct publications, from the most recondite treatises
to rare old chap ballads, besides a multitude of scarce
tractates and leaflets bearing on history, social economy,
philosophy, &c., the number and titles of which
it is almost impossible now to trace. No doubt an
inherent love for antiquarian research was the main-
spring of this enterprise. But the unselfishness of its


inauguration, and the vigour with which it was prose-
cuted — "Jamie" Sutherland, a practical workman
from the metropolis, plying case and press alternately,
and Patrick Simpson, the dominie (brother of Burns's
Ochiltree correspondent, "Winsome WiUie "), cor-
recting the proofs in the absence of the presiding
genius — beam out from the declaration, the sincerity
of which is unchallengeable : " Not the least part of
my gratification has been the opportunity afforded me
of contributing to the amusement of a number of
friends whom I esteem and respect." He did not,
however, do all the mechanical labour of the minia-
ture office, so modestly embosomed among the trees,
by deputy. Indeed, he was not a little vain of his
skill as an amateur craftsman ; and he had good rea-
son to be so, as he anticipated a feat upon which the
elder partner of Messrs. W. & R. Chambers afterwards
plumed himself so highly. Mr. Joseph Train, who
contributed so much of the legendary lore which has
enriched the most attractive of the AVaverley Novels,
puts the pleasing incident on record. Dining with the
great magician at 39 North Castle Street, Edinburgh,
in 18 1 7, one of his fellow-guests was Sir Alexander
Boswell, \\ho presented Sir Walter with a thin quarto
volume which he remarked had been "written, printed,


and bound by himself."* Nor should it be forgotten
that, in the case of the Baronet, the work was under-
taken con amore, whereas, in that of the then struggling,
now successful, publisher, it was got up through dire
necessity, and that bane of all beginners in life's
battle — the want of capital and credit. Of the famous
family library Sir Alexander was pardonably proud.
In its rich repositories he had gratified his strong
literary tastes, and he was so unwearied in his efforts to
repay the debt by increasing its treasures, that at be/ks
kttres auctions he was the terror of every book-hunter.
About the year 1810 we find him engaged in the pre-
paration of a general catalogue, which was printed at
Edinburgh, and extended to in pages octavo, but
not being executed in a satisfactory manner, it never
was completed, and most of the copies are believed to
have been destroyed.

The Cenotaph which rears its graceful proportions
on the " banks and braes o' bonnie Doon," beautify-
ing, as far as art can, the garden of Burns's fame, is
the creation of Mr. Boswell's love, as it is a trophy of
his perseverance. It was at his suggestion, and
mainly through his instrumentality, that " repentant

* "The Sow is Flitted."


Scotland " thus did homage to the genius of her
peerless poet. The story of what proved, under his
guidance, a successful national movement is eminently
characteristic of the iron will by which it was led.
Its inauguration looked such a ludicrous and disgrace-
ful failure, that the scheme must have fallen still-born
in less energetic hands. To the invitations issued for
the preliminary public meeting in the county town
there was only one response! But the empty benches
could not freeze a zeal at white heat. Mr. Boswell
took the chair, constituted his solitary auditor secre-
tary, and proposed resolutions that it was desirable to
perpetuate the memory of the bard in some tangible
form, &c., &c., which were of course adopted nem. con.
— the proceedings terminating with a vote of thanks
to the chairman, moved by the improvised clerk I A
minute was duly drawn up, signed officially by the
two enthusiasts, and advertised in all the local and
leading newspapers. Publicity at once wafted the
enterprise into popular favour, committees were
organised, and subscriptions flowed plenteously in till
the fund reached an aggregate of ;£"330o. In the
records of the Monument Trustees, the following well-
earned compliment has been embodied: — "Where so
many exalted characters have contributed to this


gratifying work, and wliere each man, from tlie prince
to the peasant, has cast his stone to the cairn, it may
perhaps be wrong to distinguish one more than another.
But the enthusiasm, perseverance, hberaHty, and per-
sonal attention of Mr. Boswell of Auchinleck have been
so marked and so excessive, and his nature evidently
was so congenial to the task, that he falls unquestion-
ably to be characterised as its first^ best, and most
steadfast friend y With poetical appropriateness, then,
in a double sense he was assigned the leading place
in the ceremony which saw the first practical step
taken for the consummation of his hopes. On the
25th January, 1S20, Mr. Boswell, as Depute-Grand-

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Online LibraryAlexander BoswellThe poetical works → online text (page 1 of 10)