1843 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Wright

Anonymous, from Memoir in Wright, Poetical Works (1843) xiv-xxxiv.



. . . JOHN WRIGHT was born on the 1st September, 1805, at the farm house of Auchincloigh, parish of Sorn, Ayrshire. His father — James Wright — is a native of Galston parish, but at present, and for several years back, has resided in Ayr, where he gains an honest livelihood by driving coals. He is far advanced in years; and is a remarkably quiet inoffensive person, with a moderate share of intelligence. Wright's mother — whose maiden name was Grizzle Taylor, and who was a native of Mauchline — was the very antipodes of her husband. Lively, bustling, and cheerful, with more of acute penetration than falls to the lot of many of her sex in the same sphere of life, her language was characterised by an originality and force of expression, which reminded the listener strongly of her wayward son; whose diction, especially when excited by the social bowl, is, even when applied to trifles, of a peculiarly graphic and comprehensive description. She died of fever about the beginning of December, 1842. The family — of whom John is the fourth — consisted of seven, five sons and two daughters. Two of the former and one of the latter are dead; two brothers are at present with the 91st regiment at the Cape of Good Hope; and the surviving sister is married, and is with her husband in Buenos Ayres.

While yet a mere child, Wright's parents removed from Auchencloigh to the village of Galston, which literally became his native town, and where he spent the few schoolboy days allotted to him — which in reality extended only to a few months. His literary attainments on leaving school embraced no more than a very imperfect knowledge of English reading, while as to writing he knew nothing: indeed, until he had arrived at seventeen years of age, when he contrived to scrawl a few pot-hooks by dint of studying Butterworth's copy lines, he had no notion whatever of caligraphy. A remarkably retentive memory was the only striking quality of mind he exhibited at this early stage of his life. As a proof of his ability, we may mention an anecdote related to us by one who witnessed the incident, which singularly demonstrates the power of memory he possessed. He had for some time attended a Sabbath School established in the village, and had gained the applause of his teacher for the fidelity with which his tasks were committed. On one occasion it had been announced that a school Bible would be given to the pupil in Wright's class who should commit to memory, and repeat the greatest portion of the 118th Psalm. A fortnight, we believe, was the time allowed, but John had been busy during the first week in assisting his father to supply the villagers with coals, and the Sabbath day found him as diligent in bird-nesting. By the middle of the second week — Poets are ever dilatory — he had not even looked at his task; however, through the persuasions of his mother, and the hope of the reward acting as an incentive, he commenced to get the Psalm by heart. A few hours in the evenings, were the only time he could devote to his mental labour: still he applied himself perseveringly, and on the afternoon of the Sabbath, John set out for school with a smile of satisfaction on his countenance. One or two of his rivals preceded him in the trial of mental strength, but they broke down ere they had made mere than a third of the way. It came to John's turn: he got up, and commenced with his eyes shut, and in his peculiar drawling tone, finished his task by reciting the Psalm from first to last, and that without even once requiring the aid of a prompter! The operation — or, as it was considered, the infliction of such a lengthy yarn, lasted for upwards of an hour and a half. The unusual length of the task and the sententious accuracy with which John thought proper to embellish its delivery, had their effect on his audience — the greater part — including all the other scholars, having stolen away: in fact, the minister and his elders, (who were the teachers) were all that braved it out, and these by their yawning, could gladly, by appearance, have followed the example of the others. John opened his eyes on victory, and the prize Bible, which he bore home to his father's house in triumph. This fact has given rise to a proverb, current among the good folks of Galston: if they happen to meet with an individual addicted to prolixity in his discourse, they give vent to their ennui by declaring that, "they would rather by far listen to John Wright repeating the 119th Psalm."

The beauty of the scenery around the quiet and retired village of Galston is peculiarly calculated to awaken the sympathies of the poetic mind; these scenes — which are among the most beautiful of which Ayrshire can boast — and to describe which the pens of a Ramsay and a Tannahill have been employed, could not but impress the heart of the embryo poet, with a feeling of their surpassing loveliness. When a mere boy, we find him foregoing the attractions of play, and the company of his merry companions, to wander in solitude, and gaze with certain indefinable sensations on "Loudon's bonny woods and braes," clothed in the foliage of summer; or the unsung, but not less beautiful, banks of the "woody Burnawn," whose fairy haunts had always a peculiar charm in the eyes of the youth, and are well fitted for the nurture and developement of poetic genius.

From infancy until he had reached the twelfth year of his age — saving the gift of memory before alluded to — nothing remarkable exhibited itself in the character of young Wright, if we except a strong penchant for boyish sports, at all of which he was an adept. His appearance was eccentric and ungainly. He even describes himself at this period as "a wild, wayward, reckless, and peculiarly odd boy in appearance and everything else: overmatching all his compeers at the various out-door employments, amusements, and pranks." At ball-playing — a favourite sport among the youth of Galston — he was an acknowledged proficient; the hidden haunts of the feathered songster seldom escaped his prying eye; bee hunting was also a favourite recreation; and even at the present time, while enjoying his summer rambles, the wild bees "bizz oot wi' angry fyke," under the plundering hands of the Poet. Little wonder then, that so fond of bee-hunting, one should get under "his bonnet." Possessing a robust constitution, and a lively and active spirit, it was not surprising that he courted these stirring enjoyments so congenial to the taste of youth. Ambition for physical as well as mental superiority — and that too of the most reckless and arbitrary description — influenced his general conduct; and many of his youthful associates recollect well that, if worsted in a game — even by fair play — he invariably knocked his opponent down, or had himself well buffeted for his audacity.

From the time Wright had attained his seventh year up to the period of his being put to a trade, he assisted his father in driving coals for the villagers of Galston, consequently he had few opportunities of indulging in his favourite country rambles. The Sabbath day was generally set apart by him for these excursions; but as this desecration of the holy day did not coincide with the rules of his father's domestic establishment — a proper regard to the fourth commandment being strictly enjoined — his communings with Nature amid those scenes where she shines in her loveliest garb, were few and far between. Moments were, however, snatched when he could gaze with rapture on the beauties of creation — moments sweeter because of their having been stolen; and, when weary and hungry, the evening of the day sacred to rest found him at his father's threshold — reproof, correction, and advice awaiting him, he cheerfully endured his punishment, listened to his parent's admonitions, but secretly vowed to deserve them more and more. Though a pure love of wandering among those scenes he has celebrated in his poetry, seemed alone to influence such conduct; and though no motive definitely poetic could be said to prompt this passion; yet, we cannot but rest the foundation of that vivid natural imagery with which his works are adorned, on the feelings immaturely engendered in his breast during these hours of wayward rambling amid,—

The beauteous scenes of nature; where he found
In shades and solitude, that true delight,
Wealth cannot purchase, nor even sceptres yield.

As a further proof of his strong attachment to the scenery of the hills and dales and bubbling brooks — the favoured haunts of the Muse — we may mention that — when all other means failed — his parents — in order to "keep their wayward child" at home! were sometimes in the habit of locking past his clothes, so as decency alone might compel him to pay a due respect to the Sabbath day. An open door was, however, with John an excellent equivalent for this deprivation; and many an extended ramble has he indulged in while almost in a state of nudity.

In one of his predatory excursions into the woods in search of wild fruit, he had the misfortune to get a fall from a very high wild-cherry tree, by which his skull was fractured. He was carried home, and for a time his life was despaired of. He, however, soon recovered, and set about his wonted pursuits. Shortly after the occurrence of this accident, he happened to engage in a quarrel with a playmate — John, as usual, being the aggressor. His opponent was forced to beat a retreat, but rallied, and lifting a great stone, hurled it at Wright's head, which it struck, and almost killed him. He lay for two days insensible, and all hopes of recovery had fled; when, strange to say, he started to his feet on the third day, and the following Sabbath found him at his old occupation of wandering. From this period a visible change took place in his deportment: his roystering habits gave place to a sort of nervous melancholy, which, with an impaired equanimity of temper, have distinguished his character ever since: this change of disposition he himself attributes to the effects of the accidents narrated above.

At thirteen the Poet was apprenticed to the weaving trade, to a Mr. George Brown, in Galston, who, according to Wright's account of him, was a man of an excellent heart and sound understanding, and to whose kindness he was greatly indebted during his pursuit of knowledge. His memory yet lives in the minds of his contemporaries, associated with all those virtues that blend to form the upright man. Every information he could afford was freely granted to the Poet, who improved with wonderful rapidity under his tuition, and he never mentions his benefactor's name without expressing the warmest gratitude for his kindness and attention. It was customary with Mr. Brown to have weekly meetings in his house, of such among his friends as were fond of literary pursuits, and among whom were several very intelligent men. To these "converzationes" Wright had free access, as also to his master's library, which was extensive and well selected, and in a couple of years — as he himself states — "he had got so much of general information that he determined to set up thinking for himself." Considering that he was yet comparatively a youth, and that extreme bashfulness had taken the place of his former resolute disposition, this determination may appear to have been premature: but it must also be kept in mind that his powers of memory were still most extensive, and his judgment generally acute; besides, by the conversation of a few congenial spirits among his acquaintances, he received much information and expansion of mind, independent of the sources mentioned above. Books of all descriptions he devoured with avidity, but poetry had always for him a peculiar charm. With this love of reading came the "sin of rhyme" — they were begotten simultaneously — they were twin born.

It has often been proven that first love has been the primary incentive towards the developement of the latent energies of the mind, producing that true poetry of the sour, breathing all that is virtuous, pure, and sincere. Though he had jingled puerile rhymes almost from infancy, these had been unmixed with feeling; his first love called forth his heart in its earliest song. The object of the Poet's youthful affection was a worthy girl of modest deportment, with a happy though subdued wit, and an easy sprightliness, combined with imitative talent of no ordinary quality. Though not by any means attractive in the eyes of the fairer part of creation — from his morose, or rather misanthropical, habits, more than from his personal appearance — John yet became the accepted of the lively girl, and with all the enthusiasm of inexperience, they plighted their vows ere either had reached their sixteenth year. Their love was truly reciprocal, and the Poet sang his hopes and joys unalloyed by those tantalizing fears which generally mark the course of the tender passion. Many a soul breathing strain has his memory contained — for he could not write at this period — the greater part of which have faded with those feelings first love awoke in his mind. As he attached himself to the Nine, the "luve o' life's young day" gradually wore off, and his inamorata, whether jealous of the power which the daughters of Jupiter and Nnemosyne had usurped over the heart of her betrothed, or from some other cause unknown, we are not enabled to say: yet certain it is the correspondence broke off abruptly, and at a period when the whisperings of ambition, and the desire of putting forth to the world his claims as a poet, had begun to engross his almost every thought. A suitor less apathetic soon presented himself, and his "flame" shortly afterwards married. The grave has now closed over her — "the perfection of whose liveliness and beauty" — to use his own words — "infused poesy and passion into his heart, and scattered bloom and fertility over the parched and barren desert of his existence." An effusion (valuable only as being the first effort of the untaught muse) inspired by those feelings which first love calls into existence, will be found in this volume.

Plying the shuttle for fifteen hours per day cannot be considered as an effectual spur to a poetic mind: yet, notwithstanding this labour, Wright found opportunity to string his thoughts together in rhyme; or, in the company of a few amiable and intelligent associates, whose kindred feelings recommended them, to wander among their favourite haunts on the delightful banks of the Irvine, or the fairy margin of the secluded Burnawn, making a paradise of the present, while their thoughts of the future were visions of unclouded pleasure. Poetry was a passion with the more select of his companions, but to him it was all in all of his existence — his day-dream and his night reverie. He had already commenced a Tragedy, which he entitled Mahomet; or the Hegira, at which he wrought with unceasing study until it had extended to upwards of 1500 lines, all of which he retained on his memory, which he was necessitated to do owing to his inability to write it down. On repeating it to his friends they passed sentence of condemnation upon it owing to its almost total want of stage effect — a circumstance solely to be attributed to the fact that the author had never, at that time, seen a dramatic representation. He continued, however, to add to it, feeling persuaded that injustice had been done to it by its critics; but through the acute perception and gentle persuasion of a young girl — a mere child — and her repeated assertions that it was "immeasurably dull," the author was at last forced reluctantly to see this defect.

Whether proceeding from intense application, or the hitherto dormant effects of the accidents already described; or from the disappointment arising from the failure of his first effort, we are unable to demonstrate, but a deep melancholy took possession of, and settled down on his mind at this period. Gloomy and troubled thoughts — a general depression of spirit — confusion of ideas — a nervous anxiety and proneness to irritation — accompanied by an overpowering and indefinable fear, gradually usurped his mind, and threatened to undo his purposes for ever. By the advice of his friends, he was induced to suspend his poetic labours, and seek in recreation the means of bracing his shattered nerves, when he might again set himself to his mental toils with renewed energy. This monomania took possession of his mind at the commencement of a dull winter; but, by dint of constant and severe exercise in the fields, and a course of judicious medical treatment, the following Spring found him in fall possession of his mental faculties. It may be here stated that he managed during this unhappy period to instruct himself in writing by the means previously mentioned. So soon as his mind had resumed a healthy tone, he addressed himself to his literary labours with an application that even exceeded in intensity that of the foregoing summer. His first object was to re-model his Tragedy of Mahomet, making such alterations as would produce the required stage effect; but, after labouring assiduously for several months, he was at last forced to abandon the subject as one ill adapted for the purpose intended. The melancholy that had before seized him, returned at intervals. For a few years afterwards he but occasionally "perpetrated poetry," but applied himself with divided diligence to his loom — the study of nature — and the general improvement of his mind.

The RETROSPECT was announced in the year 1824. At the outset, the Poet formed a resolution that he should compose not less than two stanzas daily, which, under all circumstances he continued to do until it was nearly finished. The whole of the first Canto he retained on his memory until an opportunity should occur when he might get it committed to paper. The workshop was his study, and the loom his desk. His poetical exertions were greatly marred by the persuasions of some individuals who were nevertheless excellent friends — but who decried every thing in the shape of poetry, from a mistaken notion of its inutility. Their representations, however, only served to damp his ardour for a time, and he continued to add to the poem until it had been nearly finished, his natural intelligence always pointing to such exertion as the way to popularity — now his exclusive ambition. A period of four years was suffered to elapse, during which the Poet seems to have given his Muse a jubilee. At the end of that time, a few friends, whose enlarged understandings, extensive information, and critical acumen, rendered them pretty good judges of poetical merit, had the manuscript of The Retrospect submitted to their correction. They read, reviewed, censured, and praised as they saw fit — suggested a few improvements, of which the author took advantage — and finally recommended him to publish; but, in the first place, they thought it advisable that he should carry the work to Edinburgh, and make an effort to obtain an opinion as to its merits from some of the literati there.

Wright instantly set about the preparations for carrying this suggestion of his friends into effect; and, having procured some writing materials, he went home to his father's house, where he carefully transcribed The Retrospect, and a few smaller pieces, which occupied him about a fortnight. He then left Galston with his manuscript in his breast, and with only one halfpenny in his pocket. He had been disappointed of some money owing him, but having fixed on a time to begin his adventure, he was not to be diverted from his purpose; he had put his hand to the plough, and scorned to turn back.

On his arrival at Glasgow he was introduced to Mr. John Struthers, the author of The Poor Man's Sabbath, and the late Dugald Moore, Esq., author of The African, &c., both of whom received him in a kindly manner, and treated him with all the warmth of poetic friendship. They perused his manuscript, and approved of his intention to seek a patron in Edinburgh. They also gave him some money, and he set out for Auld Reekie with a light heart, and the most sanguine hopes of future fame. He had taken his passage in one of the canal boats; and among the passengers was a character belonging to L—, a messenger-at-arms — who, seeing something peculiar in Wright's appearance, hobbled (for he had a wooden leg) up to the Poet, and entered into conversation with him. John explained his business, and the views be entertained of ultimate success, should he only be fortunate enough to obtain an audience of some of the leviathans in the literary world, who were domiciled in Modern Athens. His new acquaintance was graciously pleased to promise the Poet that he would use the utmost exertion to procure him an audience of his friend Walter Scott, his bosom crony Professor Wilson, and his talented club companion Henry Glassford Bell; and, from the intimacy existing between him and those exalted personages, there was no doubt whatever but Wright's views as to an audience, and more, would be fully borne out. The worthy also condescended to call in bottle after bottle of porter, which he graciously allowed Wright to pay, until the Poet's finances had dwindled down to sixpence; and, to sum up the aggregate of his many kindnesses and condescensions, he bolted the moment the boat arrived, leaving John to find access to his dear friends in whatever manner he chose. The man of summonses, poindings, hornings, &c. &c., having thus given the Poet his first lesson in the ways of the world, by abruptly leaving him with no other companion than that which too often constitutes "the badge of all his tribe," — viz., an empty purse. John's natural timidity and heartless situation had nigh overcome him, and many a time and oft he glanced towards the canal with the thought that in its muddy waters might be found a relief from the pains of this "his first real grief," — as he himself expresses it. However, after battling with his mental afflictions, the love of life and fame gained the victory over his suicidal notions, and he determined on the instant to call on that patron of merit and miracle of genius, Sir Walter Scott; and thus resolved, he enquired his way, and found himself at the domicile of the mighty Wizard. Much to the chagrin of our Poet, Sir Walter had left town the preceding day for Abbotsford. Wright then set out with the intention of visiting Sir Walter at his favourite villa, and had reached the extreme boundary of the city of Edinburgh, when fatigue, want of sleep, and the cheerless prospect of a pennyless journey of sixty miles, overpowered his resolution, and his heart gave way under the burden of his affliction. He hesitated — stood still — then threw himself down on the ground — drew his manuscript forth from his bosom — and cast it from him in despair, like Hagar when she abandoned her child in the wilderness! After indulging in a burst of disappointed feeling, he determined to return home, and resign his ambitious views for ever. While in this mood he bethought him of a friend who lived at Leith, and thither he went at early dawn, and was well received, and remained until he had fully recruited his bodily fatigues, when the desire of popularity returned with tenfold force. Another kind townsman, to whom Wright was known, also enacted the part of the good Samaritan towards him; and, among other kindnesses, introduced him to the notice of several students belonging to the Edinburgh University — among the rest a Mr. David Hastings, a native of Dumfriesshire — who particularly at this, besides subsequent periods, interested himself in Wright's behalf, and perseveringly carried him through many formidable difficulties, especially in the matter of preparing his work for the press. It was through this gentleman's instrumentality that he was ultimately introduced to the favour of Professor Wilson, Dr M'Crie, H. G. Bell, Esq., of the literary Journal, and other distinguished men of letters, to whose good opinion our Poet was mainly indebted for the success that followed the issue of his first edition. Mr. Hastings — who was well known as an excellent general scholar, and who possessed genuine poetical talent — died a few years ago of small-pox in Watson's Hospital, Edinburgh, where he held an official situation. He was respected for his abilities, beloved on account of his warm hearted kindly manner, and left many friends to mourn over his loss, and none more sincerely than he who forms the subject of this sketch.

Through the intercession of Mr. Hastings and his friends, Professor Wilson condescended to peruse, and give his opinion regarding Wright's poem. For this purpose the MS was delivered to him, and after a few days Wright was sent for, in order to have an interview with "Christopher," who spoke flatteringly of the merits of the production, and gave the author, at his departure, the following testimonial:—

"Professor Wilson has read with much pleasure Mr. Wright's M.S. volume of Poems. They display great feeling and fancy, and are assuredly most creditable to the head and heart of the Author. Should Mr. Wright think of publishing by subscription, Professor Wilson begs that his name may be put down for eight copies; and, in the mean time, wishes him to be assured of his esteem."

At his request another visit was paid to the illustrious author of The Isle of Palms, who gave our Poet a most cordial reception. He entered freely into conversation regarding Poetry and Poets, — Cowper, Byron, Wordsworth, Campbell, and Burns — spoke of the general literature of the day, but never once alluded to his own productions. The Professor proffered his patronage in various ways, and strongly urged Wright to set about the publication of his works by subscription, and he would do all in his power to further the sale of the impression — a promise, it is needless to say, he fulfilled to the letter. Before taking leave, Wright was furnished with several recommendatory letters to gentlemen in the West Country, expressing in high terms the Professor's sense of the talent which dictated The Retrospect, and those documents tended greatly to promote the sale of the work. H. G. Bell, Esq., also, with a kindness characteristic of that gentleman's nature, did much to forward Wright's interest. He corrected several errors in the M.S.; paid its author the subjoined compliment in the Literary Journal, and behaved towards him in a manner which has earned his lasting gratitude:— "Gentle feeling and acute sensibility to all the charms of nature, are the characteristics of Mr. Wright's Poetry."

After a stay of about three months in Edinburgh, during which period Wright had seen a good deal of life in circles to which he had not before or since that time a means of access — had benefited much by the advice and direction of his patrons there — and had procured nearly one thousand subscribers for his work — he set out for the West Country full of hope, and sanguine of a success far beyond probability. Estimates were taken in, and the first edition of his Poems was published by Messrs. Curl and Bell, Glasgow. The impression sold rapidly, a circumstance mainly attributable to the flattering notices bestowed on the work by the Periodical and Newspaper Press, Metropolitan and Provincial. It may not be out of place here to give a few of these:—

"Volumes of better poetry have lately been written by persons more illiterate than any of Southey's uneducated Poets. In particular we allude to John Wright, who though illiterate in the largest sense, and confined to the most severe labour in a cotton factory, somewhere in Ayrshire, has embodied in his works a system of rural images, and a train of moral reflections, that would have done honour to more distinguished names." — London Monthly Review.

The following extract is from a critique on Wright's poems, which appeared in Blackwood's Magazine:—

Many of the poems of John Wright, an industrious weaver somewhere in Ayrshire, are beautiful, and have received the praise of Sir Walter Scott himself; who, though kind to all aspirants, praised none to whom nature had not imparted some portion of creative genius. One of John's pieces we have committed to memory, or rather, without trying to do so, got by heart; and as it seems to us very mild and touching, here it is." (The Poem alluded to, entitled The Wrecked Mariner, will be seen in this volume.)

The Poet, after the sale of his first edition, remained for some months in his native village; but, instead of being lionized, as his anticipations had led him to expect, he found in place a verification of the proverb that a prophet has no honour in his own country; and, being tired of an inactive life, he resolved to seek a change of scene as a cure for that bilious feeling which prompted him to write The Street Remarkers. With this view he set out for Cambuslang, near Glasgow, a place where he was not known, and having gone thither he commenced to work at his trade of weaving. Very shortly after settling there, he married Margaret Chalmers, a young woman of excellent character, who had received a more than ordinarily liberal education under the care of her grandfather, the teacher of the parish school. Having naturally a turn for literary pursuits, she and John lived very happily together, their tempers and dispositions according well. After the birth of their first child, which was still born, Mrs Wright experienced an attack of bad health. The double advantage of making a little money, and of renovating Mrs Wright's hearth by travel, induced our poet to think of publishing a second time, and he therefore entered into a contract with Messrs Bell and Bain in Glasgow for a thousand copies. The Poet, accompanied by his wife, then set out for Greenock, where he had good success, having sold as many copies there, and in Port-Glasgow, as defrayed the expenses of printing the edition. He also found a number of subscribers in Dumbarton and Stirling shires; and many copies were sold in Glasgow and its neighbourhood. Every encouragement that could be given the Poet in his exertions was freely vouchsafed by many kind individuals, among whom were the Rev. Mr. Anderson of Dumbarton — a gifted votary of the Muses — Capt. Mackieson, now of the Dundee Police — Mr. Tennant, author of Anster Fair, — and several others whose genius has not slumbered, although their efforts have not been made public. Wright speaks of the goodness of Tennant with gratitude. While at Dollar, many long and earnest conversations took place between them on the merits of the most popular poets. Tennant's opinions were tinctured with a charitable feeling which shielded the blemishes attributable to character or style. Byron's faults were glozed over by many beauties of his poetry — Burns's errors were sheltered under the splendour and versatility of his talents — to all the sons of the Muse he was a friend, and advocated even their failings with a zeal and earnestness that would almost make them "lean to virtue's side." He was of an unpretending character, and without even a shadow of that egotism, which is chargeable on many, who, with slighter claims to genius, have more assurance. When he died, Wright — with a lively sense of his worth — composed the epitaph which will be found in the body of this volume. On leaving Dollar our author made a tour through the "kingdom of Fife," thence by the east coast into Dumfries-shire and by Galloway to Ayrshire. He was greatly indebted to the kindness of John M'Diarmid, Esq., Editor of the Dumfries Courier, for the patronage he received in that quarter, and, as a mark of gratitude, dedicated his miscellaneous pieces to that gentleman. The wandering sort of life which he had led for a season, while it advanced his interest in one respect, resulted in what may be justly termed the destruction of his health — mental and physical. His name had been wafted abroad on the pinions of adulation, and in almost every town or village he visited during his peregrinations, he found some individual to take him by the hand and afford him that attention which genius always commands when inclination leads it to seek praise. The innate bashfulness of John's nature was often forced aside by the influence of the intoxicating bowl, and succeeding indulgences soon conspired to beget a habit that has clung to him with a pertinacity which — it is to be feared — will never be effectually removed. Had prosperity always lingered around his footsteps, it might have been otherwise; but, alas, we regret to say that his has become a wreck among the many noble minds that have been stranded on the rocks of intemperance. We would fain have denied ourselves the task of recording this blight among the flowers which his fancy has called into existence; truth, however, directs the pen, while friendship mourns over the page.

After resting three months from the toils of his journey, which had brought on a disease in his ankle joints, and had kept him rather unwillingly at home in Ayr, he set off for Cambuslang, and recommenced his old trade of weaving. Some exertion was by this time necessary, as the profits of his second edition had been spent. Mrs Wright's health had been completely re-established, and both set to their domestic duties with a will that promised future prosperity. But the depression which had long been felt in the weaving trade had — shortly after the Poet settled at his loom — arrived at a climax; and, as its effects came to press heavily on his endeavours, he lost heart, and allowed his pent-up inclinations to take sway over his reason. His literary friends plied him with his favourite beverage — domestic squabbles usurped the place of peace; and John's habits becoming daily confirmed in intemperance and its evils, a separation ensued. Mrs Wright and her two boys continue still to reside at Cambuslang, and the Poet's conduct, until lately, has been such as to hold out few hopes of a reunion. His view in publishing the present volume is to provide the means for effecting this purpose — an end to which his wishes have been directed for some time past.