HODDAM CASTLE, Friday 27th, 1802
(i.e., Aug. 27th, 1802).
I am quite happy to learn that the poems I sent you will be of any use, and I hope that some of the enclosed will find equal favour in your eyes. You would have received them much sooner had they not been a most prodigious time on the road between Oxford and Hoddam. Nothing could give me greater satisfaction than a meeting with you in this part of the world, as I cannot soon avail myself of your invitation in Edinburgh. If you make out your intended Border excursion, I hope you will do us the pleasure of a visit. Hoddam, as a specimen of a Border fortress, is well worth the observation of an antiquary; and I am certain that you would admire the mysterious Tower of Repentance, which stands on a hill near the castle. I am much obliged to you for the information you give me with respect to the "Douglas Tragedy," which I had always regarded as a fiction borrowed from the "Child of Elle." From my unacquaintance with Ritson's publication, I did not know that the "Corbies " had ever appeared in an English dress. I have no doubt concerning the reception which "Mary Hamilton" will receive from you; but I fear greatly that poor "Lady Dysmal" hath not beauty enough to save her from oblivion. I am sensible that her age — a thing at present much admired in ladies — is her only merit. The ballad of "Lady Ann" was transcribed from an old magazine, and is perhaps a modern antique. I must beg your excuse for giving you the trouble to read the last poem, which was written in imitation of the ancient style, after perusing your "Border Minstrelsy." It is founded on a tradition respecting the Tower of Repentance, and I fear will inspire you with no great opinion of the author's modesty or abilities—
Dum relego, scripsisse pudet, quia plurima cerno,
Me quoque, qui feci, judice, digna lini.
Pray, when you read it, do not clap on a pair of critical spectacles, like those which the merciless Dr. G— used at the dissection of poor Burns's "Wounded Hare." I heard yesterday of a woman in the village of Ecclefechan, who can repeat a number of auld sangs, as they call them, whom I will send for as soon as possible to sing or say her collection. By the by, the people here affirm that Fair Ellen's sirname was certainly Irving. I remember in my childhood being terrified by stories of spectres at the Blacket-house, the residence of her murderer; ... and that an old woman, the last descendant of the family of Bell, resided in Ecelefechan, who was said to be a witch, the devil himself being her waiting-maid, and assisting her to get out of bed when her infirmities prevented her from moving. If I can pick up anything which may appear worthy your notice, you may depend upon my diligence, — and I am, Dear sir, yours sincerely,
CHAS. KIRKPATRICK SHARPE.