1825 ca. ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Fergusson

Henry Mackenzie, Anecdotes and Egotisms, 1825 ca.; ed. Thompson (1927) 150.



There were three native poets, all of talents and genius but the difference of their fates and conduct was occasioned by the company they kept. Allan Ramsay was originally a barber in the country; he came to Edinburgh and got into the business of a bookseller, publishing his first volume, The Evergreen, in 1724. He occupied the shop at the end of the Luckenbooths, afterwards Creech's. Having by his good conduct and liveliness got into very respectable society, he lived happily and died leaving a family well enough provided for.

Fergusson, dissipated and drunken, died in early life after having produced poems faithfully and humourously describing scenes of Edinburgh of festivity and somewhat of blackguardism. He wrote about 177[3].

Burns, originally virtuous, was seduced by dissipated companions, and after he got into the Excise addicted himself to drunkenness, tho' the rays of his genius sometimes broke through the mist of his dissipation; but the habit had got too much power over him to be overcome, and it brought him, with a few lucid intervals, to an early grave. He unfortunately during the greatest part of his life had called and thought, dissipation spirit, sobriety and discretion a want of it, virtues too shabby for a man of genius. His great admiration of Fergusson shewed his propensity to coarse dissipation. When he allowed his mind its proper play, he produced poetry of a very high cast, full of tenderness and sometimes sublimity; he had much more of the vivida vis than either of his predecessors.