1796 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Burns

William Roscoe to Rev. Mr. Edwards, 1796; Life of William Roscoe (1833) 1:172-73.



It has of late been my opinion that great talents are, in the present times, often repressed for want of a very small degree of encouragement; and the death of poor Burns, which has occurred since I wrote to you, confirms me in this opinion. I cannot express to you how sensibly I am affected by this event. I had not, indeed, the pleasure of his personal acquaintance; but at the time he was taken ill he was preparing for a journey to Liverpool, and had done me the honour (and it is an honour of which I shall always be proud) of sending me word that he intended to pay a visit. His example has fixed the value of high poetical attainments in Scotland, and they amount to the place of an exciseman, with a salary of fifty pounds per annum. Such has been the munificence of the Scotch peerage and the Scotch gentry to a man who has done more honour to his country than all the throat-cutters it ever had. May they never have another opportunity of insulting genius with paltry and insidious rewards!