To John Taylor


July 3rd to July 9th, 1818

Auchencairn, July 3rd

My dear Tom,
I have not been able to keep up my journal completely on account of other letters to George and one which I am writing to Fanny from which I have turned to loose no time whilst Brown is coppying a song about Meg Merrilies which I have just written for her - We are now in Meg Merrilies county and have this morning passed through some parts exactly suited to her - Kirkcudbright County is very beautiful, very wild with craggy hills somewhat in the westmoreland fashion - We have come down from Dumfries to the Sea Coast part of it - The song I mention you would have from Dilke: but perhaps you would like it here -

Old Meg she was a Gipsey
 And liv'd upon the Moors;
Her bed it was the brown heath turf,
 And her house was out of doors.
Her apples were swart blackberries,
 Her currants pods o'Broom,
Her wine was dew o' the wild white rose,
 Her book a churchyard tomb.
Her brothers were the craggy hills,
 Her Sisters larchen trees -
Alone with her great family
 She liv'd as she did please.
No Breakfast had she many a morn,
 No dinner many a noon;
And 'stead of supper she would stare
 Full hard against the Moon.
But every Morn, of wood bine fresh
 She made her garlanding;
And every night the dark glen Yew
 She wove and she would sing.
And with her fingers old and brown
 She plaited Mats o' Rushes,
And gave them to the Cottagers
 She met among the Bushes.
Old Meg was brave as Margaret Queen
 And tall as Amazon:
An old red blanket cloak she wore
 A chip hat had she on -
God rest her aged bones somewhere
 She died full long agone!
______________

Now I will return to Fanny - it rains. I may have time to go on here presently. July 5 - You see I have missed a day from Fanny's Letter. Yesterday was passed in Kirkcudbright - the Country is very rich - very fine and with a little of Devon - I am now writing at Newton Suart six Miles into Wigton - Our Landlady of yesterday said very few Southrens passed these ways. The children jabber away as in a foreign Language - The barefooted Girls look very much in keeping - I mean with the Scenery about them. Brown praises their cleanliness and appearance of comfort - the neatness of their cottages etc it may be - they are very squat among trees and fern and heaths and broom, on levels, slopes and heights - They are very pleasant because they are very primitive - but I wish they were as snug as those up the Devonshire vallies. We are lodged and entertained in great varieties - we dined yesterday on dirty bacon dirtier eggs and dirtiest Potatoes with a slice of Salmon - we breakfast this morning in a nice carpeted Room with Sofa hair bottomed chairs and green-baized mehogany - A spring by the road side is always welcome - we drink water for dinner diluted with a Gill of whiskey. July 7th Yesterday Morning we set out from Glenluce going some distance roung to see some Ruins - they were scarcely worth the while - we went on towards Stranrawier in a burning Sun and had gone about six Miles when the Mail overtook us - we got up - were at Portpatrick in a jiffy, and I am writing now in little Ireland - The dialect on the neighbouring shores of Scotland and Ireland is much the same - yet I can perceive a great difference in the nations from the Chambermaid at this nate Inn kept by Mr kelly. She is fair, kind and ready to laugh, because she is out of the horrible dominion of the Scotch Kirk. A Scotch Girl stands in terrible awe of the Elders - poor little Susannas - They will scarcely laugh - they are greatly to be pitied and the Kirk is greatly to be damn'd. These Kirkmen have done Scotland good. They have made men, women, old men, young men, old women, young women, hags, girls, and infants, all careful; so they are formed into regular phalanges of savers and gainers - such a thrifty army cannot fail to enrich their Country and give it a greater appearance of comfort than that of their poor irish neighbours - These Kirk-men have done Scotland harm; they have banished puns and laughing and Kissing (except in cases where the very danger and crime must make it very fine and gustful. I shall make a full stop at Kissing for after that there should be a better parent hesis: and go on to remind you of the fate of Burns. Poor unfortunate fellow - his disposition was Southern - how sad it is when a luxurious imagination is obliged in self defence to deaden its delicacy in vulgarity, and not in things attainable that it may not have leisure to go mad after things which are not. No Man in such matters will be content with the experience of others - It is true that out of suffrance there is no greatness, no dignity; that in the most abstracted Pleasure there is no lasting happiness: yet who would not like to discover over again that Cleopatra was a Gipsey, Helen a Rogue and Ruth a deep one? I have not sufficient reasoning faculty to settle the doctrine of thrift - as it is consistent with the dignity of human Society - with the happiness of Cottagers - All I can do is by plump contrasts - Were the fingers made to squeeze a guinea or a white hand? Were the Lips made to hold a pen or a Kiss? and yet in Cities Man is shut out from his fellows if he is poor, the Cottager must be dirty and very wretched if she be not thrifty - The present state of society demands this and this convinces me that the world is very young and in a very ignorant state - We live in a barbarous age. I would sooner be a wild deer than a Girl under the dominion of the Kirk, and I would sooner be a wild hog than be the occasion of a Poor Creatures pennance before those execrable elders. It is not so far to the Giant's Cause way as we supposed - we thought it 70, and hear it is only 48 Miles - so we shall leave one of our Knapsacks here at Donoghadee, take our immediate wants and be back in a week - when we shall proceed to the County of Ayr. In the Packet Yesterday we heard some Ballads from two old Men - one was a romance which seemed very poor - then there was the Battle of the Boyne - then Robin Huid as they call him - 'Before the king you shall go, go, go, before the King you shall go'. There were no Letters for me at Port Patrick so I am behind hand with you I dare say in news from George. Direct to Glasgow till the 17th of this month.
9th We stopped very little in Ireland and that you may not have leisured to marvel at our speedy return to Port Patrick I will tell you that is it as dear living in Ireland as at the Hummums - thrice the expence of Scotland - it would have cost us 15 before our return - Moreover we found those 48 Miles to be irish ones which reach to 70 english - So having walked to Belfast one day and back to Donoghadee the next we left Ireland with a fair breeze - We slept last night at Port Patrick where I was gratified by a letter from you. On our walk in Ireland we had too much opportunity to see the worse than nakedness, the rags, the dirt and misery of the poor common Irish - A Scotch cottage, though in that sometimes the Smoke has no exit but at the door, is a pallace to an irish one. We could observe that impetiosity in Man Boy and Woman. We had the pleasure of finding our way through a Peat-Bog - three miles long at least - dreary, black, dank, flat and spongy: here and there were poor dirty creatures and a few strong men cutting or carting peat. We heard on passing into Belfast through a most wretched suburb that most disgusting of all noises worse than the Bag pipe, the laugh of a Monkey, the chatter of women solus the scream of a Macaw - i mean the sound of the Shuttle. What a trememdous difficulty is the improvement of the condition of such people. I cannot conceive how a mind 'with child' of Philanthropy could grasp at possibility - with me it is absolute despair. At a miserable house of entertainment half way between Donaghadee and Belfast were two Men sitting at Whiskey - one a Laborer and the other I took to be a drunken Weaver - The Laborer took mee for a Frenchman and the other hinted at Bounty Money saying he was ready to take it. On calling for the Letters at Port Patrick the man snapp'd out 'what Regiment'?
On our return from Bellfast we met a Sadan - the Duchess of Dunghill - It is no laughing matter tho - Imagine the worst dog kennel you ever saw placed upon two poles from a mouldy fencing. In such a wretched thing sat a squalid old Woman squat like an ape half starved from a scarcity of Buiscuit in its passage from Madagascar to the cape, - with a pipe in her mouth and looking out with a sort of horizontal idiotic movement of her head - squab and lean she sat and puff'd out the smoke while two ragged tattered Girls carried her along. What a thing would be a history of her Life and sensations. I shall endeavour when I know more and have thought a little more, to give you my ideas of the difference between the scotch and irish - The two Irishmen I mentioned were speaking of their treatment in England when the Weaver said - 'Ah you were a civil Man but I was a drinker' Remember me to all - I intend writing to Haslam - but dont tell him for fear I should delay - We left a notice at Portpatrick that our Letters should be thence forwarded to Glasgow - Our quick return from Ireland will occasion our passing Glasgow sooner than we thought - so till further notice you must direct to Inverness

Your most affectionate Brother John -

Remember me to the Bentleys
[Read the biographical context.]