August 30, 1794. MY DEAR MADAM,

THOUGH I had not received your letter, inclination would prompt me to write to you without the stimulus of having any thing important to say; but if you expect me to be punctual, you must give ample licence for dulness and absurdity, besides a full allowance to my happy talent of digression, my rare felicity in parenthesis, and my peculiar knack at circumlocution. Do not let the solemnity of my parting with you, too deeply impress you. It was merely the effect of a momentary impulse, which I could not control. I am sorry it saddened so much of your journey. I too consumed the time at home in sympathetic dejection; for the impression did not wear off so soon as these gusts of tenderness and melancholy generally do. The acuteness of my feelings, and the horror with which I shrink from the evils of life, are but short-lived in my mind, by a happy facility in rousing up images of joy and comfort, and catching at the bright side of every object, and every prospect. To a projector or adventurer, this might prove a dangerous faculty; but to one whose fate it is to walk peaceably (though sometimes pensively) through the obscure bye paths of life, it is an advantage to have a quickness in discovering every violet that springs up among brambles, and every rainbow that smiles through the tears of the sky. I think the soft melancholy produced in your mind by the music of your Irish piper, would have a sweet accordance with the sensations which those “sympathetic glooms”1 about Dunkeld are so well fi tted to inspire. I, for my part, though a stranger to the art of music, am well acquainted with its power, and subject to its infl uence, in its rudest forms; particularly when it breathes the spirit of that sentiment which, for the time, predominates in my mind, or wakes some tender remembrance with which accident has connected it. When my dearest little boy was in the last stage of that illness which proved fatal to him, we had three maids who had all good voices; one was afraid to sit up alone to attend my calls, on which the nurse-maid agreed to sit with her and lull the infant beside her. The solitary maid was then afraid to stay alone in her attic abode. The result was, that the three Syrens2 sung in concert, a great part of the night, which seemed to soothe the dear sufferer so much, that when they ceased, he often desired they would begin again. He listened to it three hours before he

expired. I never hear the most imperfect note of Cro Challin* since, without feeling my heart-strings accord with it:

“It gives a very echo from the seat, Where grief is throned:”3

and were I to hear those moving sounds, which we are told

they could not open every source of anguish more effectually. You have it now in your power to taste the pathos of music in its full extent. Mr. Balfour, I am told, has unrivalled power in doing justice to our old plaintive melodies. We were consoled for your short stay by knowing you found his family at Dunchattan. - - - - - - Charlotte is, and looks much better than when you saw her. This has been a day of joyful quiet to her, and no less joyful bustle to every one else. The servants, tenants, and Bairns are all busy making our great haystack; Jock and the men drive carts; the rest trample down the top; and the two little ones are handed back and forward, or driven up and down in the carts, to their great delectation. Being Saturday, the stack must needs be closed tonight; so they have no time to come down to dress dinner; but a cold collation has been conveyed to the top of the stack with great glee, and devoured with alacrity. This is what I account one of the pleasures of a country life, to see so many people usefully busy, and innocently happy.