him (according to Gilbert Burns) to go to Edinburgh for a publisher. He decided upon this plan, and just before starting made acquaintance with Mrs. Dunlop of Dunlop, who had been greatly struck by the ‘Cottar's Saturday Night.’ (Mrs. Dunlop died 24 May 1815, aged 84.) She remained his friend and correspondent through his life, with the exception of a coolness in its last year. Through Mrs. Dunlop he became a correspondent of Dr. Moore, author of ‘Zeluco,’ to whom he wrote (2 Aug. 1787) the autobiographical letter which (with the statements of Gilbert Burns and Murdoch, all printed by Currie) is the main authority for his early life. Burns left Mossgiel on 27 Nov. 1786, riding on a borrowed pony to Edinburgh, which he reached next day. He shared the lodgings of John Richmond, previously a clerk of G. Hamilton's, in Baxter's Close, Lawnmarket. He took off his hat before the house of Allan Ramsay, and visited the grave of the poet Robert Fergusson (1751–1774), to whom he obtained leave to erect a monument in February 1787. He finally paid the bill for this (5l. 10s.) in February 1792. On 7 Dec. he attended a masonic meeting and was introduced to Henry Erskine, the dean of faculty, by his friend, Mr. Dalrymple of Ayr. Dalrymple was also a cousin of Lord Glencairn, for whose patronage Burns always expressed the warmest gratitude. Glencairn had read the poems, and at once induced the members of the Caledonian Hunt to subscribe to a second edition. Henry Mackenzie, the ‘Man of Feeling,’ published an enthusiastic review of them in the ‘Lounger’ (9 Dec. 1786), calling him a ‘heaven-taught ploughman.’ They had been already favourably noticed in the ‘Edinburgh Magazine’ for October, and extracts had been given in the November number. Mackenzie's critical utterance was authoritative, and Burns was welcomed by all the literary celebrities of the place. The Duchess of Gordon, Lord Monboddo (whose daughter, Eliza Burnett, he specially admired), Robertson, Blair, Gregory, Adam Ferguson, and Fraser Tytler received him into their society. Burns remained at his humble lodgings, and made acquaintance with less exalted circles. He belonged to one of the convivial clubs common at the time, called the ‘Crochallan Fencibles,’ which met at the house of one Douglas, famous for singing a Gaelic song called ‘Crochallan’ (see Memoirs of W. Smellie, ii. 255). Burns contributed some verses, not worthy of his better moments, to a collection of the imaginable kind, and became intimate with W. Nicol, of the high school, Smellie, Dunbar, A. Cunningham, and others, who appear in his verses and correspondence.
His behaviour in the higher society has been described by Dugald Stewart (letter to Currie) and one of his biographers, Josiah Walker. They agree as to his uncorrupted simplicity, and the extraordinary force and versatility of his conversation. With the dress and manners of a plain farmer, he took his proper position among social superiors, who were all his inferiors in intrinsic power. Burns's genuine independence of spirit made him rather over-sensitive to any appearance of neglect. He was occasionally led into ‘breaches of decorum’ from this cause or from inexperience. But he made himself respected among men, while his manner to ladies is said to have been ‘extremely deferential’ and perhaps a little over-strained in the direction of gallantry. The Duchess of Gordon said that he was the only man who ‘carried her off her feet.’ Scott, then a lad of sixteen, saw him at Dr. Ferguson's, whither he was brought by Stewart. Burns was affected to tears by some lines from Langhorne under the print of a dead soldier. Scott was rewarded by a kind look and word for identifying the quotation. Scott speaks of Burns's ‘dignified plainness and simplicity,’ and says that his most remarkable feature was the eye, which ‘literally glowed’ when he spoke with interest. ‘I never saw such another eye,’ says Scott, ‘in any human head.’ John Pattison, some years later, speaks of his ‘matchless eyes,’ and his friend Syme says that they were like ‘coals of living fire’ (Chambers, iv. 157, 174). The second edition of his poems appeared on 21 April 1787, with a preface expressive of sturdy self-respect: ‘I was bred to the plough and am independent.’ There were 1,500 subscribers for 2,800 copies. He ultimately received about 500l., but his publisher (Creech) was dilatory in payment, and Burns waited many months in suspense as to his plans. He expresses the belief that his ‘meteor-like’ success would only last while it had the charm of novelty (letter to Blair, 3 May 1787). He had told Lord Buchan in the previous February that he should return to ‘woo his rustic muse … at the ploughtail.’ In the spring of 1787 Burns made an agreement with James Johnson, an engraver, who was preparing a collection of Scotch songs. The first volume appeared in May, with two songs acknowledged by Burns. He continued during the rest of his life to contribute original songs and to collect others, many of them modified or completely rewritten by himself. He undertook this from patriotic motives, and neither asked nor received