occasionally out of spirits (he composed about this time the pathetic verses to ‘Mary in Heaven’), his more jovial humours have left permanent traces. About September 1789 he wrote ‘Willie brew'd a peck o' maut,’ celebrating a convivial meeting with Allan Masterson and his old chum Nicol, then on a visit to Moffat. Nicol soon afterwards bought a small estate at Laggan, not far from Burns, where other meetings were probably held. Another famous song, the ‘Whistle,’ describes a drinking contest held 16 Oct. 1789 (Chambers iii. 67–71), where three gentlemen, Captain Riddel of Friar's Carse, Fergusson of Craigdarroch, and Sir Robert Lawrie, drank against each other for a whistle won, according to tradition, by a similar contest of a previous Sir Robert Lawrie against a gigantic Dane. Burns looked on to see fair play, writing his poem, and keeping himself tolerably sober. Fergusson won, and Lawrie never quite recovered the contest. In the same season Burns made the acquaintance of Francis Grose, then visiting Friar's Carse upon an antiquarian expedition, and addressed to him the lines beginning ‘Hear, Land o' Cakes and brither Scots.’ Burns asked Grose to make a drawing of Alloway Kirk, as the burial-place of his family, and Grose consented on condition that Burns should give him a witch story. This was the occasion of ‘Tam o' Shanter,’ written (as Mrs. Burns told Lockhart) in one day in his favourite walk by the Nith. According to the country story Tam and Kate represent one Douglas Graham and his wife, Helen m'Taggart, whom Burns had known at Kirkoswald. A letter to Grose, in which Burns gives a version of the legend, was first printed in Brydges's ‘Censura Literaria’ (1796). The poem first appeared in Grose's ‘Antiquities of Scotland,’ published April 1791, and it was immediately received with applause.
At the end of 1790 Burns appears as accommodating one Alexander Crombie with a bill for 20l., and about the same time he is partly paying a bill for books supplied by Mr. Peter Hill, including a family bible, Shakespeare, ‘Ossian,’ ‘Don Quixote,’ ‘Joseph Andrews,’ ‘Roderick Random,’ Garrick's and Cibber's works, some collections of essays, the ‘Marrow of Modern Divinity,’ Blair's ‘Sermons,’ two or three theological works, and a map of Scotland. On settling at Ellisland Burns had set afoot a scheme for a local library, of which he sent an account to Sir John Sinclair, published in the third volume of the ‘Statistical Account of Scotland.’ In October 1790 Burns also paid for the funeral expenses of his younger brother William (b 30 July 1767), who died in September of that year, having settled in London as a saddler, with an introduction from Burns to his old teacher, Murdoch (letters between the brothers and Murdoch were first published in Cromek's Reliques).
The farm enterprise was never successful. Burns's various distractions are enough to account for a failure, and he was apparently a careless master and not very skilful in the business (Chambers, iii. 139). One of the last notices of Burns at Ellisland is a story told to Currie by two English tourists, who found him (in the summer of 1791) angling in the Nith with a foxskin cap, a loose greatcoat, and an ‘enormous highland broadsword.’ He entertained them hospitably with boiled beef and vegetables and barley broth, and with whisky punch in a bowl of Inverary marble, a marriage gift from his father-in-law, for which, according to Chambers (iii. 191), a later possessor refused 150l. Carlyle disbelieves this anecdote, which is also disputed by Mrs. Burns, who ridicules the ‘broadsword,’ and adds that he never angled (Waddell, ii. App. xxiv.). He always loved animals and detested field sports (see verses on the wounded hare and the ‘Brigs of Ayr’). By this time Burns had resolved to throw up his farm. In a ‘third epistle to Mr. Graham of Fintry’ (assigned to the summer of 1791), he hints a desire for a further appointment. He had hoped for an advance to a supervisorship, and was put on the list for such an appointment; but his interest had suffered by the death of Lord Glencairn (January 1791) (see letter to Dr. Moore, 28 Feb. 1791), upon whom he now wrote his fine ‘Lament.’ He obtained, however, through Graham, an appointment as exciseman in Dumfries, at a salary of 70l. Patrick Miller was willing to part with the farm, and Burns settled at Dumfries in December 1791, first (till May 1793) in the Wee Vennel, now Bank Street, and afterwards in the Mill Vennel, now Burns Street. A third son, William Nicol, had been born 10 April 1791, and a few days before an illegitimate daughter by Anne Park (the result of an unfortunate amour during Mrs. Burns's absence at Mauchline), whom Mrs. Burns brought up with the other infant. Like Burns's other two daughters she was christened Elizabeth, and afterwards became Mrs. Thomson, living at Pollockshaw, Renfrewshire (Chambers, i. 260). A final visit to Edinburgh took place just before the departure to Dumfries, and a final interview with Mrs. m'Lehose, to whom soon afterwards he sent ‘Ae fond Kiss,’ ‘Wandering Willie,’ and some other songs. At Dumfries Burns made acquaintance with some of the higher families, and especially with