10 FEBRUARY 1838, Page 19


THIS little volume contains a pleasant intermixture of prose and poetry ; the prose tales for the most part descriptive of scenes and characters in humble life; the poetry of that kind which is called occasional. The distinguishing feature of the book, however, is the situation of the author ; who is a day-labourer in Scotland, with no more education than a few months' tuition, in his sixth year, at a common school, could supply—with no more leisure than was afforded by a respite from toil necessary to contribute to the assistance of his parents as well as to support himself—and with the misfortunes of indifferent constitutional health, and a severe accident which occurred when he was blasting a rock. But misery opened the path to letters ; and " while his sight was too weak to admit of his reading, and his hands too feeble for work, he first began to write—merely to beguile time, and divert his mind from his bodily anguish. The result has been, the completion, at va- rious intervals, of the following 'annals of the poor.'" The reader who shall purchase this book,—and he may safely purchase it for its intrinsic powers of amusement,—will be sur- prised at the tone of thought and general elegance of style. Like THOMAS MILLER, the" basket-maker," or his namesake HUGH MILLER, the author of the Traditional History of Cromarty, ALEXANDER BETHUNE, had he published anonymously, might have passed for a regular litterateur. To the question which the fact naturally suggests, of" How is this?" two answers may be given. The cheapness, and consequent dissemination of hooks, place the hest models within the reach of' the humblest person who can read. But their implicit use shows an imi- tative faculty rather than an original genius. The mind is not roused by internal impulse to give vent to its observations and feel- ings, whatever they be, in language prompted by the character of the collector ; but is stimulated, or even led, to reproduce a like- ness of what it has seen in books, or been enabled by books alone to see in nature. This quality is not to be rated low, since it forms the stock in trade of nearly all the men of letters of the Present day; and it contributes to satisfy the craving maw of the public. A single instance, however, will show the real difference of the two classes. BLOOMFIELD presented obvious though na- tural rustic images, with second-rate elegance, borrowed from THOMSON; and his Farmer's Boy is pretty well forgotten. But Beim poured out to the people, in native and passionate verse, the experience he had gained among the people ; and his convi- vial and love songs, his" Tam o' Shanter," and perhaps above all such bitter and condensed strains as his lyric,

" Is there for honest poverty, Wha bangs his head and a' that, The coward slave we pass him by, And dare be poor for u' that !"

ale factory and public-house ditties, and household books from the mansion to the cottage.