BURNS, Robert (1759-1796). Autograph manuscript signed ("Robert Burns"), of his satirical poem "The Inventory" (here without title), subtitled "Answer to a Mandate sent by the surveyor of windows, carriages, &c to each farmer, ordering them to send a signed list of their horses, servants, wheel carriages, &c and whether they were married men or bachelors, and what children they had" ("Sir, as your mandate did request..."), numbered "C v 2 fol 293" before first line of text, n.p., n.d. [22 February 1786].
3 pages, folio, on good-quality paper watermarked "R. Williams," central vertical fold neatly hinged, page 4 blank but for the notation "copied by W.W.C." (W.W. Chambers), the extreme edge of second leaf very slightly frayed without loss, otherwise in excellent condition. Loose in a dark blue morocco gilt protective folder, gilt edges.
BURNS' SATIRE ON A CENSUS-TAKER
A fine example of Burns in a jocular poetic vein, satirizing a local official's request for an enumeration of residents and property; the surveyor (a census-taker) Burns identifies in a footnote on page 1 as Mr.Robert Aiken. The poem consists of 62 lines beginning: "Sir, as your mandate did request, I send you here a faithfu' list, My horses, servants, carts and graith, To which I'm free to tak my aith." Then, Burns proceeds to enumerate in verse, as requested by the surveyor, his four horses, wheel-carriages, children, and man-servants: "For men, I've three mischievous boys, Rum-de'ils for rantin and for noise....I rule them as I ought discreetly, And often labour them compleatly..." Of female servants, he has none: "I've nane in female servant station, Lord keep me ay frae a' temptation! I hae no wife, and that my bliss is, And ye hae laid nae tax on Misses." The verse conclude as follows:
"And now, remember, Mr. Aikin,
Nae kind of licence [sic] out I'm taking,
Thro' dirt and dub for life I'll paidle
E'er I sae dear pay for a saddle;
I've sturdu stumps the Lord be thanked,
And a my gate on foot I'll shank it.-
This list wi' my ain hand I've wrote it,
The day an' date as under noted;
Then know all ye whom it concerns,
The poem occurs in two forms, one of 62 lines and another of 76 lines; the present ms. corresponds to the former. It was first published in a 1799 Glasgow chapbook, and in 1800 was in the Currie edition of Burns's poems. In addition to the printed versions, one other fair copy manuscript, sent by the poet to Lady Don, is at the University of Edinburgh (Laing MSS III,586). Index of English Literary Manuscripts,, ed. Margaret M. Smith, vol.III, BuR 426. Published in Poems and Songs of Robert Burns, ed. J. Kinsley, no.86.