20 November 2003
[BURNS, Robert (1759-1796)]. Autograph letter addressed to Burns ('Sylvander') by Agnes McLehose (signed as 'Clarinda'), n.p., 'Tuesday forenoon' [late 1787 or early 1788], three pages, 4to, on a bifolium, the address scored through (some spotting and skilful repairs to folds).
Responding to a letter from Burns that morning (after a meeting the previous evening), McLehose writes with a mixture of passionate sympathy ('in the wide Circle of the universe, there are not two Souls so completely form'd for each other as ours'), moderating through a certain modesty ('my heart was bent upon soothing, & raising your Spirits ... it led me perhaps too far') to pious exhortation ('I trust you are seeking the Divine Blessing on your lawfull Effort for a livelihood'), undercut by a note of repressed jealousy: 'I tremble for Mary, least she feel an involuntary throb in your favour -- I am not so much affraid [sic] of you -- amiable, & Bon[n]ie as She is -- I think Clarinda is more entirely Congenial to the Heart of Sylvander'.
Agnes McLehose (1759-1841) was already separated from an abusive husband when she met Burns at a tea party in 1787. They immediately struck up the passionate friendship which resulted in the 'Sylvander' and 'Clarinda' letters; Burns addressed a number of poems to her in the period up to her departure for Jamaica in 1791 to attempt a rapprochement with her husband.
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