FROM Burns himself, from his brother Gilbert, and others, we have received a fair list of the books he read, and which were his favourites. He says, “What I know of ancient history was gathered from “Salmon’s and Guthrie’s Geographical Grammars;” and the ideas I had formed of modern manners, of literature and criticism, I got from the Spectator. These, with Pope’s Works, some plays of Shakspeare, “Tull and Dickson on Agriculture,” “The Pantheon,” “Locke’s Essay on the HUman Understanding,” “Stackhouse’s History of the Bible,” “Justices British Gardener’s Directory,” “Allan Ramsay’s Works,” “Taylor’s Scripture Doctrine of Original Sin,” “A Select Collection of English Songs,” and “Hervey’s Meditations,” had formed the whole of my reading.”
He also read “Derham’s Physics and Astro-Theology,” “Ray’s Wisdom of God in the Creation,” “Pope’s Transaltion of Homer.” Richardson, Fielding, Smollett, Hume, Robertson, and other eminent authors came under his notice. But the two first books he ever read in private, and which gave him more pleasure than any two books he ever read afterwards, were the “Life of Hannibal,” and the “History of Sir William Wallace.” Of the latter, he saiys it “poured a Scottish prejudice into my veins, which will boil along there till the floodgates of life shut in eternal rest.” “Tristram Shandy,” and “The Man of Feeling” were his bosom favourites. Of this latter work he used to say that he had worn out two copies by carrying it in his pocket. In poetry he had read the works of Thomson, Shenstone, and Macpherson’s “Ossian,” while his admiration for Fergusson is well-known.