Burns and the French Language, pp.74-75.

[Anecdotes of Burns Contents]

AN amusing anecdote is told of Burns’s fondness for displaying his learning – a vanity not unprecedented in the annals of genius. In his school-days he had “a fortnight’s French,” and in a very brief period, by private study, attained so much proficiency as to be able to read and understand any ordinary French book. The power to speak the language he does not appear to have had the opportunity to acquire, though in after life he was fond of the use of French words and phrases. Miss Chalmers once took him into the company of a French lady, and was not a little surprised that he attempted to converse with her in her own tongue. Their language however was mutually unintelligible, and Burns in the effort to make himself understood unfortunately offended the foreign lady with a clumsy compliment. he meant to tell her that she was a charming person, and delightful in conversation, but, in fact, told her that she was fond of speaking; to which the indignant dame replied, that it was quite as common for poets to be impertinent, as for women to be loquacious. 

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