THE above-mentioned lady – the heroine of “Anna, thy Charms,” “She’s Fair and Fause,” and “Had I a Cave” – was the daughter of John Stewart, Esq. of East Craigs. Burns’s friend Cunningham was for many years madly and hopelessly in love regarding her. Such was the strength of Cunningham’s craze for the object of his blighted love, that long after she had jilted him and had married Mr. Forrest Dewar, surgeon, and long after he himself had entered the married state, he was observed on many an evening stealthily to traverse for hours the opposite side of Princes Street, Edinburgh, where she resided, in order that he might catch a glimpse of her shadow cast on the white screen by the light within; then he would burst into tears and wend his way slowly home by the most lonely path, absorbed in morbid contemplation.
His perjured “Anna” had three daughters and one son to her husband, Dr. Dewar, and her second daughter, Jessie, was justly celebrated as the loveliest girl who at that period adorned the Scottish metropolis. A clerk in the Royal Bank went almost out of his wits through his passion for her, and annoyed her with his addresses. The father of the young man was a woollen draper, and she looked for some higher connection. At length Kay, the caricaturist, put an extinguisher on the poor pilgrim of love by publishing an admirable likeness of the beautiful Jessie Dewar passing up the North Bridge followed by her imploring tormentor, whose likeness was equally perfect. A label from his mouth displayed the words, “If it were not for these d——d blankets I would have got her!”
In 1838 Robert Chambers thus wrote regarding the widow of Dr. Dewar: “One evening, a few years ago, a friend of mine, visiting a musical family who resided in Princes Street, nearly opposite St. John’s Chapel, chanced to request one of the young ladies to sing ‘Had I a Cave, &c.’ She was about to comply when it was recollected that the heroine of the lyric lived in the flat below, an aged widow, who might overhear it. For that reason the intention of singing the song was laid aside.”