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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XI. The Period of the French Revolution.

X. Burns

§ 21. Hector MacNeil

Hector MacNeil, though the senior of Burns by thirteen years, did not publish his ballad legend The Harp until 1789. His poetic tales, Scotland’s Scaith or the History of Will and Jean (1795), and the sequel, The Waes of War or the Upshot of the History of Will and Jean (1796), were meant to expose the evils of the convivial habits of the period. The stories, rather trite in their general tenor, are tersely rimed; and their homely commonplace and moral wisdom secured them a wide circulation among the people; but neither these nor other tales by him in prose and verse, also of didactic intent, are any longer read; and his memory is kept green mainly by various excellent contributions to Johnson’s Museum. The ballad Donald and Flora, in that publication, though well expressed, is rather mannered and artificial; but, in the vernacular Mary of Castle Cary, My Boy Tammy (founded on an old song of which at least one broadside copy still exists), Come Under my Plaidie and Dinna think Bonnie Lassie, homeliness of sentiment is blended to very good purpose with quiet or lively humour.