Mylne, James (d. 1788)
A farmer and poet who died, in early middle life, of an 'inflammatory fever', at
Loch-hill, near Prestonpans. Among his papers, he left a considerable number of plays and poems, one of which, containing forty-one stanzas, was addressed to Burns.
Mylne's son, George, seems to have communicated with the Reverend Patrick
Carfrae of Morham, Mrs Dunlop's parish. Carfrae thereupon wrote, on 2nd January 1789, to ask Burns's advice on the publication of MyIne's work: 'It falls to my share who have lived on the most intimate and uninterrupted friendship with him from my youth upwards, to transmit to you the verses he wrote on the publication of your incomparable poems. It is probable they were his last, as they were found in his scrutoire, folded up with the form of a letter, addressed to you, and, I imagine, were only prevented from being sent by himself, by that melancholy dispensation which we still bemoan. The verses themselves I will not pretend to criticise, when writing to a gentleman whom I consider as entirely qualified to judge of their merit. They are the only verses he seems to have attempted in the Scottish style.... If it is your opinion they are not unworthy of the author and will be no discredit to you, it is the inclination of Mr MyIne's friends that they should he immediately published in some periodical work, to give the world a specimen of what may be expected from performances in the poetical line, which, perhaps, will be afterwards published for the advantage of his family.'
Mrs Dunlop was familiar with MyIne's work, and had no doubt been shown a copy of the poem on Burns by the Reverend Carfrae. At any rate, writing to her from Ellisland on 4th March 1789, Burns said: 'You are right, Madam, in your idea of poor Mylne ' a poem which he has addressed to me. The piece has a good deal of merit, but it has one damning fault - it is by far too long. Besides, my success has encouraged such a shoal of illspawned monsters to crawl into public notice, under the title of Scots Poets, that the very term, Scots Poetry, borders on the burlesque. When I write Mr Carfrae, I shall advise him rather to try one of his deceased friend's English pieces.'
This advice he gave to Mr Carfrae when he wrote to him on 27th April 1789. Mylne's Poems, consisting of Miscellaneous Pieces and Two Tragedies was published in Edinburgh in 1790. Burns's name appears on the list of subscribers.