Robert Burns: A Life in Letters

By George Scott Wilkie, Robert Burns

Format: Paperback

A comprehensive publication of the correspondence of Robert Burns spanning 1780 to 1796 arranged chronologically.

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Neil Wilson Publishing

Neil Wilson Publishing is a small, independent company which prides itself on being innovative and original. Under five imprints they produce a wide range of books with a Scottish flavour.

Product Description


What is often forgotten about Robert Burns is that he was a prolific writer of letters and had the ability to correspond with people from every walk of life. Whereas his poems and songs were composed in the Scots dialect, his letters were written in perfect English prose. Many of his letters to his platonic lover, Clarinda, are to be found here along with many from Clarinda to Burns. The depth of feeling portrayed in this correspondence between two young people is compelling reading. His letters of advice to his young brother, William, are both serious and amusing. A letter of apology following a night of revelry at Friar's Carse is a masterpiece in its own right, as indeed are many more. Burns wrote like a man possessed. His quill could stab like a rapier or be used as a broadsword to cut down his enemies. It was a tool in his seduction of the fair sex and was also used to flatter his aristocratic friends. He revelled in his correspondence with Mrs Francis Anna Dunlop simply because she was a descendant of William Wallace. He describes in graphic detail the problems he encountered with the family of Jean Armour, revealing his intention to flee to the West Indies.

This selection of letters offers a fascinating insight into his lifes, his many romances, his fame and fortune and then his slide back to poverty and early death.

Additional Information

Additional Information

Format Paperback
Imprint Neil Wilson Publishing
Publication Date 21 Apr 2011
ISBN 9781906476168
Number of Pages 400

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Burns In His Own Words Fascinating firsthand insights into the poet's life CAN anything more be written about Robert Burns? Certainly, when the words are his own. In Robert Burns: A Life In Letters editor and collector, George Scott Wilkie, a respected Burns scholar, has given us the nearest approach to a Burns autobiography that the world can ever have. In his letters Burns becomes alive, a vulnerable and brilliant human being, who reveals himself and his beliefs, his friendships and romances, through the medium of his correspondence. How did he have time in his short 37 years of life to produce so many (and they are not all included in this long book) beautiful, graphic and sometimes brutally honest pages of correspondence? Here are most of the romantic Clarinda letters written to his platonic lover, Agnes Maclehose. Here is much of his lengthy correspondence with one of his patrons, Mrs Francis Anna Dunlop, an aristocratic, mother-figure whose main claim to fame in his eyes, apart from her support of him, was that she was a descendent of William Wallace. Here, too, are family letters, letters of apology after nights of revelry, letters that betray Burns' politics, his financial difficulties and his quarrels with his publisher William Creech. Here is Burns, the hopeless romantic, as evidenced n his letter to Wilhelmina Alexander, a pretty girl he had never met, enclosing his song "The Bonnie Lass o' Ballochmyle." What also impresses is his deep knowledge of literature and the Bible. Little wonder he was so disrespectful of hypocrisy. George Scott Wilkie introduces each letter with a short explanatory paragraph, so that the reader is told as much about the circumstances and recipient as necessary. His is a quiet voice running throughout but never dominating. In his conclusion he speculates about the Bard's sad and pain-ridden death. Rheumatic fever has been top of the list for many years. However, he believes that from what is known of the symptoms, it was probably brucellosis, a disease transmitted by farm animals and in unpasteurised dairy products Burns was brought up on a farm. Getting to know the real Burns from these powerful letters has been for me a joy. Perhaps what now impresses me most about the Bard, apart from his poetry, his humour and his virtuosity, is his courage. In the face of a lingering death he reaches the heights of human nobility. This collection is a must-have for every Burns lover. Elizabeth Sutherland, The Scots Magazine, August 2011.

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