1842 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Burns

C. H. Timperley, in Encyclopaedia of Literary and Typographical Anecdote (1842) 2:788n.



Robert Burns, the brightest star in the poetical annals of Scotland, was born ":on the Doon side," near the town of Ayr, Jan. 23, 1750, and reared to the laborious profession of a farmer. With the advantage of a plain education, and access to a few books, the mind of this highly-gifted individual received a degree of cultivation, much superior to what is attainable in the same grade of society in other countries; and at an early age, he began to write in his vernacular language, verses respecting rural events and characters. Models, so far as he required any, he found in the poetry of Ramsay and Fergusson, and in that great body of national song, comic and sentimental, which the Scottish people have composed for themselves in the course of ages. In 1782 [1786], he published a volume of poems at Kilmarnock, which had a wonderful success, and was soon afterwards invited to Edinburgh, where a new edition of his poems were printed, and from which he realized 500. He then took a farm in partnership with his brother Gilbert, and at last settled at Dumfries, as an exciseman. During the latter years of his life, he employed his poetical talent chiefly in the composition of a series of songs, which, though they have the general fault of treating love with too little regard for its higher and more delicate emotions, are allowed to rank among the best compositions in that department of poetry. His latter y ears, as must be generally known, were clouded with poverty and its attendant distresses, aggravated by passions, which, equally with his genius, formed a part of the extraordinary character assigned to him by nature. After his death, which happened at Dumfries, July 21, 1796, leaving a widow and four children, his works, including poems, songs, and letters, were published in an elegant collection by Dr. James Currie, of Liverpool, who added a biographical memoir, remarkable for judgment and good taste, and which produced above 1000 for the benefit of the family. Mrs. Burns died March 26, 1834.