February 10, 2011

Letter, 1788 Tuesday forenoon [5 February] to Sylvander Burns, St. James Square

Robert Burns (1759-96) is best known for his poems and songs that reflect Scotland's cultural heritage. He was born in Alloway, Ayrshire, Scotland, the first of seven children belonging to William Burnes, a tenant farmer, and his wife Agnes Broun. Burns had little formal education, but he read English literature and absorbed the traditional, largely oral Scots-language folk songs and tales of his rural environment. He began to compose songs in 1774, and published his first book, Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, in 1786. The work was a critical success, and its poems in both Scots and English, on a range of topics, established Burns's broad appeal. While building his literary reputation, Burns worked as a farmer, and in 1788 he was appointed an excise officer in Ellisland. He spent the final 12 years of his life collecting and editing traditional Scottish folk songs for collections including The Scots Musical Museum and A Select Collection of Original Scotish [sic] Airs for the Voice. Burns contributed hundreds of Scottish songs to these anthologies, sometimes rewriting traditional lyrics and setting them to new or revised music. During his stay in Edinburgh, Burns met Mrs. Agnes Craig M'Lehose in December 1787. It was love at first sight for both of them. In addition to numerous visits, the couple carried on what has been termed a "hothouse romance" by correspondence - in the first months of 1788, they wrote to each other frequently, sometimes more than once a day. The two soon decided to use "Arcadian names" as Burns called them: she was Clarinda, he Sylvander. Marriage turned out to be impossible, and the correspondence dwindled once Burns left Edinburgh. Mrs. M'Lehose later loaned the letters from Burns to John Findley, who claimed to be writing a biography of the poet (the biography never seems to have been written). Some of the letters were published without her permission in 1802, and the published editions of their correspondence make clear that some letters had gone missing or had been omitted. In this newly-recovered, unpublished letter, Clarinda writes, "... I feel a sensation so delightfull, so serene, as makes me almost hope that Heaven itself approves our union." This letter had briefly surfaced in 1928, and then was lost again from scholarly awareness for nearly 80 years.

Rear High thy Bleak Majestic Hills

Robert Burns (1759-96) is best known for his poems and songs that reflect Scotland's cultural heritage. He was born in Alloway, Ayrshire, Scotland, the first of seven children belonging to William Burnes, a tenant farmer, and his wife Agnes Broun. Burns had little formal education, but he read English literature and absorbed the traditional, largely oral Scots-language folk songs and tales of his rural environment. He began to compose songs in 1774, and published his first book, Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, in 1786. The work was a critical success, and its poems in both Scots and English, on a range of topics, established Burns's broad appeal. While building his literary reputation, Burns worked as a farmer, and in 1788 he was appointed an excise officer in Ellisland. He spent the final 12 years of his life collecting and editing traditional Scottish folk songs for collections including The Scots Musical Museum and A Select Collection of Original Scotish [sic] Airs for the Voice. Burns contributed hundreds of Scottish songs to these anthologies, sometimes rewriting traditional lyrics and setting them to new or revised music. This poem was written by William Roscoe, "dedicated to the memory of the poet Robert Burns." It was originally published without a title in 1800 in Dr. James Currie's The Works of Robert Burns. The manuscript is accompanied by an engraved portrait of the historian, dated 1813. Roscoe lead a professional life as an attorney in Liverpool, while delving into literature and art, collecting works as well as writing biographies. He took Robert Burns and his works in high regard, later corresponding with Currie regarding the publication of his manuscripts. His suggestions were accepted by Currie, and fully incorporated into the biography.

To Dr. Currie, M.D., F.R.S.: Holograph, Liverpool, 12 July 1800

Robert Burns (1759-96) is best known for his poems and songs that reflect Scotland's cultural heritage. He was born in Alloway, Ayrshire, Scotland, the first of seven children belonging to William Burnes, a tenant farmer, and his wife Agnes Broun. Burns had little formal education, but he read English literature and absorbed the traditional, largely oral Scots-language folk songs and tales of his rural environment. He began to compose songs in 1774, and published his first book, Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, in 1786. The work was a critical success, and its poems in both Scots and English, on a range of topics, established Burns's broad appeal. While building his literary reputation, Burns worked as a farmer, and in 1788 he was appointed an excise officer in Ellisland. He spent the final 12 years of his life collecting and editing traditional Scottish folk songs for collections including The Scots Musical Museum and A Select Collection of Original Scotish [sic] Airs for the Voice. Burns contributed hundreds of Scottish songs to these anthologies, sometimes rewriting traditional lyrics and setting them to new or revised music. This rhyming epistle was written by William Shepherd, a dissenting minister, schoolmaster and active politician of Liverpool. He was closely acquainted with William Roscoe, who was deeply interested in Burns and his works. Shepherd wrote the 39-line poem in the style of Burns, commemorating Dr. James Currie's edition of The Works of Robert Burns, published in 1800.

Tam o' Shanter Proof Sheets

Robert Burns (1759-96) is best known for his poems and songs that reflect Scotland's cultural heritage. He was born in Alloway, Ayrshire, Scotland, the first of seven children belonging to William Burnes, a tenant farmer, and his wife Agnes Broun. Burns had little formal education, but he read English literature and absorbed the traditional, largely oral Scots-language folk songs and tales of his rural environment. He began to compose songs in 1774, and published his first book, Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, in 1786. The work was a critical success, and its poems in both Scots and English, on a range of topics, established Burns's broad appeal. While building his literary reputation, Burns worked as a farmer, and in 1788 he was appointed an excise officer in Ellisland. He spent the final 12 years of his life collecting and editing traditional Scottish folk songs for collections including The Scots Musical Museum and A Select Collection of Original Scotish [sic] Airs for the Voice. Burns contributed hundreds of Scottish songs to these anthologies, sometimes rewriting traditional lyrics and setting them to new or revised music. "Tam o' Shanter: A Tale" was published 1791 in The Antiquities of Scotland, second volume. Among those to whom Robert Burns sent the separate off-prints of his poem was the lawyer and historican, Alexander Fraser Tytler (1747-1813). Tytler wrote a detailed and largely appreciative response, but advised Burns to cut the four lines he marked on this copy as out-of-place. Burns accepted this advice when reprinting "Tam o' Shanter" in Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect. The holograph note at the bottom reads: "Burns left out these four lines at my desire, as being incongruous with the other circumstances of pure horror."

Yon High Mossy Mountains, Sae Lofty & Wide

Robert Burns (1759-96) is best known for his poems and songs that reflect Scotland's cultural heritage. He was born in Alloway, Ayrshire, Scotland, the first of seven children belonging to William Burnes, a tenant farmer, and his wife Agnes Broun. Burns had little formal education, but he read English literature and absorbed the traditional, largely oral Scots-language folk songs and tales of his rural environment. He began to compose songs in 1774, and published his first book, Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, in 1786. The work was a critical success, and its poems in both Scots and English, on a range of topics, established Burns's broad appeal. While building his literary reputation, Burns worked as a farmer, and in 1788 he was appointed an excise officer in Ellisland. He spent the final 12 years of his life collecting and editing traditional Scottish folk songs for collections including The Scots Musical Museum and A Select Collection of Original Scotish [sic] Airs for the Voice. Burns contributed hundreds of Scottish songs to these anthologies, sometimes rewriting traditional lyrics and setting them to new or revised music. This is the manuscript of a short lyric later published in 1792, in the Scots Musical Museum, Volume 2, with the first line altered as "Yon wild mossy mountains" among other textual changes. The accompanying letter is dated 1829 from Joseph Elias Perochon, a French Royalist who settled in Dumfries out of failing eyesight. Outlining the provenance of the manuscript, he recounts that Burns "sent this song to my wife in the first year he began to compose his inimitable verses." His wife, Agnes Eleanor, had been the eldest daughter of Mrs. Dunlop, who had been close friends with Burns. Correspondence betwen the two began in 1786, a few weeks before his departure to Edinburgh, when Mrs. Dunlop requested six copies of his Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect. The two continued frank exchanges of ideas on personal matters and poetry until Burns's death.

Remains of the Antiquities Existing in Puteoli, Cumae, and Baiae

Paolo Antonio Paoli, president of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy in Rome (1775–98), was a pioneering scholar and historian of the ancient civilizations of the region of Campania in southern Italy. He completed this fundamental work about the Greek and Roman settlements in the area of Pozzuoli, near Naples, in 1768. Avanzi delle antichità esistenti a Pozzuoli Cuma e Baia. Antiquitatum Puteolis Cumis Baiis existentium reliquiae (Remains of the antiquities existing in Puteoli, Cumae, and Baiae) features 69 plates with etched engravings, which are explained in an accompanying text that is printed, in Italian and Latin, in two columns within a frame. The engravings are by Giovanni Volpato, Antoine Cardon, Francesco La Marra, and Johann Dominik Fiorillo, based on drawings by Natali, Ricciarelli, Magri, and others. Three of the engravings cover double-paged spreads, and one has a view of the coast of Pozzuoli, presented on several folded sheets. The price information on the colophon indicates that the book sold for 15 Neapolitan ducats.