(born January 1759 - died July 1796) - Alloway, Ayrshire
Possibly the best-known and most iconic writer from Scotland, Robert Burns continues to fascinate, centuries after his death. Due to the annual Burns Night celebrations, which take place on January 25th each year, the 'ploughman poet' (an expression that belied his education) is remembered fondly in Scotland, and in many other countries all over the world. The outline of his life and his passions for women, songs, and drink are well known and contribute in no small part to his popularity.
Born in Alloway, Ayrshire in 1759 into fairly humble circumstances, Robert received a certain amount of schooling and was well read for a boy of his background. He began his working life as an apprentice flax-dresser in Irvine, Ayrshire, but after his father died he worked the family farm along with his brother, Gilbert.
In 1786 he had published, in Kilmarnock, a first collection of poems: Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, which made him an overnight success. He went to Edinburgh where he was well received by the polite society of the day (though Burns' personality did not always sit well with that world). Walter Scott, then a boy of fifteen, remembered him thus:
'I think his countenance was more massive than it looks in any of the portraits. I would have taken the poet, had I not known what he was, for a very sagacious country farmer of the old Scotch school; that is, none of your modern agriculturalists who keep laborers for their drudgery, but the douce guidman who held his own plough. There was a strong expression of sense and shrewdness in all his lineaments: the eye alone, I think, indicated the poetical character and temperament. It was large, and of a cast which glowed (I say literally glowed). I never saw such another eye in a human being, though I have seen the most distinguished men of my time. His conversation expressed perfect self-confidence, but without the least intrusive forwardness; and when he differed in opinion, he did not hesitate to express it firmly, yet at the same time with modesty.'
As well as poetry, Burns is well known for his songs, and his contributions to George Thomson's A Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs for the Voice and James Johnson's The Scots Musical Museum have perhaps contributed more to his 'Immortal Memory' around the world; the most famous being, 'My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose', 'Ae Fond Kiss' and of course, 'Auld Lang Syne', sung at Hogmanay.
He died in 1796 in Dumfries at the age of 37, his life foreshortened by drink and poor health, and leaving a widow, Jean Armour, and a large family.
Robert Burns Biographies and Guides
- Add to BasketThe Edinburgh Companion To Robert Burns - Paperback
'The Edinburgh Companion to Robert Burns' provides both a comprehensive introduction to and the most contemporary critical contexts for the study of Robert Burns. Detailed commentary on the artistry of Burns is complemented by material on the cultural reception and afterlife of this most iconic of world writers.
- Add to BasketThe Luath Burns Companion - - Paperback
John Cairney has studied and performed Burns and his works for nearly 40 years. In this book, he presents a personal selection of 60 of his favourite poems, songs and other works, and also writes about Burns's life and influences, triumphs and tragedies.
The author John Cairney is best known for his portrayal of Robert Burns in the 1969 television adaptation called the Robert Burns story. In this text he visits over 100 places connected with Burns to provide a new challenge trail for Burns fanatics.
- Add to BasketRobert Burns - - Paperback
The 'Scotnotes' series is a collection of study guides on major Scottish writers and literary texts. This volume looks at the works of Robert Burns.
- Add to BasketRobert Burns - - Paperback
Gerard Carruthers provides a comprehensive overview of Burns's entire poetic career emphasising his construction of his role as a poet and his relationship to literary and intellectual history.
- Add to BasketRobert Burns: A Life - - Paperback
In his biography of Robert Burns, Ian McIntyre sets Scotland's national poet in his historical context, giving the reader an insight into his emotional life and political views, in addition to providing an extensive evaluation of his songs and poetry.
- Add to BasketRobert Burns And All That - - Paperback
This is a real-life adventure packed with historical facts about Scotland's national bard. Meet the lassies who stole Burns's heart and the creatures that inspired his poetry. Join his quest to rescue a lost musical treasure - and get chased by ghouls as he explores the dark side of life.
- Add to BasketRobert Burns And Pastoral: Poetry And Improvement In Late Eighteenth-Century Scotland - - Hardback
This text restores the long marginalised Scottish poet Robert Burns to his rightful place as a major poet of the 18th century & Romantic period. It discusses his education as a farmer during the revolutionary period of 'improvement' in 18th-century Scotland, decision to write 'Scots pastoral' poetry, & influence on Wordsworth and Coleridge.
- Add to BasketRobert Burns And The Hellish Legion - - Paperback
Several of Robert Burns' poems deal with the supernatural. This text looks at the world of himself and his contemporaries and tries to understand their fears and emotions, with particular reference to 'Tam o' Shanter'.
- Add to BasketRobert Burns: Bard Of Scotland - - Paperback
Robert Burns, born in 1759 and who died young in 1796, is the national bard of Scotland. His poems and songs are performed and sung the world over to this day.
- Add to BasketRobert Burns In Time And Place - - Paperback
Scotland's national poet, Robert Burns, was born in 1759 and is still remembered today: every year, on the 25th of January, his birthday is celebrated wherever Scots patriots gather. This book features timelines of events in his life, accompanied by photographs, portraits, prints and etchings taken from noted Burns collections.
- Add to BasketRobert Burns The Exciseman - - Paperback
This book is solely devoted to the last seven years of Burns's life when he served with some distinction as an Excise officer. Many of the myths surrounding the poet's Excise life are dispelled.
This biography of Scotland's national poet explodes the Burns myth, revealing him as a Scottish patriot of the heart, an idealist who wished for freedom and liberty for his beloved Scotland, but also a man who was pragmatically a British patriot who risked his life for democratic reform.
On 25th January, 1759 in a small Ayrshire cottage, Scotland's greatest poet was born. His name was Robert Burns. This delightful book with easy-to-read text and simple pictures tells you his story.
- Add to BasketA Wee Guide To Robert Burns - - Paperback
A Wee Guide to Robert Burns traces the story of his life, from his birth as a farmer's son, to his days as a successful poet in Edinburgh, and to his death at the age of 37 as an exciseman, worn down by money worries and ill health.
- Add to BasketYoung Robert Burns - - Hardback
The story of Robert Burns, the son of a poor farmer who grew up to be one of the world's most famous poets is retold in a format suitable for children.
More on BooksfromScotland.com
- Robert Burns's Ayrshire
- Cottage Industry - The Story of the Burns Birthplace Museum
- Burnsiana - The Collections of John Dawson Ross
- All Robert Burns collections and anthologies
Famous Burns Poems
- Burns Federation Official Site
- National Library of Scotland
- Burns night sites
- Wikipedia entry
- BBC Scotland: Writing Scotland
- BBC Robert Burns Poetry Archive
- The G Ross Roy Collection of Scottish literature
- The Burns Exhibition from the G Ross Roy Collection
- National Portrait Gallery: pictures of the poet
- The Bard
- Andrew O'Hagan on 'The people's poet' for The Guardian
- Robert Burns in Edinburgh trail