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Robert Burns   By: (1819-1885)

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First Page:

[Transcriber's note: Obvious printer's errors have been corrected, all other inconsistencies are as in the original. Author's spelling has been maintained. Missing page numbers correspond to blank pages.]

ROBERT BURNS

BY

PRINCIPAL SHAIRP,

PROFESSOR OF POETRY IN THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD

London

MACMILLAN AND CO., Limited

NEW YORK: THE MACMILLAN COMPANY

1906

All rights reserved

First Edition April 1879

Reprinted December 1879, 1883, 1887, 1895, 1902, 1906

CONTENTS.

Page CHAPTER I.

Youth in Ayrshire 1

CHAPTER II.

First Winter in Edinburgh 42

CHAPTER III.

Border and Highland Tours 60

CHAPTER IV.

Second Winter in Edinburgh 79

CHAPTER V.

Life at Ellisland 94

CHAPTER VI.

Migration To Dumfries 135

CHAPTER VII.

Last Years 155

CHAPTER VIII.

Character, Poems, Songs 188

INDEX 209

ROBERT BURNS. (p. 001)

CHAPTER I.

YOUTH IN AYRSHIRE.

Great men, great events, great epochs, it has been said, grow as we recede from them; and the rate at which they grow in the estimation of men is in some sort a measure of their greatness. Tried by this standard, Burns must be great indeed, for during the eighty years that have passed since his death, men's interest in the man himself and their estimate of his genius have been steadily increasing. Each decade since he died has produced at least two biographies of him. When Mr. Carlyle wrote his well known essay on Burns in 1828, he could already number six biographies of the Poet, which had been given to the world during the previous thirty years; and the interval between 1828 and the present day has added, in at least the same proportion, to their number. What it was in the man and in his circumstances that has attracted so much of the world's interest to Burns, I must make one more attempt to describe.

If success were that which most secures men's sympathy, Burns would have won but little regard; for in all but his poetry his was a (p. 002) defeated life sad and heart depressing to contemplate beyond the lives even of most poets.

Perhaps it may be the very fact that in him so much failure and shipwreck were combined with such splendid gifts, that has attracted to him so deep and compassionate interest. Let us review once more the facts of that life, and tell again its oft told story.

It was on the 25th of January, 1759, about two miles from the town of Ayr, in a clay built cottage, reared by his father's own hands, that Robert Burns was born. The "auld clay bigging" which saw his birth still stands by the side of the road that leads from Ayr to the river and the bridge of Doon. Between the banks of that romantic stream and the cottage is seen the roofless ruin of "Alloway's auld haunted kirk," which Tam o' Shanter has made famous. His first welcome to the world was a rough one. As he himself says,

A blast o' Janwar' win' Blew hansel in on Robin.

A few days after his birth, a storm blew down the gable of the cottage, and the poet and his mother were carried in the dark morning to the shelter of a neighbour's roof, under which they remained till their own home was repaired. In after years he would often say, "No wonder that one ushered into the world amid such a tempest should be the victim of stormy passions... Continue reading book >>




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