RT Burns Club

*Federation No. 2085*


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Burns' rise to fame began in July 1786 when at the age of 27, his first work was published by John Wilson at Kilmarnock in Ayrshire, entitled "Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect" Whilst this book (now known famously as "The Kilmarnock Edition") was the catalyst for his celebrity status, it was far from being the sole contributing factor.

Robert's motivation for publishing his work was initially financial although undoubtedly, being an egotistical man, he relished the thought of seeing his poems in print. 

He had been courting a local girl, Jean Armour, (later to be his wife) who had become pregnant by him, and as it was then, the girls father and the local community were outraged. Such was the sway of opinion against Burns, he became deeply dejected and was intent on emigrating to Jamaica in the West Indies. The publication of his work was to pay for his passage, ……..but events changed and this was not to be. 

The simple unbound book, covered in unassuming "plain blue wrappers" (which was limited to only 612 copies) was to reach the Socialites of Edinburgh, where it was met with curious wonder. Not only were the literati astounded at the quality of the work, they could not perceive that an apparently ignorant farmer could write in such a manner. Little did they know……….. 

As a boy student under the teaching of John Murdoch, and later, by his father, Burns would excel. It was clear even then that he was of considerable intellect, as he threw himself eagerly into Shakespeare, Pope and other masters. He was a driven lad who would constantly read, particularly the poetical works and novels of the time. Influenced and deeply motivated, he had been writing creatively since an early age, with his first piece, "Handsome Nell", (a poem about his first love, a girl called Nellie & the first indication of his eye for women) having been written when he was only 15. He was by now fluent in French, spoke Latin, studied philosophy, politics, geography, theology & of course, the Bible. He was an accomplished mathematician and would in later years add significantly to his impressive list of subjects. These achievements must be considered in some perspective to fully understand the "oddity" that was Robert Burns. Son of a poor farmer, country boy, & peasant……….quite simply he was a genius of the highest intellect……….and Robert knew it!!

"Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect" was considered to be one of the greatest poetical collections ever written. Its appeal was obvious not only to the educated, but importantly, to the common man just like Burns himself. 

Now he had roused the fascination of Edinburgh Society who sought his company, and Robert's true fame had begun. No doubt, the initial interest in him was of novelty, but for those who met him, his presence was powerful. 

Make no mistake,…… Burns played the part! His dress was smart, but not of the highest classes, thus perpetuating his image. His mannerisms were confident, polite & ingratiating, although often abrupt or rude. His conversations were enthralling. Interestingly, even the men described him as an attractive chap with a commanding presence and flashing brown eyes. It can be seen why he was popular with the ladies. Burns took Edinburgh by storm & had effectively achieved today's equivalent of stardom.


January 2, 2010 at 9:08 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Posts: 4

Hello Rose,

Thank you very much for this excellent information. I am re-reading his biography at the moment,

and I think it is extreemly interesting that this famous man only published 1 book, is it not? Or is his biographer mistaken?

Anyway very nice meeting with you, warm greetings Betty

January 3, 2010 at 11:51 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Posts: 79

The 'true face' of Robert Burns unveiled on TV
Published on 6 January 2013 by Judith Duffy

In Search Of Robert Burns will be shown on STV at 8pm on January 22 and repeated on January 25

[ The most accurate depiction of Robert Burns ever seen will be unveiled on TV later this month. Cutting-edge technology was used to create a life-size model of the poet's head. According to the scientists who reconstructed the Bard, one of the most striking aspects of his features was his unusually large eyes. The 3D image of the head will be unveiled in an STV documentary being screened on Burns Night.

Dr Caroline Wilkinson, professor of craniofacial identification at Dundee University, said casts of his skull and contemporary portraits of the poet had been used to recreate the most accurate 3D depiction possible. She said the result looked similar in some ways to well-known portraits of Burns, but one surprise had been the size of his head.

It was so big she initially thought the first 3D image was wrong. "But when I looked back at some of the text that had been written, there is quite a lot of description of him as having these incredibly large eyes and this powerful charismatic personality, so it kind of fits in with that."

The documentary will show the head being unveiled to an invited audience at The Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway, Ayrshire. Actor David Hayman, who narrates the film, said it was "uncanny" to stand beside the face and try to get into "the man behind the genius". ]






January 15, 2013 at 9:52 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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