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BIOGRAPHY – ROBERT BURNS Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Posted by edincityoflit in Poets.

Robert Burns was born in Alloway, Ayrshire in 1759 to a farming family. From a young age he worked on the farm, turning to writing in an attempt to find “some kind of counterpoise for his circumstances”. Following the death of his father, Burns contemplated emigration to the West Indies to escape both personal and financial difficulties; but in 1786, his collection of Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect was published by John Wilson of Kilmarnock, and its unexpected success led him to reconsider.

Instead, he moved to Edinburgh where he was fêted. He supplemented his income by working as an exciseman but continued to write, contributing songs to James Johnson’s Scots Musical Museum and George Thomson’s Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs. During the last years of his life, Burns wrote some of his great poetic masterpieces, including ‘The lea-rig’, ‘Tam o’Shanter’ and ‘A red, red rose’. He died in 1796, aged 37, of heart disease exacerbated by the hard manual labour he had undertaken in his youth. His last son, Maxwell, was born shortly afterwards.

Find out more about Robert Burns through the Scottish Poetry Library’s Poets A-Z.


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