23/01/2018
Share this story Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

Unique Robert Burns letter to go on display at National Library of Scotland, Ediburgh

4a7d3b59-317e-4a79-9fd7-5963415ce0ea

A letter from Robert Burns to one of his oldest friends, which has not been seen in public for more than 100 years, is to go on display at the National Library of Scotland on 25 January 25 to celebrate Burns Night.

The letter was acquired by the Library at auction in 2017. It tells of an evening Burns spent with his former school-friend William Niven in Maybole in Ayrshire, near to where they went to school.

The letter was written in August 1786, just weeks after publication of his first work Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect which was to make his name. At the time he was still considering emigrating to Jamaica but this plan was shelved following the positive reaction to his poems. 

In the letter, Burns thanks Niven for what was clearly a very enjoyable encounter:

 "I thank you with the most heart-felt sincerity for the worthy knot of lads you introduced me to. Never did I meet with so many congenial souls together… To all and each of them make my most friendly compliments particularly ‘Spunkie, youthful Tammie’."

There is a suggestion Burns may not have behaved as well as he would have liked. He refers to “two truly worthy old gentlemen” and adds: “I am afraid the conduct you forced me on may make them see me in a light I would fondly think I do not deserve.”

Although his life was about to change due to the success of Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, Burns appeared willing to  play down the importance of his writing. “Never blaze my songs among the million, as I would abhor to hear every prentice mouthing my poor performances in the streets,” he writes to Niven.

The letter, which has been in private hands since 1899, is an important addition to the Library’s collection of material by and about Robert Burns.

It goes on show at the National Library of Scotland, George IV Bridge in Edinburgh on 25 January 2018 from 11am to 3pm. Entry is free.

Places in Scotland connected with Robert Burns.

 

Back to "News" Category

23/01/2018 Share this story   Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

Recent Updates

James Bruce claimed to have discovered the source of the Nile - On this day in history

On 14 November 1770, Scottish explorer James Bruce claimed to have discovered the source of the Nile in ...


On this day in history - Author Robert Louis Stevenson was born

Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was born on ...


Edinburgh University admitted female medical students - On this day in

Edinburgh University admitted female medical students for the first time on 12 November 1869.


Ten quirky facts you (probably) didn't know about The Royal Yacht Britannia

Why are all the clocks on The Royal Yacht Britannia stopped at 3.01pm? And why did the Royal Yacht have a ...


Other Articles

On this day in history - The Armistice was signed, marking the end of World War I

On 11 November 1918, representatives of the Allied forces and Germany signed the Armistice, marking the end ...


Journalist Henry Morton Stanley found David Livingstone - On this day in Scottish history

Journalist Sir Henry Morton Stanley found the missing Scottish missionary David Livingstone on 10 November ...


The Royal Yacht Britannia left John Brown's Shipyard in Clydebank

The Royal Yacht Britannia left John Brown's shipyard on Clydebank to begin her speed trials on 9 November ...


Five Scottish Covenanter prisons you can visit

Explore the history of the Covenanters with these five sites that acted as prisons during the ‘killing times’. ...