Burns, Robert

Scope and Content

One holograph letter, 1791, written by Robert Burns to Mrs Dunlop. Letter includes the poem The Song of Death .

Administrative / Biographical History

Robert Burns was born in Alloway, Ayrshire on 25 January 1759. From 1765 to 1768 Burns was educated at an 'adventure' school by his father, neighbours and a teacher, John Murdoch. In 1775 he attended a mathematics school in Kirkswald. Burns spent his youth working on his father's tenant farm and by the age of 15 he was the principle worker on the farm. At this early age Burns began to write poetry about aspects of Scottish life. On the death of his father in 1784, Robert and his brother became partners in the farm. Robert abandoned farming in 1785 to concentrate on writing poetry.

He published his first collection of poems, Poems Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect - Kilmarnock Edition , in 1786. Burns moved to Edinburgh where he won critical acclaim for his poetry amongst the Edinburgh literati. In 1787 he was sponsored by the Caledonian Hunt to publish a new edition of his poems. He left Edinburgh in 1788 for Ellisfarm near Dumfries to begin farming once again. However he continued to write poetry. In 1789 Burns began working for the Excise in Dumfries and in 1791 he left the farm to live and work in the town. Burns died in Dumfries from heart disease on 21 July 1796.

Access Information

Access to the items in the collection is unrestricted for the purpose of private study and personal research within the controlled environment and restrictions of the Library's Palaeography Room. Access to archive collections may be restricted under the Freedom of Information Act. Please contact the University Archivist for details.

Other Finding Aids

University of London Library, The Sterling library: a catalogue of the printed books and literary manuscripts collected by Sir Louis Sterling and presented by him to the University of London , Cambridge, (1954)

Archivist's Note

Separated Material

The National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh, holds correspondence and verse, 1780-1796, and miscellaneous family papers, 1705-1842 (Ref: Acc 9381), Glenriddell Manuscripts, 1791-1793 (Ref: MSS 86-7), an annotated copy of Poems, 1787, and an autograph manuscript of 'Epistle from Esopus to Maria', 1794-1795 (Ref: Acc 10981-2), and correspondence and poems, 1786-1791 (Ref: MSS 15951-75); the British Library, London, has letters and songs, 1786-1794 (Ref: Add MSS 22307, Eg MS 1656), and an autobiography in a letter to Dr John Moore, 1787 (Ref: Eg MS 1660); the Burns House Museum, Mauchline, contains letters and verses; the Huntington Library, California, USA, holds letters and literary manuscripts, 1786-1796; Nottingham University Library holds transcripts and notes for an edition of collected poems; Edinburgh University Library has manuscript poems and letters, [1786-1796] (Ref: La ii 210, iii 586); the Mitchell Library, Glasgow, contains poems, letters and miscellaneous papers, and a manuscript poem entitled 'The ordination', 1786 (Ref: 891736); Lady Stair's House, Edinburgh holds letters and manuscripts; Strathclyde University Archives, Glasgow, has miscellaneous manuscripts; the Pierpont Morgan Library, new York, USA, contains correspondence with Frances Dunlop, letters to Peter Hill, and letters to George Thomson (Ref: NUC MS 84-2137); the Burns Cottage and Museum, Ayr, has correspondence and literary manuscripts.

Conditions Governing Use

Copies may be made, subject to the condition of the original. Copying must be undertaken by the Palaeography Room staff, who will need a minimum of 24 hours to process requests.