Robert Burns Additional Biography


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Robert Burns was born on January 25, 1759, in Alloway, some three miles south of the seaport town of Ayr. He was the first son of William Burnes (the original spelling of the family name that the poet eventually altered) and Agnes Broun. The father belonged to a lowly class of Scots agricultural society: He was a cotter, one who occupied a cottage on a farm in exchange for labor. As such, he engaged in a constant struggle to keep himself, his illiterate wife, and their seven children fed and clothed. In 1766, the elder Burnes leased seventy acres near Ayr and committed his family to farming. High rents and poor soil, however, only increased the size of the family debt.

Young Robert studied at a small village school,...

(The entire section is 973 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111201524-Burns.jpg Robert Burns Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Robert Burns was born on the family farm in the Ayrshire district of Scotland on January 25, 1759, to William Burnes (as the father spelled his name) and Agnes Broun. William, a poor tenant farmer, struggled to keep his family from poverty. At Mount Oliphant, Lochlie, and Mossgiel, as the family moved from one farm to another, the story of failure was the same, in spite of backbreaking toil. In every case, rents for the land were too costly. To supplement the family income, Burns tried to dress flax in Irvine, but he eventually returned to the farm in Mauchline parish, where his father died in 1784. In “The Cotter’s Saturday Night,” Burns romanticizes the nobility of his father in a nostalgic, deeply felt remembrance.


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(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

In his “Epistle to J. Lapraik,” Robert Burns modestly denies any pretensions to the highest ranks of poetry: “I am nae poet, in a sense,/ But just a rhymer like by chance./ An’ hae to learning nae pretence;/ Yet, what the matter?/ Whene’er my Muse does on me glance,/ I jingle at her.” Critics who have taken these casual words seriously, as a valid expression of Burns’s aesthetic, have done the poet an injustice. His artistry is by no means that of “jingling” rhymes. Burns is a thinking sentimentalist, a writer who combines rationality with passion. Even his sentimentality is usually controlled by wit, irony, or plain common sense, so that his love poetry not only seems genuine, it is indeed a genuine expression of the poet’s larger love of freedom—freedom to live honestly and to love openly, without the constraints of religious bigotry, social prudery, or political subjugation. In his love of freedom, Burns remains—over the centuries—a defiant voice against hypocrisy and cant, against meanness of spirit. Through his art, he shows his readers that freedom is joyous.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Although Robert Burns died at the age of thirty-seven, he lived with more intensity and produced more memorable writing than most authors who live twice as long. He is one of the great British poets of the eighteenth century, one who succeeded in capturing the confusions, volatility, and joy of his age.

Burns became acquainted with hard work early, on the family farm in Ayrshire, a rural part of southwest Scotland, where he grew up. His father, William Burnes, as he chose to spell the surname, was a poor tenant farmer who was kept in constant poverty by high rents and poor soil. By the age of twelve, Robert had been put to work in the fields, and he was doing a man’s work at fifteen. Even while laboring strenuously,...

(The entire section is 1198 words.)


(Poetry for Students)

Burns was born in Alloway, Scotland, in 1759. His father, a poor tenant farmer, tutored his sons at home and sought to provide them with as...

(The entire section is 327 words.)