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THE COMPLETE WORKS
EDITED FROM THE BEST PRINTED AND MANUSCRIPT AUTHORITIES
MACMILLAN AND CO., LTD.
NEW YORK: THE MACMILLAN CO.
ROBERT BURNS was born about two miles to the south of Ayr, in the neighbour hood of Alloway Kirk and the Bridge of Doon, on the 25th January, 1759. The cottage, a clay one, had been constructed by his father, and a week after the poet's birth it gave way in a violent wind, and mother and child were carried at midnight to the shelter of a neighbour's dwelling.
When Burns became famous he wore, more however for ornament than uselike the second jacket of a hussar—a certain vague Jacobitism. Both in his verses and his letters he makes allusion to the constancy with which his ancestors followed the banner of the Stuarts, and to the misfortunes which their loyalty brought upon them. The family was a Kincardineshire one—in which county, indeed, it can be traced pretty far back by inscriptions in churchyards, documents appertaining to leases and the like—and the poet's grandfather and uncles were out, it is said, in the Rebellion of 1715. When the title and estates of the Earl Marischal were forfeited on account of the uprising, Burns's grandfather seems to have been brought into trouble. He lost his farm, and his son came southward in search of
employment. The poet's father, who spelt his name Burnes, and who was suspected of having a share in the Rebellion of 1745, came into the neighbourhood of Edinburgh, where he obtained employment as a gardener. Afterwards he went into Ayrshire, where, becoming overseer to Mr. Ferguson of Doonholm and leasing a few acres of land, he erected a house and brought home his wife, Agnes Brown, in December 1757. Robert was the firstborn. Brain, hypochondria, and general superiority he inherited from his father; from his mother he drew his lyrical gift, his wit, his mirth. She had a fine complexion, bright dark eyes, cheerful spirits, and a memory stored with song and ballad—a love for which Robert drew in with her milk.
In 1766, William Burnes removed to the farm of Mount Oliphant in the parish of Ayr; but the soil was sour and bitter, and on the death of Mr. Ferguson, to whom Mount Oliphant belonged, the management of the estate fell into the hands of a factor, of whom all the world has heard. Disputes arose between the official and the tenant. Harsh letters were read by the fireside at Mount Oliphant, and were remembered years afterwards, bitterly enough, by at least one of the listeners. Burness left his farm after an occupancy of six years, and removed to Lochlea, a larger and better one in the parish of Tarbolton. Here, however, an unfortunate difference arose between tenant and landlord as to the conditions of lease. Arbiters were chosen, and a decision was given in favour of the proprietor. This