MS: Letter from Robert Burns to Alexander Cunningham, dated Brow-Sea-bathing quarters, 7 July 1796

Robert Burns, Author 
Object Number:


Robert’s health began to fail in spring 1795. He suffered from repeated illnesses as he travelled the Dumfries countryside collecting tax for the Excise. By the end of the year, he was bedridden for weeks.

Although his health rallied briefly in spring 1796 and he returned to work, Burns knew he was in a downward spiral. He began to say his goodbyes to friends and family.

At the beginning of July, Robert travelled to Brow Well on the Solway Firth to bathe daily in the sea waters and drink the well’s 'curative' water. There he wrote to his friend and patron Alexander Cunningham of his ongoing problems.

Robert writes, 'Alas! My friend, I fear the voice of the Bard will soon be heard among you no more', explaining he is suffering from 'excruciating rheumatism.'

He describes himself as 'Pale, emaciated, & so feeble' that 'my spirits fled! fled!', which is perhaps no surprise when he reveals that his medical advisors tell him that this is 'his last and only chance' of a cure.

Burns also explains that as he is on sick leave, the Excise commissioners will only pay him a reduced salary. He begs Cunningham to ask the commissioners to make an exception or else 'I must lay my account with an exit en poet, if I die not of disease I must perish with hunger.'

The letter also contains a transcript of the poem 'Lord Gregory'.

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