MS: Letter from Robert Burns to John Wilson, dated Ellisland, 11 September 1790

Robert Burns, Author 
Object Number:


John Wilson, a teacher and grocer in Tarbolton, was known to Robert through their mutual attendance at local Masonic meetings. In his shop, Wilson sold regular goods as well as medicines and advice on how to use them despite having no medical training. This inspired Burns to write ‘Death and Doctor Hornbook’, his satirical poem about a local man who kills so many townspeople with his faulty medical advice that Death complains he is being forced out of business.

Burns and Wilson remained on good terms despite the poem, with Wilson writing to Burns to ask advice on moving to Edinburgh to take up a clerical post. Burns replied with this letter, advising Wilson against living in Edinburgh and to not go until he is sure of his situation. Burns also suggested he meet with his lawyer friend John Sommerville upon arrival in the city.

Wilson heeded Burns's advice and eventually moved to Glasgow instead.

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