MS: Letter from Robert Burns to Jean McMurdo, contains 'A Ballad'

Robert Burns, Author 
Object Number:


Jean McMurdo was the eldest daughter of Burns's friend John McMurdo of Drumlanrig. Burns had arranged Stephen Clarke, an Edinburgh musician, to give piano lessons to the children. Robert and his wife Jean had been present at one of these lessons and Jean sang an old song to the group. Clarke then transcribed the song for the girls to play, and Robert composed the accompanying lyrics. The song became known as ‘Bonie Jean’, and was later sent to George Thomson for inclusion in A Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs.

Burns wrote this letter to Miss McMurdo with the accompanying lyrics to the song, which he here calls ‘A Ballad’. In the letter, he writes that the song was written in honour of Miss McMurdo, but it may have been equally influenced by his wife Jean. Burns also advises Miss McMurdo to avoid the frivolity of youthful fashions by becoming a respectable and intelligent young woman.

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