MS: Letter from Robert Burns to Mrs Dunlop, dated Ellisland, 25 January 1790

Robert Burns, Author 
Object Number:


Following the death of her elderly husband in 1785, Mrs Francis Anna Wallace Dunlop (1730 - 1815) was suffering from depression when a friend gave her a copy of Burns's poems. She was so impressed that she was inspired to write to the poet and offer her services as a sounding board for his work. The friendship between the two continued until the poet's death, despite the fact she was 29 years his senior.

This letter is filled with Burns's thoughts on various subjects. He begins by apologising that he has taken so long to write as he has been preoccupied with his work in the excise and ill health.

He goes on to discuss the recent death of the Scottish poet William Falconer, who wrote The Shipwreck, a favourite poem of Mrs Dunlop's. Quoting an old Scots ballad about death, he then continues to discuss his interest in traditional music:
‘Old Scots Song are, you know, a favourite study & pursuit of mine’.

Burns changes subjects by discussing his son (and Mrs Dunlop's godson) Frances (1789-1803). He fears that he will soon contract smallpox, which is spreading around Dumfries. He also notes his pride in his young son, writing,
’I myself am delighted with the manly swell of his little chest, and a certain miniature dignity in the carriage of his head & the glance of his fine black eye, which promises the undaunted gallantry of an Independent Mind.’

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