Pride and Passion: Robert Burns, 1759-1796

Pride and Passion: Robert Burns, 1759-1796

Pride and Passion: Robert Burns, 1759-1796

Pride and Passion: Robert Burns, 1759-1796

Excerpt

All witnesses agree that Robert Burns was a vivid and dynamic personality. All readers of his poetry concur. Yet somehow the personality which blazes in the poems and glows in the letters only smoulders in the biographies. Why is it so hard to write a dull life of, say, Byron, and so easy to write a dull one of Burns? For one thing, there are too many biographies, all following the same stereotyped outline of dividing the poet's life according to the places he lived in instead of according to the things he did and thought. Then really graphic memorabilia are scarce, especially for the formative years in Ayrshire. People keep saying that Burns was a brilliant talker, but they seldom report his talk. Finally, too many biographers have worked in the wrong mood, intent on moralizing or deprecating rather than interpreting.

This book is not a biography, if that word connotes a narrative written in straight time-sequence. It is, instead, my answer to the question, subordinated or ignored by most chronological biographers, What sort of a man was Robert Burns? I have therefore discarded time-sequence in favour of the relationships of everyday life in which Burns most clearly revealed his personality. The plan has at . . .

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