Robert Burns

Robert Burns, author of Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect. Portrait by Alexander Nasmyth © National Portrait Gallery, London.
Robert Burns by Alexander Nasmyth © National Portrait Gallery, London

Biography

Robert Burns was born on 25 January 1759 in Alloway, a small village near the river Doon just south of the town of Ayr in south-west Scotland. Burns received a good education in mathematics and English literature, but from his teens had to contribute hard labour to the working of the family’s rented farm.

Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect was published at Kilmarnock in 1786 and made him famous; an expanded edition appeared at Edinburgh the following year, and through his new friends among the Scottish ruling class he was able to get a job in the Excise service in Dumfriesshire, where he moved in 1788. Here he concentrated his creative energies in contributing song lyrics to two major collections, each published in several volumes over a period of years: The Scots Musical Museum (1787–1803) and A Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs (1793–1841). Long-standing health problems led to his early death on 12 July 1796.

Name
Robert Burns
Occupation
Poet
Born
Died
Gender
Male
Literary period
Romantic
Genre
Romantic poetry

Related articles

Robert Burns: a career in verse

Article by
Robert Irvine
Theme: 
Romanticism

Dr Robert Irvine considers the career of Robert Burns as a writer driven more by the excitement of writing and collecting verse than the desire for outward success, despite achieving long-term fame as Scotland’s ‘national bard’.

A ‘cargo of Songs’: Robert Burns, the Hastie manuscript and The Scots Musical Museum

Article by
Robert Irvine
Theme: 
Romanticism

Dr Robert Irvine examines the Hastie manuscript, a collection of manuscript songs by Robert Burns, and The Scots Musical Museum, where they were ultimately published.

The Romantics

Article by
Stephanie Forward
Theme: 
Romanticism

Dr Stephanie Forward explains the key ideas and influences of Romanticism, and considers their place in the work of writers including Wordsworth, Blake, P B Shelley and Keats.

Related collection items

Related people

Related works

'To a Mouse'

Created by: Robert Burns

‘To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough’ was written by Robert Burns (1759 – ...

'To a Louse'

Created by: Robert Burns

The full title of this vernacular poem by Robert Burns (1759 – 1796) is ‘To a Louse: On Seeing One On A ...

'A Red, Red Rose'

Created by: Robert Burns

A poem by Robert Burns (1759 – 1796). Towards the end of his short life, Burns contributed many songs to James ...