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Robert Burns Lives!
Book Review of "Robert Burns and Transatlantic Culture"
Nineteenth-Century Transatlantic Studies, Edited by Sharon Alker, Leith Davis and Holly Faith Nelson.


Edited by Frank R. Shaw, FSA Scot, Dawsonville, GA, USA
Email: jurascot@earthlink.net

For academics, the words “transatlantic culture” represent an often used term.  But if you are a layman like me, you have to get your head around the phrase and once you do, the 14 wonderful chapters of Robert Burns and Transatlantic Culture will fall into place.  You will find this to be a refreshing book, easily readable, without any $500 words. Actually, (a favorite word of my ten-year-old granddaughter Stirling), it is a rather scintillating book that grabs hold and does not turn loose until you finish reading it - then a mild feeling of disappointment comes over you since there is no more to read. It is a very good book, one that will stick with you, and one you will use time and again in your search current or up to date conversations about Robert Burns. There are a lot of critical essay books on the poet, and this is one of the better ones! I found myself going back to re-read the introduction and those pages my handy yellow marker had highlighted throughout the book. It’s that good!

You immediately know it will be read and studied for years to come when you discover the list of Hall of Fame contributors and their topics: Pittock (slavery), Noble (Scotland and the American Revolution), Black (availability of the works of Burns in Canada and America), Brown (“Guid black prent”), Carruthers (Burns’s North American politics), Crawford (“America’s bard first and foremost…”), Gerson and Wilson (The Presence of Burns in Victorian and Edwardian Canada), Leask (Burns and Latin America), Manning (Burns’s transatlantic afterlives), McGuirk (Burns’s poetry into proverb), Davis (the 1859 Centenary), Vance (A Tale of Three Monuments), McCue (“Magnetic Attraction”: Serge Hovey and the Songs of Burns), Alker and Nelson (Burns and the world wide Web).

I am personally acquainted with many of the above listed contributors, and I am familiar with the others. I feel I can vouch for all of them. “Why?” you may ask. As Ben Johnson said, “Good judgment is forced upon us by age and experience.” There are several shelves of critical studies on Robert Burns in my library that I read, study, borrow, and quote for my own presentations and articles but more particularly for my own enjoyment. This book will be the next member of my growing family of books on critical studies on Burns that will call me back again and again.

You will be charmed by what Rev. M. Harvey refers to as the electric spark that sends its messages through “the dark unfathomed caves of ocean” as 2,000 miles of cable unite the Old and New Worlds. Harvey again works his magic by saying Burns is the spark whose poetry and songs bind both sides of the Atlantic together. He is “the umbilical cord with which the old world is reunited to its transatlantic offspring”. Harvey goes on to declare that the Burns spark travels in both directions as does the telegraph line under the sea. This is just one of the many fascinating nuggets about Burns given to us by the writers in this publication.

What a marvelous book and cast of contributors!  (FRS: 4.18.12)


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