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Robert Burns Lives!
Book Review: "Robert Burns & Friends", Essays by W. Ormiston Roy Fellows Presented to G. Ross Roy Edited by Patrick Scott & Kenneth Simpson


Edited by Frank R. Shaw, FSA Scot, Dawsonville, GA, USA
Email: [email protected]


This unusual portrait of Burns has been kindly shared by the University of Glasgow

This is a book I have been waiting to hold in my hands for a long time, to read late into the night, to savor and dissect primarily because I personally know many of its contributors. Most good things are worth waiting for, and this publication is no exception. Drs. Patrick Scott and Kenneth Simpson have created a tremendous and deeply respectful book in honor of G. Ross Roy.  The contributors are former W. Ormiston Roy Visiting Fellows at the University of South Carolina. Ormiston Roy was Ross’s grandfather and the one who introduced Ross to Robert Burns, initiating a life long relationship with the Bard and his works. Grandfather took grandson to Scotland at the early age of eight, and that incredible journey continues today, highlighted by the acquisition of countless rare Scottish books, including dozens of original Robert Burns’ manuscripts. Even today Ross, an octogenarian, is still busy collecting books and manuscripts to add to his cherished gift to the university in Columbia which houses over 20,000 Scottish books and over 5,000 books on Burns, making it the largest Burns collection this side of the Mitchell Library in Glasgow.

The group of Burns scholars highlighted in Robert Burns & Friends has produced many tributes to Professor Roy, and they themselves will leave their marks upon the worldwide Burns community. Burns is discussed in fascinating chapters which include memorials to Robert Fergusson, Halloween folklore, Burns as a dramatic poet, Tam o’ Shanter, the arts of the letter, the melody of a Red, Red Rose, and a plea of “Back to Burns”. The Merry Muses naughtiness could not be left out, nor could a combination of Baird, Burns and Miller, or James Hogg’s initial encounter with Burns’ poetry. This is followed by Alexander McLachlan as the “Robert Burns of Canada”, translating Burns, and then the outstanding Roy collection itself. As a final treat we are presented with 18 pages of what Ross has accomplished in print over a life time of Burns and Scottish scholarship. This book should become a favorite of Burnsians everywhere.

Who are the scholars chosen over the years to be William Ormiston Roy Fellows? I can start with Patrick Scott and Kenneth Simpson (editors and contributors) and continue alphabetically: Corey E. Andrews, Valentina Bold, Edward J. Cowan, Gerard Carruthers, Marco Fazzini, Fred Freeman, R.D.S. Jack, Thomas Keith, Kirsteen McCue, Carol McGuirk, Douglas Mack and David Robb. These Roy Fellows are among the world’s top Burns scholars, and it is a privilege to bring their book to you. If these men and women were to be gathered together for a conference on their specific topics, it would be an international conference on Burns and would be presented to a packed audience!

I could easily take each chapter, pick out an interesting point or two to let you know how intriguing and rewarding this book is, but the chapters are too many and the points, well taken as they may be, would mean a very long review and possibly ruin the book for you. I have decided to let you find out for yourselves what is inside the covers and, believe me, you will not be disappointed.  It is certainly a nominal amount of money for a book of this nature and so filled with information.

A quote from the back of the book cover sums up everything I could say about Ross Roy from a personal perspective over the last ten years:

“G. Ross Roy founded the journal Studies in Scottish Literature in 1963, and as its editor for nearly fifty years he has had a central roll in establishing international academic recognition for the field. His own scholarly work includes the standard Letters of Robert Burns (2 vols., Claredon Press, 1985). He retired from the University of South Carolina in 1990, as Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English and Comparative Literature, and continues to work with the University’s G. Ross Roy Collection of Robert Burns & Scottish Poetry. His contributions to Scottish literature have earned him honorary doctorates from the Universities of Edinburgh (2002) and Glasgow (2009).”

The one person I cannot overlook in this review is Ross’s wife Lucie. It is often said that behind “every great man, there’s a great woman” and truer words are not to be found in the case of Lucie Roy. Among her many tasks of being a wife, Lucie has served as Associate Editor of Studies in Scottish Literature. Of all its volumes published over the years, the dedication page in Volume XXX states it most eloquently:

For
Lucie Roy
A brave little soldier

You can purchase this book new for $16 from amazon.com, or if you want to splurge, you can buy a used copy from them for $32.06. Do the math! (FRS: 11.13.12)


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