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Robert Burns Lives!
"The Chevalier's Lament" Broadside and Robert Burns at the National Library of Scotland By Robert Betteridge


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

Robert Betteridge is Curator in Rare Books and Music Collections at the National Library of Scotland, in Edinburgh. He has shared this note on his work with Burns: “Robert has been working with rare books at the National Library of Scotland since 1998. His interest in Burns began as one of the co-curators of the exhibition Zig-Zag: the Paths of Robert Burns which toured Scotland in 2009 and brought together exhibits from the National Burns Collection http://www.nls.uk/exhibitions/burns. He is an advisor on the University of Glasgow project A Bibliography of Robert Burns for the 21st Century. He is currently cataloguing the Library’s incunabula and has published on the early history of the Advocates Library and the library of Newhailes near Edinburgh.” (Professor Patrick Scott)

My personal thanks to Patrick Scott, friend, mentor, and Burns scholar for his assistance in securing this article for Robert Burns Lives! I have looked to him on a regular basis in preparing these chapters for publication on our website, and he has always assisted me when called upon. Not everyone can be so lucky! (FRS: 6.08.17)


National Library of Scotland

"The Chevalier's Lament" Broadside and Robert Burns at the National Library of Scotland
By Robert Betteridge

This short piece serves as a footnote to Patrick Scott’s article “Burns and Broadside Publication: ‘"The Chevalier's Lament’ at Auction in Macon, Georgia,” in Robert Burns Lives!, no. 247 (November 2016). I am happy to be able to report that the dealer who bought the broadside at the Macon auction sold it to The National Library of Scotland and it is now available for consultation in the Library’s Special Collections Reading Room (shelfmark: AP.6.217.01). The two songs on this previously-unrecorded broadside are linked because both relate to failed uprisings in the British Isles, one in Ireland in 1798, one in Scotland in 1746. Its acquisition adds not only to the Library’s strong holdings of Robert Burns but also to its extensive broadside collections. The broadside measures over 13 inches (33 cms.) in height and 5 inches (12 cms.) wide. In the original article, the broadside was shown in sections, but here is a photograph showing it as a whole.


The Newly-Acquired Broadside at Full Length
Photograph courtesy of the National Library of Scotland

For those readers who have not yet seen Professor Scott’s article, the first song in the broadside is “The Maniac,” better known under the title 'Mary le More'. It was written by the radical Liverpool poet Edward Rushton (1756-1814), and describes the brutal reprisals after the United Irishmen's unsuccessful rising in 1798. It is otherwise first recorded in print in 1800 and appears in a number of later 19th-century broadside ballads in the Library's collections. “The Chevalier’s Lament” was written by Robert Burns in the voice of Prince Charles Edward Stuart; it contrasts the joy felt at the coming of spring with the ruin that defeat at Culloden brought to the Prince's supporters. Burns wrote the opening stanza in 1788 and added a second one probably later that same year. The song first appeared in print in 1799, three years after Burns's death. This printing has a number of orthographical and textual differences compared to both the manuscript copy of the poem preserved in Burns's second commonplace book and to other early recorded printings. Given the influence that the collecting of Jacobite songs had on the recording of the songs of the United Irishman and the subsequent stimulus their cause provided to the Scots Radicals the songs make a fitting pair.

The holdings of the National Library of Scotland are increasingly to be found in digitised form and of particular interest for broadside material is The Word on the Street (http://digital.nls.uk/broadsides/) which features a considerable amount of Burns’s work. A small number of chapbooks are also available (http://digital.nls.uk/chapbooks-printed-in-scotland/pageturner.cfm?id=104184103), as is one of the Library’s copies of the Kilmarnock edition (http://digital.nls.uk/poems-chiefly-in-the-scottish-dialect/pageturner.cfm?id=74464614), and a general overview of Burn’s life and work is to be found at (http://digital.nls.uk/robert-burns/) with reference to significant printed editions and manuscripts.

For enquiries regarding the Library’s Robert Burns manuscripts please contact Dr Ralph McLean at r.mclean@nls.uk and for those regarding printed books please contact me at r.l.betteridge@nls.uk. Please note that the Library is unable to offer valuations and would recommend that anyone with such an enquiry contact a reputable bookseller.


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