Edited by Frank R. Shaw, FSA Scot, Dawsonville, GA, USA
Is this the next definitive biography on Robert Burns?
is an exceptional book! It is inspiring. The pages flow freely – it is
easily readable and understood. As a layman who reads a lot on Burns, I
cannot recommend it too highly. For me, it is the finest biography on the
Bard that has been published in recent years. For quite some time I have
read and studied the masters of Robert Burns’ literature, particularly the
biographies of MacKay, Snyder, McIntyre, and Kinsley. These books are good
biographies, and Burnsians around the world are indebted to the authors.
They have stood the test of time.
on Burns that I can get my hands on, biography or not, is fair game for me
to read. If I can get just one or two “new” ideas about Burns from a book,
it has been worth my time. In my “Burns Room” I now have over a thousand
books on him. Like I said, I read a lot of Burns. Some of those thousand
books would have been better off unwritten, but at least the writers felt
they were honoring Rabbie and saluting their bard.
Professor Robert Crawford, gifted speaker and writer, with a fresh,
contemporary book on Robert Burns. The Bard - Robert Burns, a Biography is a
book I already cherish. I have underlined and marked in it so much that no
one would want it years down the road. I have something special to say about
this extraordinary book. I’ll go on record right now and say what I have
been saying in meetings, individual conversations, and on radio since
December (2008) and that is I believe The Bard, in five years or less, will
become the definitive book on Robert Burns - it is that good. This most
comprehensible book will appeal to the vast majority of Burnsians because of
its rich details and the author’s style of writing. This publication is not
just a home run in baseball’s vernacular - it is a grand- slam home run!
I said all
of the above after reading just the first hundred pages and have no reason
to change my opinion now after finishing the book. It is noteworthy that on
textual criticism Crawford refers or relies on James Kinsley’s three volume
classic, The Poems and Songs of Robert Burns. Heretofore to get the kind of
information on Burns that Crawford gives, I would need several biographies
to refer to regarding the particular subject being studied. For years to
come, this volume will be a favorite of mine that I will quote from and
continue digging for nuggets of gold.
I do not
expect everyone to agree with me as I am not a Burns scholar. BUT, I know
what I like, and I like this book. I’m a layman who reads much on the Bard
and enjoys speaking about him to various groups. I am certainly not an
academic but may be what Crawford refers to in his book as “a general
have been an interesting conversation between Scottish poet Don Paterson and
Robert Crawford when Paterson told Crawford that a new biography of Burns
would be “the world’s least necessary book”. Not so in this case! This book
is a masterpiece that, like those mentioned above, will stand the test of
time. I’m glad Crawford has proven Paterson to be wrong!
thing that sets this book apart is that the author has uncovered new
material on Burns from the diary of Reverend James Macdonald whose
insightful material was hidden away in the archives of St. Andrew’s
University. The diary of Reverend Macdonald focuses on a conversation he
sat in on just two months before Burns died. Crawford mentions that this “is
the last extended account of his conversation written during the bard’s
lifetime”. The author goes on to say that “this is Burns the spirited rebel,
Bard of Sedition, even Blasphemy”.
As with an
over painted portrait, Crawford has stripped the veneer of myth and legend
from Burns and has given us a modern look at the Bard. It will be
interesting to see how Burnsians today react to his version which allows
Roberts Burns to once again walk among the living.
publication can be ordered online through Barnes & Noble at a price of $35
(members price $28) or from other quality bookstores. ISBN-13:
9780691141718 (FRS: 4-16-09)