by Frank R. Shaw, FSA Scot, Dawsonville, GA, USA
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:
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)