This volume of Robert Burns's Commonplace Books, Tours Journals and Miscellaneous Prose Works is a major contribution to our understanding of the life and writings of one of the major Scottish, and British, poets of all times. To the extent that the Commonplace Books and other prose writings offer a glimpse into Burns's creative workshop, they record the self-conscious poetic development of a man who was endowed with none of the advantages of birth and education enjoyed by many other writers. Spanning nearly two decades of his sadly foreshortened life, they permit a new understanding of his unique relationship to the literary and social culture of late eighteenth-century Scotland, and help explain how and why this humbly-born Ayrshire farmer became a poet of world renown.
The items included here have never before been published complete in one volume (some are published for the first time), and they are arranged chronologically in order to highlight the major creative stages of his life. In contrast to the poems and songs, most of the material included was unpublished during the poet's lifetime, so this new edition is largely based on fresh transcriptions of manuscripts in Burns's hand, or in the hands of his various amanuenses. It offers diplomatic transcriptions that adhere as closely as possible to RB's original manuscript page, retaining his eccentric spellings, capitalisation, long and short dashes, punctuation, and use of ampersands, as well as marking revisions and elisions. The edition features a general introduction, and each item is preceded by full headnote, assessing its importance in relation to Burns's life and poetic corpus. Notes explicate names, cultural, historical and literary references, providing full cross-references these with the poetry and correspondence.