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 In contrast to the poems and songs, most of the material included was unpublished during the poet's lifetime, so this new edition is largely based on fresh transcriptions of manuscripts in Burns's hand, or in the hands of his various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.
Nigel Leask, Regius Professor of English Language and Literature, University of Glasgow
Nigel Leask was appointed to Glasgow's Regius Chair of English Language and Literature in 2004, and is currently Head of the School of Critical Studies. He was previously Reader in Romantic Literature in the English Faculty at Cambridge University. He has published widely in the area of Romantic literature and culture, with a special emphasis on empire, orientalism, and travel writing, as well as Scottish literature and thought 1750-1850. His most recent book, Robert Burns and Pastoral: Poetry and Improvement in Late-18th Century Scotland (Oxford University Press, 2010) won the Saltire Prize for the best Scottish Research Book of 2010. He has also taught at the universities of Bologna and the UNAM, Mexico City. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.