By Zoë Keown
A LOVE note written by Scotland’s most celebrated poet declaring his feelings for the muse of many of his most passionate works has, at last, been confirmed by a team of scholars and researchers at Glasgow University.
Held by the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway, the note is the only first-hand account of Burns’s heart rendering relationship with his lover, Highland Mary.
On an empty page to accompany his song The Highland Lassie, O, Burns tenderly describe his Highland love.
Burns wrote: “My Highland lassie was a warm-hearted, charming young creature as ever blessed a man with generous love.
“She crossed the sea to meet me at Greenock, where she had scarce landed when she was seized with a malignant fever, which hurried my dear girl to the grave in a few days, before I could even hear of her illness.”
Whilst Burns’ romantic association with Mary has been deemed to be true in the hearts of his romantic readers – vanishing shortly after Burns’s death, and only mentioned by a biographer in 1808 – it was widely assumed that the note was fictional.
However, the document was discovered by Robert Crawford, professor of English Literature at St Andrews, in a collection of notes bought by Burns’s trustees in 1907.
Leading Burns scholar, Dr Gerard Carruthers, head of the department of Scottish literature at Glasgow University, validated Burns’s handwriting.
He said: “The note strongly suggests that, although Highland Mary was to some extent a romantic creation of the 19th century, the basic story of her relationship with Burns is true.”
Burns met Mary Campbell, later to become known as Highland Mary in 1786.
The couple had planned to emigrate to Jamaica but Campbell tragically died from a fever before their voyage could take place.
David Hopes, curator at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, said: “It concerns a very romantic and tragic part of Burns’s life.”