Maucline Burns Club
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Written by Gilbert Burns, brother of Robert

‘The farm of Mossgiel lies very high, and mostly on a cold wet bottom. The first years that we were on the farm were very frosty, and the Spring was very late. Our crops, in consequence, were very unprofitable and, notwithstanding our utmost diligence and economy, we found ourselves obliged to give up our bargain, with the loss of a considerable part of our stock. It was during these years that Robert formed his connection with Jean Armour, afterwards Mrs Burns. This connection could no longer be concealed, about the time we came to a final determination to quit the farm. Robert dared not engage with a family in his poor, unsettled state, but was anxious to shield his partner by every means in his power, from the consequences of their imprudence. It was agreed, therefore, between them that they should make a legal acknowledgement of their marriage – that he should go to Jamaica to push his fortune – and that she should remain with her father till it might please Providence to put the means of supporting a family in his power.

Mrs Burns was a great favourite of her father’s. The intimation of a marriage was the first suggestion he received of her true situation. He was in the greatest distress and fainted away. A husband in Jamaica appeared to him and his wife little better than none, and an effectual bar to any other prospects of a settlement in life that their daughter might have. They therefore expressed a wish to her that the written papers requesting the marriage should be cancelled and the marriage thus rendered void. Jean, in her melancholy state, felt the deepest remorse at having brought such affliction on parents that loved her so tenderly, and submitted to their entreaties. Humble as Miss Armour’s situation was, and great though her imprudence had been, she still in the eyes of her partial parents, might look to a better connection than that with my friendless and unhappy brother.’

From Burns’ Autobiography

‘This is the unfortunate story that gave rise to my printed poem, The Lament. This was a most melancholy affair, which I cannot yet bear to reflect on. I gave up my part of the farm to my brother (In truth it was only nominally mine) and made what little preparation was in my power for Jamaica. But before leaving my native Country forever, I resolved to publish my poems. I was pretty confident that they would meet with some applause but, at the worst, the roar of the Atlantic would deafen the voice of censure and the novelty of West Indian scenes would make me forget neglect.

Letter from Burns to John Richmond

Mossgiel, February 17th 1786.
I have some important news with respect to myself, not the most agreeable, news that I am sure you can guess, but I shall give you the particulars some other time. I am extremely happy with my friend Smith: he is the only friend I have now in Mauchline.

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