Important acquisitions

Poems, chiefly in the Scottish dialect.

Author Burns, Robert
Title Poems, chiefly in the Scottish dialect.
Imprint Edinburgh : Printed for A. Constable & Co.
Date of Publication 1807
Language English
Notes This early 19th-century edition of Burns's "Poems, chiefly in the Scottish dialect" was published in 1807 and was printed by Francis Ray of Dundee. It resembles closely, up to p. 228, the edition printed in the same year by Abernethy & Walker for booksellers in Stirling and Glasgow. However, there is a different type-setting of the words "Scottish dialect" on the title page, and minor changes elsewhere in the use of font, as well as the correct spelling of "idiot" on p. iii. It also includes 'Miscellaneous poems' from pp. 229-251, which are popular poems in Scots not by Burns: Shepherd Lubin, The farmer's ingle, Rab and Ringan, The loss o' the pack, Marg'ret and the minister, The twa cats. The glossary of Scots words follows these miscellaneous words and is not separately paginated, as in the Abernethy & Walker printing. This copy has an interesting provenance. It belonged to the Stark family of Cupar as can be seen by the inscription of James F. Stark, dated 1854, on the front pastedown. There is also a blue library label numbered '32'. James Stark was a writer/solicitor in Cupar who became procurator fiscal in the town. However, the book was clearly in the family from an earlier date. On the rear pastedown there is a crude drawing of houses (in Cupar?) and inscriptions by Jn. Stark (John Stark), and on the endpaper an inscription in Latin: Hic liber pertinet ad me Ioannem [?] Stark ut praemium [?] virtutis Doctore Jacobi Clark (this book belongs to me John Stark as a reward of good behaviour, [given] by Dr James Clark). John Stark would appear to have been a pupil of Dr James Clarke/Clark, the rector of Cupar grammar school from 1802 onwards. Clarke was a friend and correspondent of Robert Burns. He was working at Moffat grammar school when, in 1791, he fell out with the parents of some of the pupils. They, along with the Earl of Hopetoun, the local landowner, tried to get him sacked for cruelty to the children. Burns took on it himself to defend Clarke, writing to his friend Alexander Cunningham in June 1791 asking him to join the cause, which would also be joined by Robert Riddell of Glenriddell and Alexander Fergusson of Craigdarroch. Burns refers to Clarke as a "man of genius and sensibility" who was being persecuted for alleged "harshness to some perverse dunces". Burns's help extended to drafting a letter for Clarke to send to Sir James Stirling, one of the school's trustees, protesting his innocence, and another letter later that year which was sent to Alexander Williamson, the Earl of Hopetoun's factor. Two letters also survive from Burns to Clarke in early 1792, asking him to hold his nerve and assuring him of his unwavering support. Clarke travelled to Edinburgh in February 1792 to clear his name. Burns had drafted a letter for him to send to the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, one of the patrons of the school, requesting a fair hearing of his case. Clarke was successful in defending himself and remained at Moffat until 1794, when he moved to a school in Forfar, before going on to Cupar. Burns also lent money to Clarke during the crisis of 1791/92, even though he had enough financial problems of his own. The schoolmaster was still paying back his debt in instalments at the time of Burns's death in July, 1796. The poet wrote one last plaintive letter to Clarke in June 1796, acknowledging receipt of the latest repayment and asking for another to be sent by return of post. By this stage Burns was aware that he was dying, and noted that his old friend would not recognise the "emaciated figure" writing to him and that it was highly improbable that they would see each other again.
Shelfmark AB.1.213.202
Reference Sources "The complete letters of Robert Burns" ed. J. Mackay, Alloway, 1987; bookseller's notes
Acquired on 13/09/13
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