Burns may have based the character of Tam o' Shanter on Douglas Graham (1739–1811) who lived at Shanter Farm near Kirkoswald in South Ayrshire. The poem is one of Burns's most popular, making Tam an icon of Scottish culture. The dramatic narrative and vivid descriptions of witches and warlocks have inspired generations of artists.
Alloway Kirk is a ruined and supposedly haunted church that features in the poem. It was listed in Francis Grose's survey of the nation's ancient buildings, 'Antiquities of Scotland' (1791). Burns wrote Tam o' Shanter in 1790 to accompany its entry in Grose's book.
Faed's paintings of Burns's work were so popular that they often accompanied editions of his poetry and were reproduced as prints. He exhibited regularly in Edinburgh and London, and also found success in America.
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