Burns Night: Robert Burns' desperate letter to his lover featuring the song Ae Fond Kiss

By Culture24 Reporter | 25 January 2016

This is the final letter that Robert Burns wrote to Nancy McLehose, with whom he had a brief affair, containing the famous song, Ae Fond Kiss

A photo of a poem by Robert Burns next to a drawing of the poet's face in profile
© NLS
The poet penned it on December 27 1791, when MeLehose was about to depart for Jamaica to attempt a reconciliation with her husband, James. The song expresses Burns’s despair at the end of their relationship.

They had first met four years earlier in Edinburgh when Burns was unmarried. The couple exchanged a series of love letters using the pseudonyms Sylvander and Clarinda. It was a delicate situation given that Nancy was a married woman, and the relationship remained a platonic one.

Written by Burns in Dumfries, the letter, now held by the National Library of Scotland, informs Nancy that he is sending her some recently composed songs. Then, for the first time ever, he presents a song that has become famous around the world with its familiar opening lines:

Ae fond kiss, and then we sever;
Ae fareweel, and then forever!



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Four places to follow in the footsteps of Robert Burns

Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, Ayr
For 200 years the beautiful scenery of Alloway and its special connection with the life and works of Robert Burns have drawn visitors to this stunning Ayrshire village. The late medieval Brig o' Doon, spanning the beautiful River Doon, was chosen by Burns for the climax of his tale in Tam o'Shanter.

Robert Burns Centre, Dumfries
Situated in the town’s 18th century watermill on the west bank of the River Nith, the Robert Burns Centre tells the story of Robert Burns’ last years spent in the bustling streets and lively atmosphere of Dumfries.

Burns Cottage Museum, Ayrshire
See the famous Burns Cottage where the poet was born, the historic landmarks where he set his greatest work, the elegant monument and gardens created in his honour and a modern museum housing the world’s most important collection of his life and works.

Burns House Museum, Dumfries
Burns died here in 1796 at the age of just 37. The house gives us a picture of how the poet and his family lived in the late 18th century. It is now a place of pilgrimage for Burns enthusiasts from around the world.
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