Robert Burns admits to being worse for wear in poetic response to party invite

By Richard Moss | 29 November 2016

A letter in poesy written by Robert Burns has been discovered in the collection of Paisley Museum

a photo of a framed poem signed by Robert Burns
Burns' poetic letter was recently rediscovered at Paisley Museum© Pailsey Museum
Well known for his love of carousing, Robert Burns rattled off his reply to a party invite in Paisley with a verse shot through with his characteristic good humour and spontaneity.

The poetic missive, written sometime between 1785 and 1786, has  recently been unearthed in the collection of Paisley Museum and is going on display there in the New Year in time for Burns night on January 25.

Described as a short ‘social verse’, it is in typical Burns’ style and includes his wordplay – combining the tradition for indicating the day of writing while alluding to being the worse for wear. Nonetheless he highlights his joy at the invite and pledges his attendance - whether by horse, or by cart.

The manuscript reads:

Sir,

Yours this moment I unseal,

And faith I'm gay and hearty!

To tell the truth and shame the deil,

I am as fou as Bartie:

But Foorsday, sir, my promise leal,

Expect me o' your partie,

If on a beastie I can speel

Or hurl in a cartie.


Yours,

Robert Burns


Machlin,

Monday Night, 10 o'clock

a close up of a letter in verse written by Robert Burns
© Paisley Museum
The manuscript was verified by Professor Gerard Carruthers of the Centre for Robert Burns Studies at the University of Glasgow, who said it is “clearly in the handwriting of Robert Burns”.

“The ink and paper are a good match to other authentic Burns manuscript productions,” he added. “The poem dates from 1785 – 1786. The first publication to give an indication of its origins, and how it came to be in the collection of Paisley Library is ‘The Works of Robert Burns Volumes 1 – 5’ edited by The Ettrick Shepherd and William Motherwell.”

Motherwell was Secretary of the Paisley Burns Club in 1819 and became President in 1821. This puts him at the centre of Paisley literary life when the poem first surfaces.

According to research Motherwell stated the manuscript was presented to Paisley Library by the late Mr. John Clarkson, of McGavin and Clarkson, threadmakers, Paisley.

We don’t know if Burns made the party – but it’s probably safe to assume he did, before he left for Edinburgh in November 1786, where he no doubt attended numerous socials and merrymakings.

The manuscript will be displayed alongside a portrait of Burns by James Tannock (1784 – 1862) also in Paisley Museum’s collection. Born in Kilmarnock, Tannock was originally a house painter, but after lessons from Alexander Nasmyth – who was a friend of Burns – became a successful portrait painter.
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