A major, brilliantly written new biography of poet Robert Burns, by a leading scholar of Scottish poetry
No writer is more charismatic than Robert Burns and no biographer has captured his energy, brilliance and radicalism as well as Robert Crawford does in The Bard.To his international admirers Burns was a genius, a hero, a warm-hearted friend; yet to the mother of one of his lovers he was a wastrel, to a fellow poet he was 'sprung...from raking of dung', and to his political enemies a 'traitor'. Drawing on a surprising variety of untapped sources - from rediscovered poetry by Burns to manuscript journals, correspondence, interviews and oratory by his contemporaries - this new biography presents the remarkable life, loves and struggles of the great poet.
With a poet's insight and a shrewd sense of human drama, Robert Crawford outlines how Burns combined a childhood steeped in the peasant song-culture of rural Scotland with a consummate linguistic artistry to become not only the world's most popular love poet but also the controversial master poet of modern democracy. Written with accessible élan and nuanced attention to Burns's poems and letters, The Bard is the story of an extraordinary man fighting to maintain a sly sense of integrity in the face of overwhelming pressures. This incisive, intelligent biography startlingly demonstrates why the life and work of Scotland's greatest poet still compels the attention of the world a quarter of a millennium after his birth.
“Magnificent... This is a fine biography, and it is difficult to imagine its being surpassed for a very long time.”
“Crawford has delivered a living Burns: smart, arrogant, chivalrous, but also a strong poet to be confronted at every step of our written and sung culture. After this, we can't just take Burns down from the shelf this one night a year.”
Brian Morton, Observer
“Robert Crawford gives us a sympathetic portrait of a self-fashioning Burns who has to imagine himself as a bard - a poet not only in word but in act - in order to become one. Crawford's Burns, merrily mixing high and low culture, seems eerily contemporary.”
“Generous, highly intelligent and comprehensive biography...a portrait that comes nearer to the whole man than any other yet written...I can't imagine a better life of the Bard being written. It is likely to become the standard work: certainly it deserves to be greeted as that.”
“Lively, learned accounts of often misinterpreted lives”
Boyd Tonkin, Independent
“If you go into it knowing nothing of him you will emerge with understanding and admiration”
Susan Hill, The Lady
“Crawford is a sensitive chronicler of the poet and dogged debunker of the mythology that the legend of Burns has accreted over the centuries”
Colin Waters, Sunday Herald
“It is in the tonal analysis of Burns's poems that Crawford is at his best in this outstanding book ... it is beautifully produced, with an unpretentious elegance that Burns would have approved.”
John Carey, New York Review