More about this song
Burns sent this song to Mrs. Dunlop in February 1788. The Anna in question is Miss Anne Stewart, daughter of John Stewart of East Craigs; she had captured the heart of Burns' friend Alexander Cunningham, and appears in several letters between the two.
Tracking Miss Stewart in epistolary and verse format proves rather satisfying. On July 28 1788, a few months after the song was sent to Mrs. Dunlop, Miss Stewart appears in a letter from Burns to Cunningham:
[...]Sweet Anna has an air, a grace,
Divine, magnetic, touching!
She takes, she charms - but who can trace,
The process of BEWITCHING?
Anna, thy Charms as it is here appeared a year later in a London newspaper, the real Miss Stewart having committed the sin of marrying another man.
Burns writes to Cunningham in May 1789: "I would scorn to put my name in a newspaper poem - [...] Had the Lady kept her character, she should have kept my verses; but as she prostituted the one, I no longer made anything of the other; so sent them to Stewart [the Star editor]."
The song was later set to the air Bonny Mary in the 1803 Scots Musical Museum, but there is no indication that Burns intended that tune.