Robert Burns 'used mystery editor' on his early work

Robert Burns The "figure in the margins" believed to have helped Robert Burns edit his early work has never been identified

Related Stories

Robert Burns used a mystery figure to help him edit all his early work, a new study has claimed.

Scotland's national bard also worked with the "figure in the margins" to help him achieve public recognition.

The claims have been made by Prof Nigel Leask, who has just finished a major study of all Burns' early prose.

His findings will be discussed at the inaugural World Congress of Scottish Literatures (WCSL) organised by Glasgow university.

Prof Leask discovered notes in Burns' first commonplace book from 1783 - before he was ever published - signed by someone with the initials WR.

Possible identity

He said: "WR was given the task by Burns to read through his commonplace book and choose which works were good enough to go into print.

"He was a kind of consultant and this work resulted in the publication of the Kilmarnock Volume of Poems in 1786.

"Suddenly Burns was launched from obscurity as a tenant farmer in Ayrshire to the most famous poet in Scotland - and the rest is history."

Several theories about the possible identity of WR have been put forward but so far none has been confirmed.

Robert Burns notes The initials WR can be seen next to notes written by Burns' mystery colleague

Prof Leask said: "We don't know who WR was - probably a man but it could have been a woman.

"We are very keen to find out. So if anyone knows of someone with those initials who was living in the vicinity of Burns' farms in Ayrshire in the mid-1780s, please get in touch."

The WCSL will bring together academics and experts from as far afield as Australia, Canada, China and the United States.

In total there will be more than 200 speakers at the event, discussing their research into Scottish texts and authors.

Global passion

It runs from 2-5 July, and will also see the launch of the International Association for the Study of Scottish Literatures (IASSL).

It has been formed to raise the status of Scottish literature around the world and promote Scottish authors internationally.

Scottish education secretary Mike Russell, who will open the event, said: "Our literature is the living memory of our nation and reveals how our heritage is interwoven with other cultures and histories.

"The global passion for Scottish writers - from Scott to Burns, Stevenson and countless others - has made a difference in the way our nation is viewed and valued, both by Scots and internationally."

Prof Nigel Leask of Glasgow university Prof Nigel Leask believes a consultant helped Burns to choose which works were good enough to go into print

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Scotland stories

RSS

Scotland Live

  1.  
    @bbcradioscotland 09:25: Get involved

    Is it right to use the electoral register to pursue people for unpaid bills and taxes? Call Louise on 0500 92 95 00 with your opinion.

     
  2.  
    @sportscotland 09:21: Get involved

    sportscotland tweets: Great to see #Glasgow dressed & ready for another big sporting event! Good luck to everyone in Great Scottish Run.

    Great Scottish Run signs

    Are you taking part in the Great Scottish Run this weekend? If so, how's your training been going? Text 80295, tweet using #scotlandlive or email newsonlinescotland@bbc.co.uk

     
  3.  
    09:11: Lamont: 'It was right to join Tories'

    Labour's decision to campaign jointly with the Conservatives ahead of Scotland's referendum was "the right thing to do", Johann Lamont says.

    Johann Lamont

    Speaking to the BBC, the Scottish Labour leader said questions were asked internally about whether her party should work together with the Tories in the Better Together campaign group.

    You can hear more from Ms Lamont and other key figures from both sides of the referendum debate in the BBC documentary How the Campaign Was Won, tonight on BBC One Scotland at 22:35.

     
  4.  
    09:00: John Beattie BBC Scotland

    Good morning folks, back at work after two days off with the Norovirus, oh happy, happy days. Hats off to @LynseySharp when she ran after it.

     
  5.  
    08:57: Fastest finger first... Kevin Keane BBC Scotland reporter

    tweets: This is what your phone is connected to. From today, in Aberdeen, callers will have to use 11 number for local calls.

    Phone wires
     
  6.  
    08:51: Get involved Marianne Taylor BBC Scotland news

    News that phone users in Aberdeen will now have to dial the full 11-digit telephone number to make a local call on a landline got us thinking about phone-related songs.

    Let's hope callers won't be Hangin' on the Telephone for too long, otherwise they might have to ring Mr Telephone Man for help. (Bet you never thought New Edition would get a mention this early in the morning).

    Can you think of any others? Tweet us @BBCScotlandNews, email us here or text 80295.

     
  7.  
    08:45: Back page headlines

    Anthony Stokes insists he's unfazed by his barren scoring streak in European football, reports The Scotsman.

    The Celtic striker has scored only twice in 22 appearances ahead of Thursday's Europa League match against Dinamo Zagreb.

    Celtic striker Anthony Stokes

    St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright believes Scotland counterpart Gordon Strachan was too slow in calling up striker Stevie May, reports The Herald.

    Read the rest of the sport stories making the headlines in our round-up here.

     
  8.  
    08:40: Ewe won't believe it... Traffic Scotland

    tweets: #A9 N/B @ Blair Atholl - sheep on the road...baaaaaaa...#takecare

     
  9.  
    08:32: Read all about it...

    The aftermath of the referendum continues to dominate the agenda in this morning's papers.

    Scotland's newspapers

    "Honour the Vow" is the headline in the Daily Record, which urges the Westminster parties to keep their promise of new powers for the Scottish Parliament.

    Labour and the Conservatives are "at loggerheads" over the issue, according to The Scotsman, while The Times says Mr Brown is "clearly furious" at the Tory proposals.

    Read our full newspaper review here.

     
  10.  
    08:27: Louise White Presenter, Morning Call

    Join me at 08:50 when we'll be talking about the backlash over plans to chase voters who registered for the referendum for unpaid council tax.

    Elsewhere, we'll be asking whether GPs should be open seven days a week.

    Lines are open now. Call 0500 929500, email morningcallscotland@bbc.co.uk or text 80205.

    Louise White
     
  11.  
    08:20: Constance eyes SNP deputy leader role

    Scottish Youth Employment Secretary Angela Constance is launching her bid to be SNP deputy leader, with a focus on making the case for independence.

    The MSP will formally announce she is running at an event in her Almond Valley constituency.

    She will compete against Transport Minister Keith Brown and SNP Treasury spokesman Stewart Hosie for the job.

    Scottish Youth Employment Secretary Angela Constance

    Ms Constance, a member of the Scottish cabinet who is also responsible for training and women's employment, has been an MSP since 2007.

    The SNP's new leadership team will be decided in a vote by party members and announced in November at the SNP conference in Perth.

     
  12.  
    08:10: Referendum 'boos'

    A number of staff at a Scottish independence referendum count were replaced during the proceedings because of their behaviour.

    A group of four people were relieved of their duties at Highland Council's count in Dingwall on 18 September following complaints.

    It was understood some were seen giving the thumbs up and high-fiving each other when "Yes" votes were opened.

    Votes being counted at the Scottish referendum

    It was claimed boos were heard when "No" votes were opened.

    Highland Council has confirmed it received complaints during the count.

     
  13.  
    08:04: Weather update BBC Scotland Weather Latest

    Morning all - Gillian with you again. It'll brighten up nicely today, but feeling much fresher than yesterday, 14-16C, rather than 18-21C. After a damp start, rain will become confined to the Borders by afternoon, plenty of sunshine elsewhere. Just a few showers in the windy north west.

     
  14.  
    08:02: MoD jobs boost

    The Ministry of Defence has awarded £3.2bn of contracts to support the management of UK naval bases and says 7,500 jobs will be secured.

    The money will also be used to maintain and repair the Royal Navy's fleet of warships and submarines.

    Trident

    Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said the investment at Faslane, Devonport and Portsmouth naval bases was the "second biggest defence contract placed by this government".

     
  15.  
    08:00: Welcome Thomas McGuigan BBC Scotland News

    Good morning and welcome to Scotland Live, as we bring you the latest news, sport, travel and weather between now and 18:00.

     

Features

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.