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Longfellow on Robert Burns “He sings of love, whose flame illumes the darkness of lone cottage rooms”

LONGFELLOW, HENRY WADSWORTH. (English) “Robert Burns” Autograph Manuscript

no place, c. 1880

2 pages with 30 lines in five six-line stanzas. 4to. Fine brown morocco by Fazakerley, Liverpool. Fine condition.

In this fine, partly unpublished manuscript, Longfellow celebrates the poet Robert Burns, beginning, “I see amid the fields of Ayr / A ploughman, who, in foul and fair / Sings at his task.”

This manuscript contains two lines which Longfellow has deleted and replaced with the final published text. Longfellow’s “Robert Burns” first appeared in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine (August 1880) and then in the collection Ultima Thule (1881), extended to nine stanzas. Those and subsequent printings contain the revised text, and the deleted lines seen in the present manuscript appear never to have been published.

The poet was generous in supplying single-stanza manuscript souvenirs to admirers, but his working manuscripts with substantial changes are rare in the market.

Provenance: a blank leaf in the volume is inscribed to Ian Maclaren “in memory of pleasant hours in the Glen” and is signed by Alice M. Longfellow, Edith Longfellow Dana and Annie Longfellow Thorp, the poet’s daughters. The enormously popular Scottish author Rev. John Watson (1850-1907) used the pen name Ian MacLaren for his romantic stories of small town life in Scotland. It is evident that Longfellow’s daughters took this manuscript from their father’s personal papers and presented it to Watson.