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The Bard: Robert Burns, A Biography
Format: HardcoverChange
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Robert Crawford has put together a tremendous amount of material. He has arranged it chronologically putting the poetic pieces, some never published before, along in the time where they are presumed to be written. One of Burns' best loved poems is appropriately and beautifully out of sequence (as to writing, not publishing) at the end.

Like most Burns "fans" I loved a few poems, but knew little of his oeuvre. I somehow imagined the life force he seemed to live and celebrate. Now that I know more of Burns and his work, my appreciation of the poetry is stronger, but as to the life force it will take a while for it all to settle in.

His humble roots are never said to leave him, but Crawford shows how he must compromise and hold back to live among the royalists who control his job (a kind of tax collector) and "allow" him to publish his poems.

Early on he does public penance for the first of his affairs. Perhaps he decided it was not so bad, because sexual infidelity becomes a theme of his life. In it, he betrays not only people, but ideals; he idolizes the females who are raised to a life of leisure while getting servant and farm girls pregnant. Through much of his adult life there is someone pregnant by him whether he is married or not. There are probably women and offspring that history has not recorded.

Burns died at age 37, as much a victim of illness as the medical treatment of his time. His last dramatic, and somewhat redeeming act, could be construed as a statement of loyalty... or maybe a desire to die at home.

There is a lot here. Crawford presents it all in reportorial neutral prose, which is at times very stilted. Perhaps this is necessary, since it is one of the first modern biographies of Burns. I hope it is the first cut of the material, because the issues this book are worthly of more exploration. My problem with this book is that while the person is interesting, and the material very good, at times I was totally bored. I rarely do this, but the material was so dryly presented, I read the book over 6 weeks, with several books in the middle. For this reason I hold back a star and recommend this only for those with a deep interest in Burns.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 8, 2011
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Though complete and not based on Burns myth, this book is a heavy read. Chronology is difficult to access and at times wading through the verbege loses the focus. Overall, though, a complete biography. Extremely interesting with respects to the political climate and Burns' own political views.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on October 10, 2013
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Fascinating biography of the charismatic poet. You come away with an understanding of what motivated Burns as a man and a writer. Impeccably researched with new material. I can't imagine anyone writing a better biography on this subject.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 30, 2009
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Burns has in the past 50 years come to be treated as a precious relic, to be adored, worshipped, referred to, but not much read. Part of what stoked his rise to fame was his insistence upon writing at least a part of his work in his native Ayrshire dialect. But his broader fame came at first from his English poems, through which he achieved a broader audience. Though he affected being a "farmer poet," his ambition went far beyond that genre. Crawford examines an incredible mass of documentary evidence, most of which was nearly inaccessible up to about 50 years ago, and was too voluminous to sort through until the advent of digital technology. The result is a very solid biography which may resolve some old questions about Burns's character, and which shows how strong Burns's influence upon Scottish and English literature, music, and song has been. I can't imagine anyone in the future writing an essay on Burns without having read this work.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 1, 2011
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Excellent modern interprestation of Burns's life. Crawford avoids past romantisizing of the "farmer poet" and constructs the life of a very human man with all his personal demons and glories.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
The depth of detail is excellent for scholars, but too much for the general reader. There are many gems--surprising aspects of Burn's career, but one must plow through a thicket of historical detail to get to them.
The jacket, incidentally, is beautiful.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 25, 2014
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
great
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