Thought the catalyst for much of his poetry, Robert Burns' sex life has often been denied, glossed over, even bowdlerized out of recognition. How could a man who revelled so unashamedly in earthy, unending sexual adventures write so tenderly about women and love? How could he father eight illegitimate children, yet conceive that timeless song of faithfulness "John Anderson my Jo"? Was Robert Burns not so much a conspicuous sinner as a man who sinned conspicuously? This volume seeks out the truth about Burns to show a man who was much less secure than his action suggest, one of whom sex was an act of rebellion as well as love. His peasant background was a shaping force in his attitude to women. Though amorous love was the impulse which drove him to verse, his love for his children usually transcended that for their mothers. Burns called himself "an extravagant prodigal of affection" and Hugh Douglas here examines the extravagance which shaped Burns' life and poetry, tracing his relationships with women from a loving apprenticeship at his mother's knee to Jean Armour, his loyal, supportive wife. He also examines Burns' many amorous adventures: Nelly Kilpatrick, his harvest-field partner, who first inspired him to write; Highland Mary Campbell; the enigma of "E"; Peggy Chalmers, who rejected him; Clarinda, who always held back; and Maria Riddell, who came nearest to being his intellectual equal.