Top positive review
Burns is surprisingly readable
on 14 August 2013
The Delphi version of the Complete Works of Robert Burns proved an appropriate purchase prior to visiting Burns’ birthplace, Monument and Museum in Alloway. Indexed both alphabetically and chronologically, it is a simple matter to find the complete versions of poems or songs of which many people have, almost unknowingly, absorbed part, such as “Mouse”, “Tae a Haggis”, “Bannockburn”, the choruses of “Charlie, he’s my Darling” and “Green Grow the Rashes” or of which they roughly know the story, for example, “Tam o’ Shanter”. Chronologically, the book traces Burn’s development as a writer from his teens until his death at the age of thirty-seven and his less than admirable personal activities.
The surprise was the readability of Burns. Although quite capable of writing standard English, of which there are several examples in the book, many of his works were written in so-called “lallans”, a word he may have coined himself to describe the common speech of the time, derided by some as “synthetic Scots” on the basis that no-one spoke in such a way. Whatever the truth, it adds a great deal to his writing and it is not particularly difficult to understand even though some words may seem strange. If necessary a glossary is appended in the Delphi version of his works.
Of particular interest are the biographies, Burns own accounts of his background and education, such as those given in his letters “To Dr. Moore” and to Mrs. Dunlop, and some of the amusing but quite scathing epithets which Burns wrote.
Parts of this book can be read as one would read any other narrative. Others, such as the poems and songs, become tedious after a while and can be covered in several sessions.
Delphi has made a splendid job of presenting Burns and his work and the book can be thoroughly recommended, as can a visit to Alloway, which features in several of his works and where he spent much of his life.