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Robert Burns letter 'shows his spirit in failing health'

4th August 2010

A previously unknown letter that sheds new light on Scottish poet Robert Burns in the year of his death has been discovered.

The National Archives of Scotland (NAS) unveiled a letter written by Burns' superior officer John Mitchell in 1796, in which he described the writer as 'reduced and shattered' but said his 'wit and humour remained'.

In addition, the message proves that Burns made a ten-mile journey from Brow on Solway to Dumfries on July 14th 1796 to collect his Customs and Excise salary - despite being urged not to because of his failing health.

George MacKenzie, Keeper of the Records of Scotland, commented: 'This is the sort of find we as archivists always hope is just around the corner. The letter is of huge significance to our understanding of the life of Robert Burns.'

He also revealed that the letter will become the centrepiece of the NAS' exhibition on the poet's last days, which is called 'I have not been idle - Robert Burns' farewell'.

In June, the NAS revealed that a team of international historians and archivists will examine a 700-year-old letter thought to have once been in the possession of Scottish hero Sir William Wallace to learn more of its origins.
 

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