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Burns and the British Empire: Viewing a Scottish Monument from an Imperial Perspective

Burns and the British Empire: Viewing a Scottish Monument from an Imperial Perspective Kirsten Carter McKee Burns and the British Empire: Viewing a Scottish Monument from an Imperial Perspective1 On 8 October 1817, the Edinburgh Town Council received a letter from John Forbes Mitchell of Thainston, a merchant of the East India Company. This letter, entitled `Proceedings respecting a situation for [a] Monument to the memory of Robert Burns',2 described a subscription of funds that had been collected in India with the intention that `. . . a monument could be erected of the Poet in the Capital of his much loved country'. This popular proposal attracted donations from royalty, nobility and many well-known members of the early nineteenth-century elite. It has often been assumed that the enthusiasm for this monument stemmed from the popularity in Edinburgh circles for the poet during his lifetime. However, the circumstances suggest that the Edinburgh structure was more than a memorial to the man or his work. In fact it was indicative of a growing post-mortem obsession for Robert Burns in the search for a Scottish cultural identity during the emerging British Empire. After the success of the first edition of Burns' Poems, Chiefly in the Scots Dialect,3 Burns was invited to Edinburgh in the http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Architectural Heritage Edinburgh University Press

Burns and the British Empire: Viewing a Scottish Monument from an Imperial Perspective

Architectural Heritage , Volume 24 (1): 21 – Nov 1, 2013

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Publisher
Edinburgh University Press
Copyright
© The Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland, 2013
Subject
Historical Studies
ISSN
1350-7524
eISSN
1755-1641
DOI
10.3366/arch.2013.0044
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Kirsten Carter McKee Burns and the British Empire: Viewing a Scottish Monument from an Imperial Perspective1 On 8 October 1817, the Edinburgh Town Council received a letter from John Forbes Mitchell of Thainston, a merchant of the East India Company. This letter, entitled `Proceedings respecting a situation for [a] Monument to the memory of Robert Burns',2 described a subscription of funds that had been collected in India with the intention that `. . . a monument could be erected of the Poet in the Capital of his much loved country'. This popular proposal attracted donations from royalty, nobility and many well-known members of the early nineteenth-century elite. It has often been assumed that the enthusiasm for this monument stemmed from the popularity in Edinburgh circles for the poet during his lifetime. However, the circumstances suggest that the Edinburgh structure was more than a memorial to the man or his work. In fact it was indicative of a growing post-mortem obsession for Robert Burns in the search for a Scottish cultural identity during the emerging British Empire. After the success of the first edition of Burns' Poems, Chiefly in the Scots Dialect,3 Burns was invited to Edinburgh in the

Journal

Architectural HeritageEdinburgh University Press

Published: Nov 1, 2013

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