Our Project PI has just completed and published the first ever standalone edition of Robert Burns’s songs for his second song editor, George Thomson (1757-1851), which is volume 4 of the new multi-volume Oxford Works of Robert Burns now underway at the University of Glasgow. Nigel Leask’s edition of Burns’s Commonplace Books, Tour Journals and Miscellaneous Prose, appeared as volume 1 in 2014 and was followed, in 2017, by vols 2 and 3 which include Murray Pittock’s edition of the complete Scots Musical Museum, the song collection with which Burns had closest involvement. The new research on these first four volumes has been undertaken with the support of a major research grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council and you can access many more complementary resources online at Editing Robert Burns for the 21st century: Prose & Songs.
Kirsteen McCue’s new edition of Burns’s Songs for George Thomson puts the spotlight on what the Burns world has so-far regarded as a controversial collaboration between Thomson, referred to by the Burns song scholar James C. Dick as ‘the egregious editor’, and Burns, who contributed some 174 songs to Thomson’s big collections of national songs from Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Burns’s songs for Thomson, many of which were published after the poet’s death in 1796 and to musical arrangements by contemporary European composers including Haydn and Beethoven, are brought together here for the first time with their musical settings and detailed annotations. The long introduction revisits this artistic collaboration between editor and poet in detail, setting the facts straight and looking closely at Thomson’s involvement in ‘branding’ Burns as Scotland’s national bard in the early decades of the nineteenth century. Thomson’s collections were highly influential at the time, and you can see this in practice via some of our song stories on the RNSN:
Kirsteen launched the volume online in February as part of the lecture series of the University of Glasgow’s ‘Centre for Scottish and Celtic Studies’ and it’s possible to watch her lecture online. We’re also providing a review of the event from the CSCS blog.
Link to the lecture is available here.
Link to the review is available here.