The Potentially Career-Threatening Cancelled Manuscript of Robert Burns

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A scholar has found a manuscript from Robert Burns that he thinks would have put his career at risk had it been published because of its revolutionary ideas. Discovering the manuscript was held at Barnbougle Castle near Edinburgh, Professor Gerard Carruthers of the University of Glasgow claims the find gives insight into Burns’s creative genius. Carruthers believes Burns might not have published the manuscript out of fear that it could endanger his career. The draft is a revision of the song “Ye Jacobites By Name”, called “Ye Black-nebs By Name”, reflecting a strong likelihood that Burns was in favor of political reform in the late 1700s. Even though Burns was talented, he did not have a political vote and worked for the government that oppressed him. The original version might refer to the 1790s revolutionaries. Carruthers says Burns would probably have supported democratic reform in the early 19th century. During a dangerous time for political reformers, a few years after the song “Ye Jacobites By Name” was published in 1793, a famous Scottish political reformer, Thomas Muir, was sentenced to fourteen years for sedition due to speeches he made.

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