Robert Fergusson (1750–1774) wis a Scots makar o the 18t century. He is aften thocht o as ane o the best an maist influential Scots poets o aw time.
Table o contents
Biography[edit | edit source]
Early life an eddication[edit | edit source]
Fergusson wis born in Edinburgh on 5t September 1750 tae William an Elizabeth Fergusson at Caip An Feather Close juist aff the Ryal Mile. The Close wis dingit doun in Ferguson's lifetime tae mak wey for the biggin o the Nor' Brig. His paurents haed muived tae the caipital frae Aiberdeen juist twa year afore Robert wis born.
Tho the faimily wisna unco weil aff, they did see the heich vailie o haein their bairns eddicate weel, an at the eild o sieven, Robert jyned a private schuil in Niddry's Wynd (cryed Niddry Street the nou) forenent Caip An Feather Close. The neist year he wis enrowed at the Ryal Hie Schuil. Whan he wes elieven he won a bursary tae lear at the Dundee Grammar Schuil, that haed the condeetion that gin he made guid progress he wad be alloued intil the Varsity o Saunt Andras that he did at the eild o fowerteen. He left in 1768. He niver graduate, tho this wis gey common at the time.
Edinburgh[edit | edit source]
Fergusson gaed back tae Edinburgh 1769 efter wirkin for a wee while at his eme's ferm. Tho he wisna in guid heal whan he cam til the ceety, bi September he haed recovered eneuch tae tak on employ as a copyist in the Commissary Records Office. Nae dout this wisna gey fun for him, a young man o nineteen an o airtistic smeddum - but it gied him siller as weel as allouin eneuch time for writin musardie an an active social life.
Fergusson becam active in the Edinburgh club life o the day - jynin the Cape Club (ither kenspeckle members includit David Herd the sang ingaitherer, the penters Alexander Runciman,Henry Raeburn, Alexander Naysmith an Jacob Moir an ane o Edinburgh's maist kenspeckle veelians Deacon William Brodie) that wis a perfit atmosphere for his musardie that is aften anent the social life o his peers. His pseudonym athin the club wis Sir Precentor.
Daith[edit | edit source]
Syne bairnheid, Fergusson haed dree'd ill-heal (jaloused tae be ane o the heidmaist reasons why he didna gang til the Ryal Hie Schuil till a year efter maist fowk his eild), an it wis aften merkit bi chiels that saw him that he leukit gey pale an frail. Aither in or juist afore the stairt o 1774, it became clear that Fergusson wis dreein some kynd o the depression, his ordinar blytheness wis gane an he semmed tae retreat intil a sort o releegious doul, readin ainlie The Bible an his behaviour becam gey orra. Gaun by Alexander Peterkin in his The Works of Robert Fergusson. To Which is Prefixed a Sketch of the Author's Life (London, 1807) bi March 1774 Fergusson wis:
- "...quite aware that his mind was in disorder, and he anticipated with terror the confinement in a mad-house, which he saw would be unavoidable."
In Juilie, the members o the Cape Club raised a collection o siller for tae help their freend, but maugre o some seemin rallies o his heal, he wis on the hail gettin waur. Later that same month he teuk a faw doun a stair, an furder skaithed his heid. Athin days he wis incarcerate in the Edinburgh Bedlam, Darien Hoose. The traigic, rapid faw frae genius tae madness wis endit bi his daith on the 17t o October 1774. He wis juist twinty-fower.
Yirdin[edit | edit source]
Twa days efter his daith, Fergusson wis yirdit in the Canongate Kirkyaird, in an unmerkit graff. Whan Robert Burns cam tae Edinburgh in 1787, he speired the kirk heid anes gin he could hae a heidstane for Ferugusson erectit, the repone wis aye. The stane is aye there the day, an Fergusson's graff can be seen gin ye gae tae the left-haund side o the kirk. A statue o him staunds ootwi the yett tae the kirkyaird an aw.
Wark[edit | edit source]
Fergusson wrate musardie in baith Scots an Inglis. His Scots wis taen frae the twa-three byleids he'd hae kent frae his paurents (the Doric is uised in Hallow-Fair) an ithers, forby uisin some aulder, mair leeterar terms.
The auldest o his warks that survives is Elegy, on the Death of Mr. David Gregory that he wrate whan he wis juist fowerteen. It is a gallus wark in fluent Scots that gies a guid hint o the genuis that wis tae flowe frae his pen in later years. In baith Scots an Inglis Fergusson wis a fluent, confident makar that coud write wi uneffectit aise anent a braid reenge o subjects - frae satires on fowk's preoccupation wi haen guid, fashionable claes (Braid Claith) tae descrievin scenes o ilkaday life (Hallow-fair, for exemplar) tae his great, unfeenisht epic anent Edinburgh life, Auld Reekie - his maist kenspeckle poem. He coud be bitter aboot Edinburgh an life in general, but his wark shaws a deep luve for the ceety an ceety life an aw.
Juist ower thirty o his Scots poems survives, as weel as twa-three in Inglis. His Inglis poems is aften seen tae be guid (On Night aiblins is the best ensample o his Inglis wark), but it is the virr an smeddum o his Scots musardie that is best kent an luved the day.
Legacy[edit | edit source]
Fergusson's maist obvious influence wis on Robert Burns, that threapit tae be duin wi musardie till he cam ower Fergusson's wark, an cried him:
- "...my elder brother in misfortune, by far my elder brother in the Muse."
Tho Allan Ramsay cam afore Fergusson as a Scots veracular makar (atweel, in To Mr. Robert Fergusson bi "J.S" the quaisten is speired "Is Allan risen frae the deid...to grace the thistle?"), it wis Fergusson that gied Burns mair tift, an sae airgiably haed the greater influence o the twa ower aw. Later on Robert Loius Stevenson, anither kenspecke Edinburgh scriever, wis a muckle fan o Fergusson's an aw an wis influenced bi his wark.
The ither heidmaist influence he haed wis in makkin the "Habbie Stanza" form acceptable for nane-comic warks, kiverin a braid reenge o subjects, tho no tae the exclusion o comic verse.
The traigedy o his daith at Fergusson's daith at juist twinty-fower year auld haes aye left the quaisten beggin o whit he coud hae achieved haed he leeved langer. Beirin in mynd that Burns himsel juist wan on til thritty-sieven, some fowk haes jaloused that gin he haed leeved e'en juist til thritty than Scotland micht hae haed twa "Naitional Makars" an merkit "Fergusson Nicht" on his anniversary.
Robert Fergusson is merkit in Makar's Court in Edinburgh wi a quote frae the first line o Auld Reekie:
- Auld Reekie, wale o ilka Town."
Sources[edit | edit source]
- Robert Fergusson: Selected Poems - Edited and Introduced by James Robertson (2007 edeetion)
- Scottish Poetry: A Critical Survey - Edited by James Kinsley , 1955. Chaiper uised bi David Daiches
See awso[edit | edit source]
Fremmit airtins[edit | edit source]
- Robert Fergusson Society
- Varsity o Saunt Andras wabstaid anent Fergusson, includin the fou text o aw his warks
- A pentin o Fergusson bi an unkent airtist, Scottish National Gallery