Home to portraits, rare books and personal objects including Burns’ writing desk, the printing press on which Scott’s Waverley Novels were first produced, and the rocking horse he used as a child. We have Robert Louis Stevenson’s riding boots and the ring given to him by a Samoan chief, engraved with the name ‘Tusitala’, meaning ‘teller of tales’. There is also a plaster cast of Robert Burns’ skull, one of only three ever made.
This free museum is easy to locate just off the Lawnmarket, the top part of Edinburgh’s historic Royal Mile, in Lady Stair’s Close.
With a wide range of stories and objects this museum has something for everyone to enjoy, whether young or old, local resident or visitor. You don’t need to have read these writers’ works to enjoy the fascinating life stories told in the Writers’ Museum.
Collection Highlights include:
The Writers’ rich collections include books, manuscripts, portraits and fascinating personal items relating to Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. Highlights include a first edition of Scott’s novel Waverley and Stevenson’s beloved classic, A Child’s Garden of Verses. Manuscripts include Burns’ draft of Scots wha hae (‘Bruce’s Address to his troops at Bannockburn’). There is also the press on which Scott’s Waverley Novels were printed, a chair used by Burns to correct proofs at William Smellie’s printing office, and Stevenson’s wardrobe made by the infamous Deacon Brodie whose double life may have inspired the novel The strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
Robert Burns (1759-1796), is Scotland’s National Bard. He was a poet and lyricist who wrote in both Scottish and English, and remains to this day a Scottish cultural icon and a bedrock of Scotland’s national identity. Among his many compositions are Auld Lange Syne, A Red, Red Rose, Tam O’ Shanter and, of course, Address to a Haggis.
Five years after his death, a group of his devoted friends gathered together to celebrate his life and work. The tradition caught on and came to be celebrated on or around his birthday of January 25. That date, often referred to as Robert Burns Day, has become Scotland’s unofficial National Day. In fact, it’s more widely celebrated in Scotland than the official national observance of St Andrew’s Day.
At the heart of the celebration is the Burn’s Supper or Burns Night—a traditional Scottish dinner typically accompanied by numerous drams of Scotland’s whisky.
The traditional Burns Supper begins with a soup course. This is usually a classic Scottish soup like Scotch broth, potato soup, Cullen skink (a thick Scottish soup made of smoked haddock, potatoes and onions) or cock-a-leekie (a soup dish consisting of leeks and peppered chicken stock).
As is so often the case with old songs, the middle verses bear the greater load of meaningful content (and are also, incidentally, the first forgotten.)
As I returned to my favorite holiday traditions over the last couple weeks, I fell again under the spell of “Auld Lang Syne.” It has always seemed to me a perfect song, with words and melody bound together so tightly as to be inextricable, like soul and body.
“Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And days of auld lang syne?”
The phrase from which the song draws its title, preserved in the lyrics’ original Scots language, is often translated as “long, long ago” or “old long since.” I completely approve of those who left the phrase “auld lang syne” untampered in the modern English version. The wooden translations do violence to the phrase. Even at the phonetic level, the Scots “auld lang syne” seems to carry a vernacular charm, rolling off the tongue like fog from the highlands.
How can we celebrate “picking daisies fine” alongside wearisome wandering, or raise a glass to paddling streams together alongside our estrangement across broad seas?
For anyone who thinks “Auld Lang Syne” was written specifically for the final cathartic minutes of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” however, these translations do provide a helpful entry point for understanding the song’s history and legacy.
Composed by the poet Robert Burns in the second half of the 18th century, the song rapidly gained popularity across the English speaking lands. It eventually took its place among standard New Year’s Eve festivities, encouraging eager party-goers to reflect upon the year coming to a close before celebrating the year to come.