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The Real Robert Burns by J. L. Hughes

He loved four women Alison Begbie


Thus

ends the record of his real loves, notwithstanding the outrageous misstatements that his loves extended, according to one writer, to nearly four hundred. He had just four deep and serious loves, not counting the two deep and transforming affections of his adolescent period for Nellie Kirkpatrick and Peggy Thomson. He loved four women: Alison Begbie, Jean Armour, Mary Campbell, and Mrs M'Lehose. At the age of twenty-one he loved Alison Begbie, and, when twenty-two, he asked her to marry him. She declined his proposal. He was too shy to propose to her when he was with her. Get this undoubted fact into your consciousness, and think about it fairly and reasonably, and it will help you to get a truer vision of the real Burns. Read the proposal and his subsequent letter on pages 51-55, and your mind should form juster conceptions of Burns as a lover and as a man. You will find it harder to be misled by the foolish or the malicious misrepresentations that have too long passed as facts concerning him as a lover.

From twenty-two to twenty-five he had no lover; then he loved and married Jean Armour. No act of his prevented that marriage-contract remaining in force. When her father forced the destruction of the contract, and much against his will, and in defiance of the love of his heart, he found that he had lost his wife beyond any reasonable hope of reconciliation and reunion, and was therefore free to love another, he loved Mary Campbell, and honourably

proposed marriage to her. She accepted his offer, but died soon after. He was untrue to no one when he took Clarinda into his heart. Of course he could not ask her to marry him, as she was already married.

The first three women he loved after he reached the age of twenty-one years were Alison Begbie, Jean Armour, and Mary Campbell. The first refused his offer; he married the second, and was forced into freedom by her father; the third accepted his offer of marriage, but died before they could be married. The fourth woman whom he loved loved him, but could not marry him, a fact recognised by both of them. There is not a shadow of evidence of inconstancy or unfaithfulness on his part in the eight years during which he loved the four women--the only four he did love after he became a man.

It may be answered that Burns was not loyal to Jean Armour because he loved Mary Campbell and Clarinda after he was married to Jean. Burns absolutely believed that his marriage to Jean was annulled by the burning of the marriage certificate. He would not have pledged matrimony with Mary Campbell if he had known that Jean was still his wife. When Mary died, and he found Jean's father was willing that he might again marry Jean, he did marry her in Gavin Hamilton's home. In writing to Clarinda he forgot himself for a moment and spoke disrespectfully of Jean, but his prompt and honourable action in marrying her soon after showed him to be a true man.


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