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The Burns Encyclopedia
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Beugo, John (1759-1841)

Beugo was born in Edinburgh and in due course apprenticed to an engraver. Eventually he set up in business for himself. He met Burns when Creech employed him to engrave the Nasmyth portrait for the Second Edition of Burns's Poems (known as the First Edinburgh Edition). Like Nasmyth, he made no charge for his share of the work.

Writing to Ballantine on 24th February 1787, Burns tells him: 'I am getting my phiz done, by an eminent engraver, and if it can be ready in time, I will appear in my book, looking like all other fools, to my title page.' Burns sent several copies of this engraving to his friends as gifts.

Probably as a result of additional sittings he gave, he became friendly with Beugo, who seems to have been a widely-read man, and who even tried his engraver's hand occasionally at verse writing. He and Burns together studied French with a well known Edinburgh French teach M. Louis Cauvin. An amusing not to Beugo from Burns written probably in December 1787, but simply dated 'St James's Square, Tuesday even.' Says: 'A certain sour-faced old acquaintance called Glauber's salts, hinders me from my lesson tonight. Tomorrow night I will not fail.'

The warmest letter to Beugo was written at Ellisland on 9th September 1788. It contains Burns's praise of Alexander Ross's 'The Fortunate Shepherdess' and gives Beugo some advice should he be intending to get married: 'Depend upon it, if you do not make some damned foolish choice, it will be a very great improvement on the Dish of Life.'

Beugo himself published a book of verse, Poetry, Miscellaneous and Dramatic, by an Artist in 1797. Most of the contents are in frigid Augustan English couplets, although his poem 'Esk Water' has felicitous touches:

"To him alone, who with industrious aim,
Pursues an useful art, and honest fame;
To him who seeks his fellow's wants to know,
Who feels a brother's bliss, a brother's woe;
To him alone does nature bounteous reign
And smile eternal o'er the wide champaign;
And thus in grotto, as in green abode,
To relish nature is to walk with God."

Later, he was Secretary to the first exhibition of paintings held in Sir Henry Raeburn's rooms in York Place, Edinburgh. Beugo became the leading Scottish engraver of the day, his work including not only several of Raeburn's most famous paintings, but notes for both the Commercial and the British Linen Banks.

He married Elizabeth McDowall of Edinburgh, by whom he had a daughter. Four portraits of Beugo have come down to us, three of which are in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. He was buried in Greyfriar's Churchyard.

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Complete Burns Songs

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