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The Burns Encyclopedia
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Burnett, James, Lord Monboddo (1714-99)

James Burnett was educated at Marischal College, Aberdeen, Edinburgh University and the University of Groningen. He studied, first, Greek philosophy and later law. He was admitted to the Scottish Bar in 1737. Thirty years later, he became a Lord of Session, taking this title from his father's estate, Monboddo, in Kincardineshire. He was a considerable scholar, though also a notable eccentric. His book The Origin and Progress of Language demonstrated how mankind had come to shed their primeval tails, and thus anticipated in conclusion, if not in argument, Darwin's evolutionary theories. Another aspect of Monboddo's learning was reflected in his philosophical conspectus, Antient Metaphysics.

His second daughter, Elizabeth Burnett, was a celebrated Edinburgh beauty, whose death from consumption at the age of 25 drew an elegy from Burns.

Burns visited Monboddo's house on several occasions, no doubt enjoying the judge's whimsicalities. One of these relates to his coming out of Court and finding the rain on. He is reported to have put his wig into his sedan chair, and walked home himself in the rain.

At his house in St John Street, Monboddo for many years held 'learned suppers'. These were convened at an early hour, and the cream of the intelligentsia were invited to partake of attic repasts. The table was strewn with roses, after the practice of Horace at his home in the Sabine hills and the wine flasks were garlanded, after the manner of Anacreon'' at the Court of Polycrates of Samos.

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Robert Burns Store

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Complete Burns Songs

linn recordings of burns Linn Records have completed their landmark recording of all 368 Burns songs, available as individual CDs or a 12 volume presentation box set. We have full details. Click here...


Burns Music & Recordings
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Burns Chess Sets

Burns Chess SetsUnique collectors' pieces based on Burns' life and works. (The ideal gift for your Burns Supper guests!) Click here...

Scotweb Store

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