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The Burns Encyclopedia
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Craik, Helen (1750? — 1825)

The spinster daughter of the head of the family of Craik of Arbigland in Kirkbean parish, about twelve miles south of Dumfries. Burns may have been introduced to her by Captain Riddell or by Captain Hamilton. At any rate, he paid a visit to Arbigland. A versifier herself, Helen Craik was deeply steeped in Werther, and other sentimental favourites of the day. She was the authoress of the lines written in a hand other than Burns's, on the title page of the Glenriddell Manuscript of his poems. She published five anonymous novels between 1796 and 1805.

Two of Burns's letters to Miss Craik have survived. The first, dated 9th August 1790, and written from Ellisland, accompanied manuscript copies of two of Burns's 'late Pieces' and is of importance because, having thanked her for the loan of a book, Burns then goes on to give his views on the poet's dilemma: 'It is often a reverie of mine, when I am disposed to be melancholy, the characters and fates of the Rhyming tribe. There is not among all the Martyrologies that ever were penned, so rueful a narrative as Johnson's Lives of the Poets. In the comparative view of Wretches, the criterion is not, what they are doomed to suffer, but how they are formed to bear, Take a being of our kind; give him a stronger imagination and more delicate sensibility, which will ever between them engender a more ungovernable set of Passions, than the usual lot of man: some implant in him an irresistable impulse to some idle vagary, such as, arranging wild flowers in fantastical nosegays, tracing the grasshopper to his haunt by his chirping song, watching the frisks of the little minnows in the sunny pool, or hunting after the intrigues of wanton butterflies — in short, send him adrift after some wayward pursuit which shall eternally mislead him from the paths of Lucre; yet, curse him with a keener relish than any man living for the pleasures that only Lucre can bestow; lastly, fill up the measure of his woes by bestowing on him a spurning sense of his own dignity; and you have created a wight nearly as miserable as a Poet.'

Miss Craik died at Flimby Lodge, Cumberland.

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Complete Burns Songs

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Burns Chess Sets

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