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The Burns Encyclopedia
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Cunningham, Lady Elizabeth 'Betty' (d. 1804)

The younger sister of James, Earl of Glencairn. She lived with her mother, the Dowager Countess at Coates House, near Edinburgh. She never married.

It was to Lady Cunningham that Burns wrote from Ellisland on 22nd January 1789, indicating his poetic plans. After describing his situation — the prospects of farming with his Excise Commission in reserve — Burns went on: 'I muse and rhyme, morning, noon and night; and have a hundred different Poetic plans, pastoral, georgic, dramatic, and etc.., floating in the regions of fancy somewhere between Purpose and resolve.' Many of them, particularly the 'dramatci', were, alas, doomed to remain there.

It was to Lady Cunningham that Burns first sent a copy of his 'Lament for James, Earl of Glencairn', on her brother's death. In the accompanying letter, undated, he wrote: 'If, among my children, I shall have a son that has a hear, he shall hand it down to his child as a family honor, and a family debt, that my dearest existence I owe to the noble house of Glencairn.'

When the 1793 edition of his Poems appeared, Burns sent a copy to Lady Cunningham with this note: 'But for the generous patronage of the late James, Earl of Glencairn to the Author, these volumes had never been. In memory of the obligations he conferred on me; and in gratitude to your Ladyship for your goodness, do me the honor to accept these volumes.'

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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

ScotwebThe finest Scottish shopping site in the world, with the world's largest choice of kilts and tartans, exclusive jewelry, Highland Dress, Bagpipes and piping supplies, cashmere, and much more. Buying from these sites helps pay for the upkeep of Burns Country! Click here...