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The Burns Encyclopedia
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Kennedy, John (1757 — 1812)

A kinsman of Mrs Gavin Hamilton, he was factor to the Earl of Dumfries at Dumfries House, near Cumnock, when Burns met him in 1786. Later, he became the Earl of Breadalbane's factor. After holding this post for 18 years, he retired to Edinburgh. He is buried in the old Carlton burial ground. He was for a time a close friend of the poet, who sent him copies of several of his poems. He probably got the first glimpse of 'The Gowan', as 'To a Mountain Daisy' was originally called. On 3rd March 1786, Burns, in answer to Kennedy's request, seems to have sent it to him along with 'the Cotter's Saturday Night', and accompanied it with the lines 'To John Kennedy'. Of the 'Cottager', as Burns called it, the poet said in his covering note: 'If you have a leisure minute I should be glad if you would copy it and return me either the original or the transcript, as I have not a copy of it by me, and I have a friend who wishes to see it'. The enclosed lines 'to John Kennedy' invited the recipient to have a drink with the poet at Dow's, should he ever come in 'by Mauchline Corse' (so called from the cross, or corse that stood there):
"Now if ye're ane o' warl's folk, [a worldly person
Who rate the wearer by the cloak,
An 'sklent on poverty their joke
Wi' bitter sneerm
Wi' you nae friendship I will troke,
Nor cheap nor dear.
But if, as I'm informed weel,
Ye hate as ill's the vera deil
The flinty heart, that canna feel-
Come, Sir, here's to you!
Hae there's my haun, I wish you weel,
An' gude be wi' you."

The following month, Kennedy wrote asking for subscription papers for the Kilmarnock Edition, and in sending them, Burns said of 'The gowan': 'I m a good deal pleased with some sentiments myself, as they are just the native querulous feelings of a heart, which, as the elegantly melting Gray says, 'melancholy has marked for her own'. A copy of the wholly successsful 'To a Mouse', later critics have considered that it is just this contrived 'elegantly meltin' Augustan element which makes 'To a Mountain Daisy' comparatively unsuccessful.

When Burns was on the point of going to Greenock to join the Nancy for Jamaica, he wrote a farewell note to Kennedy, dated August 1786, from Kilmarnock. It finishes with the stanza:

"Farewell, dear Friend! May gude luck hit you
And 'mong her favourites admit you!
If e'er Detraction shore to smit you,
May name believe him!
And any deil that thinks to get you,
Good Lord, deceive him"

Kennedy may have been the 'Factor John' in 'The Kirk's Alarm', though either John M'Murdo, or John Tennant of Glenconner, may have been meant.

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