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The Burns Encyclopedia
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Lawrie, The Rev Dr George (1727 — 99)

Son of a Kirkmichael minister, George Lawrie was educated at Edinburgh University and ordained at Loudon, near Galston in 1763. He remained there all his life. The following year, he married Mary Campbell, daughter of Archibald Campbell, Professor of Divinity at St Andrews University. Lawrie's eldest daughter, Christina (q.v.) was something of a musician, was something of a musician. Lawrie's son, Archibald, born in 1768, married Dr Adair's sister Anne. In 1791, Glasgow University gave Lawrie a Doctorate of Divinity.

Lawrie occupies a place of importance in the Burns story because in 1786, impressed with the worth of the poems in the Kilmarnock Edition, he sent a copy to Dr Blacklock, then a figure of some influence in polite Edinburgh's quasiliterarry society. On 4th September, Blacklock wrote enthusiastically to Lawrie, and expressed high praise for Burns's work. Lawrie showed Blacklock's letter to Gavin Hamilton, who in turn showed it to Burns. In the Autobiographical Letter to Dr Moore, Burns said: 'I had taken the last farewel of my friends; my chest was on the road to Greenock; I had composed my last song I should ever measure in Caledonia, "The gloomy night is gathering fast", when a letter from Dr Blacklock to a friend of mine overthrew all my schemes by rousing my poetic ambition.'

There were probably deeper reasons why Burns finally decided that he need not flee the country, but the importance of Lawrie's interest in promoting the poet's reputation should not be minimised.

Burns was 2 weeks in Edinburgh before he visited Blacklock, by whose encouragement he set so much store. The blind old man wrote to Lawrie: 'By the by, I hear that Mr Burns is, and has been some time, in Edinburgh. The news I am sorry to have heard at second hand; they would have come much more welcome from the bard's own mouth.' Lawrie then wrote to Burns, who visited Blacklock, and after some delay, reported on 5th February 1787: 'In Dr Blacklock, whom I see very often, I have found what I would have expected in our friend, a clear head and an excellent heart.'

Lawrie apparently gave Burns some words of advice when taking him to task for his tardiness in calling on Blacklock; for in his reply, the poet makes plain the fact that even in the middle of 'hurried life and distracted attention', his peasant common sense did not desert him.

'I thank you, Sir, with all my soul for your friendly hints; though I do not need them so much as my friends are apt to imagine. You are dazzled with newspaper accounts and distant reports, but in reality I have no great temptation to be intoxicated with the cup of Prosperity. Novelty may attract the attention of mankind a while; to it I owe my present eclat: but I see the time not distant far when the popular tide which has borne me to a height of which I am perhaps unworthy shall recede with silent celerity and leave me a barren waste of sand, to descend at my leisure to my former station. I do not say this in the affectation of modest; I see the consequence is unavoidable, and am prepared for it.'

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Complete Burns Songs

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