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The Burns Encyclopedia
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Little, Janet (1759 — 1813)

Daughter of George Little, of Nether Bogside, Ecclefechan, Dumfriesshire. The Scottish Milkmaid poet, in whose work Mrs Dunlop tried to interest Burns.

In December 1792, Burns spent four days at Dunlop House, when apparently Janet Little's poems, published in 1792, were discussed. 10 weeks later, Mrs Dunlop wrote reproving Burns for things he had said during the visit, some of them concerning the Milkmaid: 'Methinks I hear you ask me with an air that made me feel as I had got a slap in the face, if you must read all the few lines I had pointed out to your notice in poor Jenny's book. How did I upbraid my own conceited folly at that instant that had ever subjected one of mine to so haughty an imperious critic! I never liked so little in my life as at that moment the man whom at all others I delighted to honour... I then felt for Mrs Richmond (Jenny Little), for you, and for myself, and not one of the sensations were such as I would wish to cherish in remembrance.'

Janet herself wrote to Burns, but it is not known if he ever replied to her 'part poetic and part prosaic' letter. At that time, she was in charge of the dairy at Loudon Castle, where Mrs Dunlop's daughter, Mrs Henri lived.

Later Janet Little visited Ellisland in hopes of seeing the poet, but failed in her endeavour, as he was in bed with a broken arm.

She recorded in verse her disappointment in a piece beginning:

"Is't true? or does some magic spell
My wondering eyes beguile?
Is this the place where deigns to dwell
The honour of our isle?
"The charming Burns, the Muse's care,
Of all her sons the pride.
This pleasure oft I've sought to share,
But been of it denied."

She was married to a labourer at Loudon Castle, John Richmond, a widower with 5 children and 20 years older than Janet.

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Complete Burns Songs

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