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The Burns Encyclopedia
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Muir, Robert (1758-88)

A Kilmarnock wine merchant, whom Burns met in 1786 and apparently found a congenial companion. Muir was one of the first whom Burns informed of the

birth of Jean Armour's first twins. Writing to Muir from Mossgiel on 8th September 1786, Burns said: 'You will have heard that poor Armour has repaid my amorous mortgages double. A very fine boy and girl have awakened a thousand feelings that thrill, some with tender pleasure, and some with foreboding anguish, thro' my soul.'

Muir subscribed for seventy-two copies of the Kilmarnock Edition, and for forty of the first Edinburgh Edition.

Burns kept him informed about the people he was meeting in the Capital, and

also sent him a kind of letter journal during the Highland tour of 1787.

Though Muir's health was never strong, he appears to have been extremely industrious, clearing the debt with which the estate of Loanfoot was encumbered when he inherited it from his father. On 7th March 1788, Burns wrote hoping that: 'the Spring will renew your shattered frame and make your friends happy'. But less than two months later, on 22nd April 1788, Muir died of consumption.

In the curious 'conscience' letter about Highland Mary which Burns wrote to Mrs Dunlop on 13th December 1789, the poet listed Muir as one of those he hoped to meet, if 'there is a world to come... Muir, thy weaknesses were the aberration of Human-nature, but thy heart glowed with everything generous, manly and noble; and if ever emanation from the All-good Being animated a human form it was thine'.

In the same letter, he transcribed for Mrs Dunlop, his rather banal 'Epitaph on R. Muir':

"What Man could esteem, or what
Woman could love,
Was He who lies under this sod:
If Such Thou refusest admittance above,
Then whom wilt thou favor, Good God!"

It was to Muir, in the last letter he wrote him, dated 7th March 1788, that Burns recorded what was probably his frankest statement of his religious beliefs: 'If we lie down in the grave, the whole nun a piece of broke machinery, to moulder with the clods of the valley — be it so; at least there is an end of pain, care, woes and wants: if that part of us called Mind, does survive the apparent destruction of the man - away with old-wife prejudices and tales! Every age and every nation has had a different set of stories; and as the many are always weak, of consequence they have often, perhaps always been deceived: a man, conscious of having acted an honest part among his fellow creatures; even granting that he may have been the sport, at times of passions and instincts; he goes to a great unknown Being who could have no other end in giving him existence but to make him happy; who gave him those passions and instincts, and well knows their force.'

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Complete Burns Songs

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