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The Burns Encyclopedia
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Tytler, Alexander Fraser (1747-1813)

Eldest son of Williaim Tytler of Woodhouselee. He was educated at Edinburgh High School and Edinburgh University, where he studied law. He was called to the bar in 1770. He became Joint Professor of Universal History in his Alma Mater with John Pringle, and six years later, sole Professor. Like his father, he was very interested in Burns's work, and when 'Tam o' Shanter' appeared in the Edinburgh Magazine, and in Grose's Antiquities, he wrote to the poet offering him several suggestions, including that of removing the lines beginning, 'Three lawyers' tongues turn'd inside out', which Burns agreed to do.

Tytler also gave Burns some excellent advice. 'Go on,' he urged, 'write more tales in the same style — you will eclipse Prior and La Fontaine; for with equal wit, equal power of numbers and equal naivete of expression, you have a bolder and more vigorous imagination.'

Burns replied from Ellisland in April 1791, the first letter he had written since he broke his right arm in a fall from his horse:

'Your approbation, Sir, has given me such additional spirits to persevere in this species of poetic composition, that I am already resolving two or three stories in my fancy. If I can bring these floating ideas to bear any kind of embodied form it will give me an additional opportunity of assuring you much I have the honor to be, and etc.'

Unfortunately, circumstances, and an apparent decline in Burns's capacity for sustained creative effort, prevented these dreams from being realised.

Tytler appears to have corrected the proofs of the two volumes of the Edinburgh Edition of 1793. Burns, thanking him in a letter of 6th December 1792, said: 'I am much indebted to you for taking the trouble of correcting the Presswork', when he sent 'another, and my last, parcel of manuscript'.

Tytler became Judge-Advocate in 1790. Two years later, lie succeeded to his father's estate, and in 1802, became a Lord of Session, with the title of Lord Woodhouselee.

An occasional versifier, he was also the author of several books, among them Decisions of the Court of Session, Elements of German History and The Life of Lord Kames.

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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

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