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Robert Burns and PastoralPoetry and Improvement in Late Eighteenth-Century Scotland$
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Nigel Leask

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199572618

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199572618.001.0001

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Pastoral Politics

Pastoral Politics

(p.115) 4 Pastoral Politics
Robert Burns and Pastoral

Nigel Leask (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter turns to the contentious question of Burns and politics. Eschewing vague speculation about the poet's ‘radicalism’, it focuses on his social and political attitudes as expressed in his published poetry, most of it written prior to the revolutionary decade of the 1790s. Employing the ‘raucle tongue’ and persona of the common rustic, these poems are equally at home addressing social relations and the popular politics of whisky and malt riots in the rural Lowlands, or else satirizing the ‘high politics’ of Westminster and ‘the King's Birthday’ at the Court at St James. The chapter concludes with a consideration of the American and French revolutions and the evolution of Burns's politics in the 1790s.

Keywords:   politics, radicalism, Tom Paine, talking dogs, Scottish Poor Law, moral economy, George III, American revolution, George Washington

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