‘My name is Death/But be na’ fley’d.’: Bishop Percy and the Ghosting of Robert Burns in Ireland.

Danni-Lynn Glover, Frank Ferguson

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Recent decades have seen much scholarly exploration of Robert
Burns’s impact on Irish writers, particularly those connected with the province
of Ulster. Less explored is the antagonistic and opportunistic response to
Burns in Ireland by a number of poets, editors and patrons. This article will
chart Thomas Percy, (1729–1811) and his literary circle’s responses in the
Dromore area of County Down, to Burns’s roles as poet, song collector and
literary celebrity. It will argue that Percy and his associates reacted to Burns’s
work and literary afterlife with a two-pronged strategy. First, they sought
to emulate Burns through publishing or providing financial assistance to a
number of texts of poetry and song. Secondly, they sought to establish a
network of patrons and authors who employed literature as a means to portray
a stable and loyal Ireland after the Union of 1800/1. As well as a heavily
revised edition of Percy’s Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (1795), the
group created platforms for a variety of poets including Thomas Stott, Hugh
Porter and Patrick Brontë. This strategy sought to invoke Burns directly as an
influence, but also implicitly to exclude his legacy from shaping the writing
of the circle. This article suggests that the strategy was not fully successful.
Despite the generally good reception of Percy’s fourth edition of the Reliques,
the other authors in the circle did not always receive praise for their work,
and writers like Stott were criticised for their weak, sycophantic verse It will
claim that for some of this circle, such as Hugh Porter, Burns’s influence
played a major role in shaping the promotion of their writing careers.
However, for many, there was an attempt to manage the trajectory of the
writer’s work and career that minimised the agency and reach of the author.
Ultimately, notwithstanding the attempts to quell and minimise Robert Burns’s
impact in County Down, his inspiration remained powerful and difficult to
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-203
Number of pages17
JournalBurns Chronicle
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Sept 2023


  • Ulster-Scots
  • Antiquarianism
  • Bard
  • Minstrel
  • Patronage
  • Ireland
  • Artefact
  • Booktrade


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