Captain Robert Riddell (1755–1794), was Laird of Friar's Carse, near Dumfries, Scotland, and a friend of Robert Burns, who made him a collection of his poems which later became famous, and wrote a poem 'Sonnet On The Death Of Robert Riddell' in memory of him when he died.
The Glenriddell Manuscripts were written for Riddell between 1791 and 1793. The poet's friendship with the Riddell family ended suddenly in December 1793 as the result of a mysterious drunken incident at Friar's Carse, the estate owned by Riddell in Nithsdale. Burns asked successfully for the return of the poetry volume which had already been given to Riddell; the second had not been completed.
In a letter, dated May 1794, to Riddell's sister in which Burns requests the return of the poetry volume, he refers to its contents as 'a collection of all my trifles in verse which I had ever written ... some of them puerile and silly ...'. This is somewhat insincere and in reality Burns was highly aware of the value of his poems, but it shows his keenness to have returned to him a volume he knew to contain a great compilation of some of his best work. After Burns's death the two volumes were sent to his biographer, Dr James Currie. In 1913 they were sold to an American collector, John Gribbel of Philadelphia, who gifted them to the Scottish people. They formed one of the first items to be presented to the National Library of Scotland in 1926.
The first obituary of Burns was written by his friend Maria Riddell for the Dumfries Weekly Journal; unfortunately no copy of it is known. She revised her text for inclusion in Currie's edition of 1800, and again revised it for the second edition of 1801. It remains one of the most important assessments of the poet. In addition to his poetry, Mrs. Riddell says, Burns should be remembered for "the charm—the sorcery I would almost call it—of fascinating conversation; the spontaneous eloquence of social argument, or the unstudied poignancy of brilliant repartee."
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