Keats’s encounters with the legacy of Robert Burns continue as he moves through “the Bardies Country.” He begins this letter to Reynolds by first holding back on the detailed descriptions he’s become accustomed to giving his other correspondents, and of which he ‘s grown tired of writing. Instead he gives the beginning of the journey in the manner of the “Laputan printing press”: a bunch of words stitched together, and now Reynolds has their “journey thus far”!
The main focus of today’s letter is the visit to Burns’s cottage, a visit which is not exactly what Keats had in mind, it seems. As Daniel Cook writes in response to the letter, even though Keats wasn’t pleased with the sonnet he wrote while at the cottage, he was nonetheless significantly affected by his travels through Scotland, and his time spent contemplating one of his poetic idols. So with that we’ll turn it over to Daniel Cook, who goes into much more detail about Keats, Burns, and “the Bardies Country.”
The letter, as with most letters to Reynolds, exists only via a Richard Woodhouse transcript, which you can view in the images below (courtesy of Harvard’s Houghton Library). A print version of the letter can be found here, in Forman’s 1895 edition.