Story of a relationship between Scotland's Robert Burns and 'Clarinda'.

Clarinda Memorial, Canongate Kirkyard, Edinburgh

This evening, I am posting information on a burial in Canongate Kirkyard, Edinburgh which contains just a one word, cryptic, inscription and relationship of person buried therein with Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns.

Clarinda was a pseudonym for Agnes M’Lehose (nee Craig) who lived 1759-1841. The unusual story of the life of Agnes and her relationship with Burns can be summarised as follows:-
  • Born in Glasgow, the daughter of a church minister. By the standards of her day Agnes was cultured and educated. Her uncle was a judge.
  • Against the express wishes of her father, Agnes married a Glasgow law agent, James M’Lehose at age of just seventeen.
  • Agnes bore M’Lehose four children but left him due to his cruelty.
  • Initially, she returned to her father but following his death in 1782 she moved to Edinburgh where she survived on an annuity.
  • On December 4th 1787 she met Robert Burns (now Scotland's national poet) at a social function in Edinburgh. This proved the catalyst of a platonic relationship with Burns which consisted of extensive correspondence and meetings but reached an inconclusive end in 1791. The correspondence between the two included poetry written by Agnes of which Burns expressed appreciation. In their correspondence, Agnes and Burns used the pen names Clarinda and Sylvander respectively. The final parting inspired Burns to write a lyric which begins:
Ae fond kiss and
then we sever;
Ae fareweel,
alas, for ever!

The Edinburgh monument to Robert Burns (below) is located on Regent Road, within sight of the Canongate Kirkyard and the Clarinda burial.

Burns Monument, Edinburgh


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