The Poetical Works of Janet Little, the Scotch MilkmaidLITTLE, Janet
Air [Ayr]: Printed by John and Peter Wilson. 1792.
First Edition. 8vo. (228x140mm). pp 207 [i]. Pages 25-28 are repeated in the pagination. List of Subscribers. Marbled endpapers. In inscription on verso of front free endpaper. Nineteenth-century half red morocco, raised bands, marbled boards, spine decorated and lettered in gilt, top edge gilt.
Janet Little acquired a reputation as a “rustic poetess”. She sought work from Mrs Frances Dunlop, the friend and correspondent of Robert Burns. Mrs Dunlop suggested her daughter, who had recently married and was renting Loudoun Castle, might employ her. She was eventually put in charge of the dairy at Loudoun, from where she wrote to Burns on 12th July 1789, enclosing a poem address to him and hoping for his “favour and friendship”. Mrs Dunlop also wrote on her behalf to Burns on the following day: “Her outside promises nothing: her mind only bursts forth on paper”. Burns was at first cautious, but later advised Mrs Dunlop about the publication of Janet’s poems, and helped with the accompanying subscription. Another poet praised by Mrs Dunlop for his “disinterested, generous conduct” to Janet was Alexander Wilson, the pedlar poet. This volume contains “On a Visit to Mr Burns” and “An Epistle to Mr Robert Burns”. Among the subscribers listed at the beginning of the book is Mr James Boswell of Auchinleck.