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668 CHRISTIANITY AND LITERATURE seem only tangentially related to each other, and they do not employ enough of Milton's own language to help support the most important arguments. Donnelly quite smartly tears down reductive binaries about Milton, only to erect similarly reductive binaries, between modern and non-modern, or Protestant and nonProtestant . This treatment of religious history in particular has the unfortunate result of blurring the formative complexities in the debates between Presbyterians (with whom Milton had initially sided), the Independents, and the English Church. This history, in which hermeneutics deeply structure the theological and ideological tensions of these warring parties, deserves to be treated more precisely.Because of this, Donnelly's promising arguments are unable to realize fully their potential. Thomas Fulton Rutgers University The Bard: Robert Burns, A Biography. ByRobert Crawford. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009. ISBN978-0-691-14171-8. Pp. 480. $35.00. Sometimes it's best not to know too much about someone whose work you admire. In March of 1788, a week after the first of his twins by Jean Armour was buried, Robert Burns (1759-96) was having a sexual relationship with Agnes McLehose in Edinburgh. Burns returned to Jean in Mauchline later that month for the burial of the second twin, and in April he writes to say that he had officially married her. Later that year, Agnes' maidservant gave birth to Burns' son, while the poet continued a sycophantic, successful campaign to become an excise officer-a hated tax inspector for the British crown. Shortly thereafter he began writing republican poems (unpublished during his lifetime) in praise of the French Revolution. In this biography of the Scottish poet, Robert Crawford offers this explanation of the latter contradictions: "The more the bard positioned himselfas a figure of regulatory authority, the more rebellious he became" (351). There'sa more economical way to explain all of this: hypocrisy. Throughout this book, we do not see a single example of Robert Burns acting with moral courage when his character was tested. He groveled to obtain and preserve his tax job. He dallied sexually when he thought no one was looking and returned to Jean only when his affair with Agnes became hopeless. He privately played the radical when it was chic then abandoned his principles in public when it became dangerous. Crawford admits that Burns "led something of a double life"in politics and acknowledges the "clashinginconsistencies" in his treatment of women (364,294). These are understatements. Like an athlete whose early success brings out the latent weakness in his character, the triumph of Burns' Kilmarnock volume of poems (1786) clarified and intensified the personal shortcomings of the twentyseven -year-old poet. BOOK REVIEWS 669 Crawford's biography is strongest on the background of Burns' verse. He provides valuable insight into Burns' participation in the eighteenth-century version of global citizenship-Masonry-with its optimistic emphases on fraternity and equality. Crawford skillfullylocates Burns' eighteenth-century literary debts in his familiarity with Pope, Mackenzie, Shenstone, and others, and he gives a good account of the Scottish vernacular poets-Robert Fergusson and Allan Ramsaythat enabled Burns to develop his distinctive voice. For all these strengths, however, the books does not accomplish its primary goals: "to offer a clear manageable account of [Burns'] life which gives some indication of what made him a great poet:' Instead of "over-aestheticising Burns;' Crawford saysthat he intends "to showhis political aswellashis lyricalimagination" (11). The book is hampered by numerous small irritations. It spends too long describing the current state of buildings or landscapes that were familiar to Burns, such as today's Mauchline, whose residents (we learn) are "warm, friendly, proud of their town's place in a history which takes in more than simply Burns" (182). Then, some of Crawford's text is downright weird: he commends Burns for reading Adam Smith's Theory of MoralSentiments, published in 1759,the same year Burns was born: "Few people today have read a work of philosophy published in the year of their birth" (135). True enough. I suppose one could add that few people today have even read a work of philosophy. Why mention it? Crawford's credibility begins to decline...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2056-5666
Print ISSN
0148-3331
Pages
pp. 668-671
Launched on MUSE
2020-02-14
Open Access
No
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