Liz Lochhead claims a letter written by Rabbie Burns in 1788 implies that he raped Jean Armour while she was expecting twins to him and that the National Bard was the Harvey Weinstein of his era.
Lochhead the Makar, Bard of Scotland from 2011 to 2016, was researching Burns’ work for a talk on “Burns and Women” later this month when she read the letter addressed to Bob Ainslie.
Ms Lochead said: “The disgraceful sexual boast to his friend seemed very like rape of his heavily pregnant girlfriend.”
The fitness of Burns to be a role model for modern Scots has been called into question before due to his well-known and frequent sexual exploits.
Ms Lochhead continued: “It’s very Weinsteinian, that little disgraceful letter; it is notorious and I am going to quote it.”
Burns brags in the letter of jumping on his girlfriend, who he would later marry, and assaulting her on a floor strewn with horse manure but Ms Lochhead has stated previously he is “not a role model, he’s a great poet.”
Reacting to Ms Lochhead’s remarks, Wilson Ogilvie, a past president of the Burns Federation trashed her comparison of Burns to Weinstein.
Speaking to the Herald Mr Ogilvie said: “There are huge differences in the worlds they lived in, separated between the 18th and the 21st centuries.
“Burns was not lilly-white in his attitudes towards women. But at that time, I think a number of people right across the whole spectrum of society could have written a letter like that.
“I think Ms Lochhead has gone a bit over the top.”