Scotsman Archive

LORD WAVELL ON BURNS 26 January, 1950

"TO PUT Burns in a university would be rather like putting a nightingale in a cage of canaries," said Lord Wavell last night in his valedictory address as hon president of the Associated Societies of the University of Edinburgh. They had just finished debating the motion "That Burns would have benefited from a university education". The motion was carried by 84 votes to 48. Lord Wavell stated that in spite of the eloquence of the mover he would have voted with the minority. Lord Wavell, who held the view that English poetry was suffering from over-education, said that Burns was a simple, natural poet, and if he had gone to a university they might have lost a great deal. It was possible they might not. He went on to say that he had suspected that the younger generation – even in Scotland – did not read much Burns. "If not, I wonder what they do when they fall in love."

His love songs had hardly ever been equalled in poetry, and he thought they might have lost some of these if he had gone to a university.

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