Lodge Canongate Kilwinning No 2

Alexander Nasmyth 1758-1840

Limner

Burns's publisher, Creech, asked Nasmyth to paint a portrait of the poet to illustrate the first Edinburgh Edition, a service which the painter performed gratis. Burns visited Nasmyth frequently at his studio in Wardrop's Court. The portrait was given to John Beugo to engrave. The original by Nasmyth was given to Burns, whose son, Colonel William Nicol Burns, presented it to the Scottish National Gallery, where it now hangs.


Robert Burns and the painter Alexander Nasmyth visited Roslin early one summer's morning in 1787. Nasmyth's son James recounted the story of their visit in his autobiography:  On one occasion my father and a few choice spirits had been spending a nicht wi' Burns. The place of resort was a tavern in the High Street, Edinburgh. As Burns was a brilliant talker, full of spirit and humour, time fled until the 'wee sma' hours ayont the twal'' arrived. The party broke up about three o'clock. At that time of the year the night is very short, and morning comes early. Burns, on reaching the street, looked up to the sky. It was perfectly clear, and the rising sun was beginning to brighten the mural crown of St Giles's Cathedral. Burns was so much struck with the beauty of the morning that he put his hand on my father's arm and said, 'It'll never do to go to bed in such a lovely morning as this! Let's awa' to Roslin Castle.' No sooner said than done. The poet and the painter set out. Nature lay bright and lovely before them in that delicious summer morning. After an eight-miles walk they reached the castle at Roslin. Burns went down under the great Norman arch, where he stood rapt in speechless admiration of the scene. The thought of the eternal renewal of youth and freshness of nature, contrasted with the crumbling decay of man's efforts to perpetuate his work, even when founded upon a rock, as Roslin Castle is, seemed greatly to affect him. My father was so much impressed with the scene that, while Burns was standing under the arch, he took out his pencil and a scrap of paper and made a hasty sketch of the subject. This sketch was highly treasured by my father, in remembrance of what must have been one of the most memorable days of his life.

After a serious night in Edinburgh's taverns, an eight mile walk in the small hours, and a roam around Roslin Glen, Burns and Naysmith sat down to breakfast at the Roslin Inn. They took tea, eggs and some whiskey. Naysmith noted in a letter  that 'the charge was very moderate in our opinion.'