Page last updated at 10:17 GMT, Monday, 25 January 2010

Rare Burns' widow letter unveiled

image of a letter by Robert Burns widow, Jean Armour

A letter written by the widow of Robert Burns in the years following his death is set to be handed over to the National Library of Scotland.

Dated 1804, Jean Armour writes about the death of two of her children and how she remains in the home she shared with the poet before his death in 1796.

The page was discovered in a New York junk shop last year.

It is thought the letter was intended for Maria Riddell, a woman from a local landed family, who lived in Dumfries.

It was found by American scholar Dr Nancy Groce who by coincidence had recently produced a symposium on Robert Burns at the Library of Congress.

She paid $75 for the letter, one of the few written by Jean Armour.

In the letter, the poet's wife begins by thanking "Madam" for her "kind inquiry after my famaly [sic] and that you wished to know what was become of Mr Burns children".

She also writes about the death of her sons Francis Wallace, who is thought to have died in his early teens, and Maxwell Burns, who died two years after Burns.

Speaking ahead of the hand-over, Dr Groce said: "I am delighted that this significant letter will be going to a good home.

"I hope its availability will increase public awareness of Jean Armour Burns, a remarkable and frequently underappreciated woman whose understanding and support assisted Robert Burns to pursue his art."

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