Robert Burns was born in 1759, the son of a struggling tenant farmer in Ayrshire. Lucky enough to be educated, Burns immersed himself in the literature of Milton and Sterne, discovering the possibilities of contemporary literature in Scots during his twenties. He died in 1796. Carol McGuirk is a Professor of English at Florida Atlantic University. Her publications include Robert Burns and the Sentimental Era and essays on eighteenth-century poetry.