Scotland's national bard worked with the ghostly "figure in the margins" to help him choose his best work for print, according to Glasgow University regius professor Nigel Leask, who is a specialist in Burns's work.
Mr Leask has just finished a major study of all Burns' early prose. He discovered notes in the bard's first commonplace book from 1873 signed with the initials WR.
Mr Leask said: "We don't know who WR was - probably a man but it could have been a woman."
He will discuss his findings at the inaugural World Congress of Scottish Literatures, which launched at Glasgow University yesterday.