THE “outing” of Scotland’s National Bard as a “sex pest” has split academics, with a biographer saying it was right to say “he had his Harvey Weinstein moments”.

The debate was sparked by poet Liz Lochhead’s claim the wordsmith was the Harvey Weinstein of his day and had boasted in a letter of raping his pregnant girlfriend on a horse manure-strewn floor.

Weinstein, the disgraced movie mogul, has been accused of sexual misconduct by scores of women. He has denied “non- consensual sexual conduct”.

Burns’ writing has now been described as “Weinsteinian” after the letter written by the Bard emerged in which he seemed to boast of raping Jean Armour. Ms Lochhead, a former Makar of Scotland, said the “disgraceful sexual boast” has exposed him as a “sex pest” and plans to make the claim when she speaks at a Burns function later this month.

Wilson Ogilvie, a past president of the Burns Federation, said Ms Lochhead is wrong in her comparison but Burns biographer Robert Crawford has supported her assertion.

He said: “I quote that Burns letter at length in The Bard, my 2009 biography of Burns, and point out that when Burns writes, ‘I have f****d her until she rejoiced’, and then goes on to offer an over-the-top paean to the penis, what he presents in his recent lovemaking to the heavily pregnant Jean as exclamations of pleasure may well have been cries of pain."  

Just days later she gave birth to twins.

"It’s no accident that Burns (who was also continuing his relationship with Clarinda at the time) would be recalled by some as a ‘rake’," he said.


“Liz Lochhead is surely right in saying Burns had his Weinstein moments: his praise of the ‘pintle’ in that same 1788 letter is at one with the poem Nine Inch Will Please A Lady.

“These are calculated rhetorical performances by an 18th century buck showing off for the supposed benefit of his male cronies at the same time as rejoicing in his own male power, and modern feminists are right to subject them to sceptical scrutiny.”

But Dr Gerard Carruthers, of the Robert Burns Centre at Glasgow University, said there is “no good evidence” Burns was a rapist or even a sex-pest.

He said: “We’re now refracting everything through our 21st century presentism, essentially judging history by the ephemeral journalistic stories of today. Please can we show respect both to history and to the real victims of appalling, verifiable sexual assaults?”

The Burns' letter, written in 1788 to his girlfriend and future wife brags of jumping on a “forlorn, destitute and friendless” Jean Armour  and giving her a “thundering scalade [military assault] that electrified the very marrow of her bones" on a floor covered in horse-manure when she was pregnant with his twins.

It says: "I have taken her a room.  I have taken her to my arms. I have given her a mahogany bed. I have given her a guinea, and I have f****d her till she rejoiced with joy unspeakable and full of glory.

"But, as I always am on every occasion, I have been prudent and cautious to an astonishing degree.  I swore her privately and solemnly never to attempt any claim on me as a husband, even though anybody should persuade her she had such a claim (which she had not), neither during my life nor after my death."

Lochhead, said: “The disgraceful sexual boast . . . seemed very like a rape of his heavily pregnant girlfriend.

“It’s very, very Weinsteinian . . . [Burns] was a genuine romantic, easily flamed to passionate love. He was a sex pest as well I think. Does that mean he isn’t worth reading? It’s not really relevant.”