Robert Burns Snuff-Box

Robert Burns was never happier than when he could could "pass the winter evening under some venerable roof and smoke a pipe of tobacco or drink water gruel." He also took it in snuff. Mr. Bacon, who kept a celebrated posting house north of Dumfries, was his almost inseparable associate. Many a merry night did they spend together over their cups of foaming ale or bowls of whisky toddy, and on some of those occasions Burns composed some of his best convivial songs. The bard and the innkeeper became so attached to each other that, as a token of regard, Burns gave Bacon his snuff box, which for many years had been his pocket companion.

The knowledge of this gift was confined to a few of their jovial brethren. But after Bacon's death, in 1825, when his household furniture was sold by public auction, this snuff-box was offered among other trifles, and someone in the crowd at once bid a shilling for it. There was a general exclamation that it was not worth twopence, and the auctioneer seemed about to knock it down. He first looked, however, at the lid and then read in a tremendous voice the following inscription upon it: "Robert Burns, officer of the Excise." Scarcely had he uttered the words, says one who was present at the sale, before shilling after shilling was rapidly and confusedly offered for this relic of Scotlands great bard, the greatest anxiety prevailing; while the biddings rose higher and higher, till the trifle was finally knocked down for five pounds. The box was made of the tip of a horn, neatly round at the point; it's lid is plainly mounted with silver, on which the inscription is engraved.


alan walker said...

I own this box. The inscription is actually
Rob't Burns of the Excise.

It comes with a letter from Jean Burns (widow)confirmimg it was passed to Mr Bacon
Alan walker

Evan Gunn said...

Sorry, I only just discovered your comment now. That is cool. Where I can I find good pictures of it? I can only find one of a guy holding it but you cannot see the top. If you get this message please send me a link; it would be much appreciated.