Burns had farming and personal difficulties. Mossgiel was not profitable, and his willingness to marry Jean Armour, who was pregnant by him, was opposed by her father. The only way out, it seemed, was to emigrate.
His plans to sail for Jamaica were well advanced when events took an unexpected turn. He had been advised by Gavin Hamilton — a local lawyer — to finance the voyage by publishing some of his poems, but the success of that volume — the 'Kilmarnock edition' — caused him to reconsider his plans to emigrate.
Printed by John Wilson of Kilmarnock in July 1786, Burns's 'Poems, chiefly in the Scottish dialect' cost three shillings and the entire print-run of 612 copies sold out within a month, justifying his belief in his abilities and in the merit of his poems.
Jean Armour (by John Alexander Gilfillan), whom Burns married in spring
1788. (By permission of the National Galleries of Scotland)
Dr Thomas Blacklock by William Bonnar. (By permission
of the National Galleries of Scotland) It was his praise of the Kilmarnock
edition which made Burns think again about emigrating. Blacklock later
introduced Burns to many of his Edinburgh friends.
The Kilmarnock edition.