M Hansen, DJ Smith, G Carruthers
Journal Issue: 
Volume 48: Issue 2: 2018




Robert Burns has long been recognised as someone who experienced episodes of melancholia, but no detailed, systematic and objective assessment of his mental health has been undertaken. We tested a novel methodology, combining psychiatric and literary approaches, to assess the feasibility of using Burns’s extensive personal correspondence as a source of evidence for assessing the presence of symptoms of a clinically significant mood disorder. We con rmed the potential of this approach and identi ed putative evidence of episodes of depression and hypomania within the correspondence. While not conclusive of a formal diagnosis of bipolar disorder, this work highlights a need for further systematic examination of Burns’s mental health and how this may have in uenced his work.