Most of the better known of Robert Tannahill's poems and songs were published in various periodicals whilst he was alive. The songs were printed on engraved sheets, having been set to music by John Ross and R.A. Smith.
APPEARANCE OF HIS SONGS IN PERIODICALS (from "Life" by Semple).
Mr. M‘Laren, in his biography, says of the author: “Such was the extreme modesty of his nature, that though the qualities of his mind had ripened into superior excellence, it was with difficulty that his friends could persuade him to offer any of his early pieces for publication. With doubtful hesitation a copy of his verses was, however, prepared for a periodical work then published in Edinburgh ; (but which cannot be found) but whether from that modesty for which he was conspicuous, or from a dread that his name might swell the list of disgraced correspondents, they appeared under a fictitious character. The fears of the bard were vain. His verses appeared in the first number, accompanied by a flattering compliment to the author, and soliciting a continuance of his correspondence.”
Prepared for the 1875 Edition.
Laing, in his compilation of the Life of the Author, said:— “To the Poetical Magazine, published by Vernor and Hood of London, in 1804-5, and to other respecable periodicals of the day, he also contributed many poetical and lyric pieces.”
Ramsay, in his memoir of the Author, said:—“The fame of the ‘obscure verse-making weaver' (as he styles himself in a letter to a friend) now reached London, and about the year 1805, having been requested to become a contributor to a leading metropolitan magazine, he wrote for it.” (The pieces mentioned by Ramsay will be found in the previous Edition.)
TANNAHILL also contributed to two periodicals published in Glasgow in the year 1805 and 1806 respectively, namely—the Selector, in four volumes, and the Gleaner, in one volume, both edited and published by William Maver, book auctioneer in Glasgow, the latter being a continuation of the former—a gleaning of the selections. These works consisted of extracts from publications of merit, with original essays and poems. TANNAHILL contributed seventeen pieces. The names of Vernor and Hood appeared on the title page as one of the four London publishers.
The next publication to which TANNAHILL contributed was the Paisley Repository, edited by John Miller, bookseller, who commenced business in the early part of the present century in the shop, No. 24 Wellmeadow Street (then called Sandholes), at the north-east corner of Castle Street. The periodical was commenced in 1805, and continued down till 1811. It was very erratic as to the time of publication of the numbers and its series. TANNAHILL contributed eight pieces to this local publication.
He next sent twenty-five songs to the Nightingale or Songster's Magazine,—a choice selection of Scots, Irish, and English Songs,—printed and sold by A. and G. Leslie, Glasgow, 1806.
Two of the pieces, Nos. 113 and 117, which appeared in the Nightingale, also appeared in the Caledonian Musical Repository, a selection of esteemed Scottish songs adapted for the voice, violin, and German flute, published at London in 1806 by R. Crossby & Co. These may have either been contributed by Tannahill himself, or have been copied from the Nightingale.
Tannahill sent one piece to the “Goldfinch or New Modern Songster, being a select collection of the most admired and favourite Scots, English, and Irish songs,” without date or publishers' names. From the appearance of the paper and printing, and the songs inserted, the date was probably 1806 (the Braes of Yarrow being the song sent, a complete list of the songs sent to the different periodicals will be found in the previous edition).