Janet Little

Janet Little, later Janet Richmond

(1759 – 15 March 1813)

Known as The Scotch Milkmaid, was a Scottish poet who wrote in the Scots language.


Born in Ecclefechan, Little enjoyed a "common education" and, as an assistant to local clergy, was able to exercise her love of reading and writing. By the 1780s she had gained a reputation as a "rustic poetess". Her employer, Mrs Frances Dunlop,[1] recommended her poetry to Robert Burns. Burns, who had recently been inundated by a swarm of untalented imitators, was initially wary, but he later assisted Mrs Dunlop in publishing Little's poetry. James Paterson who wrote a short biography of her in 1840 describes her as "a very tall masculine woman, with dark hair, and features somewhat coarse".[2]


Little's most notable patron, apart from Burns and Mrs Dunlop, was James Boswell. Some time in the early 1790s, Little married John Richmond (died 1819), a widower more than eighteen years her senior. She continued to write until her death in 1813 of "a cramp in the stomach".


Selected poems


  • 'On a Visit to Mr. Burns' (1791)
  • 'An Epistle to a Lady'
  • 'Given to A Lady Who Asked me to Write a Poem' (1792)
  • 'On Halloween' (1792)
  • 'To My Aunty'
  • 'Upon a Young Lady's Breaking a Looking Glass'