This is one of two drapery studies for the poet Robert Burns (1759-1796) in Brown's discarded triptych 'The Seeds and Fruits of English Poetry.' Brown did not complete the wings of the triptych but made the central panel into 'Chaucer at the Court of Edward III' (1851, oil on canvas, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney). A small oil study, now at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, gives a good idea of the original triptych composition.
Burns was one of the poets on the right wing. He holds a scroll and pen and wears a tartan sash which Brown has left room for at the top of this drawing. Brown writes about drawing the drapery for Burns in his diary. On 9 September he wrote, 'bought some plaid draperies … set about aranging the draperies for Robert Burns in the Lay figure-sweated over it till dark but got it to do at last.' On 14 September he notes 'finished the plaid and began drawing for the robe of R.B. [Robert Burns]' which he finished the following afternoon.