Runciman has painted his friend, a young poet, lost in creative thought. His exaggerated features - huge eyes, full lips - suggest brilliance and intensity. Fergusson's health was frail and there are various different accounts as to what led to his death, aged twenty-four in a public asylum. This includes a head injury, manic-depressive psychosis, syphilis and hypothermia. His most famous poem is ‘Auld Reekie’ (1773), which follows a day in the life of Edinburgh. Much of his work was written in Scots - the language of Lowland Scotland - and was an important inspiration to Robert Burns.