Left: James Currie. Right: a portrait of Burns by Archibald Skirving, published in The Works of Robert Burns, by Blackie and Son, Glasgow, 1854.
Date : 09-10-1801
Correspondent : William DaviesCorrespondent Location : London
Recipient : James Currie Recipient Location : Liverpool
Subject : Davies writes to Currie of Hector MacNeil (introduced to one another by Currie) and of Davies’s sending a ‘present’ to Gilbert Burns.
London, Octr 9th, 1801 –

Dear Sir –
      In Consequence of your very obliging Introduction, Mr Macneill explained to me his Intentions respecting his proposed Publication – He is not yet quite decided upon some Particulars, about which, I believe, he means to request your Advice – One of them is, whether or not he shall publish the first and second Volumes without waiting for the Completion of the third – another, whether he shall not affix his Name to the Work, as Editor – He expressed a Wish that somewhat might be understood respecting Terms, to which I replied that, with your kind Mediation, I was satisfied there was little Doubt of that Point being easily arranged – I have read a Part of the Volume of Memoirs he has already published, with very considerable Pleasure –
      On a Reference to our Books, I found that our little Present to Mr Gilbert Burns was sent, in February last, inclosed in a Parcel to Mr Creech – I wrote to Mr Burns, informing him of this, and hope he will now receive the parcel soon – It vexes me not a little that Mr Creech should have suffered it to remain so long unforwarded –
      We are given to understand that in different Towns in Scotland there are, at this Time, no fewer than four or five small Editions of Burns’s Poems preparing for speedy Publication – They surely cannot have the Impudence to include all the Poems, yet perhaps it might be prudent for us to print a cheap, yet neat, Edition of the Poems compleat, with two or three Engravings, in Order to meet these literary Marauders on their own Ground – May I request the Favour of your Advice hereon, and, in the Event of your recommending the Measure, the Arrangement you would have followed –
      Mr Cadell joins in respectful Compliments with, dear Sir,

           Your obliged and very faithful Servant

                William Davies


Notes :

Mr Macneill: Hector Macneill (1746-1818), Scottish poet.

Gilbert Burns: (1760-1827), Robert Burns’s brother.

Creech: William Creech (1745-1815). Tutor to Lord Kilmaurs, later 14th Earl of Glencairn, who probably introduced him to Burns. Friend of Hugh Blair and Dugald Stewart and publisher of Beattie, Campbell, and Mackenzie. Burns wrote, 16 December 1786 to Robert Aiken, ‘I have found in Mr Creech, who is my agent forsooth, and Mr Smellie who is to be my printer, that honor and goodness of heart which I always expect in Mr Aiken’s friends’ (Letters, ed. Roy, I, 72). Enlarged edition of Poems Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect appeared, 17 April 1787, with list of 1,300 subscribers. Burns sold the copyright to Creech, 23 April 1787, for 100 guineas, the sum suggested by Henry Mackenzie.In an unpublished fragment in the Lochryan MS, Burns described Creech as a ‘little, upright, pert, tart, tripping wight’.

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