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 : 08-02-1798
Correspondent : James CurrieCorrespondent Location : Liverpool
Recipient : Cadell & Davies Recipient Location : London
Subject : Currie discusses the progress of the subscription list and possible terms of copyright for his edition.

Gentlemen

      Your favour of the 6th is before me. By today’s post I have also recd a letter from Mrs Riddell conveying a message to me from Coll Fullarton by which he consents in the handsomest manner to his name standing as it does in the proposals, & promises a warm co-operation in the business of the subscription. He has also transmitted to me an elegiac poem by Mrs Fullarton on the death of our Bard, to be ↑inserted↓ with other poems with other poems to his memory, in our proposed volume. I beg therefore that whatever names may be used the Colonels may be retained. He knew Burns well & has it in his power to serve his ↑family↓. He represents the bards native County, which is at length [?stirring] in the business of the subscription, and there & throughout Scotland, Fullartons name will be of much use. Probably before this arrives you will have seen the Colonel or Mrs Riddell, & have been informed of his zeal to co-operate with us. Mr Lawrie, by a letter I have from him today, is also willing that his name should remain. The Proposals therefore need not be altered. But you may make such additions in the News-paper advertisements as you see fit to the names already inserted. These points however I give an opinion on only, & submit the decision to yourselves.
      The subscriptions are now nearly 500, but the names are not all come in — you shall have them transmitted to you very soon.
      Respecting my own volume, I am perfectly willing to accede to your proposal, which I understand to be that you will account to me for the copies of the present edition which you have sold; and as the price of the copy-right, that you will give me £60 for the second edition at a given period after its publication, and 60 £ more on the publication of a third, if a[t?] [?last] these should be published. I think the proposal on your part perfectly fair, and it pleases me better than that I made you, because it would be a mortifying thing to me to have recd. £100 from you, if it should turn out in the end that a third edition is not required. I believe McCreery has made arrangements for the next edition, & we will set it as fast as we can – It will be much corrected in typography & some little in other points; and it will be enlarged to the amount probably of ten or twelve pages, besides the index — I understand that you take the expence of this edition on yourselves. I will ↑however↓ take care of your interests in all respects as my own.
      If we understand each other perfectly, you may signify this in a single sentence —
      In regard to your very liberal offer as to the expence of the post-humous volume, Mrs Burns & the executors are disposed to avail themselves of it — I trust that by our co-operation we shall lift this family from the ground, and give the five infant sons a chance in the world, which their poor father never had —
      Mr Roscoe unites with me in best wishes & in very sincere esteem—
      I am Gentlemen
           Your faithful Servant
                JaCurrie —

P.S. If you are not wearied out with such commissions might I request of you to send a Copy of my Book with the Authors respectful Compls. to Dr Blane of the Sick & [?Hurt] Office, and one to Dr Rollo at Woolwich, unless you have already sent one to the last Gentleman – which I am not sure about.


Notes :

Mrs Riddell: Maria Riddell (1772-1808), using the pen name ‘Candidior’ wrote a memoir of Burns’s life for the Dumfries Weekly Journal ofAugust 1796 which she revised for Currie's 1801 Edition.

Coll Fullarton: William Fullarton (1754-1808) who saw military service in India and who was an Ayrshire Member of Parliament. Burns praises him in his poem, ‘The Vision’.

elegiac poem by Mrs Fullarton: not identified.

Mr Lawrie: not identified.

my own volume: James Currie's Reports on the Effects of water in Febrile Disease (1797)

McCreery: John McCreery (1768-1832), a Liverpool Printer.

Mrs Burns: Jean (Armour) Burns (1765-1834), the poet’s widow.

Roscoe: William Roscoe (1753-1831), literary scholar, writer, historian, botanist and politician. A prominent member of the Unitarian community in Liverpool, Roscoe, like Dugald Stewart, was another early candidate for providing the life and edition of Burns prior to its undertaking by Currie.

Dr Blane of the Sick & Hurt Office: Sir Gilbert Blane, Chief of Government Medical Inspectors.

Dr Rollo at Woolwich: Surgeon-General of Ordnance at the Royal Artillery Hospital, Woolwich.

back to search