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 : 29-01-1798
Correspondent : James CurrieCorrespondent Location : Liverpool
Recipient : Cadell & Davies Recipient Location : London
Subject : Currie discusses proposed expense and subscription arrangements for the edition.

We have 400 Subscribers for Burns – the names shall be transmitted

Liverpool 29th Jany 1798.
Gentlemen

      In consequence of your letter of the 13th I wrote immediately to Mr Peter Lawrie requesting to know whether he had obtained permission of Mr Heron for the insertion of his name in the proposals, but have never recd any answer. As the press was standing still, and the Subscription in Manchester &ca was kept back by the want of the prospectus, I ventured to insert the name of Coll Fullarton, a personal friend & acquaintance of Burns, and one who has by letter subsequent to his death, expressed in the warmest terms his wishes to serve the family. I took the speediest method of acquainting the Colonel with this freedom; and I trust he will excuse it. But, if he does not, you will have recd. information by Mrs Riddell before this arrives, & will please to follow her directions. The proposals with printed XccX. will reach you on Thursday morning. You will please to furnish Mr Nicol & Mr Edwards with such a proportion as you see fit, and to dispose of the rest to the best advantage — by sending some to Mr Creech &ca with the rects. We shall keep a sufficient number for Lancashire & Dumfriesshire.
      In regard to my own volume, it strikes me that there may be an indelicacy in my proposing that you should purchase the copyright of a work whose sale may possibly not indemnify any price you may think it right to propose — At the same time having other things to bring forward & very little leisure, I was willing to rid my hands of the trouble of reprinting the Reports, and of all future concern in their circulation, and convinced that you could transact every thing of this kind much better and with much less trouble than I could. I [?purposed] therefore, to send you up my interleaved copy in which there are inserted some corrections & considerable enlargements, if you judged the work sufficiently established to be worth purchasing — But probably I am premature in all this. It has therefore occurred to me to propose a new Edition now of a thousand copies, and by the time it is ready, which I fear will not be under two months, you will be better enabled to judge whether to take this Edition upon yourselves, paying the expences of paper printing &ca (which I am informed will be about £80 or £90 [–,] and allowing me a hundred pounds (or such other sum as you think fair) for the copy-right; or to undertake the sale of it on the present footing — I have that dependence on your liberality that whether the work become yr. own property or not, I can depend on your using all proper methods for circulating it among the Booksellers. [MS blotted/smudged:] Unless therefore you are perfectly ready to make a proposal now, we will fix it in this manner —
      If any observation has occurred to you respecting the second Edition, you will be so kind as to Communicate it. The title-page does not I believe sufficiently indicate the Contents. It will be a little enlarged. Do you recommend an Index alphabetically arranged at the end. Excuse this trouble.
      I am Gentlemen yr. very faithful St
           JaCurrie

P.S. Mr Joseph Banks has been so kind as to offer to send me a German work, and I used the freedom of desiring him to leave it with you – would you have the goodness to transmit it to Mr Cairncross who will find an opportunity of forwarding it —


Notes :

Peter Lawrie: Not identified.

Heron Robert Heron (1764-1807), In Observations made in a Journey through the Western Counties of Scotland (Perth, 1793) II, 349-50, heron singled out ‘The Cotter’s Saturday Night,. ‘Hallowe’en’, and ‘Alloway Kirk’ [‘Tam o’ Shanter’] for praise. His Memoir of the Life of the Late Robert Burns (Edinburgh, 1797) had first appeared, signed ‘H’, in the Monthly Magazine (June 1797), iii, 213-16 and 552-62; it was reprinted in the Edinburgh Magazine (1797) and the Philadelphia Monthly Magazine (1798). Following Thomson’s obituary, Heron adopted a lofty, moralising stance, emphasising what he regarded as evidence of the poet’s decadence.

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’.

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

Mr Nicol & Mr Edwards: George Nicol (?1740-1825), London bookseller; James Edwards (1757-1816), bookseller at Pall mall, London.

Mr 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’.

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

Joseph Banks: Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820), Botanist President of the Royal Society from 1778.

Mr Cairncross: Andrew Cairncross, London surgeon and Currie’s brother-in-law.

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