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 : 03-05-1800
Correspondent : James CurrieCorrespondent Location : Liverpool
Recipient : Cadell & Davies Recipient Location : London
Subject : Currie sends his first edition to his publishers after receiving print-copy from the printer.

Dear Sirs
      Along with this you will receive a copy of the “Works of Burns”, and it will give me particular pleasure to know that they answer your expectation. It is easy to see how the volumes might have been improved in a variety of respects – but such as they are, I trust they will be received favourably by the public, and that in another edition opportunity may be given to supply defects.
      The title pages are altered according to your suggestion. ^ In the first volume The subscribers names & the Contents, are printed in a type that I do not much approve, but the want of paper obliged Mr McCreery to give them in this form; and likewise prevented us from adding an Index, which though not very material would have been proper enough, and have added a little to the size of the volume, which you will perhaps think would have been desireable… As it stands however it comprises 406 pages. I have dedicated the work to a very particular friend, Capt Graham Moore, son of the Doctor. He is in the West-Indies, and I could not consult him upon it: but his father I might, if I had thought of it sooner. In this package I have however sent him a proof of the Dedication, and I wish you to be so kind as to convey it to him without delay – I am not acquainted with his present address —
      Respecting the manner in which I have executed the life, I say nothing. You will judge for yourselves; and if you can in conscience say any thing agreeable to me upon it, I am sure you will say it. At the same time I shall be happy to hear any objection that may occur to you or to any friend into whose hands you may put the volume. Certainly since Johnson published the Life of Savage, no similar ^article of biography has been given to the world. The incidents are of course few: the reflections many. I am desirous of hearing that my moralizings do not appear tedious, ^ & that the interest of the Reader in the subject of my sad story, ^does not languish or die away.
      In regard to the second volume, the Correspondence of Burns, the circumstance mentioned in the prefatory remarks, of the letters not being all before me when we began to print, ^ has led me into one or two redundancies. Being affraid that of the writings of the Bard himself we should not have sufficient for a volume, I admitted a few articles by his correspondents which had I known the additional mss of his own I was to secure, had better have been omitted.— In another Edition this may be corrected — In regard to the price of the Works, I think they cannot well be more than 31/6. At least we cannot take more for the Copies of the Widow; for as we have received some subscriptions by advance, we were obliged to fix a price, & have fixed on this — Besides it appears to me that when you see the volumes, you will think this enough. Should the ^publication succeed, this need not prevent some advance on a new edition. You will now have all the information necessary for an advertisement. The subscribers in London may be directed to apply for their Copies to you, as you are so good as to take charge of all that we shall distribute in your quarter, or you may direct this in any other way you judge best.
      Nothing farther occurs to me at the present.
      I have the honour to be
           Gentlm yr. faithful St
                JaCurrie


Notes :

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

Capt Graham Moore: (1764-1843) Glasgow-born distinguished naval officer, later knighted; son of Dr. John Moore (1729-1802) and younger brother to Sir John Moore of Corunna (1761-1809). Currie dedicated the edition of 1800 to him.

Life of Savage The first major biography by Samuel Johnson (1709-84) was his Life of Savage (1744), on Richard Savage ( c.1797-1743). This is an interesting potential model for Currie as Johnson discusses particularly Savage’s problematic moral life.

back to search