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 : 01-06-1798
Correspondent : James CurrieCorrespondent Location : Liverpool
Recipient : Cadell & Davies Recipient Location : London
Subject : James Currie discusses the possible arrangements for deling with the manuscripts as well as the printing of the edition.

Gentlemen
      Some little time ago I mentioned to you the advice I had given to the family & Trustees of Mr Burns, to make a transaction with you for the mss with the view of your bringing out a Complete edition of his works. I have now a letter from the Trustees acceding to my proposals, & giving me in conjunction with Mr Roscoe full powers to treat with you.On this subject, therefore, I will hope for your Sentiments.
      On a former occasion I gave you my opinion respecting the best mode of disposing of the mss, and of the form in which it struck me that a complete edition ↑of↓ the works would appear to most advantage – I have only to add that every thing of that kind, if you acquired a property in the whole, would be decided finally by yourselves — I think a property on the whole works perpetuated for 14 years longer (which would be the effect of < a transaction > your purchasing the mss) would be of very considerable value, if the publication were conducted in the manner I have proposed, or in any similar manner that your Spirit & Judgement might suggest – and this opinion I would willingly support by risquing some property in it, if it were compatible Wt. my situation to engage in such things.
      I must conclude by observing that if you would wish to have the works printed in London under your own eye, (supposing you ↑to↓ make the purchase mentioned) and under an Editor of your own choice, I will most readily give up the whole to your direction . I engaged in it to serve the poor widow & children, and oppressive as the business is, I will not abandon it till their interests are secured— But it occurs to me that you may judge it best to ↑print↓ either in London or Edinr, and under the care of some gentleman of your own choice in either of these places; & if this be case, I shall have particular pleasure in resigning my charge —
      On the other hand, if you prefer carrying on the work here, allowing me time, & McCreerys assistance, I will conform to any directions that you may suggest, and give my best talents to the business.
      But if this last be your determination, we must have pretty full communications.
      I have only to hint that in making any agreement Wt. Mrs Burns, the sum to be paid will not, I should think, be wanted in advance at present, the interest ↑being↓ regularly paid for the support of the family.
           Excuse great haste I am
                Gentm. Yr. faithful St J Currie


Notes :

Mr 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.

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

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

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