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 : 21-05-1798
Correspondent : Dugald StewartCorrespondent Location : Edinburgh
Recipient : James Currie Recipient Location : Liverpool
Subject : Dugald Stewart gives a description of his relationship with Burns, and discusses the poet's politics.
Dear Sir
          I have delayed a great deal too long to return my acknowledgements for the honour you did me by sending me a copy of your book; but I trust that our friend M↑r↓. Duncan has in part secured me from the charge of inattention by mentioning the plea- sure I had received from the [MS torn:p]erusal, as well as my grateful sense of your kindness. It was indeed a very slight perusal only that I could give it till very lately, in con-:sequence of the pressure of some private bu-siness which followed immediately on the conclusion of my Winter Course. The satisfaction I at first received has been much heightened upon a second reading, and if I now return my thanks with a worse grace, I can at least do it with more sincerity.
          As I am myself totally unacquainted with the subject of your work, & have entered less than might have been expected from my other pursuits into medical speculations, the opinion I have formed of its merits must be necessarily of very little value. It is possible however that these circumstances may give me some ad-vantages in estimating your perspicuity as a Writer; your regard to the genuine Rules of philosophical enquiry; & the skill with which you have enlivened a professional Treatise by agreeable & interesting digressions. You have probably heard long ago through other channels of the reception it has met with here from more competent Judges; to that it is perhaps superfluous for me to add, that in the circle of my own medical acquaintance, it is considered as one of the most valuable publications that has appeared for a course of years.
          It is with much pleasure I have heard of the interest you take in the publication of the posthumous works of Robert Burns. My acquaintance with him began in Ayrshire a few weeks before the first Edition of his Poems appeared at Kilmarnock; & I continued to enjoy a good deal of his society both at Edinburgh & in Ayrshire, till his removal to the County of Dumfries. After that time I presume you know more of his History than I do. - It will however give me great satisfaction if I can contribute any thing to make your account of him more complete, by answering such queries as you may wish to propose with respect to that short period of his life which fell under my own observation;- more especially as all that I happen to know of him impressed me with as favorable an opinion of his work as of his genius. I have also a few of his letters still in my possession, which although they do not contain any thing very interesting, I shall take an early opportunity of transmitting to you; as they may perhaps be an object of some curiosity to his Biographer. I shall at the same time send a few of his verses (not yet published) in his own hand-writing; altho’ I have little doubt that you are already in possession of all of them, from the access you must have had to ↑his↓ papers.

          As to the political Aspect of the times I shall say nothing at present.- Nor is it necessary to you, as I am persuaded our feelings & sentiments on the subject must be nearly the same. I suspect too from some expressions in one of your letters, that there is some similarity in the situations of both, & that you as well as I have learned from experience the import of an expression of Martial – Municipalium subigo dentium & judicii loco livor _ ad[MS torn] quod difficile est habere quotidii bonum stomachum.- The political publications of some of my Colleagues, during the last year, give but too just a picture of the temper of this place; & although I have not felt its effects openly in any other form than that of coldness & estrangement, I have found that even this required all my philosophy to bear it, when it proceeded from those who from long friendship must have known me thoroughly, & who were conscious that they had nothing to object to me but moderation & silence, & some speculative principles of Political oeconomy which I have hinted at in my ↑printed↓ work, & which I have uniformly professed since my earliest years. - I need scarcely add that on this last subject I write in perfect confidence.

I shall be extremely happy to hear from you at a [MS torn]re hour, and am at all times, with the greatest regard,

          Dear Sir

          yours most truly

          Dugald Stewart

1798
21 May. Edin?r?


Notes :

[Mr Duncan]:
[Thornton?] Henry Duncan (1774-1846). Church of Scotland Minister and a relative of Currie’s.

[my acquaintance with him]:
Stewart invited Burns, Dr. John Mackenzie, and Lord Daer and others to dinner at his Ayrshire home on 23 October 1786.

[a few of his letters still in my possession]:
there are 4 extant letters (Letters, ed. Roy, I, 277; I, 355; II, 41-2)

Martial:
Marcus Valerius Martialis (c. A.D.40-104). Spanish-born Latin epigrammatist whose Epigrams, which depict the Rome of Domitian with Horatian vividness, began to appear A.D.86.

[some speculative principles of moral oeconomy]:
[Stewart’s] political economy lectures, given as a private series, proved immensely popular and influential, attracting an average enrolment of forty-two, among them founders of the Edinburgh Review, Francis Jeffrey, Henry Brougham, Francis Horner, Sidney Smith, and macvey Napier, and the utilitarian philosopher, James Mill’ (DNB, 657).

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