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 : 24-01-1801
Correspondent : James CurrieCorrespondent Location : Liverpool
Recipient : Cadell & Davies Recipient Location : London
Subject : Currie opines that the 2nd edition is not so good in physical quality as the 1st.
Dear Sirs I found no time to look over the sheets you had the precaution to send me with the attention required to detect typographical errors — I have detected one or two but they are unimportant — I thank you for your attention in sending the three copies as directed, & for the three copies you sent to myself by the Coach which reached me in safety. I cannot say that I think the new Edition equal to the first, but I really believe it is fully as good as could be afforded. Unquestiona=bly there has been no book published so cheap as the Works of Burns for many years. The third Edition must mount to 36/- or 2 Guineas — I observe that you have sent some copies of the New Edition & of my Medical Reports to Jones. Do you know that this wrong-headed man will sell them? It is more than I know – But if he chuses to do so certainly I can have no objection – I drew on you a few days ago to the order of Heywood Sons & Co for forty Guineas, which I hope has been accepted. I mentioned ten guineas more as expended for which I wished you to credit me — & at your leisure be so good as to send my account. I transmitted the note you inclosed to me to Mr Roscoe. An artist has sent me two drawings, one of Alloway Kirk, another of the Cottage in which Burns was born, both well executed – It might be worth your while to consider whether these might be engraved for a third edition — Would a fac-simile of his <> writing be of use? I wish we knew how to employ the money due to the poor widow to the best advantage – I confess I do not admire the funds, especially after reading the pamphlet of Mr Boyd, a work of great talent & of weighty results. Young Robert son of the bard is a boy of excellent talents & quiet modest dispositions — He would like to be a printer, or something connected wt. literature — I take the liberty of hinting this should any thing occur to you for the promotion of his wishes – I have the honour to be, With much regard Gentlm Yr. obedt Sert Liverpool Ja Currie 24 Jany 1801 P.S. Be so good as to send the copies for Mr Gilbert Burns to Edinburgh to the care of Mr Cunningham or Mr Creech.

Notes :

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

Heywood Sons & Co: Manchester bank.

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.

pamphlet of Mr Boyd: not identified.

Young Robert the poet’s son (1786-1857).

Gilbert Burns: (1760-1827), Robert Burns’s brother who took issue with some of Currie’s character portrayal of the poet; in the event, however, he did little to alter the assessment in Currie’s biographical introduction for subsequent editions.

Cunningham: Alexander Cunningham (c.1763-1812), Edinburgh lawyer who was one of Burns’s closest friends and most regular correspondents. On 20 July 1796 he proposed to Syme the setting up of the fund for the peot’s widow and children.

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’.

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