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 : 09-10-1801
Correspondent : Cadell & DaviesCorrespondent Location : London
Recipient : James Currie Recipient Location : Liverpool
Subject : Cadell & Davies complain to Currie about news that others are intending to print their own editions of Burns.
[N.B. The date on this letter added by another hand is wrong as it is a response to Currie’s letter of 24 Sep 1801 regarding his friend MacNeill etc. and therefore must have been written sometime after the 24th. Currie’s next letter of 19 Nov 1801 to Davies identifies the likely date as 9 Oct 1801] Dear Sir In Consequence of your very obliging Introduction, Mr Macneill explained to me his Intentions respecting his proposed Publication – He is not yet decided upon one or two Points – one <> is whether ^ or not he shall publish the 1st and 2d. Volumes without waiting for the Compilation of the third, <> the other whither or not he shall offer his Name to the Work as Editor – He means, I believe, to request your Advice on these Points, and, when he has decided, to let us hear from Him — He expressed a Wish that somewhat might be understood respecting Terms, to which I replied that in so early a Stage of the Business it was impossible to say much ^ on that Head, but that I was satisfied, with your kind Mediation, there was little Doubt of that Point being easily arranged — I have read a part of the Volume of Memoirs he has already published, with very considerable Pleasure — On a Reference to our Books, I found that our little Present to Mr Gilbert Burns was sent, in February last, inclosed in a Parcel to Mr Creech – Of this I informed him by Letter immediately, and hope he will soon receive the Parcel. It vexes me not a little that Mr Creech suffered it to remain so long un-forwarded — We are told that in different Towns in Scotland there are at this Time no less than four or five small Editions of Burns’s Poems preparing for speedy Publication – They surely cannot have the Impudence to include all the Poems, perhaps it might be proper for us to print a cheap, yet neat, Edition of the Poems compleat, with two or three Engravings, to meet these literary Marauders on their own Ground – Will you favour us with your Advice here and, in the Event of our doing it, <> with the Arrangement you would have followed ?—

Notes :

Macneill: Hector Macneill (1746-1818), Scottish poet.

Memoirs he has already published:The Memoirs of Charles Macpherson, 2 vols , (1800 & 1801).

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.

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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