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 : 03-06-1797
Correspondent : Mrs Frances DunlopCorrespondent Location : Dunlop
Recipient : James Currie Recipient Location : Liverpool
Subject : Mrs Dunlop discusses Burns’s correspondence with her, including the significance of Burns use of ‘Z’ in his song collecting/writing.

My Dear Sir
      The very day after I was favoured with your [MS torn] wrot Mr G Burns asking to see him here that I mig[MS torn] show him your letter and some proposals of or rather [MS torn] a subscription intended to be set on foot for which I [MS torn] me an ?Exordium by the ?Interests of the mourner [MS torn] as a preparatory publication in some of our news pap[MS torn ] also to give him the particular donation of a gentlem[MS torn ] from India to the family of his brother which I had no ? of delivering to any of the trustees for that fund. He was set out at the time for Dumfries but yesterday im-mediately on his return came over when I gave him your letter to the contents of which I am convinced he will pay all due atten-tion and I hope act in consequense to your satisfaction. I am sure he is better qualified to do so than any other man I now know in his situation in Scotland although there are many of our peasantry who would do honour to any Country perhaps our aristocracy ought to blush when with all their so much boasted advantages untutored Rusticity treads do hard upon their heels that all my avowed partiality for ancestry dares hardly aver they do not offten brush past at least the poor Ranks and get far too close up upon the Van itself. He is to endeavour sending you anecdotes and an account as circumstancial as possible [MS torn] the societies in which his brother and he were members, yet I [MS torn]what regret he is not enough habituated to writing for his [MS torn] to run at ease and what he has not learnt I have forgot else [MS torn] in his conversation I might have extracted somewhat for your [MS torn] or information I would have done so twenty years ago sixty seven shortens the memory and stiffens the fingers too [MS torn] for pleasing or useful repetition and I feel this too sensibly [MS torn] it. I wish you could see him yourself you rhyme ? ? [MS torn]ize every thing and would extract more in an hour [MS torn] could in a week and what you suggest of Messrs. Rankin [MS torn] makes me think if you wished or asked it he might be [MS torn]nced without much inconvenience to make a voyage to Liver[MS torn]l by their vessel which I shall endeavour to avail myself of in future to send you any bulky parcels that may [MS torn] in the course of the affair in which you have with so much humanity and generosity imbarked and from which I flatter myself you will draw both pleasure and fame Gilbert brought me a sight of your letter to Mr Syme all the merits of which are deeply imprest on his gratitudes esteem and affection I must say nothing regarding my own opinion of your part of that letter because I feel in writing as well as speaking the present any are in some degree excluded and I am told you are very averse to and apt to be jealous of flattery yet the praise of a friend cannot displease the greatest delicacy and you must not be offended when I tell you I read Roscoe’s part with admiration and delight his plan for the conduct of the work speaks prudence propriety and goodness of heart the author who directs genius by such rules must attain fame for his subject, utility for the cause of virtue and his country and glory to himself. Providence blest the man alloted to escape the universal deluge of the world with that pious tenderness and and sheltering affection from his Son’s which your friend bestows upon poor Burns, woes me, that the feverish intoxication of his soul should ever have wanted [MS torn] but “since this alas the woeful case” how thankful am I that [MS torn] for I cannot bear to give it a harder name even in tha[MS torn] only be probed by the hand of so gentle a phicisian [MS torn] his memory embalmed by him who has drawn Sore [MS torn] from oblivion to live once more the dilight of more [MS torn] sure if one would not rather choise the future care of [MS torn] protecting friends than a solitary preservation from the wreck ?per[MS torn] creation — Mr G. Burns requested my telling you that he [MS torn] Musical Museum by Johnson which if you could not get othe[MS torn] [s]end it but as he was very fond of it being I believe his Br[MS torn] present he was not fond of giving it out of his hand if it could be had in Liverpool Robt’s words to me are “in it you will find my pieces such as they are God knows some of them dull enough under the letters R.B. X” — in another he told me he had also added single lines and stanzas to some original songs or altered particular expressions of them that these songs would be found also in Johnsons book marked with an Z. but not having that lost letter by me I cannot positively say these are the identical words of it the Museum consists of four volumes Burns also when he sent me the Words for the tune of Logan Wate[r] [MS torn] me that “he had the Honour which was all he was to have by it of furnishing the Scots Songs for Plydels London Publication as Peter Pinder did the English “— I am sorry to see an Edition of the Poets works in 2 vol: advertised as just printed by Creech and Caddel this day I hope this is not a stolen march for it would cut up the interest of the family very much my paper hardly leaves room for Compts to yourself Mrs Curry or my friend Miss McAdam yet allow me to say my memory is no less full of all your Merit and goodness to me I regret much Rachel did not get your length Keith offers best Comp↑s↓, Heaven mend the times and grant us all to meet in peace pleasure and that sincere mutual Regard with which I ever am D↑r↓ Sir Your Obliged humble Sev↑t↓ Fran: A: Dunlop


Notes :

Gilbert Burns: (1760-1827), Robert Burns’s brother

Syme: John Syme (1755-1831) an ensign in the 72nd regiment, he became manager of his father’s estate at Barncailzie but it was lost with the failure of the Ayr Bank. In 1791 he became Distributor of Stamps for Dumfries and Galloway, residing at Ryedale and with his stamp office below the first Burns family Dumfries residence in the Vennel. Syme accompanied Burns on two tours of Galloway (July 1793 and June 1794), giving an account of the earlier to Currie. Burns regarded him very highly, terming him his ‘Supreme Court of Critical Judicature, from which there is no appeal’ (Letters II, 354). Alexander Cunningham proposed the fund for the poet’s family to Syme on 20 July 1796 and he was an active participant.

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.

Pleyel Ignaz Pleyel (1757-1831) Austrian born composer and arranger employed by George Thomson to provide settings in the 1790s for Select Scottish Airs. Burns was worried that Pleyel might exercise too much license in his work (see Letters II, Burns to Thomson ?26th April 1793, p.211).

Peter Pindar pseudonym of English poet and satirist of the king, John Walcot (1738-1819).

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’.

Miss McAdam ?daughter of John McAdam to whom Burns addressed a poetic epistle.

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