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 : 30-01-1797
Correspondent : Mrs Frances DunlopCorrespondent Location : Dunlop
Recipient : James Currie Recipient Location : Liverpool
Subject : Mrs Dunlop praises Currie’s proposed venture of a new edition.

        I hope you will not impute to want of a proper sense of the honors or pleasures I felt attach to the receipt of the long letter you some time ago did me the favour to address for me that it has remained till now unacknowledged. So my warmest thanks you had an undoubted and immediate right of which I had no inclination to defraud you however little I am capable of fancying for a moment that a letter of mine can be an equivalent for yours: the kindness it conveys obliges me exceedingly while the esteem it expresses creates a horrifying apprehension lest what I fear is due to the partial praise of some over indulgent observer could be no longer in the same flattering degree More were I one day to become less [MS torn & waterdamage] to be told I had pleassd and for whose goodness I must always remain grateful. It is a sad testimony of this to tax you with an old woman’s letters, and you will naturally reflect that our Age can hardly be allowed the priviledge of augmenting the reverance of the post office for seventy years at the expense of yours. I am not so unreasonable as to doom you to such persecution ↑yet↓ cannot help for once just saying that I feel more rejoiced than even all the powers of the Energic language of poor Burns himself could declare in witnessing the spirited ardour of that [MS torn & waterdamage] fame next from Dr Currie tis the part of congenial minds to record each others talents and no one can tell to whose lot it may fall to celebrate the Biographer of our unfortunate Bard and present to future ages the endearing tenderness and delicacy with which those lights and shades he has already usherd into view have been delineated while the feeling touches of his pencil shall prepare every heart to behold with undoubted extacy the exquisite beauties they must expect to find in his own picture whether exhibited by some future friend or living in the grateful remembrance and fond affection of his country: but this I hope for the sake of the present generation is a very distant prospect your present exertion however claims as a present reward the blessing of the widow and the orphan, and here allow my voice to join theirs in fervent wishes that providence may reward your meritorious endeavours with every blessing; and success superlative as my esteem and equal to what I am sure your enjoyment would be in at once conferring ease on indigence, fame on Genius, and relief on affliction. It would be nectar to your own soul to guess the balm it pours into his Brother’s breast the part you have already taken in the memory of Robt. Burns. Yet without knowing [ms torn] you can form no notion what kind of man you were to expect in him or indeed in any farmer where as farmers ?bound and gains were as contracted as they always are in this country and where education could have added so little to nature. but nature seems in that family to have been indeed lavishly profuse should she transmit her gifts in like manner to the next generation it is to be hoped fortune may withdraw that envy which has counterbalanced them hitherto and render them more the means of happiness to those whom they must ever make interesting and a [MS torn] alas [MS torn] our calls from almighty goodness in the formation of poor mortals and how much does the latter of what is lent to man increase our regret for what is decay’d the cruel something unpossessd which corrodes and imbitters all that is bestowed; but I cannot resist sending the enclosed letter and poem sent me by a lady in the north of Scotland which speaks my sentiments on this subject far better than I can do and if you approve them as much as I do you will not grudge the postage notwithstanding it is higher than I would suppose any letter of my own was worth unless on a subject where activity and generosity show you so truly interested = This far I had ↑wrote↓ him a latter from my inestimable [friend Miss McAdam told me your wish for information concerning the early information of our late Bard & eager desire to read some of these unstudied effusions he sometimes threw on paper to me in the course of ten years acquaintance. I am pleased in thinking I can gratify you in both having immediately applyed to his brother who at my request has drawn out a journal of those particulars which will be sent you along with some letters which I have not been able to deny to your inspection although the consciousness of their being penned only for my own has always hitherto prevented my submitting them to any other and I beg your returning them as a property on which death has now stamped too great a value for me so ?allienate unless in favours of my little Godson Wallace Burns whose Uncle [MS torn] ? being sailed long ago will for [MS torn] purposes going for days hence and from which they may be more conveniently conveyed to you than from this. Along with these you will also find an amber necklace a thing to which I dare say you must know the value ? now attach from the sceptical conjectures of naturalists as to its expense and Origins the actual present scarcity of its substance which is now confined intirely as is said to the possession of a few old women in Scotland. I hope therefore I shall be forgiven if I believe Mr J Currie instead of offering this natural curiosity may fix what lawyers call affectioné but I cannot spell their dog Latine it will suffice if she feels what it means on this relique sacred by the gratitudes of poor old Mrs Burns towards the guardian of her departed son’s fame and the protector of her grandchildren’s fortune [?] pleased to wear for her husbands sake what perhaps in a few years a foreign duchess could hardly purchase for money and few women will be able to claim as the just testimony of their conexion with as active disinterested virtues == On throwing an eye on the journal it strikes me especialy as I know its writer first suggested on seeing the Epistle to Davie the idea of his Brothers venturing out as an author that were you to ask it he might be induced to prolong the narrative specify the progression of the muse interspersed with anecdote which I am perswaded would be selected with a propriety and conveyed with a symplicity which would render a life published for the benefit of the family much [?] and more advantageous as coming from one in his limited situation of rank and fortune while relationships might add to the interest of the world in the production yet perhaps it might draw him too far from that strict attention to the laborious duty of his farm which I apprehend is far more necessary to the support of a very young and increasing family as well as an old and sorely afflicted mother deprived of the pride and comfort of three Son’s such as few could boast than either you or I would wish or his worth appears to deserve yet as he is said to have a good back and be an industrious steady man I hope thing may answer well after the always trying first outlay are over. I have sometimes wished the funds collected from the children had been partly put into his hand tho I am almost persuaded it was a charge he would not have accepted even had such a thing been proposed by the trustees which I am sure must have been very convenient and I think would have been attended with no loss from my opinion of his character and attention but of these things they must be better judges. excuse so long a scrawl in consideration of its being so long of coming [MS waterdamage] the gift there is I should oft offend in that way my best regards attend Mrs Currie Mrs Wallace Miss Wallace Mr Wallace Currie and all yours in which ? joins me I know. Miss McAdam preferes her friends so much to herself she will pardon my writing you before I answer hers few indeed step before her in my heart of which I beg you will assure her I have no room to say how much I am your obliged Frances Dunlop.


Notes :

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

Wallace Burns: Francis Wallace Dunlop (1789-1803) Burns second son by Jean Armour, named for Mrs Dunlop and honouring her descent from the family of William Wallace.

Mrs Burns: Agnes Broun (1732-1820), the poet’s mother.

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