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 : 13-09-1799
Correspondent : Lady Elizabeth CunninghamCorrespondent Location : Coates
Recipient : James Currie Recipient Location : Liverpool
Subject : Elizabeth Cunningham desires that none of her family correspondence with Burns find its way into Currie’s proposed edition.

Sir –
      I have just received your polite Letter, & must for Ever regret, that I had not foreseen the request it Contains, that I might have saved You the trouble of making it – I had no Idea, that the poor, lamented Burns, wou’d Ever have kept and trifling Letter that came from me – If I had, my first care on hearing of the Work You were Engaged in, wou’d have been, to request You to have the [Goodness] to restore them to Me – My Earnest request now is, that You will [MS torn: pr____t?] [MS torn: this] or any other from me, or ↑from↓ any of my Family, from appearing [MS torn] Your present Collection – I can give You no Idea of the [MS torn: __inful] Feelings it wou’d occasion me, or those who still remain of it, to see any of our Letters amongst it – And I intreat You, [unless] you mean to wound us all, in the Most sensible Manner, that You will prevent its appearing – I beg that no Expence which attends it, may be regarded – There is none which can be incurred, that I will not rather joyfully pay, than have any thing of mine, or ↑of↓ those that belong to me, appear – Your Letter is of so polite & delicate a nature, that I hope I may trust to Your fulfilling this request - I beg leave to urge it, in the most Earnest Manner – And I intreat, that no trouble nor Expence [MS torn: attending it] may Prevent Your complying with it – I flatter Myself, You wou’d not have written Me as You have done, without really meaning to abide by My Decision – And I [assure] You, if You do not, You will occasion me more heart-[:] felt regret, than I have words to [Express] – Let Me therefore hope & desire, that these Vol’s May appear without This or any letter, from any of us – As to the one of Burns’s, to which it [wa: MS torn] [MS torn:I have] nothing in fact to do with it; nor [MS torn] I had, [MS torn: cou’d] have the smallest objection to its appearing – But as for my own, I never can Consent, nor Ever shall forgive its being published – I can add no more, nor ↑anything↓ stronger to interest Your Feelings, in my Earnest request [-] I am extremely sorry, to be obliged to refuse Every thing, that You Sir, wish from me – But the other object of your Enquiry, I feel myself equally unable to answer – The Character of the Person You ask after, is written in the Hearts of those who knew him – And as to the other particulars You enquire about, they are Either too immaterial to be repeated, or such as I am unable to dwell on – I beg You then, to excuse my Entering further on the Subject – I am not afraid that in such hands as Yours, any thing will be said, which can wound the Feelings of his Family – And will only add, that the best way to save them, is to say as little on it, as can be said –
      I will [trespass] no longer Your time, than to repeat [MS torn: My Earnest & most] solemn desire, that this Letter of [m: MS torn] [MS torn] [MS torn: ate], & Every Experience, [suppre: MS torn] And to [MS torn: tell] You, that the greatest obligation You [ca: MS torn] confer on Me, will be Emmediately to [assure] [MS torn] & to restore Me, what I never imagined, cou’d ↑have been↓ of the least Consequence –

      I am Sir –

           Your Most Obedt Serv t,

           E. Cunningham


Notes :

Lady Elizabeth Cunningham (d.1804): younger sister of James, 14th Earl of Glencairn.

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