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 : 30-11-1799
Correspondent : Lady Jane CarrCorrespondent Location : East Parade, Leeds
Recipient : James Currie Recipient Location : Liverpool
Subject : Jane Carr provides Currie with a pen portrait of Burns’s friend and patron, the Earl of Glencairn.

Sir - In the inclosed you will see [MS torn – 4 inches until edge of page] the fullest information in My power of every thing interesting either in the Life or Character of Lord Glencairn: I wish’d you to be thoroughly requainted w.~ the [MS torn], at the same time there are many Circumstances in both [MS torn] to meet the Public Eye - & You will easily, [MS torn] they would have been difficult for Ly Elizabeth to communicate – They are wrote so [hurriedly] I am ashamed they should meet yours – and several Circumstances have [a_____] to [ _____] My giving them the time I wish’d to have done & I commit them to you fully convinced they will appear but what is [perfectly] [_____] to be Made public to [M__] Wounding the feelings of the Family on A Subject Almost Sacred to All of us ~

           I am Sir Your Most Obet. Sevt.

                Jane Carr

East Parade Leeds
Nov.r 30th
1799

James Cunningham Earl of Glencairn was born in 1749 – the second son of William Earl of Glencairn, ↑~Elizabeth Maguire↓ & intended for the [proffession] of the Law – after going thru the common Course of Education in Scotland, at the School of Dalkeith & the College of St. Andrews w.~ a private tutor [MS torn: 2.5 inches] time at Oxford: (The Manner of living in the Glencairn family not being intirely congenial to study) he resided for some years w.~ his Uncle Lord Alva one of the Judges of the Court of [Session] where he pursued his Law Studies with unremitting application, his temper was naturally Ardent – his disposition Social & benevolent & his diligence such; I have often heard My father say he promised to be an honor to his [friends & an ornament] to the [profession] he had chosen = The Death of his Elder Brother By changing his prospects, terminated this course of study, and I fear his happiness at the same time = as [Heir] [___] the family he was now [sent] to [travell] w.~ a very Ample [allowance] - He was several years abroad & [water damage: returned the] ↑~compleat↓ fine Gentleman at a time when that Epithet included the Scholar & the accomplished Man of Fashion = His Person was remarkably Handsom = Above the common [size] & Elegantly form’d, his Countenance at once regularly fine animated & intelligent [MS torn, 3 inches] brilliant, penatrating & [Expressive] –
I will remember his [dress] & Equipage admired for thier taste & Ellegance = But the travelling had changed his appearance he still retained the Same warm & affectionate heart – he Ever [____] & brought ↑back↓ all that regard for his former friends & tenderness for his family that continued to distinguish ↑him↓ to the last hour of his Life = such was he when the Death of his Father made him Earl of Glencairn, but [involved] him in Anxiety & uneasiness – the Old Earl the perfect pattern of a Scottish Chieftain, had all the Hospitality and Liberality that distinguished that Character – his house his Kitchen & Cellar open to all - & tho’ his fortune w. his Lady was very great, his Expences were still greater & Lord [Kilmaurs] found with an Increase of Rank ↑&title↓ a ↑considerable↓ diminution of income. – Generous liberal & high Spirited, w. al the inherent pride of high birth & accustomed to Expence, he found himself involved in inextractable [Embarassment] & ↑yet↓ He knew not how to retrench – a Noble indepen↑da↓ce of Spirit ↑(perhaps a [_?] Motive↓ made him shrink [same line] w. a disdain bordering on abhorrence from these mercenary matches which from his title & person were too often in his offers, for the discharge of the [imence] debt he [succeeded] to on his father’s death, he sold the Extensive & beautiful Estate of Kilmarnock – he had resided there [MS torn: [__] Lord Kilmaurs [__] ]he was attracted both to the Place & the People who almost idolized him. And this Sacrifice gave him a degree of pain never was intirely removed from his mind & I think first [injured] his constitution = it was here he first met w. ↑Burns↓ & he Ever after took a great interest in him. –
      Without any determined occupation to draw his Mind from its own feelings, precluded by his Rank & title from these pursuits & [resources] by which in any other situation his active Mind would have at once improved his fortune & [a____’d] his time, without the Means of Living, as he wish’d himself, or contributing as his Liberal heart [___] to the [wants] of those around him, his high Spirit unable to bend itself sunk under his distresses – his health began to decline, the Gout made its appearance at a very Early period & his Spirits were unable to contend w. anxiety of Mind & [Corporeal] Pain – still his taste for ↑Literature↓ continued, it was his favourite occupation =, but it has ceased to [___] or [ammue?] him = he struggled some years w. External gaiety w. a breaking heart & constitution & Died as [Falmouth] on his return from Lisbon in the 41st year of his Age – [Sincerely] lammented by those who really knew him, beloved by his Servants to whome he was the kindest of Masters [MS torn, 4 inches] he was inexpressibly Endeared by the warmth & tenderness of his affection to them – indeed his affection to his relations was Extended to all who had the happiness to number [___] his almost [___] Relatives – to his tenants he was kind & benevolent His Heart always guided his friendship where he Loved he invariably Esteemed = in his Idea these favor’d ones were never in the wrong, to them he was gentle [delicately] & tenderly affectionate – but where he was [___ ___] or did not Love – he was uncommonly [___ _____] & [____] he was fond of the Company of Young People & perhaps too much so of [___] meetings – he was an Ellegant Classical Scholar - & had a particular turn for Poetry & Music of which he was an Enthusiastic admirer without being either a Poet or a Musician – [/He was ___ ___/] in writing his Stile was Easy animated & Ellegant in Speaking | particularly when warm’d by his Subject ↑often↓ too [___] to be Easily followed –
      He was twice Ellected one of the Sixteen representatives of the Scotch Peers in the British Parliament but whether the [paternal reserve] of his temper ↑or↓ the rapidity of his diction prevented his Speaking in Public I know not but certainly he did not make that figure in the [___] his extensive Enformal [MS torn] talents entitled his friends to Expert & [MS torn] temporary, avowedly his inferiors in both have since done – of his first introduction to Burns I am little informed when he introduced him to me he spoke of him as one he had known some time & who he had a very high regard for – of his works he was an enthusiastic admirer – indeed his taste was form’d from the Purest Models – of Antient Poetry = & improved by a thorough knowledge of all worth knowing of the Modern - & the same taste that attracted him to Burns shew’d itself in all his Literary Pursuits.


Notes :

James Cunningham, 14th Earl of Glencairn (1749-91): Born at Finlayston, he succeeded his father in 1775, his elder brother having died earlier. He was one of Burns’s foremost patrons. Burns wrote to Mrs. Dunlop, 22 March 1787, ‘The noble Earl of Glencairn, to whom I owe more than to any man of earth, does me the honor of giving me his strictures: his hints, with respect to impropriety or indelicacy, I follow implicitly’ (Letters I, 100). His death at Falmouth in 1791 prompted Burns’s ‘Lament for James, Earl of Glencairn’.

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

Lord Kilmaurs: another of the Cunningham titles; the title was retained after James had sold the Cunningham lands at Kilmaurs in 1786.

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