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 : 12-02-1804
Correspondent : James CurrieCorrespondent Location : Liverpool
Recipient : Cadell & Davies Recipient Location : London
Subject : Currie disparages Alexander Chalmers’s life of Burns.
[Other hand, pencil:] Feby 12, 1804 Messrs Cadell & Davies Gentlemen By the mail-coach of this evening I return to you Mr Chalmers’ ms Life of Burns in a parcel which also contains Mr Roscoe’s sentiments and my own on that work.— I am very sorry they are not more favourable — I should be <> sorry to give offence, or to be involved in any unpleasant correspondence on the subject – Whether you show these letters to Mr Chalmers or not I leave to your own discretion, but I must request of you not to part with them or to suffer them on any account to be circulated — [?] [?is] so easy for you as to have an abridged Life of Burns which may give offence to no party – such a one appeared if I mistake not in the Edinr Magazine – I doubt if Mr Chalmers will consent to make the changes in his which are necessary to give it this cha=racter. I am at present much indis=posed & dictating has fatigued me I am Gentm. Yr. Faithful St JaCurrie Liverpool 12 Feb 1804 Have the poems annotations by Mr Chalmers – They should be looked after. P.S. I thank you for the present of the Imperial Review, wh. is temperate & judicious, but I doubt if it is sufficiently high-reasoned for the taste of the times.

Notes :

Chalmers’ ms Life of Burns: Alexander Chalmers (1759-1834) prolific Scottish literary critic, whose ‘sketch’ of the life of Burns was ‘prefixed’ by Cadell & Davies to the 1804 edition of Burns.

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.

Edinr Magazine: reference not identified.

Imperial Review: reference not identified.

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