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 : 18-05-1800
Correspondent : James CurrieCorrespondent Location : Liverpool
Recipient : Miss McKenzie Recipient Location : Bostock-Hall
Subject : Currie informs Miss McKenzie that his edition of Burns is completed.

My Dear Miss McKenzie
      I have been so much occupied that I have been prevented from obeying frequent impulses that I have had to write to you, not merely at the time of receiving your kind & welcome letters, but on other occasions.
      I have not moved in the <[?subject]> ↑affairs↓ of the distressed family at Bath. My means and indeed my heart are preoccupied by distresses that press upon my senses in every direction. I have been subscribing to the poor here, & [pretty largely to the poor in my native country ↑in↓ Scotland, where food is scarce & hunger I fear epidemic. Besides this species of ↑distress of a↓ general nature much alas of a private nature occurs in my circle; occurs indeed to a degree that I never before witnessed.
      I shall be happy to ↑do↓ any thing I can for Mr Camp bell. Be pleased to furnish Mr Wood with the following names .
Colonel Frazer of Ravenhead.
Mr John Gladstone Merchant Liverpool.
Mr Robert Gladstone ditto.
James Currie M. D. F. R. S. X Liverpool
William Roscoe Esq↑r↓. Allerton near Liverpool
Mr William Rathbone Merchant do.
Mr William Duncan do.
Mr William Hughes do -
I hope that others will offer, to a considerable number . . . But will you be so good as to say that Mr Campbell’s proposals are not sufficiently explicit or enlarged – For instance, I do not even know what is meant by the “Queen of the North”, and the printed paper gives me no information. I subscribe therefore on Mr Campbell’s character, which stands very high indeed with me. I think him equal <[to?]> in point of poetical genius to any man of our times. The high reputation he has gained, I hope he will sustain & even enlarge; the great expectations that are formed of him I hope he will justify & even transcend. -
      Your young friend Mr Wood’s friendship for Mr Campbell does him great credit - and if I mistake not, will reflect more & more credit on him by the progress of years.- In my life of Burns, I have presumed to give some opinions of the poetical character, & some advice to young poets, in which I had Mr Campbell ↑in view↓ – not that I ever heard he wanted any advice, but because I could not but feel a wish that reflections arising from the fate of one great genius, might operate favourably on the mind of another, so as ↑haply↓ to prevent those errors to which the temperament of sensibility is exposed, and to point out those lessons of prudence necessary alas for happiness as well as usefulness, which great souls find it so difficult to practice.
      I think Mr Woods own plan a wise one, and I hope he will find his happiness of his interest in remaining in his own native place. We are all too fond of travelling round the world, and calculate life too little when it is set ag.↑t↓enterprises of ambition - Present my best wishes to him. It would give me great pleasure to see him, or Campbell, or both, in Liverpool.
      Burns is finished. They are now occupied in collecting the sheets into volumes, an operation which in the limited & imperfect arrangements of an infant press requires some time – You shall have a copy very soon – I am sorry I could not send one by this favourable opportunity – But we must, as it were, start the volumes to every subscriber, altogether, otherwise the Booksellers say the sale is <[imp?]> injured. I have dedicated the work to my gallant friend Graham Moore, now in the West: Indies chiefly with the view of explaining thro’ this means to the public, how I came to be engaged in this undertaking – We have a head of Burns prefixed to the first volume, finely engraved; and ↑on the title page of↓ each volume ↑a↓ characteristic vignette by your friend Houghton; ↑these↓ are much admired _ I have not put my name in the title-page, nor allowed it to appear in the advertisement; whence a nation has been entertained by some that the advertisement<,> of our volumes refers to a [rival?] publication._
      I dined last Sunday at Colonel Frazer’s at Ravenhead, and met Mr & Mrs. Gladstone on their return from the Lakes . . . . Mrs Gladstone told me she had received a letter from you which I was happy to hear. Both of them spoke of you very properly & kindly. Mrs Gladstone looks very delicate . . but very interestingly. I think she will prove a great acquisitions to our Circle . . . . . . I saw her on Wednesday in her own house, much better & in better spirits. She has married a man of dicided talents, and of a very generous dispositions, who is devotedly attached to her. He mentioned to me that he has settled 500£ a year upon her, and 5000£ at her own disposal in case of her surviving him, whether there are children or not. Her own little for: :tune he left entirely at her own disposal ↑now↓. _ They are to have a carriage as soon as it can be built, & to go down to Scotland in it the first service. They are to make the tour of the North – to Inverness & c ↑[?]↓.       I hear A Miss McKenzie from London, a cousin of hers is to be down with her, & her own sister is expected from Edinburgh _. This delays their seeing Company. Colonel & Mrs. Frazer are here, and sail for Ireland with the first fair wind. I think your fair cousin has done wisely, and I have little doubt she will be very happy - She and I are great friends, and I will not omit any opportunity of doing her any little service, or giving her any information that in her new situation among strangers, may be useful. < [Three and a half lines of deleted text]> You will perhaps have heard that my poor Lucy has the Chin-cough rather severely _ James is beginning [tomorrow?] Lucy & her mother [?] our two youngest boys at the Park, where I have taken a small house, not so pleasantly situated, but containing better apartments than those you once inhabited. Hers is a long gossiping letter.
      Adieu my dear Miss McKenzie            Y.↑rs↓ truely
                JCurrie.

Liverpool
18 May 1800
      Resp↑t↓. Comp↑ts↓ to Mr & Mrs France.


Notes :

Miss McKenzie: Governess to the Currie children during their early education; widely read, she seems to have acted as secretary or contact for Currie on occasion. Currie described her to Shepherd as ‘not of a presence & deportment that procure deference without exacting it’ (William Shepherd Papers, MS letter, Bath, 16 May 1805: Manchester College Library, Oxford). Currie ‘expressed his doubt to Shepherd whether she knew Locke On the Human Understanding and his fear that to form Locke’s acquaintance would gravel her sorely’ (Thornton, p.145). Evidently she had appealed to Currie on behalf of Thomas Campbell.

Thomas Campbell … Queen of the North: Thomas Campbell (1777-1844) intended 'The Queen of the North' to be an epic poem about Edinburgh; it eventually appears in his Collected Works, however, as ‘The Queen of the North. A Fragment (Written in 1800)’.

Mr Wood: George Wood of Prince’s St., the foremost Liverpool printer in the 1780s.

William Duncan (b.1772): son of Rev. George Duncan; Liverpool merchant and broker and friend of the Currie family. Thomas Campbell ‘mentions indebtedness to William and George Duncan for their kindness during those periods when Currie himself could not wait upon him’ (Thornton, p.243)

Graham Moore, now in the West Indies: Moore went to the W. Indies, Feb. 1800, but his health declined and he was invalided out in Aug. 1801. He returned to naval service on the resumption of hostilities in 1803.

Lucy Currie: born 7 July 1791; married Henry Moore 1814.

James Currie: born 1796; died c.1838.

back to search