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 : 04-06-1801
Correspondent : James CurrieCorrespondent Location : Liverpool
Recipient : Cadell & Davies Recipient Location : London
Subject : Currie discusses progress of corrections for the new edition.
Dear Sirs By the Coach of the 2d. of the month, I sent you up corrections for the 2d. 3d. & 4th volumes of the Works of Burns, which I hope are arrived safely. The chief alterations are, you will see, in the second volume, in which one new letter is inserted, and one formerly abridged is given at length — I have not sent you the corrections for the first volume because I am not wholly without the expectation of making some additions to it, & wish to have as much time to give me a chance of doing this, as you can afford me. My copy of the philosophical transactions I have not recd. since the 1st part for 1796 – The 2d. part for that year & all subsequent are lying at the Hall of the Society, & will be delivered to you by the secretary. Might I request of you to have the goodness to send for them, & to forward them to me by the first package you have occasion to send to Merrit & Wright or to the Athenaeum. I subjoin an order. I must have a few copies to dispose of – One for General Moore, one for the Captain – (The dedication copy has been taken by the French.) One for Mr Ramsay of Ochtertyre, and for myself, & perhaps one or two others. I hope this will not be very unreasonable. The biography of Burns seems to me to have been favourably rec? — There is another & a greater attempt of that kind, on which I have sometimes ru=minated – not that I could say any thing ^new on the life itself, but because it would afford me an oppor=tunity of entering very deeply into morals criticism politics of literature – What I speak of is the life of Milton… Such a work would extend to one volume 4to. Or two Octavo.— I could not engage with it but as a relaxation – It might occupy the leisure of several years; and it would admit of a vast compass. There is a [?lot] of presumption in such a thought – and I wish you particularly not to mention it — But you can judge of the subject, & can also form some judgement of my powers, & I wish you would say whether you think it probable that such a work might bring me <> emolument in any considerable degree – I subjoin an order for my philoso=phical transactions I have the honour to be Gentn. Yr. obed Sert Ja Currie

Notes :

philosophical transactions: publication of the Royal Society.

Merrit & Wright: Liverpool booksellers.

the Athenaeum: originally, the temple of Athene, then the name of college of higher education founded by the Emperor Hadrian, c.133; revived as name for literary institutions. Liverpool Athenaeum developed from activities of Liverpool Literary Society; plans drawn up, 1797, and premises opened in Church St., 1799. Funded by subscription, it had Currie and Roscoe as founder members. Currie alludes to it in his letter to Cadell & Davies, 27 June 1799.

General Moore: Graham Moore (1764-1843), Glasgow-born distinguished naval officer, later knighted; son of Dr. John Moore (1729-1802) and younger brother to Sir John Moore of Corunna (1761-1809). Currie dedicated the edition of 1800 to him.

the Captain: Grahame Moore (1764-1843), see above.

Ramsay of Ochtertyre: John Ramsay of Ochtertyre (1736-1814), Educated at Edinburgh and became advocate, 1753. Wrote a series of essays on Scottish life and biographies of deceased friends and relatives. A selection from his extensive writings was published in 1888 as Scotland and Scotsmen in the Eighteenth Century, edited by Alexander Allardyce. Burns wrote to Nicol, [8 Oct. 1787], ‘I called at Mr Ramsay’s of Ochtertyre as I came up the country, and am so delighted with him that I shall certainly accept of his invitation to spend a day or two with him as I return’ (Letters I, 161). Ramsay was free with advice to Burns, some of it disregarded; and he was visited by Walter Scott six years later.

the life of Milton: Cadell & Davies were favourable to this proposal but Currie never embarked upon the project.

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