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 : 26-07-1804
Correspondent : Cadell & DaviesCorrespondent Location : London
Recipient : James Currie Recipient Location : Liverpool
Subject : The publishers write about their court case against Thomas Stewart and about portraits and the commemoration for Burns’s grave.

Dear Sir –
<     >The first Supply which Mr McCreery sent us of the new Ed. of the “Medical Reports” enabled us to lay aside the Copies you desired might be delivered as Presents from yourself (to which we beg you to be assured that you were most perfectly welcome) and also to publish – A good many Copies have already been sold, and we have no Fears of the Edition doing otherwise than extremely well – You would, perhaps, perceive in the Advertisement, that we sell the second Volume separate, about the Propriety whereof we could not doubt for a Moment –
<     >What you so obligingly say respecting Burns’s Works, in Consequence of the late Decision of the Court of Session, is perfectly of a Piece with your uniformly kind Attention to us, and demands our best Acknowledgements – This Decision is so clearly in Opposition to several which have taken Place in the English Courts, that it is, at present, our Determination, unless the Scottish Judges, on a Re-Consideration, reverse their own Decree (which we understand is not infrequently done) to bring the Matter before the House of Lords – But even there, the proverbial “Glorious Uncertainty” still accompanies us – and nothing is calculated so effectually to guard us from Piracy as introducing as much new Matter as possible into the next Edition – to the effecting of this, we are perfectly satisfied that, no Exertions on your Part will be wanting, and as it will be some Time before a new Edition will be absolutely wanted, we are not without Hopes that you may be able to devote an Hour occasionally to this Object - Mr Stothard has just compleated a Dozen little Pictures which we employed him to make, preparatory to this improved Edition, and, in most of them, we think he has with peculiar Happiness caught the Spirit and Inspiration of the Poet – If we had a good Opportunity, we would send them down for your Examination, before we put any of them into the Hands of the Engraver – We have also got Mr Cunningham to employ Raeburn to make us a Copy of his (Mr C.’s) original Picture of the Bard, which came to us a few Weeks ago, accompanied by a strong Testimonial in its Favour from Mr Cunningham, on the Score of Fidelity – This Picture we purpose having engraved in the best Manner, and, when that is done, we hope you will permit us to offer it to your Acceptance – We took an Opportunity, a few Days since, of letting Mr Flaxman know the Difficulties which had hitherto occurred respecting the Erection of some Tomb over the poor Poet’s Grave, or some Monument to his Memory – when he instantly said, with all the [Earnestness] that an enthusiastic Admiration of the Poet could call forth, that he would with Pleasure contribute his Assistance towards removing those Difficulties – He inclines towards a Tomb in the Church Yard (rather than a Monument) as being more appropriate, and thinks the Effect would be aided by a Poplar being planted on each Side of the Grave – If you think Mr Flaxman’s offer would be accepted by the Subscribers, we will with Pleasure communicate to him any Message from you or from them –
<     >We earnestly hope that, when we have next the Pleasure of hearing from you, you will give us good Accounts of your own Health – and we beg Leave to subscribe ourselves, dear Sir –

Your much obliged and very faithful Servants

Cadell & Davies

Notes :

McCreery: John McCreery (1768-1832), a Liverpool Printer.

Medical Reports: Reports on the Effects of water in Febrile Disease (1797).

Decision of the Court of Session:In 1804 on behalf of Burns’s children, for whom Currie’s edition was designed to provide, Cadell & Davies sued the Glasgow publisher Thomas Stewart for damage to that edition by Stewart’s publication of additional material.

Stothard: Thomas Stothard (1755-1834). Painter and illustrator; accompanied Robert Cromek on his tour of the Burns country, 1809, for illustrated edition of Burns which never materialised. Produced sketch of Jean Armour Burns, probably from memory.

Mr Cunningham to employ Raeburn: Sir Henry Raeburn (1756-1823) wrote to Cadell & Davies in November 1803 that he had painted Burns based on the Naysmith portrait, and which Alexander Cunningham thought a fine piece.

Mr Flaxman: English sculptor, John Flaxman (1775-1826) was eventually commissioned in 1824 to produce a white marble sculpture of Burns; this was only completed, in fact, two years after Flaxman’s death in 1828 and is now housed in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. In fact it was not until 1813 that John Syme formed a committee and launched an appeal for a mausoleum for Burns in Dumfries.

back to search