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 : 21-02-1789
Correspondent : Graham MooreCorrespondent Location : Clifford Street
Recipient : James Currie Recipient Location : Liverpool
Subject : Graham Moore discusses Burns's poetic subject matter, with emphasis upon his ability with 'nature'.

My Dear Doctor,
      I have received your letter inclosing me two poems of Burns’s, which I take very kindly, altho I reaped no other advantage by it than that of receiving a mark of attention from my friend, as to tell the truth Burns, between whom and my Father there exists a correspondence, sent him a Copy of them some time ago. - I am not afraid to tell my opinions to any one, but I love to tell them to you – I think that these two Poems tho good, are a thousand degrees beneath – The mountain Daisy – The mouse, Winter a dirge the Cotter’s Saturday night and many others of this extraordinary man’s admirable productions. – Do you not think that it is yet too soon for our Poet to treat on the subject of Pope’s moral Essays I do not wish to see him attempt deeply to philosophise, until his mind from improvement, and study is prepared to excel in that line, as much as nature has enabled him untaught to shine on other subjects. – Let him describe Nature, and [express] in his beautiful simplicity, the sublime ideas which his elegant imagination draws from natural objects. The Philosophy in the Mountain Daisy is fitted to every body’s pitch – His Scotchman viewing Death with careless eye, is an admirable picture. I won’t enumerate his beauties, but I believe you will agree with me in what I try to express. And I hope that Burns (whom I place very near Shakespear) will avoid as yet these abstuse subjects, beware of pedantry, and continue to draw natural objects, and natural ideas excited by these objects. – I am delighted with your admiration of Pit, if you had not admired him, it would have been like giving me a fillup on the nose. – If ever I see any thing to lessen my exalted opinion of this towering spirit, it will make me melancholy, and lead me to Misanthropy, to which I am by no means at present inclined. - I am sure you will sincerely participate in my exultation on the king’s recovery, which I have not a shadow of doubt has already taken place – the motion of the Chancellor in the house of Peers was a damper to the Opposition, and has opened the eyes of the people who have ↑been↓ amused with many false accounts, amongst others, with a very plausible story of the Chancellor having seen the King whom he found in a state infinitely less favourable than has been reported by the Physicians. I believe you must be unacquainted with the numberless falsehoods which have been spread abroad and believed, and afterwards regularly contradicted and proved to be groundless, since the commencement of the Royal Malady. Amongst others, there were few even of Mr. Pit’s friends, who did not believe that he had shown marked disrespect to his Royal Highness the Prince until Mr Grey kindly gave him an opportunity of dissipating falsehood by the broad sun shine of truth. The Opposition have been able by their cunning and audacity to establish the belief of most improbable fictions, but from sound sense being supplied by ingenious tricksy finesse, they have outwitted and overreached themselves, and laid themselves open to the manly and ↑persuasive and↓ exquisitely guarded eloquence of Pitt. They have absolutely played his game for him. If they had said nothing at all, I do not believe the restrictions would have been proposed, but they fell into a train of those blunders, which those people expose themselves to, who are deficient in judgement and modesty, but who overflow with Wit and Fancy. – I believe you may make yourself perfectly easy about Charles Fox, who I believe is as well as I am. People think that his journey to Bath was to avoid the questions which Rolle might have troubled him with. – Every body thinks that the Regency Bill will go no farther. – You think that I have no prospect of promotion, but I differ from you, there is certainly some chance of such a thing taking place in the course of three years. – I was delighted with – there’s my thumb I’ll neer beguile thee -
      - I am my Dear Currie ever your’s with affectionate regard

           G. Moore

Notes :

my father: Dr John Moore (1729-1802).

Pope’s moral Essays: Also known as Epistles to Several Persons (1731-35) by Alexander Pope (1688-1744), texts that are deeply engaged with the finer points of ethics.

Scotchman viewing Death: Burns’s ‘Death and Dr Hornbook. A True Story’ (1787)

Pit(t): William Pitt (1759 - 1806), British Prime Minister, 1783-1801.

the Chancellor having seen the King whom he found in a state infinitely less favourable than has been reported by the Physicians: Edward Thurlow (1731-1806) was Lord Chancellor at this time who was suspected of conniving with the Prince of Wales to exaggerate the mental affliction of his father, King George III (who showed signs of such illness from 1788).

Mr Grey Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey (1764–1845): Part of the Whig grouping centred around Charles James Fox, and an advocate of the reform of parliament and the British constitution generally.

Charles Fox … Bath Charles James Fox (1749-1806): Major Whig and member of parliament, prudently stayed out of the way of London in Bath from 27th January-21st February1789 as the Regency Crisis ensued.

Rolle John Rolle, 1st Baron Rolle (1756–1842): MP a supporter of Pitt’s and a determined antagonist to Fox.

Regency Bill: During January-February 1789 and as the ‘madness’ of George III was rumoured to have heightened, there was support in parliament for a law to be passed that would place the crown in the custodianship of the Prince of Wales. The further presumed logic of this scenario coming to pass was that the Prince of Wales’ friend, Charles James Fox, and his allies would replace William Pitt and the Tories in government.

back to search