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 : 20-02-1804
Correspondent : Cadell & DaviesCorrespondent Location : London
Recipient : James Currie Recipient Location : Liverpool
Subject : The publishers write regarding Currie’s objection to Alexander Chalmers biographical sketch of Burns which they intend to insert in a new edition.
Dear Sir We were extremely mortified on finding from your Letter that Mr Chalmers has so compleatly misunderstood our Wishes respecting the abridged Life of Burns – Could we have supposed it possible that he had gone into Details so very objectionable as well as unnecessary, we should most certainly have looked it over ourselves before we troubled you with it, but it happened to come to us at a Moment ^when we were making up a little Packet for you and, thinking that the only Alterations it might possibly require would be upon ^some immaterial Points, we instantly forwarded it without the smallest Examination. That this happened, we are excessively vexed, not merely because our two kind Friends must therefrom think us careless at least, (if not more highly culpable) but also because it has produced to them much Trouble and some Vex=ation that might so easily have been spared them — We have since seen Mr Chalmers, shewn him your Letter and Mr Roscoe’s, and explained to him anew what we wished him to give us, when he very readily undertook to expunge the objectionable Passages and to alter it in other Respects conformably to his better Understanding of our Object – – When this is Done, we will again submit it to your Inspection, and will take Care that nothing either in the Shape of Biographical Preface or of Annotation shall be inserted ^in the Edition without your previous Concurrence — It will give us sincere Pleasure to hear that you are perfectly recovered from your Indisposition, and we are ever, dear Sir, very faithfully yours C. & D.

Notes :

Chalmers: 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.

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