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 : N/A
Correspondent : James CurrieCorrespondent Location : Liverpool
Recipient : William Roscoe Recipient Location : Liverpool
Subject : Currie writes to Roscoe about Roscoe’s own work, asking Roscoe’s advice on what of Burns’s correspondence should be printed and reporting briefly on the progress of his putting together of Burns’s works in general.

My dear friend

I have perusd the Nurse with attention, and, on the whole, with much pleasure. I see nothing either in the general impression it is likely to produce, or, in the effect of particular passages, that should prevent your publishing it, or indeed render the measure doubtful. You must not however expect that it will increase the reputation of the Biographer of Lorenzo de Medici. It is enough that it is not unworthy of him, and you give it to the world, as the truth is, not as a laboured effort of your talents, but as the occasional occupation & amusement of a vacant ↑hour↓ in the midst of more serious engagements.
      The versification is easy and flowing, and possesses considerable variety. your numbers rise and fall with the sentiment they embody, which is generally, but not always, distinctly expressed. I think you have a few lines which might have been improved by a little ease, but it is perhaps ↑well↓ to exhibit in some cases the marks of a little negligence, to heighten the general effect. The Compliment to the Dutchess of D., which every lady will read & quote, is very fine – The four lines beginning “So Venus & c” are singularly beautiful – but I wish you had been prompted by the muse to a better or smoother termination —— My objection is to prompts the aim - it is not however very material.
      The prose in your preface of notes is as usual, easy, luminous & correct. I see nothing to object to, as to Sentiment, and little or nothing as to stile — Yet you have I think got one or two Latinisms — Why should Kanza concede the nis — It might have ↑been↓ as well to have delivered them, or perhaps still better to have given them up. p.10. In the same page line 10th you use adverts to as I suspect for mentions; and in p.14 adverted to, is certainly employed for detailed, examined or discussed. You are very fond of adverting.
      I have only further to observe that it will be wished by the ladies that you had translated the quotations in the notes as well as in the preface — I have no doubt The Nurse will make some noise.
      Herewith I send you the poetical remains of poor Burns — His correspondence which occupies 600 folio pages will follow. It contains a few scattered verses also
      Do me the favour to read these pieces with the pen in your hand, & mark on an ↑a↓ or any other letter under such as you think may be printed – If any observation strikes you, as you go on, pray write it on a separate piece of paper — I am sorry to occupy you, but I should still be more sorry not to have your opinions. The first part of the poems are in Johnsons Museum — the second including the Correspondences have not been printed, but are to come out with the Music in a great Musical Work in Folio which is in hand —— The Index extends only to these — The Original pieces, which might be considerably increased, follow – Love & Liberty is not yet copied.
      I write wt. my foot in the Strirrup. I am going to Prescot, but will see you tomorrow


      Thursday [?] 2o’clock


Notes :

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.

Nurse: ‘The Nurse’ (1798) translated by Roscoe from the original Italian by Luigi Tansillo (1510-1596).

Biographer of Lorenzo de Medici: Roscoe published his biography of the fifteenth century Florentine statesman, Life of Lorenzo de Medici (1796)

Johnsons Museum: James Johnson’s Scots Musical Museum (1787-1803) to which Burns contributed songs of his own and songs he collected.

Love & Liberty: by Burns also known as ‘The Jolly Beggars’ was never published in Burns’s lifetime, thought by some who saw it(including Hugh Blair) to be too risqué, and not included by Currie in his edition, presumably for this same reason.

Prescot: a town eight miles to the east of Liverpool; in the eighteenth century the centre of the Lancastrian clock-making industry.

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