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 : 28-06-1800
Correspondent : Robert AndersonCorrespondent Location : Heriot's Green
Recipient : James Currie Recipient Location : Liverpool
Subject : Anderson sends notice of a parcel of books in the post for Currie. He tells that he is to edit Drummond of Hawthornden's works and discusses Grainger.

Dear Sir,

      I hope my reply to your very obliging favour of 26 March, accompanying a small present of books, has reached you.
      The parcel was entrusted to the care if a gentleman employed in Mr Mundell’s business, who was to pass through Liverpool, on his way to London, & undertook to send it to your house. I shall be glad to hear it did not miscarry; in which case, I shall very readily excuse your delay in writing to me on account of the continual demand upon your time & attention by other more important library claims.
      The books I sent for your acquaintance were the latest productions of the Edinburgh presses, in the department of elegant literature, which I could easily collect, & which I thought, from my concern in their publication, might be acceptable to you; particularly Miss Bannerman’s Poems, Mr Erskine’s “Lady Grange”, & “Macpherson’s Memoirs”, under which name you would reasily recognize our friend Macneil, from the circumstances of the narrative, & the peculiar opening on the slave trade, formerly published, & well known to you. Miss Bannerman is a young lady scarcely our of her teens, the only daughter of Mrs Bannerman of Nicolson Street. Her poems are the production of no common mind, they are brilliant, if not highly finished effusions; more distinguished perhaps by strength & warmth of imagination, & splendour & energy of expression than tenderness of sentiment or correctness of taste. So opulent a mind at such an age is a phenomenon. Nature gives talents, but * knowledge: in talents she has been prodigal to my fair friend, who is no less elegantly accomplished than ingenious. She has lately written verses on the death of Gen. Macpherson, & a poetical complement to our countrywoman Miss Baillie, a kindred mind, which I will transcribe for you, when I can procure a *.
      Mr Wm. Erskine is a young lawyer, a son of the late David Erskine W.S. of very amiable manners, & of very extensive scientific & literary attainments. Macneill did not, of first, avow himself author of the Memoirs, & was not, for some time, suspected. To prevent discovery, he devolved the superintendence of the press upon me. I prevailed upon ?him? to make every correction & alteration I wished, except the oaths & exclamations, to which he persisted in thinking *. I thought them disgusting, though they might be professional, & he omitted many. He is now at Glasgow, relapsing, he fears, under his former malady,* & anxious to have your opinion of his book. In a letter to me, last week, he writes, “Pray have you heard any thing from Dr Currie? & does the long looked for work come out this month or not?” The newspapers must have since informed him that your work, so ardently expected, is, at length, published. No copies, however, have yet reached Edinburgh, except one which has been for some time in the possession of Mr A. Cunningham. He stopped me one day in the street, with much eagerness, to communicate the [intelligence?] me, & to apologize for not sending it to me with his accustomed liberality, having been expressley prohibited from shewing it to any person, but Prof. Stewart.

I seize, with great pleasure, the first opportunity to offer you my sincere congratulations on the completion of your labours; which will remain a lasting monument of the genius of Burns, & of the learning, taste & benevolence of his ingenious & liberal mind. Dr editor. The blessing of the fatherless & the ardour, & the gratitude of the lovers of our national poetry will be your present reward. When [I have] perused the work, I may probably trouble you [with] such observations as may occur to me in going through it.
      I am much flattered, dear Sir, by your favourable opinion of my Prefaces to the Poets, imperfect as they are. At a future period, if he will be permitted, I hope to give them to the world in a manner more satisfactory to myself that that which you are pleased to honour with your appreciation. I shall be happy to profit by the remarks which you are so good as to pronounce me – I am to be drawn aside meanwhile, to edit the works of Drummond in zool. 800, including several uncollected & unpublished pieces, for Constable, a laudable reviver of old Scottish authors; & at the solicitation of Bishop Percy to edit the Poems of Grainger, which he has collected & transmitted to me, in 2 vols 12mo to be printed by Mundell, the most spirited publisher in this country, who, in the prime of life, I am sorry to see sinking gradually into the grave. Any ideas or information you have to communicate concerning these poems will be thankfully received. The pleasure of the employment is my recompense, but it were better placed in abler hands. My abilities are not equal to my wishes in advance the honour of our national poetry. The state of my health too is very infirm. Without any irregularity in its general functions, I am languid & unwell. I have an habitual feverishness that never leaves me. I seem to wear away, in my 49th year, by the mere velocity of the pulse – All our common friends here are unwell & mindful of you. T. Campbell sailed lately from Leith for Hamburgh, to visit *, Iona & Vienna, with a poem in his head, entitled “The Queen of the North” (Edinburgh) to be published, on his return with 4 engravings designed by Williams 4lo Ł1.1.- Adieu, my dear sir, & believe me to be always with one at regard

      Yours faithfully Ro. Anderson

* For a long time, the * discharge has been regularly promoted by suppositories o[r purgatives, at the intervals of 15 days, with considerable pain.

Notes :

Mr Mundell: James Mundell (d.1800) an Edinburgh publisher to whom Anderson felt particularly close intellectually.

Miss Bannerman’s Poems, Mr Erskine’s “Lady Grange”, & “Macpherson’s Memoirs”, under which name you would easily recognize our friend Macneil Anne Bannerman (?1780-1829), Scottish poet; William Erskine (see below) published ‘An Epistle from Lady Grange to Edward D (Edinburgh 1797) about Rachel Chiesley (1679-1745). Hector Macneill (1746-1818) anonymously published the novel, The Memoirs of Charles Macpherson 2 vols (1800 & 1801).

Miss Baillie: Joanna Baillie (1762-1851), Scottish dramatist and poet.

Mr Wm. Erskine is a young lawyer, a son of the late David Erskine W.S. William Erskine (1773-1856), historian and orientalist.

works of Drummond: Anderson had edited William Drummond of Hawthornden’s poems for Works of the British Poets (London & Edinburgh, 1795); he does not return to Drummond.

Poems of Grainger: James Grainger (c.1721-1766), Scottish poet, like Currie a medical man; intended for publication in 1801, Anderson’s edition was eventually published in Edinburgh in 1836.

“The Queen of the North”: Thomas Campbell (1777-1844) intended this work to be an epic poem about Edinburgh; it eventually appears in his Collected Works, however, as ‘The Queen of the North. A Fragment (Written in 1800)’.

back to search