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 : 29-07-1803
Correspondent : John MurdochCorrespondent Location : Hart Street, London
Recipient : James Currie Recipient Location : Liverpool
Subject : Murdoch writes about recent Burns family affairs.
Dear Doctor, This will be delivered by my much- respected friend, the Reverend Thomas Clarke, one of the preben- daries of Hereford, who although English, is well acquainted with our Scottish bard, and an enthusiastic admirer of his works. He has consequently a great desire of being personally acquainted with the editor ; and as he means to spend two or three days at Liverpool, I take the liberty of requesting, [MS torn]hat if your numerous avocations will permit, you would spend half an hour with him, either at your own house, should you be at leisure when he calls, or at his lodgings. I have no doubt that the pleasure of the interview will be reciprocal._Mr. Clarke is on his way to Scotland, where he means to winter, with his family, who are gone before him. They seem to be so partial to that country that I fear we shall lose them. Mr. C. is particularly acquainted with several of our friends at Edinburgh. Mr. James M?c?Clure wrote me from Dumfries, dated July 8?th?. that poor Frank Wallace Burns came home from Edinburgh in April last in a bad state of health, and that after having all the best medical advice that could be procured, his life was despaired of. When I showed this to Mr. Alderman Shaw, he expressed much concern ; for, (as I suppose you know) this was the lad for whom he had procured the promise of an excellent appointment in the service of the East India Company._Next post brought me the Dumfries weekly journal of the 12th. in which was this paragraph : - “Died, at Dumfries, yesterday, Francis Wallace Burns, second son of the late “celebrated Robert Burns, the Scots bard, in the 14th. year of his age : - “He was a very promising youth” Previous to this intelligence from Dumfries, my daughter had written a particular account to Mrs. Burns of the bad state in which James Glencairn was, so that her affliction must be heavy indeed._ James has been in the sick ward upwards of three months. He has had from time to time a considerable degree of fever; and twice so violent an an inflammation in his eyes that we were under serious apprehensions that he must lose his sight. Dr. Buchan junior, at my request, has visited him several times, and last time he went to see James, he accidentally took another physician of his acquaintance with him. They called on their return from the hospital, and both assured me there was nothing to be apprehended respecting his eye-sight ; and they also pronounced him out of danger with regard to the fever._ Dr. Buchan and the other physician both approved of every thing that has been done by the medical men who are entrusted with the care of the sick._ The surgeon of the hospital happens to be an acquaintance of Dr. Buchan._ Last time, however, that I went to see our dear little boy, I had some conversation with the surgeon, who told me that there is a speck on the eye that was most inflamed ; that at first it was semicircular, but is now roundish and somewhat pyramedal. At the same time, he said that he and the physician that attends to hospital have hopes that it will wear off. Alderman Shaw pays very particular attention to James. He well deserves the civic honours he receives ; for he is an honour to his country. I remain, Dear Doctor, Most sincerely, And respectfully yours, Heart Street, } Bloomsbury Sq: } July 29, 1803 } John Murdoch._ It is a long while since I had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Telford,_ and two years and a half since I had a visit of Mr. Welsh – Just as he went out, a gentleman called upon me, in consequence of the above men- tioned publication, in whose family I have been teaching ever since. I have been honoured with several important visits in consequence of } J. M. having been abecedarian to Burns }

Notes :

Reverend Thomas Clarke: (?1756-1818), who went on to publish A Letter to Mr Cobbett on his opinions respecting the Slave Trade (1806).

James McClure: friend of the poet, buried in St Michael’s Churchyard, Dumfries who busied himself on behalf of the Burns family in the early nineteenth century.

Frank Wallace Burns: Francis Wallace Burns (1789-1803) Burns second son by Jean Armour, named for Mrs Dunlop and honouring her descent from the family of William Wallce.

Alderman Shaw: Sir James Shaw (1764-1843), born in Kilmarnock and benefactor to Burns’s children after the poet’s death; he became Lord Mayor of London in 1805.

James Glencairn James Glencairn Burns (1794-1865) third surviving son of Burns, who joined the East Indies Company as a cadet rising to the rank of Major.

Dr. Buchan junior: son of Dr William Buchan (1729-1805) pioneer of public hygiene.

Mr. Telford:(1757–1834), Famous Scottish civil engineer.

Mr. Welsh: not identified.

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