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 : 06-02-1798
Correspondent : Cadell & DaviesCorrespondent Location : London
Recipient : James Currie Recipient Location : Liverpool
Subject : Cadell & Davies propose to Currie a financial arrangement for his edition.
Dear Sir
      We are favoured with your Letter of the 29th Oct. and have received the Parcel of Proposals and Receipts – Since we had the Pleasure of writing to you, we have seen Mrs Riddell and Mr Lawrie, from both whom we find we had better not make any further Use of the Names of either Mr Heron or Coll. Fullarton, though we dare say the latter will readily excuse the Insertion of his in the Proposals – Our Plan, therefore, is to advertise the intended Publication in the best London Papers, retaining in the Advertisement all the Names which appear in the Proposals, except Coll Fullarton’s and Mr Lawrie’s, for which we are to substitute those of two Banking Houses. (one in the City, the other at the West End of the Town) to be arranged by Mr Lawrie – - We will take Care to send a Number of the Proposals and Receipts to Mr Creech and the other Booksellers in Scotland, and otherwise to distribute them according to the best of our Judgement –
      What think you, dear Sir, of the following Proposal respecting your own Volume? As the Price of the Copyright, instead of £100 at once, suppose we pay you £60 at a given Period from the Publication of the second Edition, and a further Sum of £60 on the Publications of a third Edition whenever that may be – In order to circulate the Book amongst our Brethren of the Trade by every Means in our Power, we have inserted it in our Annual Sale Catalogue, wherein it is our Custom to offer all our own Books at Prices about ten per cent lower than ordinary, to encourage their Circulation – we think there is little Doubt of the remaining Copies being all disposed of before the new Edition is ready – An Index we certainly recommend, be it ever so concise – Please to present our Kindest Remembrances to Mr Roscoe – and believe us to be, ever, dear Sir –

           Your faithful and obedient Servants

                Cadell & Davies

London –
Feb.y 6th 1798 –

Notes :

Mrs Riddell: Maria Woodley Riddell (1772-1808), using the pen name ‘Candidior’ wrote a memoir of Burns’s life for the Dumfries Weekly Journal of August 1796 which she revised for Currie's 1801 edition.

Mr Lawrie: Archibald Lawrie (1768-1837), Son of Revd. George Lawrie of Loudoun whom he succeeded in 1799. A student at Edinburgh University during Burns’s sojourns in the capital, he socialised with the poet. George Lawrie had commended the Kilmarnock edition to Thomas Blacklock. After visiting the Lawrie family in late October 1786 Burns described them to Archibald as representing ‘one of the sweetest scenes of domestic Peace and kindred Love that at I ever saw’ (Letters I, 61).

Coll Fullarton: William Fullarton (1754-1808) who saw military service in India and who was an Ayrshire Member of Parliament. Burns praises him in his poem, ‘The Vision’.

Mr Heron: Robert Heron (1764-1807), In Observations made in a Journey through the Western Counties of Scotland (Perth, 1793) II, 349-50, heron singled out ‘The Cotter’s Saturday Night,. ‘Hallowe’en’, and ‘Alloway Kirk’ [‘Tam o’ Shanter’] for praise. His Memoir of the Life of the Late Robert Burns (Edinburgh, 1797) had first appeared, signed ‘H’, in the Monthly Magazine (June 1797), iii, 213-16 and 552-62; it was reprinted in the Edinburgh Magazine (1797) and the Philadelphia Monthly Magazine (1798). Following Thomson’s obituary, Heron adopted a lofty, moralising stance, emphasising what he regarded as evidence of the poet’s decadence.

Mr Creech: William Creech (1745-1815), Edinburgh publisher and bookseller who published the ‘Edinburgh’ edition of Burns’s Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect (1787).

Mr 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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