A Database of the Correspondence of James Currie (1756-1805)

A Database of the Correspondence of James Currie (1756-1805)

James Currie, M.D. (1756-1805)

This database, which was funded by the British Academy under the directorship of Dr. Gerard Carruthers of the University of Glasgow, collects and itemises the correspondence written to and by James Currie, the first biographer and editor of Robert Burns. The letters, which are housed in Glasgow’s Mitchell Library, date from the extraordinarily fruitful period between the conception of Currie’s edition of Burns’s Life and Works and its publication in 1800. The earliest letter is dated 1787, and the collection continues into the early nineteenth century, recording the responses of eminent figures to Currie’s volumes. The collection provides insight into Currie’s own motivations and his meticulous pursuit for information, and a record of Burns’s life, death and work by his intimates. Currie’s correspondents include such colossal figures as Walter Scott, Henry Mackenzie, John Ramsay of Ochtertyre, Dugald Stewart and George Thomson; but also individuals of specific importance to Burns, including John Syme, Robert Anderson, John Moore, Frances Dunlop and John Murdoch. The collection of correspondence demonstrates the immense and complex task that Currie undertook, and helps put into clearer context his achievement in his Life and Works of Robert Burns.An engraving of a portrait of Robert Burns by John Beugo (1759-1841).

The database provides a map to the collection of correspondence. It itemises such details as subject matter, the poems by Burns which are under discussion, references to his family members and intimate circle, works by other writers, scholars and editors of Burns’s work, the Mitchell Library’s call numbers and provides pertinent quotations from each letter. The research undertaken in preparing the database led to an article, ‘Making Robert Burns: The Correspondence of James Currie’ in The Burns Chronicle (Winter, 2005; pp.4-8), and will provide the reference backbone of a new edition of James Currie’s correspondence.

Dr. Rhona Brown
Department of Scottish Literature
University of Glasgow
October 2007

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