Monday, May 31, 2010

James Currie

Robert Burns' first biographer, Dr. James Currie, was born this day (May 31) in 1756.  Currie emigrated to Virginia in 1771, the year of Scott's birth, to serve as an apprentice tobacco factor.  Suffering ill health, Currie decided in 1776 to return to Scotland, with the object of studying medicine.  It took more than one try to sail out of revolutionary America, but he reached England in 1777, ultimately establishing himself as a physician in Liverpool.  Here he began to contribute to professional journals, and as an anti-slavery advocate.

Currie gained renown for his treatment using hydropathy, involving cold water cures.  His studies of hydropathy were the first to record the clinical use of thermometers in measuring fever.  Currie published his observations in "Medical Reports on the Effects of Water, Cold and Warm, as a Remedy in Fevers and Other Diseases (1797)".

Currie appreciated Burns' poetry, and was chosen to edit his work for a volume published by Cadell and Davies.  While undertaking this task, Currie reached out to others in the literary trade, including Walter Scott.  In at least one letter, Scott discusses Burns' possible authorship of the poem "Evan Banks", which Burns published.


Slow spreads the gloom my soul desires,
The sun from India s shore retires;
To Evan Banks with temperate ray,
Home of my youth, he leads the day.
Oh banks to me for ever dear !
Oh streams whose murmurs still I hear!
All, all my hopes of bliss reside
Where Evan mingles with the Clyde.

And she, in simple beauty drest,
Whose image lives within my breast;
Who trembling heard my parting sigh,
And long pursued me with her eye;
Does she, with heart unchanged as mine,
Oft in the vocal bowers recline ?
Or where you grot o'erhangs the tide,
Muse while the Evan seeks the Clyde ?

Ye lofty banks that Evan bound !
Ye lavish woods that wave around,
And o'er the stream your shadows throw,
Which sweetly winds so far below !
What secret charm to memory brings
All that on Evan's border springs ?
Sweet banks ! ye bloom by Mary's side ;
Blest stream ! she views thee haste to Clyde.

Can all the wealth of India's coast
Atone for years in absence lost ?
Return, ye moments of delight,
With richer treasures bless my sight!
Swift from this desert let me part,
And fly to meet a kindred heart!
Nor more may aught my steps divide
From that dear stream which flows to Clyde.

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