Edinburgh Bookshelf

Old and New Edinburgh Vol. I


ALLAN RAMSAY?S SHOP. ?5 5 The Luckenbcoths.] years after, a second plan was concerted in England, by a cozenage trial, which might be adduced as a precedent. The court thought proper to take the opinion of the twelve judges in England, who permitted the matter to drop without giving any j but a third attempt was made to restrain a certain Scdtsman from trading as a bookseller ih London, For twelve years this man was harassed by successive injunctions in Chancery, for printing books which were not protected by the 8th of Queen Anne, cap. 19, and the Court of Queen?s Bench decided against the Scotsman (Miller v. Taylor), and then the London trade applied once more to the Court of Session to have it made law in Scotland. This prosecution was brought by Hinton, a bookseller, against the well-known Alexander Donaldson, then in London, to restrain him from publishing ?Stackhouse?s History of the Bible.? He was subjected to great annoyance, yet he supported himself against nearly the entire trade in London, and obtained a decree which was of the greatest importance to the booksellers in Scotland. Ramsay?s shop became the rendezvous of. all the wits of the day. Gay, the poet, who was quite installed in the household of the Duchess of Queensberry-the witty daughter of the Earl of Clarendon and Rochester-accompanied his fair patroness to Edinburgh,. and resided for some time in Queensberry House in the Canongate. He was a frequent lounger at the shop of Ramsay, and is said to have derived great amusement from the anecdotes the latter gave of the leading citizens, as they assembled at the cross, where from his windows they could be seen daily with powdered wigs, ruffles, and rapiers. The late William Tytler, of Woodhouselee, who had frequently seen Gay there, described him as ? a pleasant little man in a tye-wig ;? and, according to the Scofs? Magazine for 1802, he recollected overhearing him request Ramsay to explain many Scottish words and national customs, that he might relate them to Pope, who was already a great admirer of ? The Gentle Shepherd.? How picturesque is the grouping in the following paragraph, by one who has passed away, of the crowd then visible from the shop of Allan Ramsay ;-? Gentlemen and ladies paraded along in the stately attire of the period; tradesmen chatted in groups, often bareheaded, at their shop doors ; caddies whisked about bearing messages or attending to the affairs of strangers ; children filled the kennel with their noisy sports. Add to this the corduroyed men from Gilmerton bawling coals or yellow sand, and spending as much breath in a minute as would have served poor asthmatic Hugo Arnot for a month ; fishwomen crying their caller haddies from Newhaven ; whimsicals and idiots, each with his or her crowd of tormentors ; sootymen with their bags ; Town Guardsmen with their antique Lochaber axes ; barbers with their hairdressing materials, and so forth.? Added to these might be the blue-bonneted shepherd in his grey plaid; the wandering piper; the kilted drover, armed to the teeth, as was then the fashion ; and the passing sedan, with liveried bearers. Johnson, in his ? Lives,? makes no reference to the Scottish visit of Gay, who died in 1732, but merely says that for his monetary hardships he received a recompense ? in the affectionate attention of the Duke and Duchess of Queensbeny, into whose house he was taken, and with whom he passed the remaining part of his life.? Ramsay gave up his shop and library in 1752, transferring them to his successor, who opened an establishment below with an entrance direct from the street. This was Mr. James MacEwan, from whom the business passed into the hands of Mr. Alexander Kincaid, an eminent publisher in his. time, who took a great lead in civic affairs, and died in office as Lord Provost of Edinburgh on the zIst of January, 1777. Escorted by the trained bands, and every community in the city, and preceded by ? the City Guard in funeral order, the officers? scarfs covered with crape, the drums with black cloth, beating a dead march,? his funeral, as it issued into the High Street, was one of the finest pageants witnessed in Edinburgh since the Union. During his time the old bookseller?s shop acquired an additional interest from being the daily lounge of Smollett, who was residing with his sister in the Canongate in 1776. Thus it is that he tells us, in ? Humphry Clinker,? that the people of business in Edinburgh, and even the genteel company, may be seen standing in crowds every day, from one to two in the afternoon, in the open street, at a place where formerly stood a market cross, a curious piece of Gothic architecture, still to be seen in Lord Somerville?s garden in this neighbourhood.? The attractions of the old shop increased when it passed with the business into the hands of the celebrated William Creech, son of the minister of Newbattle. Educated at the grammar school of Dalkeith and the University of Edinburgh, he had many mental endowments, an inexhaustible fund of amusing anecdote, and great conversational powers, which through life caused him to be courted by the most eminent men of the time; and his smiling face, his well-powdered head, accurate black suit, with satin breeches, were long
Volume 1 Page 155
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