Edinburgh Bookshelf

Old and New Edinburgh Vol. I


natural death-all the rest having lost their lives in defence of their country. If we turn to Holyrood, what visions and memories must arise of Knoq standing grim and stem before his queen, in his black Geneva cloak, with his hands planted on the horn handle of his long walking-cane, daringly rebuking her love of music and dancing-unbending, unyieldmg, and unmelted, by her exalted rank, her beauty, or her bitter tears j and of that terrible night in the Tower of James V., when sickly Ruthven, looking pale as a spectre under the open visor of his helmet, drew back with gauntleted hand the ancient arras as the assassins stole up the secret stair,-and then Rizzio, clinging wildly to the queen?s skirt, and dying beneath her eyes of many a mortal wound, with Darnley?s dagger planted in his body; of Charles Edward, in the prime of his youth and comeliness, already seeing the crown of the Stuarts upon his exiled father?s head, surrounded by exultant Jacobite ladies, with white cockades on their bosoms, and dancing in the long gallery of the kings to the sound of the same pipes that blew the onset at Falkirk and Culloden ! A very few years later, and Boswell, ?and Dr. Johnson in his brown suit with steel buttons, might have been seen coming arm-in-arm from the White Horse Hostel in Boyd?s Close-the burly lexicographer, as his obsequious follower tells us, grumbling and stumbling in the dark, as they proceeded on their way to the abode of the latter in James?s Court; but his visit to Scotland compelled the pedant, who trembled at the Cock Lane ghost and yet laughed at the idea of an earthquake in Lisbon, to have, as Macaulay says, a salutary suspicion of his own deficiencies, which skems on that occasion to have crossed his mind for the first time.? In yonder house, in Dunbar?s Close, the Ironsides of Cromwell had their guard-house ; and on the adjacent bartizan, that commanded a view of all the fields and farms to the north, in the autumn evenings of 1650~ the Protector often sat with Mathew Tiomlinson, Monk, and Ireton, each smoking their yards of clay and drinking Scottish . ale, or claret, and expounding, it might be, texts of Scripture, while their batteries at the Lang-gate ? and Heriot?s Hospital threw shot and shell at the Castle, then feebly defended by the treacherous Dundas, from whom the Protector?s gold won what, he himself admitted, steel and shot might never have done, the fortress never before being so strong as it was then, with all its stores and garrison. And in, that wynd, to which, in perishing, he gave his name, we shall see the sturdy craftsman Halkerston fighting to the death, with his two-handed sword, against the English invaders. Turn which way we hay in Edinburgh, that stirring past attends us, and every old stone is a record of the days, the years, and the people, who have passed away. In a cellar not far distant the Treaty of Union was partly signed, in haste and fear and trembling, while the street without rang with the yells and opprobrious cries of the infuriated mob ; and after that event, by the general desertion of the nobility, came what has been emphatically called the Dark Age of Edinburgh-that dull and heartless period when grass was seen to grow around the market-, cross, when a strange and unnatural stillness-the stillness of village life-seemed to settle over every one and everything, when the author of ? Douglas ? was put under ban for daring to write that tragedy, and when men made their last will and testament before setting out by the stage for London, and when such advertisements appeared as that which we find in the EdinbuTh Coirranf for 7th March, 1761 -?A young lady who is about to set out fqr London in a postchaise will be glad of a companion. Enquire at the publisher of this paper ; ? -when Edinburgh was so secluded and had such little intercourse with London, that on one occasion the mail brought but a single letter (for the British Linen Company), and the dullness of local life received a fillip only when Admiral de Fourbin was off the coast of Fife, or the presence of Thurot the corsair, or of Paul Jones, brought back some of the old Scottish spirit of the past. The stately oaks of the Burghmuir, under which Guy of Namuis Flemish lances fled in ruin and defeat before the Scots of Douglas and Dalhousie, have long since passed away, and handsome modem villas cover all the land to the base of the bordering hills; but the old battle stone, in which our kings planted their standards, and which marked the Campus Martius of the Scottish hosts, still lingers there on the south; and the once lonely Figgatemuir on the east, where the monks of Holyrood grazed their flocks and herds, and where Wallace mustered his warriors prior to the storming of Dunbar, is now a pleasant little watering place, which somewhat vainly boasts itself ?? the Scottish Brighton.? The remarkable appearance and construction of old Edinburgh-towering skyward, storey upon storey, with all its black and bulky chimneys, crowstepped gables, and outside stairs-arise from the circumstance of its having been twice walled, and the necessity for residing within these barriers, for protection in times of foreign or domestic war. Thus, what Victor Hug0 says of the Paris of Philip ?
Volume 1 Page 6
  Shrink Shrink   Print Print