Edinburgh Bookshelf

Old and New Edinburgh Vol. I


Augustus seems peculiarly applicable to the Edinburgh of Jsmes V., and still more to that of James 11. ?He imprisoned Paris in a Circular chain of great towers, high and solid,? says the author of (? Notre Dame j ? ?for more than a century after this the houses went on pressing upon each other, accumulating and rising higher and higher. They .got deeper and deeper; they piled storeys on storeys j they mounted one upon another j they shot up monstrously tall, for they had not room to grow breadthwise; each sought to raise its head above its neighbour to have a little air ; every open space became filled up, and disappeared. The houses at length leaped over the wall of Philip Augustus, and scattered themselves joyously over the plain. Then they did what they liked, and cut themselves gardens out of the fields.? And of the old walled city the welI-known lines of Scott are most apposite :- ? Such dusky grandeur clothed the height, When the huge castle holds its state, Whose ridgy back heaves to the sky, Piled deep and massy, close and high, And all the steep slope down, Mine own romantic town ! ? New Edinburgh appeals to us in a different sense. It tells peculiarly in all its phases 01 modern splendour, wealth, luxury, and all the arts of peace, while ?in no other city,? it has been said, ?? will you find so general an appreciation oi books, arts, music, and objects of antiquarian interest. It is peculiarly free from the taint of the ledger and counting-house. It is a Weimar with. out a Goethe-Boston without its twang.? This is the Edinburgh through the noble street: of which Scott limped in his old age, white-haired and slow, leaning often on the arm of Lockhari .or the greyplaided Ettrick Shepherd; the Edin. burgh where the erect and stalwart form of thr athletic ?? Christopher North,? with his long lock: of grizzled yellow-his ?tawny mane,? as hr called them-floating on the breeze, his keen blur eyes seemingly fixed on vacancy, his left hanc planted behind his back, and his white neck cloth oft awry, strode daily from Gloucester Plaa to the University, or to ?Ebony?s,? to meet Jefiey Rutherford, Cockbum, Delta, Aytoun, Edwarc Forbes, and Carlyle ; the Edinburgh where Simpson the good, the wise, and the gentle, made his dis covery concerning chloroform, and made his mark too, as ?the grand old Scottish doctor,? whosi house in Queen Street was a focus for all thi learned and all the Ziterati of Europe and Americi -the Edinburgh of the Georgian and Victorian age We propose to trace the annals of its glorious University, from the infant establishment, founded by the legacy of Robert Bishop of Orkney, in 1581, and which was grafted on the ancient edifice n the Kuk-of-Field, and the power of which, as years went on, spread fast wherever law, theology, medicine, and art, were known. The youngest znd yet the noblest of all Scottish universities, :nrolliug yearly the greatest number of students, it ias been the dma mater of many men, who, n every department of learning and literature, iave proved themselves second to none; and ?kom the early days when Rollock taught, to those when it rose into repute as a great school of medicine under the three Munroes, who held with honour the chair of anatomy for 150 years, and when, in other branches of knowledge, its fame yew under Maclaurin, Black, Ferguson, Stewart, Hamilton, Forbes, Syme, and Brewster, we shan ;race its history down to the present day, when its privileges *cl efficiency were so signally aukmented by the Scottish University Act of 1858. Nor shall we omit to trace the origin and development of the stage in Edinburgh, from the time when the masks or plays of Sir David Lindsay of the Mount were performed in the open air in the days of James V., ?when weather served,? at the Greensidelwell beneath the Calton Hill, and the theatre at the Watergate, when ?his Majesty?s servants from London ? were patronised by the Duke of Albany and York, then resident in Holyrood, down to the larger establishments in the Canongate, under the litigious Tony Astdn, and those of later years, which saw the performances of Kean, Kemble, and Mrs. Siddons, and the production of the Waverley dramas, under the auspices of Terry, who, as Scott said, laughingly, had ?? temfied ? his romances into plays. Arthur?s Seat and the stupendous craigs, the name of which is so absurdly and grotesquely corrupted into Salisbury,? alone are unchanged since those pre-historic days, when, towering amid the wilderness, they overlooked the vast forest of oaks that stretched from :he pastoral hills of Braid to the sea-the wood of Drumsheugh, wherein roamed the snow-white Caledonian bull, those ferocious Caledonian boars, which, as Martial tells us, were used to heighten the torments of unhappy sufferers on the cross; the elk, the stag, and the wolf; and amid which rose the long ridgy slopethe &?in-that formed the site of the future old city, terminating in the abrupt bluff of the Castle rock. There, too, rose the bare round mass of the Calton, the abode of the fox and hare, and where the bustard had its nest amid the gorse;
Volume 1 Page 7
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