Edinburgh Bookshelf

Old and New Edinburgh Vol. I


Parliament Close.] ?? THE BEACON.? I81 pied by John Kay, the well-known engraver and caricaturist, whose ?Portraits? of old Edinburgh characters certainly form, with their biographies, perhaps the most unique collection in Europe. During his whole career he occupied the same small print-shop ; the solitary window was filled with his own etchings, which amounted to nearly go0 in pumber. He had originally been a barber, but after 1785 devoted himself solely to the art of etching and miniature painting. He died in 1830, at No. 227, High Street, in his eighty-fourth year. - menced business in the Parliament Close, where, in 1783, he started a new monthly miscellany, named 2% Edinburgh Magazine, illustratec3 with engravings, the principal papers in which were articles on Scottish antiquities, the production ot his own pen. He was also the projector of the Edivbu~g8 iYeraZd, which, however, was soon discontinued. Relinquishing his establishment in the Close about 1792, he devoted himself to a literary life in London j but, after a somewhat chequered career, returned to Edinburgh, where about the year 1636. At their base was an ancient public well. The Edinburgh WeekZy Juurnal for 1821 mentions that a man fell over ?the stairs which lead from the Kirkheugh to the Parliament stairs;? and the sameJoumaC for 1828 states that ?workmen are engaged in taking down the large double tenement in the Cowgate, at the back of the Parliament House, called Henderson?s Stairs, part of which, it will be remembered, fell last summer, and which had been condemned sixty years ago,? in 1768. In 1781 James Sibbald, an eminent bookseller and literary antiquarian, the son of a Roxburgh farmer, who came to Edinburgh with LIOO in his pocket, after being employed in the shop of Elliot the publisher, purchased the old circulating library that had belonged to Allan Ramsay, and cornliament Close, or Square as it was then becoming more generally named, was the scene of an unseemly literary fracas, arising from political hatred and circumstances, by which one life was ultimately lost, and which might have imperilled even that of Sir Walter Scott. A weekly paper, called the Beacon, was established in Edinburgh, the avowed object of which was the support of the then Government, but which devoted its colun~ns the leading Whig nobles and gentlemen of Scotland. This system of personal abuse gave rise to several actions at law, and on the 15th of August a rencontre took place between James Stuart of Dunearn, who conceived his honour and character impugned in an article which he traced to Duncan Stevenson, the printer of the paper, in the Parliament Square. Stuart, with a horsewhip, lashed the latter, who was not slow in retaliating with a stout cane. ?The parties were speedily separated,? says the Scots Magazine for 1816, ?and Mr. Stevenson, in the course of the day, demanded from Mr. Stuart the satisfaction customary in such cases. This was refused by Mr, Stuart, on the ground that, ?as the servile instrument of a partnership of slander,? he was unworthy of receiving the satisfaction of a gentleman.
Volume 1 Page 181
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