Edinburgh Bookshelf

Old and New Edinburgh Vol. I


time, he delighted in music and the theatre, and it was his own advanced taste and spirit that led .him, in 1725, to open a circulating library for the diffusion of fiction among the citizens of the time. Three , years subsequently, in the narrow-minded spirit of the dark age ? of Edinburgh, the magistrates were moved to action, by the fear this new kind of reading might have on the minds of youth, and actually tried, but without effect, to put his library down. Among the leaders of these selfconstituted guardians of morality was Erskine Lord Grange, whose life was a scandal to the age. In I 736 Allan Ramsay?s passion for the drama prompted him to erect a theatre in Catrubber?s Close; but in the ensuing year the act for licensing the stage was passed, and the magistrates ordered the house to . be shut up. By this spetulation he lost a good deal of money, but it is remarked by his biographers that this was perhaps the only unfortunate project in which he ever engaged. His constant cheerfulness and great conversatibnal powers made him a favourite with all classes; and being fond of children he encouraged his three daughters to bring troops of young girls about his house, and in their sports he mingled with a vivacity singular in one of his years, and for them he was wont to make dolls and cradles with his own hands. In that house on the Castle bank he spent the last twelve years of a blameless life. He did not give up his shop-long the resort of all the wits of Edinburgh, the Hamiltons of Bangour, and Gilbertfield, Gay, and others-till 1755. He died in 1757, in his seventy-second year, and was buried in the Greyfriars Churchyard, where a tomb marks his grave. ?An elderly female told a friend of mine,? says Chambers, that she remembered, as a girl, living as an apprentice with a milliner in the Grassmarket, being sent to Ramsay Garden, to assist in making dead-clothes for the poet. She could recall, however, no particulars of the same, but the roses blooming in the deathchamber.? The house of the poet passed to his son, Allan, an eminent portrait painter, a man of high culture, and a favourite in those circles wherein Johnson and Boswell moved. He inherited considerable literary taste from his father, and was the founder of the ?? Select Society? of Edinburgh, in 1754, of which all the learned men there were members. By the interest of Lord Bute he was introduced . to George III., when Prince of Wales, whose portrait he painted. He enlarged the house his father built, and also raised the additional large edifices to the eastward, now known as Ramsay Gardens. The biographers of the painter always ,assert that he madearomantic marriage. In his youth, when teaching drawing to the daughters of Sir Alexander Lindesay, of Evelick, one of them fell in love with him, and as the consent of the parents was impossible then, they were secretly united in wedlock. He died at Dover in 1784, after which the property went to his son, General John Ramsay (latterly of the Chasseurs Bntanniques), who, at his death in 1845, left the property to Murrdy of Henderland, and so ended the line of the author of ?? The Gentle Shepherd.? Having thus described the locality of the Esplanade, we shall now relate a few of the temble episodes-apart from war and tumult-of which it has been the scene. In the reign of James V. the Master of Forbes was executed here for treason. He and his father had been warded in the Castle on that charge in 1536. By George Ear1,of Huntly, who bore a bitter animosity to the house of Forbes, the former had been accused of a design to take the life of the king, by shooting him with a hand-gun in Aberdeen, and also of being the chief instigator of the mutiny among the Scottish forces at Jedburgh, when on the march for England. Protesting his innocence, the Master boldly offered to maintain it in single combat against the earl, who gave a bond for 30,000 merks to make good his charge before the 3rst of July, 1537. But it was not until the 11th of the same month in the following year that the Master was brought to trial, before Argyle, the Lord Justice General, and Huntly failed not to make good his vaunt. Though the charges were barely proved, and the witnesses were far from exceptionable, the luckless Master of Forbes was sentenced by the Commissioners of Justiciary and fifteen other men of high rank to be hanged, drawn, beheaded, and dismembered as a traitor, on the Castle Hill, which was accordingly done, and his quarters were placed above the city gates. The judges are supposed to have been bribed by Huntly, and many of the jury, though of noble birth, were his hereditary enemies. His father, after a long confinement, and undergoing a tedious investigation, was released from the Castle. But a more terrible execution was soon to follow -that of Lady Jane Douglas, the young and beautiful widow of John Lord Glammis, who, with her second husband, Archibald Campbell of Skipness, her son the little Lord Glammis, and John Lyon an aged priest, were all committed prisoners to the Castle, on an absurd charge of seeking to compass the death of the king by poison and sorcery. cc Jane Douglas,? says a writer in ?Miscellanea Scotica,? ?( was the most renowned beauty in Britain
Volume 1 Page 83
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