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Edinburgh Past and Present


LEITH. 95 calling, and for which, in consequence, it would be very unfair to hold them responsible. ' Never give a fishwife the half of what she asks ' is a common saying, and indicative of the exorbitant prices they are in the habit of demanding in their commercial capacity. Oldbuck in his day seems to have acted on this principle. There are few more amusing or laughable scenes in the Antiquary than that of this formal, inquisitive, but genial old man bating down Mrs. Mucklebackit, and getting the fish for less than half the price she first asked, That indeed would appear to be a feature common to the whole fisher population of every place and of all time; certainly it is yet true of the fisherwomen of Newhaven, and very amusing are the scenes in this way which yet go on between the Maggie Mucklebackits of this locality and the Misses Grizel of our Trinity villas and Claremont Crescents. It would be an impropriety no doubt to say, in the words of this caustic, but after all somewhat soft-hearted misogynist, that ' they may sometimes be heard wrangling for an hour together' over a little affair of that kind, before the door or under the parlour window, 'like sea-gulls screaming and spluttering in a gale of wind ;' but that there is a good deal of ' tongue and wind,' the besetting sin of the age according to Carlyle, expended in the process there can be no question. LEITH Is a town of great impo'rtance, with a population of upwards of 50,000, and a seaport with a trade and dock accommodation the third in the kingdom. Originally, and for a long period after its existence, it remained quite apart, having no connection whatever with any of the neighbouring districts. Now, however, it may naturally be regarded as a suburb of Edinburgh, as pfiysicaZ& they meet at many points, and mlmia2aZZy are in certain things interdependent, Still, although thus closely connected with the city, and having many interests in common, it yet preserves its own integrity as a town, having its own peculiar manners, usages, independent feelings, and municipal institutions, At first, as appears, it was called Inverleith, the reason of which is obvious enough from the fact of its being situated at the mouth of the river Leith. Its history opens in or about the fourteenth century-at least nothing with certainty is known of it until 1329, when we find it but a mere village, dominated by Edinburgh, and oppressively treated by the magistracy there, whose cupidity and lust of power led them to lay a greedy and repressive hand upon its revenues and independence. Robert I. was then upon the
Volume 11 Page 148
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