Edinburgh Bookshelf

Old and New Edinburgh Vol. II


226 OLD AKD NEW EDINBURGH. [High Street, Europe or America as a handy yet comprehensive book of ready reference, and of which the learned and ingenious Dr. Andrew Findlater acted as editor. In 1849 William purchased the estate of Glenormiston, and ten years after made a valuable gift to his native town, in the form of a suite of buildings, including a public reading-room, a good library, lecture-hall, museum, and art gallery, designated the ?Chambers Institution ;? and in 1864 he issued his ?History of Peeblesshire,? an able example of local annals. In 1865 he was elected Lord Provost of Edinburgh, and inaugurated the great architectural improvements set afoot in the more ancient parts of the city ; and in 1872 the University conferred upon him the degree of LL.D. I In 1860-1 the brothers projected that important work which gave Robert Chambers his death-blow -? The Book of Days : a Miscellany of Popular Antiquities in connection with the Calendar, including Anecdote, Biography, History, Curiosities of Literature, &c., SLc.,? a large work, in two volumes of 840 pages each. Disappointed in promised literary aid, Robert wqs compelled to perform the @eater part of this work alone, and during the winter of 186r-2 ?he might be seen every day in the British Museum, working hard at this fatal book; The mental strain broke him down; domestic bereavements aggravated the effects of ill-health, and with it, though he lived to finish his ?Life of Smollett,? his literary career closed. He died at St. Andrews in the beginning of the year 1870.? Still hale and healthy, and as full of intellectual vigour as when he handled the old printing press in his little shop in Leith Walk, William?s pen was yet busy, and produced, in 1860, ?The Youth?s Companion and Counsellor;? in 1862, ?? Something of Italy: in 1870, ?Wintering at Mentone p in 1871, ?? France, its History and Revolutions f and, in 1872, an affectionate ?Memoir? of his brother Robert, and ?Ailie Gilroy,? a simple and pathetic little story. ? In reviewing the life of this eminent publisher,? says a writer in the Nafiond Forfraif GaZlery, <? one may say that he has so lived as to teach the world how the good old-fashioned commonplace virtues can be exalted into the loftiest range of moral heroism ; that he has left on record a grand and manly example of self-help which time can never obliterate from the admiring memory of succeeding generations. Life has to him been a sacred trust, to be used for helping on the advancement of humanity, and for aiding the diffusion of knowledge. The moral to be drawn from his biography is that, with macly self-trust, with high and noble aims, with fair education, and with diligence, a man may, no matter how poor he be at the outset of his career, struggle upwards and onwards to fill a high social position, and enjoy no ordinary share of earthly honours and possessions.? At the establishment of the Messrs. Chambers fully two hundred hands are constantly employed, and their premises in Warriston Close (which have also an entrance from the High Street) form one of the interesting sights in the city. Lower down the-Close stood a large and handsome house, having a Gothic niche at its entrance, which was covered with armorial bearings and many sorely obliterated inscriptions, of which onlythe fragment of one was traceable-Gracia Dei Thomas 1: This was the town residence of Sir Thomas Craig of Riccarton, a man of eminent learning and great nobility of character, and who practised as a lawyer for fully forty years, during the stormy reigns of Mary and James VI. In 1564 he was made Justice Depute, and found time to give to the world some very able poems-one on the birth of James, and another on his departure for England, are preserved in the DeZifiG Poefamm Scofurwi. He steadily refused the honour of knighthood, yet was always called Sir Thomas Craig, in conforniity to a royal edict on the subject. He wrote a treatise on the independent sovereignty of Scotland, which was rendered into wretched English by Ridpath, and published in 1675. He was Advocate for the Church, when he died at Edinburgh, on the 26th of February, r608, and was succeeded in the old house, as well as his estate, by his eldest son, Sir Lewis Craig, born in 1569, and called to the bench in 1604, as Lord Wrightslands, while his father was still a pleader at the bar. After his time his house had as occupiers, first Sir George Urquhart of Cromarty, and next Sir Robert Baird, Bart., of Saughton Hall, who died in 1714. But by far the most celebrated residenter in this venerable alley was he who gave it the name it bears, Sir Archibald Johnston Lord Warriston, whose estate, still so named, lies eastward of Inverleith Row. The son of Johnston of Beirholm (once a merchant in Edinburgh), by his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Thomas Craig (above mentioned), this celebrated lawyer, subtle statesman, and somewhat juggling politician, was called to the bar in 1633, and would appear to have purchased from his cousin, Sir Lewis Craig, a house in the close, adjoining his own. In 1637 he began to take a prominent part in the bitter disputes of the period, and Bishop Bur
Volume 2 Page 226
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