Edinburgh Bookshelf

Old and New Edinburgh Vol. III

Search

I10 OLD -AND NEW EDINBURGH. [Calton Hill. It was finished in 1832, and is a beautiful restoration, with some variations, of the choragic monument of Lysicrates, from a design by W. H. Playf5r. The chaste Greek monument of Professor Flayfair, at the south-east angle of the new observatory serves also to enhance the classic aspect of the hill, and was designed by his nephew. This memorial to the great mathematician and eminent natural philosopher is inscribed thus, in large Roman characters :- JOANNI PLAYFAIR AMICORUM PIETAS CESIDERIIS ICTA FIDELIBUS QUO IPSE LOCO TEMPLUM X?RANAE SUAE OLIM DICAVERIT POSUIT. NAT. VI. IDUS. MART. MDCCXLVIII. OBIIT. XIV. KAL SEXTIL. MDCCCXIX. Passing the eastern gate of the new prison, and Jacob?s Ladder, a footway which, in two mutually diverging lines, each by a series of steep traverses and flights of steps, descends the sloping face of the hill, to the north back of the Canongate, we find Bums?s monument, perched over the line of the tunnel, built in 1830, after a design by Thomas Hamilton, in the style of a Greek peripteral temple, its cupola being a literal copy from the monument of Lysicrates at Athens. The original object of this edifice was to serve as a shrine for Flaxman?s beautiful statue of Bums, now removed to the National Gallery, but replaced by an excellent bust of the poet, by William Brodie, R.S.A., one of the best of Scottish sculptors. This round temple contains many interesting relics of Burns. The entire length of the upper portion of the hill is now enclosed by a stately terrace, more than 1,000 yards in length, with Grecian pillared doorwzrys,- continuous iron balconies, and massive cornices, commanding much of the magnificent panorama seen from the higher elevations ; but, by far the most important, interesting, and beautiful edifice on this remarkable hill is the new High School of Edinburgh, on its southern slope, adjoinimg the Regent Terrace. The new High School is unquestionably one af the most chaste and classical edifices in Edinh g h . It is a reproduction of the purest Greek, and in every way quite worthy of its magnificent site, which commands one of the richest of town and country landscapes in the city and its environs, and is in itself one of the most striking features of the beautiful scenery with which it is grouped. When the necessity for having a new High School in place of the old, within the city wall-the old which had so many striking memories and traditions (and to which we shall refer elsewhere)- came to pass, several situations were suggested as a site for it, such as the ground opposite to Princes Street, and the then Excise Office (now the Royal Bank), in St. Andrew Square; but eventually the magistrates fixed on the green slope of the Calton Hill, to the eastward of the Miller?s Knowe. In digging the foundations copper ore in some quantities was dug out, together with some fragments of native copper. The ceremony of laying the foundation stone took place amid great pomp and display on the 28th of July, 1825. All the public bodies in the city were present, with the then schola from the Old School, the senators, academicians, clergy, rector, and masters, and, at the request of Lord Provost Henderson, the Rev. Dr. Brunton implored the Divine blessing on the undertaking. The stone was laid by Viscount Glenorchy, Grand Master of Scotland, and the building was proceeded with rapidly. It is of pure white stone, designed by Thomas Hamilton, and has a front of 400 feet, including the temples, or wings, which contain the writing and mathematical class-rooms. The central portico is a hexastyle, and, having a double range of twelve columns, projects considerably in front of the general [email protected] The whole edifice is of the purest Grecian Doric, and, even to its most minute details, is a copy of the celebrated Athenian Temple of Theseus. A spacious flight of steps leading up to it from the closing wall in front, and a fine playground behind, is overlooked by the entrances to the various class-rooms. The interior is distributed into a large hall, seventy-three feet by forty-three feet ; a rector?s classroom, thirty-eight feet by thirty-four feet ; four class-rooms for masters, each thirty-eight feet by twenty-eight feet; a library ; and two small rooms attached to each of the classrooms. On the margin of the roadway, on a lower site than the main building, are two handsome lodges, each two storeys in height, oiie occupied by the janitor, and the other containing class-rooms. The area of the school and playground is two acres, and is formed by cutting deep into the face of the hill. The building cost when finished, according to the City Chamberlain?s books, L34,rgg I IS. 6d. There are a rector, and ten teachers of classics and languages, in addition to seven lecturers on science. The school, the most important in Scotland, and intimately connected with the literature and progress of the kingdom, although at first only a classical seminary, now furnishes systematic
Volume 3 Page 110
  Enlarge Enlarge  
Calton Hill.] THE HIGH SCHOOL. IT1 ture, including reading, orthography, recitation, grammar, and composition, together with British history, forms the prominent parts of the system ; while the entire curriculum of study-which occupies six years-embraces the Latin, Greek, French, and German languages, history, geography, physiology, chemistry, natural philosophy, zoology, botany, algebra, geometry, drawing, fencing, gymnastics, and military drill. In the library are same form, each possessing no advantage over his schoolfellow. ?? Edinburgh has reason to be proud of this noble institution,? said Lord Provost Black at the examination in 1845, ?as one which has conferred a lustre upon our city, and which has given a tone to the manners and intellect of its Whether they remain in Edinburgh or betake themselves to other lands, and whatever be the walk of life in which they are led, I believe I inhabitants. all4ikelihood never will be. In the long roll of its scholars are the names of the most distinguished men of all professions, and in every branch of science and literature, many of whom have helped to form and consolidate British India. It also includes three natives of Edinburgh, High School callants,? who have been Lord Chancellors of Great Britain-Wedderburn, Erskine, and Brougham. The annual examinations always take place in presence of the Lord Provost and magistrates, a number of the city clergy and gentlemen connected with the other numerous educational establishments in the city. There is also a large concourse of the parents and friends of the pupils. The citizens have ever rejoiced in this ancient school, and are justly proud of it, not only for the prominent position it occupies, but from the peculiarity of its constitumanity. Dr. Carson held the office till October, 1845, when feeble health compelled him to resign, and he was succeeded by Dr. Leonhard Schmitz (as twenty-sixth Rector, from D. Vocat, Rector in 151g), the first foreigner who ever held L classical mastership in the High School. He was a graduate of the University of Bonn, and a native of Eupen, in Rhenish Prussia. He was the author of a continuation of Niebuhr?s ?History of Rome,? in three volumes, and many other works, and in 1844 obtained from his native monarch the gold medal for literature, awarded ?as a mark of his Majesty?s sense of the honour thereby conferred on the memory of Niebuhr, one of the greatest scholars of Germany.? In 1859 he was selected by her Majesty the Queen to give a course of historical study to H.R.H. the Prince , of Wales, and during the winter of 1862-3, he
Volume 3 Page 111
  Enlarge Enlarge     Pictures Pictures