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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. III


Princes Street.] EDINBURGH IN 1783. 119 vincial towns were combined in the case of Edinburgh She was the titular capital of Scotland, and as such, was looked up to with pride and veneration by the nation at large. She was then the residence of many of the old Scottish nobility, and the exclusion of the British from the Continent, during a long, protracted war, made her, either for business, society, or education, the favourite resort of strangers. She was the headquarters of the legal profession at a time when both the Scottish bench and bar were rendered illustrious by a numbet of men celebrated far their learning, eloquence, and wit. She was the head-quarters of the Scottish Church, whose pulpits and General Assembly were adorned by divines of great eminence and piety. Lastly, she was the chief seat of scholarship, and the chosen home of literature and science north of the Tweed.? With the Edinburgh of those days ,and of the present we have now deal CHAPTER XVII. PRINCES STREET. A Glance at Society-Change of BIanners, &-The Irish Giants-Poole?s Coffee-house-Shop of Constable 8 Co.-Weir?s Muscum, 1794- The Grand Duke Nichoh-North British Insurance Life Association4ld Tax Office and New Club-Craig of Ricarton-??he White Rose of Scotland??-St. John?s Chapel-Its Tower and Vaults, &.-The Scott Monument and its MUseum-The Statues of Professor Wilson, Allan Ramsay, Adam Black, Sir James Sirnpson, and Dr. Livingstone-The General Improvements in Princes Street. IN 1774 a proposal to erect buildings on the south side of Princes Street-a lamentable error in taste it would have proved-led to an interdict by the Court of Session, which ended in a reference to the House of Lords, on which occasion Imd Mansfield made a long and able speech, and the result was, that the amenity of Princes Street was maintained, and it became in time the magnificent terrace we now find it. Of the city in 1783 some glimpses are given us in the ?? Letters of Theophrastus,? appended to the second edition of ?Arnot.? In that year the revenue of the Post Office was only ~ 4 0 , 0 0 0 . There were four coaches to Leith, running every half hour, and there were 1,268 four-wheeled carriages and 338 two-wheeled paying duty. The oystercellars had become numerous, and were places of fashionable resort. A maid-servant?s wages were about f;4 yearly. In 1763 they wore plain cloaks or plaids; but in 1783 ?silk, caps, ribbons, ruffles, false. hair, and flounced. petticoats.? In 1783 a number of bathing-machines had been adopted at Leith. People of the middle class and above it dined about four o?clock, after which no business was done, and gentlemen were at no pains to conceal their impatience till the ladies retired. Attendance at church . was, much neglected, and people did not think it ?genteel? to take their domestics with them. ?In 1783 the daughters even of tradesmen consume the moriings at the toilet (to which rouge is now an appendage) or in strolling from the perfumer?s to the milliner?s. They would blush to be seeri at market. The cares of the family devolve upon a housekeeper, ? and Miss employs those heavy hours when she is disengaged from public or private amusements in improving her mind from the precious stores of a circulating library.? In that year a regular cockpit was built for cock-fighting, where all distinctions of rank and character were levelled. The weekly concert of music began at seven o?clock, and mistresses of boarding-schools, &c., would not allow their pupils to go about unattended ; whereas, twenty years before ?young ladies might have walked the streets in perfect security at all hours.? In I 783 six criminals lay under sentence of death in Edinburgh in one week, whereas it1 1763 three was an average for the whole kingdom in a year. A great number of the servant-maids still continued ? their abhorrence of wearing shoes and stockings in the morning.? The Register House was unfinished, ?? or occupied by pigeons only,? and the Records ? were kept in a dur.geon called the high Parliament House.? The High Street alone was protected by the guard. The New Town to the north, and all the streets and new squares to the south, were totally unwatched ; and the soldiers of the guard still preserved ?the purity of their native Gaelic, so that few of the citizens understand, or are understood by them ;? while the king?s birthday and the last night of the year were ?? devoted to drunkenness, outrage, and riot, instead of loyalty, peace, and harmony,? as of old. One of the earliest improvements in the extended royalty was lighting it with oil lamps; but in the Adnerh?ser for 1789 we are told that ?while all strangers admire the beauty and regularity of the
Volume 3 Page 119
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