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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. III


Queen Spcet.1 PROFESSOR WILSONS MOTHER. I < < He died of disease of the heart at 52, Queen Street, on the 6th May, 1870, and never was man more lamented by all ranks and classes of society ; and nothing in life so became him, as the calmness and courage with which he left it. His own great skill had taught him that from the first his recovery was doubtful, and in speaking of a possibly fatal issue, his principal reason for desiring life was that he hoped, if it were God?s will, that he might have been spared to do a little more service in the cause of hospitak reform ; all his plsns and prospects were limited by this reference to t!ie Divine will. ?If God takes me to-night,? said he to a friend, ? I feel that I am resting on Christ with the simple faith of a child.? And in this faith he passed away. His funeral was a great and solemn ovation indeed ; and never since Thomas Chatmers was laid in his grave had Edinburgh witnessed such a scene as that exhibifed in Queen Streqt on the 13th May. From the most distant shires, even of the Highlands aed the northern counties of England, and from London, people came to pay their last tribute to him whom one of the London dailies emphatically styled ?the grand old Scottish doctor.? St. Luke?s Free Church, near his house, was made the meeting place of the general public. In front of the funeral car were the Senatus Academicus, headed by the principal, Sir Alexander Grant of Dalvey, and the Royal College of Physicians, all in academic costume; the magistrates, with all their official robes and insignia; all the literary, scientific, legal, and commercial bodies in the city sent their quota of representatives, which, together with the High Constables and students, made altogether 1,700 men in deep mourning. The day was warm and bright, and vast crowds thronged every street from his house to the grave on the southern slope of Wnrriston cemetery, and on every side were heard ever and anon the lamentations of the poor, while most of the shops were closed, and the bells of the churches tolled. The spectators were estimated at IOO,OOO, and the most intense decorum prevailed. An idea of the length of the procession may be gathered from the fact that, although it consisted of men marching in sections of fours, it took upwards of. thirty-three minutes to pass a certain point. A grave was offered in Westminster, but declined DY his family, who wished to have him buried among themselves. A white marble bust of him by Brodie was, however, placed there in 1879. NO. 53 Queen Street, the house adjoining that of Sir James, was the residence of Mrs. Wilson, mother of Professor John Wilson, widow of a wealthy gauze manufacturer. Her maiden name was Margaret Sym, and her brother Robert figures in the Noctes Ambrosiamz, under the cognomen of I? Timothy Tickler.? Wilson?s Memoirs ? contain many of his own letters, datedfrom thke, after r806 till his removal to Anne Street. There he wrote his I? Isle of Palms,? prior to his marriage with Miss Jane Penny in May, I 8 I I, and there, with his young wife and her sisters, he was resident with the old lady at the subsequent Christmas. His father left him an unencumbered fortune of ~ 5 0 , 0 0 0 , which had enabled him to cut a good figure at Oxford. ?A little glimpse of the life at 53 Queen Street, and the pleasant footing subsisting between the relatives gathered there, is afforded in a note of young Mrs. Wilson about this time to a sisterYm says Mrs. Gordon. ?She thanks ?Peg? for her note, which, she says, ?was sacred to myself. It is not my custom, you may tell her, to show my letters to John.? She goes on to speak of Edinburgh society, dinners, and evening parties, and whom she most likes. The Rev. Mr. Morehead is Mr. Jeffrey is ? a homd little man,? but ? held in as high estimation here as the Bible.? Mrs. Wilson senior gives a ball, and 150 people are invited. ? The girls are looking forward to it with great delight. Mrs. Wilson is very nice with them, and lets them ask anybody they like. There is not the least restraint put upon them. John?s poems will be sent from here next week. The large size is a guinea, and the small one twelve shillings.? ? Elsewhere we are told that John Wilson?s ? home was in Edinburgh. His mother received him into her house, where he resided till 1819.? She was a lady whose domestic management was the wonder and admiration of all zealous housekeepers. Under one roof, in 53 Queen Street, she contrived to accommodate three distinct families; and there, besides the generosity exercised towards her own, she was hospitable to all, and her chanty to the poor was unbounded ; and when she died, ?it was, as it were, the extinction of a bright particular star, nor can any one who ever saw her altogether forget the effect of her presence. She belonged to that old school of Scottish ladies whose refinement and intellect never interfered with duties the most humble.? In those days in Edinburgh the system of a household neither sought nor suggested a number of servants ; thus many domestic duties devolved upon the lady herself: for example, the china -usually a rare set-after breakfast and tea, was a great favourite
Volume 3 Page 155
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