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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. V


Cmigcrook.1 ARCHIBALD CONSTABLE. I09 them in the middle of the West Bow, and offered to write the bond which they had agreed to subscribe with their blood; but on Thomson demurring, this stranger immediately disappeared. No contemporasy, of course, could be at any loss to surmise who this stranger was ! ? Into Mr. Strachan?s house the assassins made their way, broke open his study and cash-box, from which they carried off a thousand pounds sterling in bags of fifty pounds each, all ? milled money,? except one hundred pounds, which were in gold. strange stories regarding the discovery of Thornson?s guilt. It is more to the purpose that twelve months after the murder of Helen Bell, Lady Craigcrook dreamed that she saw the criminal, in whom she recognised an old servant, kill the girl and hide the money in two old barrels filled with rubbish, and that her husband on making inquiries, found him possessed of an unusual amount of money, had him arrested, his house searched, and found .his. bags, which he identified, with a portion of the missing coin. CRAIGCROOK IN 1770. (After an Etching by Clerk df E/din). Robertson actually proposed to set the house on fire before departing, but Thomson said ?he had done wickedness enough already, and was resolved not to commit more, even though Robertson should attempt to murder him for his refusal.? Five hundred merks reward was offered by Mr. jtrachan for the detection of the perpetrators of these crimes ; but it was not until after some weeks elapsed that suspicion fell upon Thomson, who was arrested, made a voluntary confession, and was executed in the Grassmarket. As no reference is made to the other culprit, he must have effected his escape. But the credulous Wodrow, in his ?Analecta,? records one of his In 1736 Craigcrook Castle and grounds were let on a lease for ninety-nine years, on which early in the present century they became possessed by Archibald Constable, the eminent publisher, who made great improvements upon the mansion and grounds. Without injuring the appearance of antiquity in the former, he rendered it partly the commodious modem residence which Lord Jeffrey found it for so many summers of his life, and, like John Hunter, made the old fortalice sacred in a manner to literary and philosophic culture. Here was born, in I 8 I 2, the late Thomas Constable, who began business in 1833, and by his taste and care did more than any other man
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I I0 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [Claigcrook. perhaps to raise the printing trade in Edinburgh to the high position it now holds. ? For a time, too, beginning with the year 185 17 says the Scotsman, ?it seemed as if he were minded to restore the publishing honours of the house of Constable and Co. His foreign miscellany, his educational series, his ? Life of Chalmers ? and the posthumous works of that eloquent divine, his edition of ?Calvin?s Commentaries ? ; his ? Life of Perthes,? the highminded German publisher, promised for a season to place his name beside the Murrays and Longmans, and to bring back to Edinburgh its old reputation as a centre for the diffusion of highclass literature.? Ere long, however, he would?seem to have found the difficulties of competing fairly with the London book market ; thus his publishing enterprise began to slacken, and was finally relinquished, but the well-known firm of Thomas and Archibald Constable, printers to Her Majesty for Scotland and to the Edinburgh University still continues at NO. I I, Thistle Street. There yet remained to him a little independent literary work, the most notable of which was the life of his father, which was published in 1873, and of which it was said that, while containing much interesting information about men of note at that time, if it erred in anything it was ?in filial piety, by labouring somewhat too much to vindicate a memory which after all did not need to be cleared of any moral charge but only of business confusion.? Thomas Constable died in the end of May, 1881. Jeffrey first occupied Craigcrook in the spring of 1815, when it was simply an old Keep, in the midst of a large garden, which he proceeded at once to enlarge and make beautiful and scenic. He describes the place thus, in a letter to Charles Wilkes in that year, as ?an old manor-house, eighteen feet wide and fifty long, with irregular projections of all sorts, three staircases, turrets, and a large round tower at one end, with a multitude of windows of all sorts and sizes,? situated at the bottom of ?? a green slope about 400 feet high.? Among the many reunions at Craigcrook, in ?Peter?s Letters to his Kinsfolk,? published in 1819, we have a description of one, when the whole party of learned pundits-including Playfair, who died in the July of that year aged seventyone-- took off their coats and had a leaping match, a feature in the gathering which Lord Cockbum, in his Life of Jefiey,? seems rather disposed to discredit. In a letter written in April, 1829, to Mr. Pennington, from Craigcrook, Jeffrey says :-? It is an infinite relish to get away (here) from courts and crowds, to sink into a half slumber on one?s own sofa, without fear of tinkling bells and importunate sttorneys; to read novels and poems by a crackling wood fire, and go leisurely to sleep without feverish anticipations of to-morrow ; to lounge over a long breakfast, looking out on glittering evergreens?and chuckling thrushes, and dawdle about the whole day in the luxury of conscious idleness.? Lord Cockburn, in this life of his friend, writes thus :-? During the thirty-four seasons that he passed there (at Craigcrook), what a scene of happiness was that spot! To his own household it was all their hearts desired. Mr. Jeffrey knew the genealogy and personal history of every shrub and flower it contained. It was the favourite resort of his friends, who knew no such enjoyment as Jeffrey at that place. And, with the exception of Abbotsford, there were more interesting strangers there than at any other house in Scotland. Saturday during the summer session of the courts was always a day of festivity, but by no means exclusively for his friends at the Bar, many of whom were under general invitations. Unlike some barbarous tribunals, which feel no difference between the last and any other day of the week, but moil on With the same stupidity, our legal practitioners, like most of the other sons of bondage in Scotland, are liberated earlier on Saturday, and thus the Craigcrook party began to assemble about three, each taking to his own enjoyment. The bowling green was sure to have its matches, in which the host joined with skill and keenness ; the garden had its loiterers ; the flowers, not forgetting the glorious wall of roses, their admirers ; and the hill its prospect seekers. The banquet which followed was generous ; the wines never spared, but rather various ; mirth unrestrained, except by propriety; the talk always good, but never ambitious, and mere listeners in no disrepute. What can efface those days, or indeed any day, at Craigcrook from the recollection of those who had the happiness of enjoying them ! ? Before quitting this quarter, it is impossible to omit a reference to the interesting little fortalice called Lauriston Castle, which in the present century gave a title to the Marquis of Lauriston, Governor of Venice, Marshal and Grand Veneur of France, and which stands about a mile northward from Craigcrook, with a hamlet or village between, properly called Davidson?s Mains, but locally known by the grotesque name of ?? Muttonhole,? a name which, however, goes back to the middle of the last century. In the Cuurant of 5th October, 1761, an adver
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