Edinburgh Bookshelf

Kay's Originals Vol. 2


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 33 may be mentihned Gayfield House, at the foot of Gayfield Square ; the house of Sir Lawrence Dundas, then M.P. for the city, now occupied by the Royal Bank, St. Andrew Square ; the Register Office, etc. Besides the Chapel-now occupied as the " Whitefield Chapel "-Mr. Butter was proprietor of several tenements in Carrubber's Close, then one of the most fashionable portions of the Old Town, and which yet retains evidence of the respectability of its former inhabitants. Some large houses about Shakspeare Square (so called from the Theatre Royal which stood there) also belonged to him, part of which stood directly in front of the Regent Bridge, forming a junction with Leith Street. A portion of this property was acquired by the Commissioners for the City Improvements, for which they paid $12,000, in order to make way for the splendid opening, formed in 1822, from Princes Street towards the Calton' Hill. It was deemed fortunate for Mr. Butter, as the old saying has it, that '' his father was born before him." Although by no meana addicted to the excesses of the times in which he lived, yet his notions of social life were materially different from those of his father. Fond of music and the drama, he was a liberal patron to performers ; and, among others, the improvident Digges,' then the universal favourite with the Edinburgh audience, received no inconsiderable share of his admiration and friendship. The old man had no sympathy for the refined tastes of his son, and he used to say that " ne'er an Italian fiddler cam' to Edinburgh but Willie was sure to find him out." Of a kindly disposition ' Mr. Digges, both as a manager and an actor, was a favourite with the play-going people of Edinburgh. Out of compliment to the fair, but frail, George Anne Bellamy, who lived with him, he assumed her name, and actually performed as Mr. Bellamy for one if not two seasons. The following anecdote, although not related in Mrs. Bellamy's " Apology" for her life, is nevertheless authentic :- " The disputes between Nr. Digges and that lady at one time, when they were together in Edinburgh, ran so high, that although it waa then midnight, and in the winter season, he began to take off his clothes in a violent rage, with an intention to drown himself in a pond which was contiguous to their lodgings. Mrs. Bellamy surveyed the operation with the utmost calmness ; and, when he had run out of the house, arose from her 6er.t with the same nonchalance, and fastened the street-door. The rigour of the season, with a little reflection, soon cooled his passion. On his return, a capitulation took place before entrance was granted him. His teeth chattering in his head with cold, he was obliged to submit to the severest terms the lady in possession of the fortress thought proper to impose ; after which he was permitted to enter, and an act of general amnesty was issued for that time, He was always in debt ; and, although living in splendour, contrived to pay as few of his creditors as possihle. With his laundress be ran up a long score, and with his washerwoman a longer. It happened that they both arrived at his house accidentally upon the same errand, to dun him for the fiftieth time. Some difficulty arose in proouring access, as he was denied, Digges, hearing voices in altercation, desired the ladies to walk upstairs, and he would give them audience separately. He called into operation his powers of persuasion. He completely subdued the laundress, who left the apartment perfectly contented, though without receiving one farthing of the debt ; and the rugged heart of tbe washerwoman melted before him, and she departed penniless, exclaiming he wag a sweet gentleman ! His correspondence with Mrs. Ward, an actress of great celebrity, was printed at Edinburgh (Skvenson), 1833. 8vo. * Hay mentions as an instance, that when the Lodge of the Roman Eagle held a funeral meeting, in 1789, in honour of Doctor Brown, the founder of the Institution, as soon as Mr. Butter understood that the profits were to be devoted to the widow and family of the Doctor, he without solicitation offered the gratuitous use of his chapel in Carrubber's Close.-an offer gladly accepted by the Lodge. Their union, however, was shortly afterwards dissolved. " Digges was a devoted slave to the fair, and his address was admirable. VOL. 11. F
Volume 9 Page 45
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