Edinburgh Bookshelf

Kay's Originals Vol. 2


474 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. peared on the 10th October 1S02. His intimacy with Sir Walter Scott, which continued until death with little interruption, was attended by large results. The first work that was the harbinger of a series of literary productions destined to astonish the world was the Minstrelsy of the Xcottish Border, which appeared in January 1802, and the publication of which he shared with Messrs. Longman of London. This was afterwards followed up by the other poems, and by the Waverley Novels. Besides these there were books of a more solid and learned character which engaged his attention. Among them were that useful work of reference The Annual Register, and the philosophical and scientific works of Dugald Stewart, Brown, Playfair, and Leslie (all of whom were friends and habitues of the High Street rendezvous), and last, though not least, came the Encyclopcedia Brilannica, the copyright of which he purchased in 1812. This great work was as yet in its infancy, but he added six supplementary volumes containing the celebrated scientific dissertation by Stewart, Playfair, and Brande. He took special interest in Scottish literature, and issued many rare works in t,hat department including those of his friend Sir John Graham Dalzell, of whom Kay has given a biography in this volume. Passing over many other literary adventures, it may be sufficient here to notice one of his latest projects, Constable’s Miscellany, a work set on foot in 1825, and intended to popularise wholesome literature-a result it attained with no small measure of success. It was soon after this that the cloud of pecuniary difficulties which had been gathering overhead culminated and broke, obliging the firm to stop payment under a pressure of liabilities exceeding 3250,000. How such a calamity could have befallen so fair a structure it is difficult to conjecture. Possibly it can be accounted for by the supposition that the huge vessel was overweighted, and sunk under the burden of its precious cargo-a cargo the dismembered portions of which were sufficient to enrich others who succeeded to them. But the architect does not always live t,o see the accomplishment of his great design. So Constable was doomed to take the last view of his splendidly constructed business with feelings of disappointment. From this time his health gave way, the hitherto robust frame broke up, and he died of a dropsical complaint, from which he had for some time suffered, at his house in Park Place on the 21st July 1827. His death was felt as a great blow to Edinburgh, as shown by the numerous obituary notices which appeared after his decease, and from one of which we make the following extract :- “We are concerned to learn that Mr. Constable, our late eminent Publisher, who had for some time suffered severely under a dropsical complaint, expired suddenly, at his house in Park Place, on the afternoon of Saturday. This event has, we confess, excited in our minds a train of melancholy recollections and regrets ; and we cannot refrain from thus publicly expressing our respect for the memory of a man who, notwithstanding the disastrous termination of his professional career, must long be remembered as a liberal friend of literary merit, and active promoter of those literary enterprises which, during the last twenty-five years, have redounded so much to the advantage and fame of this city. We do not scruple to say, that we have nationality enough to have derived B lively satisfaction from seeing it become an object of desire among the literati of the south to contribute to its literary undertakings, and to resort to it as an advantageous mart of publication ; and, convinced BS we are, that this was in no small
Volume 9 Page 633
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