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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. I


WILLIAM CREECH. The Lucknbooths. remembered after he had passed away; but he had acquired penurious habits, with a miserly avidity for money, which not only precluded all benevolence to the deserving, but actually marred even the honest discharge of business transactions. In 1771 he entered into partnership with Mr. Kincaid, who left the business two years after, and came from his establishment. He published the works of Cullen, Gregory, Adam Smith, Burns, Dugald Stewart, Henry Mackenzie, Blair, Beattie, Campbell (the opponent of Hume), Lords Woodhouselee and Kames, and by the last-named he was particularly regarded with esteem and friendship ; and it was on the occasion of his having gone WILLIAM CREECH. (From th Port~uit ay SW Henry Raebzmz.) the whole devolving upon Mr. Creech, he conducted it for forty-four years with singular enterprise and success. For all that time his quaint shop at the east-end of the Luckenbooths was the resort of the clergy, the professors, and also all public and eminent men in the Scottish metropolis ; and his breakfast-room was a permanent literary lounge, which was known by the name of " Creech's Levee." During the whole of the period mentioned nearly all the really valuable literature of the time to London for some time in 1787 that Burns wrote his well-known poem of " Willie 's Awa : "- " Oh, Willie was a witty wight, And had 0' things an' unco slight, Auld Reekie aye he,keepit tight, And trig and braw ; But now they'll busk her like a fright- Willie's awa ! " . We have already referred to the club in which originated the Mirror and Lounger. These
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The Lucke~rbooths.] WILLIAM CREECH. 157 periodicals were issued by Creech; and the first number of the former, when it appeared on Saturday, 23rd of January, 1779, created quite a sensation among the ?? blue-stocking ? coteries of the city. In ?Peter?s Letters to his Kinsfolk,? ?Mr. Creech, then prince of the Edinburgh trade,? is rather dubiously written of. ?This bibliopole was a very indifferent master of his trade, and wanted entirely the wit to take due advantage of the goods the gods provided. He was himself a great literary character, and he was always a great man in the magistracy of the city ; and perhaps he would have thought it beneath him to be a mere ordinary moneymaking bookseller. Not that he had any aversion to money-making; on the contrary, he was prodigiously fond of money, and carried his love of it in many things to a ridiculous extent. But he had been trained in all the timid prejudices of the old Edinburgh school of booksellers ; and not daring to make money in a bold and magnificent way, neither did he dare to run the risk of losing any part of what he had made. Had he possessed either the shrewdness or the spirit of some of his successors, there is no question he might have set on foot a fine race of rivalry among .the literary men about him-a race of which the ultimate gains would undoubtedly have been greatest to himself. . . . , He never had the sense to perceive that his true game lay in making high sweepstakes, and the consequence was that nobody - would take the trouble either of training or running for his courses.? The successors referred to are evidently Constable and the Blackwoods, as the writer continues thus :- *? it?hat a singular contrast does the present state of Edinburgh in regard to these. matters afford when compared to what I have been endeavouring to describe as existing in the days of the Creeches ! Insteac! of Scottish authors sending their works to be published by London booksellers, there is nothing more common now-a-days than to hear of English authors sending down their books to Edinburgh to be published in a city than which Memphis or Palmyra would scarcely have appeared a more absurd place of publication to any English author thirty years ago.? Creech died unmarried on the 14th of January, 1815, in his seventieth year, only two years before the interesting old Land which bore his name for nearly half a century was demolished ; but a view of it is attached to his ?Fugitive Pieces,? which he published in 1791. These were essays and sketches of character and manners in Edinburgh, which he had occasionally contributed to the newspapers. The Z?+shoj of Creech?s Land was last occupied by the Messrs. Hutchison, extensive traders, who, in the bad state of the copper coinage, when the halfpennies of George 111. would not pass current .in Scotland, produced a coinage of Edinburgh halfpennies in .I 7 g I that were long universally received. On one side were the city arms and crest, boldly struck, surrounded by thistles. with the legend, Edinburgh Halfpenny; on the other, St. Andrew with his cross, and the national motto, Nemo me imjune Zacessit, which is freely and spiritedly rendered, ? Ye dzurna meddle wi? me.? Since then they have gradually disappeared, and now are only to ue found in numismatic collections. CHAPTER XVII. THE PARLIAMENT HOUSE. Site of the Parliament House-The Parliament Hall-Its fine Roof-Proportions-Its External Aspct of Old-Pictures and Statues -The Great South Window-The Side Windows-Scots Prisonen of War-Gcneral Monk Feasted-A Scene with Gen. Llalyell- The Fire of IT-Riding of the Parliament-The Union-Its dire Erects and ultimate good RcsuIt+Tnal of Covenanters. No building in Edinburgh possesses perhaps more interest historically than the Parliament House, and yet its antiquity is not great, as it was finished only in 1639 fot the meetings of the Estates, and was used for that purpose exclusively till the Union in 1707. Previous to its erection in St. Giles?s churchyard, the national Parliaments, the Courts of Justice, and the Town Council of Edinburgh, held?their meetings in the old Tolbooth, and the circumstance of such assemblies taking place constantly in its vicinity must have led to the gradual abandonment of the old churchyard of St. Giles?s as a place of sepulture, for when the readiest access to the Tolbooth was up the steep slope from the chapel of the holy rood in the Cowgate, among the grassy tumuli and old tombstones, and the burial-place became the lounge of lackeys, grooms, and armed servitors, waiting for their masters during the sittings of the House, all the sacred and
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