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Memorials of Edinburgh in the Olden Time


PREFACE. xiii accordingly described in succeeding chaptkrs; the walls of which evidently suffered no very great injury from that des tructive conff aption. . . I am far from conceiving that the materials for an antiquarian history of Edinburgh are exhausted, ,though probably .nearly all has now been gleaned from traditional sources to which any worth can be attached. There is, indeed, no lack of such legeuds to those who clioose to go in search of them. The Scottish antiquary finds an amount of sympathy in his pursuit among the peasantry and the lower classes of the town population,. wlich, however it be accounted for, he will look for in vain among the more educated, as a class. The tenants of the degraded dwellings of the old Holyrood aristocracy cherish the memory of their titled predecessors with a zeal that would do credit to the most accomplished editor of the Blue Book. One half of the old wives of Edinburgh prove, on evidence which it would be dangerous to dispute, that their .crazy mansions were once the abodes of royalty, or the palaces of Scottish grandees, while the monotony of hackneyed tales of Queen’ Mary and Cromwell-the popular hero and heroine of such romances-is occasionally varied by the ingenious embellishments of some more practised story-teller, Modern local traditions, however; are like the moden antiques of our ballad books ; their genealogy is more difficult to trace than the evidence of their spuriousness. One might, indeed, pardon the fictions of antiquarian romancers, if they brought to the aid of the memorialist such skilful forgeries as Chatterton furnished to the too credulous historian of Bristol ; finding in the unfailing treasures of the .old muniment chest of St Mary’s Retcliffe, and the versatile parchments of (( The gode prieste RomZey,” whatever the diligent antiquary wished to discover I The exorcisms of such disenchantera as the modern architect of St Giles’s, however, have put to flight more pleasant facts, and fictions too, than the inventive genius even of a Chatterton can restore ; while popular periodical literature, diluted into halfpenny worths of novelette and romance, has so poisoned the pure old springs of tradition, that one detects in the most unsophisticated grand-dame tales of the present day, some adulteration from the manufactory of the literary hack. This it is which makes it so reasonable SL source of regret, that Arnot should have stalked through the parlieus of Old Edinburgh, elevated on historic stilts, at a time when a description of what lay around him, and a relation of the fireside gossip of the stately old Scottish dames of the eighteenth century, would have snatched from oblivion 8 . thousand curious reminiscences, now altogether beyond recall. To a very different and much less attractive source, we are compelled to turn for the chance of recovering ‘
Volume 10 Page xv
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