Edinburgh Bookshelf

Old and New Edinburgh Vol. II


210 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [High Street. likely to have arisen. It happened by accident that the Earl of Bothwell, coming out of the Earl of Crawford?s lodging, was met by the Earl of Marr, who was coming out of the Laird of Lochleven?s lodging hard by; as it being about ten o?clock at night, and so dark that they could not know one another, he passed by, not knowing that the Master of Glammis was there, but thinking it was only the Earl of Marr. However, it was said that some ambushment of men and hackbuttiers had been duressed in the house by command of both parties.? Some brawl or tragedy had evidently been on the tapis, for next day the king had the Earl of Bothwell and the Master before him at Holyrood, and committed the former to ward .in the Palace of Linlithgow, and the latter in the Castle of Edinburgh, ? for having a band of hacquebuttiers in ambush with treasonable intent.? Passing to more peaceable times, on the same side of the street, we come to one of the most picturesque edifices in it, numbered as 155 (and nearly opposite Niddry Street), in which Allan Ramsay resided and began his earlier labours, ?at the sign of the Mercury,? before he removed, in 1726, to the shop in the Luckenbooths, where we saw him last. It is an ancient timber-fronted land, the sinplarly picturesque aspect of which was much marred by some alterations in 1845, but herein worthy Allan first prosecuted his joint labours of author, editor, and bookseller. From this place he issued his poems in single or half sheets, as they were mitten ; but in whatever shape they always found a ready sale, the citizens being wont to send their children with a penny for ? Allan Ramsay?s last piece.? Here it was, that in 1724 he published the first volume of ?The Tea Table Miscellany,? a collection of songs, Scottish and English, dedicated ? To ilka lovely British lass, Frae Ladies Charlotte, Anne and Jean, Wha dances barefoot on the green.? This publication ran through twelve editions, and its early success induced him in the same year to bring out ? The Evergreen,? a collection of Scottish poems, ?? wrote by the Ingenious before 1600,? professed to be selected from the Bannatyne MSS. And here it was that .Ramsay- had some of his hard struggles with the magistrates and clergy, who deemed and denounced all light literature, songs, and plays, as frivolity and open profanity, in She sour fanatical spirit of the age. Doon to ilk bonny singing Bess Religion, in form, entered more into the daily habits of the Scottish people down to 1730 than it now does. Apart from regular attendance at church, and daily family worship, each house had some species of oratory, wherein, according to the Domestic Annals, ? the head of the family could at stated times retire for his private devotions, which were usually of a protracted kind, and often accompanied by great moanings and groanings, expressive of an intense sense of human worthlessness without the divine favour.? Twelve o?clock was the hour for the cold Sunday dinner. (? Nicety and love of rich feeding were understood to be the hateful peculiarities of the English, and unworthy of the people who had been so much more favoured by God in the knowledge of matters of higher concern.? Puritanic rigour seemed to be destruction for literature, and when Addison, Steele, and Pope, were conferring glory on that of England, Scotland had scarcely a writer of note ; and Allan Ramsay, in fear and trembling of legal and clerical censure, lent out the plays of Congreve and Farquhar from that quaint old edifice numbered 155, High Street. The town residence of the Ancrum family was long one of the finest specimens of the timberfronted tenements of the High Street. It stood on the north side, at the head of Trunk?s Close, behind the Fountain Well, and though it included several rooms with finely-stuccoed ceilings, and a large hall, beautifully decorated with rich pilasters and oak panelling-and was undoubtedly worthy of being preserved-it was demolished in 1873. Here was the first residence of Scott of Kirkstyle, who, in 1670, obtained a charter under the great seal of the barony of Ancrum, and in the following year was created Sir John Scott, Baronet, by Charles 11. In 1703 the house passed into the possession of Sir Gilbert Elliot, Bart., of Stobs, who resided here with his eight sons, the youngest of whom, for his glorious defence of Gibraltar, was created Lord Heathfield in 1787. On the same side of the street, Archibald Constable, perhaps the most eminent publisher that Scotland has produced, began business in a small shop, in the year 1795, and from there, in the November .of that year, he issued the first of that series of sale catalogues of curious and rare books, which he continued for a few years to issue at intervals, and which attracted to his shop all the bibliographers and lovers of literature in Edinburgh. Hither came, almost daily, such men as Richard Heber, afterwards M.P. for the University of
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High Street.] CONSTABLES SHOP. 211 . Oxford ; Mr. Alexander Campbell, author of the (? History of Scottish Poetry ?; Dr. Alexander Murray, the famous self-taught philologist ; Dr. John Leyden, who died at Java; Mr. (afterwards Sir Walter) Scott ; Sir John Graham Dalzell ; and many others distinguished for a taste in Scottish literature and historical antiquities, including I)r. Jarnes Browne, author of the ?History of the Highland Clans,? and one of the chief contributors to Constable?s Edinburgh Magazine. The works of some of these named were among the first issued from Constable?s premises in the High Street, where his obliging manners, professional intelligence, personal activity, and prompt attention to the wishes of all, soon made him popular with a great literary circle ; but his actual reputation as a publisher may be said to have commenced with the appearance, in October, I 802, of the first number of the Edihburgh Rtwiew. His conduct towards the contributors of that famous quarterly was alike discreet and liberal, and to his business tact and straightforward deportment, next to the genius and talent of the projectors, much of its subsequent success must be attributed. In 1804 he admitted as a partner Mr. Hunter of Blackness, and the firm took the name of Constable and Co. ; and after various admissions, changes, and deaths, his sole partner in 1812 was Mr. Robert Cadell. In 1805 he started 2% Edinburgh Medical and Surgicd Journal, a work nrojected in concert with Dr. Andrew Duncan; and in the same year, in conjunction with Longman and Co., of London, he published ? The Lay of the Last Minstrel,? the first of that long series of romantic publications in poetry and prose which immortalised the name of Scott, to whom he gave LI,OOO for ?Marmion? before a line of it was written. In conjunction with Messrs. Millar and Murray, and after many important works, including the ? Encyclopzedia Britannica,? had issued from his establishment in 1814, he brought out the first of the ? Waverley Novels.? Constable?s shop ?? is situated in the High Street,? says Peter in his ?Letters to his Kinsfolk,? ?in the midst of the old town, where, indeed, the greater part of the Edinburgh booksellers are still to be found lingering (as the majority of their London brethren also do) in the neighbourhood of the same old haunts to which long custom has attached their predilections. On entering, one sees a place by no means answering, either in point of dimensions or in point of ornament, to the notion one might be apt to form of the shop from which so many mighty works are every day issuing -a low, dusky chamber, inhabited by a few clerks, ind lined with an assortment of unbound books and, stationery-entirely devoid of all those luxurious attractions of sofas and sofa-tables and books of prints, &c., which one meets with in the superb nursery of the Quarter+ Revim in Albemarle Street. The bookseller himself is seldom to be seen in this part of his premises ; he prefers to sit in a chamber immediately above, where he can proceed with his owo work without being disturbed by the incessant cackle of the young Whigs who lounge beiow ; and where few casual visitors are admitted to enter his presence, except the more important members of the great Whig Corporation -reviewers either in esse, or at least supposed to be so in posse-contributors to the supplement of the ?Encyclopxdia Britannica.? . . . . The bookseller is himself a good-looking man, apparently about forty, very fat in his person, with a face having good lines, and a fine healthy complexion. He is one of the most jolly-looking members of the trade I ever saw, and, moreover, one of the most pleasing and courtly in his address. One thing that is?remarkable about him, and, indeed, very distinguishingly so, is his total want of that sort of critical jabber of which most of his brethren are so profuse, and of which custom has rendered me rather fond than otherwise. Mr. Constable is too much of a bookseller to think it at all necessary that he should appear to be knowing in the merits of books. His business is to publish books ; he leaves the work of examining them before they are published, and criticising them afterwards, to others who have more leisure on their hands than he has.? In the same ?Letters? we are taken to the publishing establishment of Manners and Millar, on the opposite side of the High Street--(? the true lounging-place of the blue-stockings and literary beau monde of the Northern metropolis,? but long since extinct. Unlike Constable?s premises, there the anterooms were spacious and elegant, adorned with busts and prints, while the back shop was a veritable btjbu ; ?its walls covered with all the?most elegant books in fashionable request, arrayed in the most luxurious clothing of Turkey and Russia leather, red, blue, and green-and protected by glass folding doors from the intrusion even of the little dust which might be supposed to threaten a place kept so delicately trim. The grate exhibits a fine blazing fire, or in its place a fresh bush of hawthorn, stuck all over with roses and lilies, and gay as a maypole,? while paintings by Turner, Thomson, and Williams meet the eye on every?
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