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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. II


OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [High Street. 250 Sleat, and so named probably from the vast resort and slaughter of seals formerly made on its bleak and desolate rocks. Few or none, we are told, who have not seen the black deep bosom of Loch Hourn, its terrific rampart of mountain turrets, and the long, narrow gulf in which it sleeps in the cradle of its abyss, can conceive its profound and breathless stillness when undisturbed by the wild gusts of the coires, or gales, that sweep through its narrow gorge. i t was in such an interval of peace that Lady Grange embarked, and for nine days her vessel lay becalmed. Two miserable years she abode in Heiskar. In June, 1734, a sloop, commanded by a Macleod, came to Heiskax to convey the victim of all these strange precautions to the most remote portion of the British Isles, St. Kilda, ?far amid the melancholy main,?? where she was placed in a cottage composed of two small apartments, with a girl to wait upon her, and where, except for a short time in the case of Roderick Maclennan, a Highland clergyman, there was not a human being who understood the language she spoke. No newspapers, letters, or intelligence, came hither from the world in which she had once dwelt, save once yearly, when a steward came to collect, in kind, birds? feathers and so forth, the rent of the poor islanders. In St Kilda she spent seven years, and how she spent them will never be known, yet they were not passed without several mad and futile efforts to escape. Meanwhile all Edinburgh knew that she had been forcibly abducted from Niddry?s Wynd by order of her husband, but the secret of her whereabouts was sedulously kept from all; but now the latter had resigned his seat on the bench, and entered political life, as a friend of the Prince of Wales and opponent of Sir Robert WaIpole. At length, in the gloomy winter of 1740-1, a communication from Lady Grange for the first time reached those in Edinburgh, who had begun to wonder and denounce the singular means her husband had taken to ensure domestic quiet. It was brought by the minister Maclennan and his wife Katharine MacInnon, both of whom had quitted St. Kilda in consequence of a quarrel with the steward of Macleod of that ilk. hlaclennan was provided with letters for Lady Grange?s law-agent, Mr. Hope, of Rankeillor, who made all the necessary precognitions, including those of people at Polmaise and elsewhere; after which he made application to the Lord Justice-clerk for warrants empowering a search to be made, and the Laird of Macleod and others to be arrested ; and when Mr. John Macleod, advocate, was cited, he declared that he had no authority to appear for Lord Grange, ? but repelled the charges against his chief and clansmen, claiming that no warrant should be granted upon the evidence of such scandalous and disreputable persons as Maclennan and his wife ;? and Rankeillor was ordered to produce letters of evidence that those shown were actually written by Lady Grange, and being found to be in the writing of hlaclennan, they were dismissed as insufficient, and warrants were refused. Undeterred by this, Hope, on the 12th of February, fitted out a sloop, commanded by N?illiani Gregory, with twenty-five well-armed men, and sent him, with Mr. lllaclennan on board, ?to search for and rescue Lady Grange wherever she could be found ;? but Macleod, on hearing of the dqarture of the sloop-which got no farther than Horse Shoe Harbour, in Lorn (where the master quarrelled with his guide, Mrs. Maclennan, and put her ashore) -had Lady Grange removed, and secluded in Assynt, at a farm-house, closely watched. There she became enfeebled in mind and body, the result of violent passions, intoxication, and latterly sea-sickness, which produced settled imbecility ; and the unhappy lady thus treated was the wife of a man who, ?not to speak of his office of a judge in Scotland, moved in English society of the highest character. He must have been the friend of Lyttelton, Pope, Thomson, and other ornaments of Fredenck?s Court ; and, as the brother-in-law of the Countess of Mar, who was sister of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, he would figure in the brilliant circle which surrounded that star of the age of the second George. Yet he does not appear to have ever felt a moment?s compunction at leaving the mother of his children to fret herself to death in a halfsavage wilderness.? In a letter of his, dated Westminster, in June, 1749, in answer to an intimation of her death, he wrote thus callously :-?? I most heartily thank you? my dear friend, for the timely notice you gave me of the death of that person. It would be a ridiculous untruth to pretend grief for it; but as it brings to my mind a train of various things for many years back, it gives me concern. . . . I long for the particulars of her death, which you are pleased to tell me I am to have by the next post.? After her removal to Skye her mind sunk to idiocy. She exhibited a restless desire to ramble, and no motive now remaining for restraint, she was allowed entire freedom, and the poor wanderer strolled from place to place, supported by the hospitality and tenderness which, in the Highlands, have ever given a sacred claim to the idiot poor. In this state she lingered for seven
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High Street I ST. CECILTA?S HALL. 25 I years, and in June, 1749, died in a cottar?s humble dwelling at Idragal, seventeen years after her abduction on that evening of January from her house in Niddry?s Wynd. On the east side of Niddry?s Wynd, at the foot thereof, and resting on the Cowgate, was St. Cecilia?s Hall, an oval edifice, having a concave ceiling, and built in 1762 by Robert Mylne, the architect of Blackfriars Bridge (lineal descendant of the royal master-masons) ?after the model of the opera at Yarma,? says Kincaid. The orchestra was placed over the north end, and therein was placed a fine organ. It was seatqd for 500 persons. The Musical Society of Edinburgh, whose weekly concerts formed one of the most delightful entertainments in the old city, dated back to the otherwise gloomy era of 1728. Yet from ? Fountainhall?s Decisions ? we learn that so far back as 1694 an enterprising citizen named Beck ?erected a concert of music? somewhere in the city, which involved him in a lawsuit with the Master of the Revels. Even before I 7 28 several gentlemen, who were performers on the harpsichord and violin, had taken courage, and formed a weekly club at the Cross Kys tavern, ?kept,? says knot, ?by one Steil, a great lover of musick, and a good singer of Scots songs.? Steil is mentioned in the Latin lyrics of Dr. Pitcairn, who refers to a subject of which he was fully master-the old Edinburgh taverns of Queen Anne?s time. At Pate Steil?s the common entertainment consisted in playing the concertos and Sonatas of Corelli, then just published, and the overtures of Handel. A governor, deputygovernor, treasurer, and five directors, were annually chosen to direct the affairs of this society, which consisted of seventy members. They met in St. Mary?s Chapel from 1728 till 1762, when this hall was built for them. Fc: some years the celebrated Tenducci, who is mentioned in O?Keefe?s ? Recollections? in 1766 as a famous singer of Scottish songs, was at the head of the band ; and one great concert was given yearly in honour of St. Cecilia, when Scottish songs were among those chiefly sung. When the Prince of Hesse came over, in 1745, with his 6,000 mercenaries, to fight against the Jacobites, he was specially entertained here by the then governor of the Musical Society, Lord Drummore, Hugh Dalrymple. The prince was not only a dilettante, but.a good performer on an enormous violoncello. ?? Few persons now living,? says Dr. Chambers in 1847, ? recollect the elegant concerts that were given many years ago in what is now an obscure part of our ancient city, known by the name- of St. zecilia?s Hall,? and still fewer may remember them On the death of Lord Drummore, in 1755, the iociety performed a grand concert in honour of his nemory, when the numerous company were all lressed in the deepest mourning. In I 7 63 the concerts began at six in the evening ; n 1783 an hour later. To the concertos of Corelli and Handel in the iew hall, were added the overtures of Stamitz, Bach, Abel, and latterly those of Haydn, Pleyel, ind the magnificent symphonies of Mozart and Beethoven. The vocal department of these old :oncerts consisted of the songs of Handel, Arne, ;luck, and Guglielmi, with a great Infusion o f jcottish songs, for as yet the fashionables of Ediniurgh were too national to ignore their own stirring nusic, and among the amateurs who took the lead is choristers were the wealthy Gilbert Innes of stow, Mr. Alexander Wight, advocate, Mt. John Russell, W.S., and the Earl of Kellie, who on one Iccasion acted as leader of the band when perbrming one of six overtures of his own composition; and though last, not least, Mr. George rhomson, the well-known editor of the ? Melodies >f Scotland.? A snpper to the directors and their friends it Fortune?s tavern always followed an oratorio, where the names of the chief beauties who had yaced the hall were toasted in bumpers from ;lasses of vast length, for exuberant loyalty to beauty was a leading feature in the convivial meetings of those days. ?Let me call to mind a few of those whose lovely faces at the concerts gave us the sweetest test for music,? wrote George Thomson, who died in 1851, in his ninety-fourth year :-??Miss Cleghorn of Edinburgh, still living in single blessedness ; Miss Chalmers of Pittencrief, who married Sir CVilliam Miller of Glenlee, Bart. ; Miss? Jessie Chalmers of Edinburgh, who married Mr. Pringle of Haining; Miss Hay of Hayston, who married Sir William Forbes of Pitsligo, Bart. ; Miss Murray of Lintrose, who was called the Flower of Strathmore, and upon whom Burns wrote the song, Brjhe, hlythe, and merry was she, Blythe was she but and ben; And blythe in Glenturit glen? low. Blythe by the bank? of Earn, She married David Smith, Esq., of Methven, one of the Lords of Session; Miss Jardine of Edinburgh, who married Home Drunimond of Blairdrummond, their daughter, if I mistake not, is now Duchess of Athole; Miss Kinloch of Gilmerton, who married Sir Foster Cunliffe of Acton
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