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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. II


OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [High Street. High Street and other thoroughfares, where they indulged in wild humours and committed heinous crimes. At this time-1611-the old system of lighting had ceased to exist ; and after twilight the main street and those narrow steep alleys, like stone chasms, diverging from it, were all sunk in Cimmerian gloom, into which no man ventured to penetrate without his sword and lantern. In 1631 the Town Council passed an Act forbidding all women to wear plaids over their heads or faces, under a penalty of A5 Scots and forfeiture of the garment. But so little attention was paid to the Act by ladies, some of whom were of rank, that the incensed Council in 1633 passed a new one, strictly enjoining all women, of whatever quality, not to wear a plaid under pain of corporal punishment, and granted liberty to any person to seize and appropriate the plaid as their own property. As the fair offenders paid not the least attention to these ridiculous Acts, in 1636 the Provost, David Aikenhead, and the Council, passed a thundering enactment, that no females residing in their jurisdiction should either wear plaids or cover their faces with anything whatsoever, velvet masks not being uncommon among Scottish ladies in those days. U Forsaemikell as, notwithstanding of divers and sundrie laudabill actes and statutis, maid be the Provost, Baillies, and Counsall of this Burgh in former tymes, discharing that barbarous and uncivil1 habitte of women wearing plaids; zit, such has been the impudencie of monie of them, that Thus runs the ukase :- they have conthewit the foresaid barbarous habitte, and has addcd thereto the wearing of their gownes and petticottes about their heads and faces, so that the same has become the ordinar habitte of all women within the cittie, to the general imputation of their sex, matrones not to be decerned from . . . and lowse living women, to their owne dishonour and scandal of the cittie ; which the Provost, Baillies, and Counsall have taken into their serious consideration ; thairfore, have statute and ordaynit, &c., that none, of whatsomever degrie or qualitie, presume, after this day, under the payne of escheitt of the said plaids, not onlie be such as shall be appoyntit for that effect, but be all persons who shall challenge the same. And that nae women weir thair gownes or petticottes about thair heads and faces, under the payne of ten pundis to be payit by women of qualitie for the first falt, twenty pundis for the second, and under such furder paynes as sal1 pleas the Counsall to inflict upon them for the third falt; and under the payne of fourtie shillings to be payit be servandis and others of lower degrie for the first falt, five pundis for the second, and banishment from the cittie for the third falt ; and ordaynes this present statute to be intimate throwgh this Burgh be Sound of Drum, that nane pretend ignorance hereof.? The Act fell pointless, as did another passed in 1648, against the coquettish Scottish mantilZa, and till nearly the close of the last century a tartan plaid, or screen, was the common headdress ok women of the lower order in Edinburgh, as everywhere else in Scotland. CHAPTER XXII. THE HIGH STREET (conlinurd) The City in xgg8-Fynes Matison on the Manners of the Inhabitants-The ? Lord ? Provost of Edinburgh-Police of the City-Taylor the Water Poet-Banquets at the Cross-The hard Case of the Earl of Tmquair-A Visit of HansThe Quack and his Acrobats-A Procession of Covenanters-Early Stages and Street Coaches-Sale of a Dancing-girl-Constables appointed in 17q-FirSt Number of the Courani-The CaZedmiaB Memry-Carting away of the 5trata of Street FiIth-Condition of old Houses. BEFORE proceeding with the general history of the city, it may not be uninteresting to the reader if we quote the following description of the manners of the inhabitants in 1598, but to be taken under great reservation :- U Myself,? says Monson, in his Ifincrav, ?was at a knight?s house, who had many servants to attend him, that brought in his meat with their heads covered with blew caps (Le., bonnets), the table being more than half furnished with great platters of porridge, each having (in them) a little piece of sodden meat; and when the table was served, the servants sat down with ? us ; but the upper mess, instead of porridge, had a pullet, with some prunes in the broth. And I observed no art of cookery, or furniture of household stuff, but rather a rude neglect of both, though myself and my companion, sent from the Governor of Berwick, about Bordering affairs, were entertained in their best manner. The Scots living then in factions, used to keep many followers, and so consumed their revenue of victuals, living in some want of money. They vulgarly eat hearth cakes of oats, but in cities have also wheaten bread, which for the most part
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High Street.] EDINBURGH IN 1598 AND 1618. I99 is bought by courtiers, gentlemen, and the best sort of citizens. They drink pure,aines, not with sugar, as we English, yet at feasts they put comfits in the wine, after the French manner; but they had not our vintner?s fraud to mix their wines. *? I did not see nor hear that they have any public inns, with signs hanging out ; but the better sort of ? citizens brew ale (which will distemper a stranger?s body), and then some citizens will entertain passengers upon acquaintance or entreaty (i.e., introductioh). Their bedsteads were then like cupboards in the wall (i.e., box beds), to be opened and shut at pleasure, so we climbed up to our beds. They used but one sheet, open at the sides and top, but close at the feet. When passengers go to bed, their custom is to present them a sleeping cup of wine at parting. The country people and merchants used to drink largely, the gentlemen somewhat more sparingly; yet the very courtiers, by nightmeetings and entertaining any strangers, used to drink healths, not without excess ; and to speak the truth without offence, the excess of drinking was far greater among the Scots than the English. *? Myself being at the Court was invited by some gentlemen to supper, and being forewarned to fear this excess, would not promise to sup with them but upon*condition that my inviter would be my protection from large drinking. . . . The husbandmen in Scotland, the servants, and almost all the country, did wear coarse cloth made at home, of grey or sky colour, and flat blew caps, very broad. The merchants in cities were attired in English or French cloth, of pale colour, or mingled black and blew. The gentlemen did wear English cloth or silk, or light stuffs, little or nothing adorned with silk lace, much less with silver or gold ; and all followed the French fashion, especially at Court. ?Gentlewomen married did wear close upper bodies, after the German manner, with large whalebone sleeves, after the French manner; short cloaks like the Germans, French hoods, and large falling bands about their necks. The unmarried of all sorts (?) did go bareheaded, and wear short cloaks, with close linen sleeves on their arms, like the virgins of Germany. The inferior sort of citizen?s wives and the women of the country did wear cloaks ,made of a coarse stuff, of two or three colours, in checker work, vulgarly called jZodun (i.e., tartan plaiding). ?To conclude, they would not at this time be attired after the English fashion in any sort; but the men, especially at Court, followed the French fashion ; and the women, both in Court and city, as well -in cloaks as naked heads and close sleeves on the arms, and all other garments, follow the fashion of the women in Germany.? On the 20th of June, 1610, the Lord Provost of Edinburgh exhibited to his Council two gowns, one black, the other red, trimmed with sable, the gift of King James, as patterns of the robes to be worn by him and the bailies of the city; and in 1667 Charles 11. gave Sir Alexander Ramsay, Provost in that year, a letter, stating that the chief magistrate of Edinburgh should have the same precedence in Scotland as the Mayor of London has in England, and that no other provost should have the title of ?I Lord Provost ?-a privilege which has, however, since been modified. l h e attention of King James, who never forgot the interests of his native city, was drawn in 1618 to two abuses in its police. Notwithstanding the warning given by the fire of 1584, it was still cus tomary for ?baxters and browsters? (i.e., bakers and brewers) to keep great stacks of heather, whins, and peatq in the very heart of the High Street and other thoroughfares, to the great hazard of all adjacent buildings, and many who were disposed to erect houses within the walls were deterred from doing so by the risks to be run ; while, moreover, candle-makers and butchers were allowed to pursue their avocations within the city, to the disgust and annoeance of civil and honest neighbours, and of the nobility and country people,? who came in about their private affairs, and thus a royal procla- .mation was issued against these abuses. The idea of a cleaning department.of police never occurred to the good folks of those days ; hence, in the following year, the plan adopted was that each inhabitant should keep clean that part of each street before his own bounds. In 1618 Edinburgh was visited by Taylor the Water Poet, and his description of it is as truthful as it is amusing :-? So, leaving the castle, as it is both defensive against any opposition and magnifick for lodging and receipt, I descended lower to the city, wherein I observed the fairest and goodliest street mine eyes ever beheld, for I did never see or hear of a street of that length (which is half a mile English from the castle to a fair port, which they call the Nether Bow); and from that port the street which they call the Kenny-gate (Canongate) is one quarter of a mile more, down to the king?s palace, called Holyrood House ; the buildings on each side of the way being all of squared stone, five, six, and seven storeys high, and many bye-lanes and closes on each side of the way, wherein are gentlemen?s houses, much fairer than the buildings in the High Street, fur in the High Street the merchants and tradesmen. do dwell, but
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