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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. III


OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [Princes Street 121 famous china emporium-has had many and various occupants. In I 783, and before that period, it was Poole?s Coffee-house, and till the days of Waterloo was long known as a rendezvous for the many military idlers who were then in Edinburgh-the veterans of Egypt, Walcheren, the Peninsula, and India-and for the officers of the strong garrison . maintained there till the general peace. In July, 1783, by an advertisement, ?Mathew Poole returns his most grateful acknowledgments to the nobility and gentry for their past favours, and begs leave respectfully to inform them that he has taken the whole of the apartments above his coffee-house, which he has fitted up in the neatest and most genteel manner as a hotel. The airiness of the situation and the convenience of the lodgings, which are perfectly detached from each other, render it very proper for families, and the advantage of the coffee-house and tavern adjoining must make it both convenient and agreeable for single gen tlemen.? In the Post Ofice Directory for 181 5, Nos. 3 and 14 appear as the hotels of Walker and Poole ; the latter is now, and has been for many years, a portion of the great establishment of Messrs. William Renton and Co. When, in the summer of 1822, Mr. Archibald Constable, the eminent publisher, returned from London to Edinburgh, he removed his establkhment from the Old Town to the more commodious and splendid premises, No. 10, Princes Street, which he had acquired by purchase from the connections of his second marriage, and in that yeat he was included among the justices of the peace for the city. ?Though with a strong dash of the sanguine,? says Lockhart-? without which, indeed, there can be no great projector in any ryalk of life- Archibald Constable was one of the most sagacious persons that ever followed his profession. . - . Indeed, his fair and handsome physiognomy carried a bland astuteness of expression not to be inistaken by any one who could read the plainest of nature?s handwriting. He made no pretensions to literature, though he was, in fact, a tolerable judge of it generally, and particularly well skilled in the department of Scotch antiquities. He distrusted himself, however, in such matters, being conscious that his early education had been very imperfect ; and, moreover, he wisely considered the business of a critic quite as much out of his proper line as authorship itself. But of that ?proper line,? and his own qualifications for it, his estimation was ample; and as often as I may have smiled at the lofty serenity of his self-complacence, I confess that I now doubt whether he rated himself too highly as a master in the true science of the bookseller. He was as bold as far-sighted, and his disposition was as liberal as his views were wide.? In January, 1826, the public was astonished by the bankruptcy at No. 10, Princes Street, when Constable?s liabilities were understood to exceed ~250,000-a failure which led to the insolvency of Ballantyne and Co., and of Sir Walter Scott, who was connected with them both j and when it became known that by bill transactions, &c., the great novelist had rendered himself responsible for debts to the amount of &IZO,OOO, of which not above a half were actually incurred by himself. Constable?s failure was the result of that of Messrs. Hunt, Robinson, and Co., of London, who had suspended payment of their engagements early in the January of the same fatal year. At the time of his bankruptcy Constable was meditating a series of publications, which afterwards were issued under the title of ?Constable?s Mis cellany,? the precursor of that now almost universal system of cheap publishing which renders the present era one as much of reprint as of original publication ; but soon after its commencement he was attacked by a former disease, dropsy, and died on the zIst of July, 1827, in the fifty-third year of his age. His portrait by Raeburn is one of the most successful likenesses of him. No. 16, farther westward, was, in 1794, occupied as Weir?s Museum, deemed in its time a wonderful collection ?? of quadrupeds, birds, fishes, insects, shells, fossils, minerals, petrifaction, and anatomical preparations . . , . . . One cannot help,? says Kincaid, ? admiring t.he birds from Port Jackson, New South M7ales, for the extreme beauty of their plumage j their appearance otherwise eb hibits them as not deprived of life.? It is of this collection that Lord Gardenstone wrote, in his ?Travelling Memoranda? :-?I cannot omit to observe that in the whole course of my travels I have nowhere seen the preservation of quadrupeds, birds, fishes, and insects executed with such art and taste as by Mr. Alexander Weir of Edinburgh. He is a most ingenious man, and certainly has not hitherto been so much encouraged by the public as his merit deserves.? No. 27, a corner house, was in 1789 the abode of the Honourable Henry Erskine, who figures prominently in the remarkable collection of Kay ; and in the same year No. 47 was occupied by Lady Gordon of Lesmore, in the county of Aberdeen, an old family, created baronets in 1625. It.now forms a portion of the great premises of Kennington and Jenner, the latter of whom is
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Prince Street.] CRAIG OF RICCARTON. ?23 brother of Sir William Jenner, Bart., the eminent physician. Princes Street contains most of the best-stocked, highest-rented, and most handsome business premises and shops in the city. From its magnificent situation it is now, par exceZZence, the street for hotels; and as a proof of the value of property there, two houses, Nos. 49 and 62, were publicly sold on the 12th of February, 1879, for cf26,ooo and Lz4,soo respectively. No. 53 at an early perid became the Royal Hotel. In December, 1817, when it was possessed bya Mr. Macculloch, the Grand Duke Nicholas, brother of Alexander I., Emperor of Russia, resided there with a brilliant suite, including Baron Nicolai, Sir Wilhm Congreve, Count Kutusoff, and Dr. Crichton-the latter a native of the city, who died so lately as 1856. He was a member of the Imperial Academy of St. Petersburg and that of Natural History at Moscow, K.G.C, of St. Anne and St. Vladimir. He was a grandson of Crichton of Woodhouselee and Newington. A guard of the 92nd Gordon Highlanders was mounted on the hotel, and the Grand Duke having expressed a wish to see the regiment-the costume of which had greatly impressed him-it was paraded before him for that purpose on the zznd of December, on which occasion he expressed his high admiration of the corps. No. 64 is now the North British and Mercantile Insurance Company, established in I 809, and incorporated by royal charter, with the Duke of Roxburgh for its present president, and tht Dukes of Sutherland and Abercorn, as vice-presi, dents. A handsome statue of St. Andrew, tht patron of Scotland, on his peculiar cross, adorn5 the front of the building, and is a conspicuou: object from the street and opposite gardens. The Life Association of Scotland, founded in 1839, occupies No. 82. It is a magnificent palatial edifice, erected in 1855-8, after designs by Sir Charles Barry and Mr. David Rhind, and consists of three double storeys in florid Koman style, the first being rusticated Uoric, the second Ionic, and the third Corinthian. Over its whole front it exhibits a great profusion of ornament-sa great, indeed, as to make its appearance somewhat heavy. In 1811, and before that period, the Tax Office occupied No. 84 The Comptroller in those days was Henry Mackenzie, author of the ?Man of Feeling,? who obtained that lucrative appoint. ment from Mr. Pitt, on the recommendation 01 Lord Melvilla and Mr. George Rose, in 1804. With No. 85, it now forms the site of the New Club, a large and elegant edifice, with a handsome Tuscan doorway and projecting windows, erected by an association of Scottish nobles and gentlenien for purposes similar to those of the clubs at the west end of London. No. 91, which is now occupied as an hotel, was the residence of the aged Robert Craig, Esq., of Riccarton, of whom Kay gives us a portrait, seated at the door thereof, with his long staff and broadbrimmed, low-crowned hat, while his faithful attendant, William Scott, is seen behind, carefully taking ?tent ?? of his old master from the diningroom window. Mr. Craig had been in early life a great pedestrian, but as age came upon him his walks were limited to the mile of Princes Street, and after a time he would but sit at his door and enjoy the summer breeze. He wore a plain coat without any collar, a stock in lieu of a neckcloth, knee-breeches, rough stockings, and enormous brass shoe-buckles. He persisted in wearing a hat with a narrow brim when cocked-hats were the fashion in Edinburgh, until he was so annoyed by boys that he adopted the head-dress in which he is drawn by Kay. He always used a whistle in the ancient manner, and not a bell, to sumnion his servant. He died on the 13th of March, 1823. Pursuant to a deed of entail, Mr. James Gibson, W.S. (afterwards Sir James Gibson-Craig, Bart., of Riccarton and Ingliston), succeeded to the estate, and assumed the name and arms of Craig ; but the house, No. 91, went to Colonel Gibson. The record of his demise in the papers of the time is not without interest :-? Died at his house in Princes Street (No. gi), on the r3th March, in the 93rd year of his age, Robert Craig, Esq., of Riccarton, the last male heir of Sir Thomas Craig of Riccarton, the great feudal lawyer of Scotland. Mr. Craig was admitted advocate in 1754, and was one of the Commissaries of Edinburgh, the duties of which situation he executed to the entire satisfaction of every one connected with it. He resigned the office many years ago, and has long been the senior member of the Faculty of Advocates. It is a remarkable circumstance that his father?s elder brother succeeded to the estate of Riccarton in January, 1681, so that there has been only one descent in the family for 142 years.? No. 100, now occupied as an hotel, was for many years the house of Lady Mary Clerk of Pennicuick, known as ?The White Rose of Scotland .? This lady, whose maiden name was Ilacre, was the daughter of a gentleman in Cumberland, and came into the world in that memorable year when the Highland army was in possession of Carlisle, .
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