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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. IV


340 OLD AND ?NEW EDINBURGH. [George Square. Centenary celebration in 1872 was a ?? Contract between James Brown, architect in Edinburgh, and Walter Scott, W.S., to feu and bui!d a dnellinghouse, with cellars, coach-house, &c., on the west side of the great square, called George Square (No. 25), at the annual feu of &s 14s.~ the first payment to commence on Whit Sundayl 1773. Six pages, each signed WaZfeer Scoft.? In this house, then, with its back windows overlooking the Meadow Walk, beneath its happy my infirmity (his lameness) as she lifted me coarsely and carelessly over the flinty steps which my brother traversed with a shout and bound. I remember the suppressed bitterness of the moment, and, conscious of my own infirmity, the envy with which I regarded the elastic steps of my more happily-formed brethren.? In No. 25 Scott received, from private tutors, the first rudiments of education ; and he mentions that ?our next neighbour, Lady Cumming, sent THE BLIND ASYLUM (FORMERLY THE HOUSE OF DR. JOSEPH BLACK), NICOLSON STREET, 1820. (AficrStom.) parental roof, were spent the bright young years of Scott, who there grew up to manhood under the eye of his good mother. Among his papers, after death, there was found a piece of verse, penned in a boyish hand, endorsed in that of his mother, ? My WaZter?sJfrst lines.? ?My father?s house in George Square,? says Scott, ?continued to be my most established place of residence (after my return from Prestonpans in 1776) till my marriage in 1797.? Writing of an incidentof his childhood, he says:- ?? Every step of the way (the Meadow Walk, behind George Square) has for me something of an early remembrance. There is the stile at which I recollect a cross child?s maid upbraiding me with to beg that the boys might not be all flogged at the same hour, as though she had no doubt the punishment was deserved, yet the noise was dreadful !? There, too, he had that long illness which confined him to bed, and during which the boy, though full of worldly common sense, was able to indulge in romantic and poetical longings after a mediad age of his own creation, and stored his mind with those treasures of poesy and romance which he afterwards turned to such wondrous account. During the weary weeks of that long illness he was often enabled to see the vista of the Meadow Walk by a combination of mirrors so arranged that while lying in bed he could witness the troops marching out to exercise in the Links, or any other
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G-s %-.I ?GREEN BREEKS.? 341 incident which occurred in that then fashionable promenade. It was in this square, and in the adjoining suburbs of Bristo Street, the Potterrow, and Cross Causeway, that those ? bickers? of stones, or street fights between boys of different ranks and localities- New Town and Old Town boys, Herioters and Watsoners-took place-juvenile exploits, to which he refers in his general preface to the Waverley Novels.? These dangerous rows were bickers which took place between the aristocratic youths of George Square and the plebeian fry of its vicinity, and it runs thus :-? It followed, from our frequent opposition to each other, that, though not knowing the names of our enemies, we were yet well acquainted with their appearance, and had nicknames for the most remarkable of them. One very active and spirited boy might be considered leader in the cohort of the suburbs, He was, I suppose, thirteen or fourteen years old, finely made, GEORGE SQUARE, SHOWING HOUSE (SECOND ON THE LEFT) OF SIR WALTER SCOTT?S FATHER difficult of suppression, as the parties always kept pretty far apart, and the fight was often a running one, till the Town Guard came on the ground, and then all parties joined against that force as a common foe, and clouds. of stones were hurled at them. These bickers, as an Edinburgh feature, were of great antiquity, and we have already cited an act of the Town Council published antnf them in 1529; and Calderwood tells us that ?upon the Lord?s Day, the 20th (January, 1582-3), the Lord Heries departed this life suddonlie, in time of the afternoone?s preaching, going to an upper chamber in William Fowllar?s lodging to see the bqes Bicker,? Scott has told us an anecdote of his share in the tall, blue-eyed, with long fair hair, the very picture of a Goth. This lad was always the first in the charge and last in retreat-the A4chilles and Ajax of the Cross Causeway.? From an old pair of green livery breeches which he wore, he was named Green Breeks. ?? It fell once upon a time,? he added, ?when the combat was at the thickest, this plebeian champion headed a sudden charge, so rapid and furious that all fled before him. He was several paces before his comrades, and had actually laid his hands on the patrician standard, when one of our party, whom some misjudging friend had entrusted with a caufeau de rhusse, inspired with a zeal for the honour of the corps worthy of Major Sturgeon himself, struck poor Green Breeks
Volume 4 Page 341
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