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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. IV


254 OLD. AND NEW EDINBURGH. [Cowgate. high altar in the Kirk-of-Field, of which they were patrons, and concerning which Master Archibald Barrie, the chaplain thereof, ? declairit thair wes ane land called Cliddisdail andis lyand iy the Kirk-of-Field Wynd, on the eist side of the trans (says Wilson in his ?Reminiscences?), wher, happily one of its leaves attracted the quick eye of the late David Ling, and there he found preserved au gccount, for the year 1753, between ?? Mr. Oliver Goldsmith ? and Mr. Filby, a tailor of Ediqburgh ; Hamilton-Duke James, who married the beautiful Miss Gunning-had engaged the services of the young Irishman apparently as a tutor, and with an eye, it is supposed, to his reputed scholarship as an alumnus of Trinity College, Dublin ; and it has been supposed that a curious tailor?s bill which came recently to light in Edinburgh, had some reference to his expected visits to the Duke?s apartments in Holyrood, of which the Hamilton family are hereditary keepers. An old ledger was being tom up for waste paper the Courant, requested the copies to be sent to him, in the hope that 6? all generous persons will cheerfully submit his proposals in a matter sa pious, pleasanf, profitable, and national.? (?? Dom. semblies over which the Hon. Miss Nicky Murray presided as Lady Directress. In a house close to the old College gate, on the east side of the wynd, lived for years the illustrious Joseph Black, M.D., the founder of pneumatic chemistry, who was completing his medical studies in the Edinburgh University in 1751, collaterally with Goldsmith j and Forster tells us in his life of the latter, that ? he was fond of chemistry, and was remembered favourably by the celebrated Black.? The doctor graduated here as M.D. in 1754 his charged by its weight of the precious metal in Ounces and drachms. The first bill was paid ? by a s h in full,? before the end of the year ; the second is carried over ? to folio 424,? which, unfortu
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Cowgate.] THE BIRTHPLACE OF SCOTT. 255 inaugural thesis containing an outline of his celebrated discovery of fixed air, or carbonic gas, which with his discovery of latent heat laid the foundation of modem pneumatic chemistry, and has opened to the investigation of the philosopher a fourth kingdom of nature, viz., the gaseous kingdom. Other brilliant achievements in science followed fast before and after Dr. Black?s appointment to a chair in Glasgow in 1756. Ten years after he became Professor of Chemistry in Edinburgh, and was so fm twenty-nine years. .He died in 1799, while sitting at table, with his usual fare, a few prunes, some bread, and a little milk diluted with water. Having the cup in his hand, and feeling the approach of death, he set it carefully down on his knees, which were joined together, and kept it steadily in his hand, in the manner of a person perfectly at ease, and in this attitude, without spilling a drop, and without a writhe on his countenance, Joseph Black, styled by Lavoisier ?the illustrious Nestor of the chemical revolution,? expired placidly, as if an experiment had been wanted to show his friends the ease with which he could die. In another house at the wynd head, but exactly opposite, Sir Walter Scott was born on the 15th of August, 1771. It belonged to his father Walter Scott, W.S., and was pulled down to make room for the northern front of the New College. According to the simple fashion of the Scottish gentry of that day, on another floor of the same building-the first flat-dwelt Mr. Keith, W.S., father of the late Sir Alexander Keith, of Ravelston, Bart. ; and there, too, did the late Lord Keith reside in his student days. Scott?s father, deeming his house in the College Wynd unfavourable to the health of his familyfor therein died several brothers and sisters of Sir Walter, born before him-removed to an airier mansion, No. 25, George Square ; but the old wynd he never forgot. ?( In the course of a walk through this part of the town in 1825,? says genial Robert Chambers, ?Sir Walter did me the honour to point out the site of the house in which he had been born. On his mentioning that his father had got a good price for his share of it, I took .the liberty of jocularly expressing my belief that more money might have been made of it, and the public certainly much more gratified, if it had remained to be shown as the birthplace of the man who had written so many popular books. ?Ay, ay,? said Sir Walter, that is very well ; but I am afraid I should have required to be dead first, and that would not have been so comfortable, you know.?? The house of Mr. Scott, W.S., on the flat of the old tenement, was approached by a turnpike stair, within a little court off the wynd head ; in another corner of it resided Mr. Alexander Mumy, the future solicitor-general, who afterwards sat on the Bench as Lord Henderland, and died in 1795. It was up this narrow way, on Sunday the 15th of August, 177j-when Scott was exactly a baby of two years old-that Boswell and Principal Robertson conducted Dr, Johnson to show him the College. Within the narrow compass of this ancient wynd -so memorable as the birthplace of Scott-were representatives of nearly every order of Scottish society, sufficient for a whole series of his Waverley novels, No wonder is it then, beyond the experience of ?? Auld Reekie,? that we should find one of Kay?s quaintest characters, ? Daft Bailie DuK? a widow?s idiot boy, long regarded as the indispensable appendage of an Edinburgh funeral, dwelling in a little den at the foot of the alley, where he died in I 7 88. Most picturesque were the venerable ?edifices that stood between the foot of the College and the Horse Wynds, though between them 4 St. Peter?$ Close, which, in its latter days, led only to a byre, and a low, dark, filthy, and homble place, ? full of holes and water.? On the east side of St. Peter?s Pend was a very ancient house, the abode of noble proprietors in early times, but which had been remodelled and enlarged in the days of James VI. Three large and beautiful dormer windows rose above its roof, the centre one surmounted by an escallop shell, while a smaller tier of windows peeped out above them from the ?sclaited roof,? and the lintel of its projecting turnpike stair, bore all that remained of its proprietors, these initials, v. P. and A. V. On the other side of the Pend, and immediately abutting on the Horse Wynd, was that singularly picturesque timber-fronted stone tenement, of which drawings and a description are given in the ?? Edinburgh Papers,? on the ancient architecture of the city published in 1859, and referred to as ?another of the pristine mansions of the Cowgate-the houses where William Dunbar and Gavin Douglas may have paid visits, and probably sent forth mailed warriors to Flodden. . . . . Here, besides the ground accommodation and gallery floor, with an outside stair, there is a contracted second flosr, having also a gallery in front with a range of small windows. On the gallery floor at the head of the outside stair, is a finely-moulded door, at the base of an inner winding or turnpike stair leading up to the second floor. Such is the style or door to be seen in all these early woden houses-a style
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