Edinburgh Bookshelf

Kay's Originals Vol. 2


Volume 9 Page 38
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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 29 by his relatives and a numerous circle of friends and acquaintances.” The son of this gentleman was connected with the Commissariat Department in the British Service, in which capacity he sustained several important offices. MR ROBERT CLERK, the centre figure, was for many years a bookseller and publisher in the Parliament Square. His father, John Clerk, a printer, was said to have been descended from Alexander Clark, Lord Provost of the city of Edinburgh at the commencement of the seventeenth century. Mr. Clerk was born in 1738 ; and about the age of seventeen, after finishing his apprenticeship, married Barbara, daughter of John Williamson, farmer at Bellside, near Linlithgow ; and with her it is believed he obtained a small portion, which enabled him to commence bookseller on his own account.’ Although at that period the book trade of Edinburgh was comparatively limited, he succeeded in establishing a profitable business-having a good many bookbinders employed-and latterly engaging in several fortunate speculations as a publisher? In the course of a few years he purchased a house in the Cowgate from Provost Kincaid, called “ Kincaid’s Land,” where he resided some time. In 1772 he bought a property at Newhaven-known from its size by the name of U the Whale”8-with a large piece of ground and stabling attached. The under part he first let to John,’ father of the late Wil.liam Dumbreck of Coates j and in the summer the upper flat was either occupied by Mr. Clerk‘s own family, or let out during the bathing season. As an inn, the house was subsequently possessed by various tenants. In 1789, having sold off his stock, and (( the Whale ” being at that time without a tenant, Mr. Clerk let his house in Edinburgh, and retired to Newhaven. Here he continued for several years, almost daily visited by his friends from Edipburgh, a party of whom, on Saturdays in particular, were in the habit of playing at quoits in his garden, and thereafter regaling themselves with a plentiful supply of gin and oysters, then and still a favourite indulgence at Newhaven. At length, finding a suitable tenant for his house, ‘( the Whale ” again became an inn ; and, under the good management of the late Mr. James Duguid, as well as of his widow many years afterwards, was well frequented. In 1800, in consequence of his wife’s death, Mr. Clerk gave up houskeeping, and boarded with Mrs. Duguid of ‘(the Whale,” where his old friends rallied They had eight sons, six of whom died in infancy. Robert, the eldest, died in 1786 ; and Alexander, the only remaining son, was a Solicitor-at-law in Edinburgh. Among other works published by-?. Clerk waa the “ Builder’s Jewel”-a book of considerable note in those days “The Whale” was totally destroyed by fire about 1834, but the name is preserped by the Whale Brae. ‘ From Newhaven Mr. Dumbreck removed to the White Horse Inn, Canongate, and afhrw-arda opened the hotel, long known by his name in Princes Street, where he realised an independent fortune. His son William continued the business for some time after his death, but Latterly r e t i i to Coates.
Volume 9 Page 39
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