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Kay's Originals Vol. 2


282 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. No. CCLXIV. MR. HAMILTON BELL, W.S., CARRYING A VINTNER’S BOY FROM EDINBURGH TO MUSSELBURGH, AND MR. JOHN RAE, SURGEON-DENTIST, ACCOMPANYING HIM IN THE CHARACTER OF BOTTLE-HOLDER. THE scene described in this Etching records a somewhat ludicrous but highly characteristic instance of the social spirit of former times. At a convivial meeting overnight, a pedestrian match was entered into betwixt Mr. Innes, confectioner, and Mr. Bell, to walk from Edinburgh to Musselburgh ; the latter, a man of uncommon strength, agreeing to carry the waiting-’boy of the tavern, in which they were then regaling themselves,’ on his back. In order to avoid the gaze of spectators, as well as to anticipate the scorching heat of a summer day, the bet was decided early next morning, almost unknown to any one, save a few fish-women, some of whom are represented as on their way to the Edinburgh market, to which they then repaired at a irery early hour. AIR. HAMILTON BELL was a Writer to the Signet of considerable respectability and extent of employment. He was originally from Forfarshire, but had been brought up and educated in Edinburgh. His mother for many years kept a well-frequented tavern in the Canongate. He served his apprenticeship with Mr. Walter ROSSW, .S., whose friendship he enjoyed long afterwards ; and from him he probably imbibed, in addition to a knowledge of law, a taste for antiquarian research and a keen passion for music. To a powerful frame and vigorous constitution, he added a spirit somewhat impatient of control, which occasionally led to ebullitions of temper not of the most polite or pleasant description. Like other professional men of his day, he conducted his business chiefly in taverns. Fortune’s was hig favourite haunt ; and there, in the enjoyment of high-jinks, and other pleasantries of the olden time, the tedious dulness of law was often enlivened or forgotten. He was also a member of the Cape Club, which met every night. From his deep potations with the knights of the Cape, a dropsy ensued, a.nd a vast quantity of water having been taken from his body, his life was despaired of by his acquaintances. He rallied, howl The “Star and Garter Tavern,” Writers’ Court, then kept by Mr. James Hunter, and afterwards possessed by Mr. Paxton of the Royal Exchange Coffee-house. .
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