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Edina! Scotia's darling seat!
Edinburgh, November 9, 1818. On my first entering this city, I was struck with the remarkable contrast between the Old and New Town. The old part of Edinburgh appears to be “blasted with antiquity"-whereas the New Town is really elegant—the houses are all regular, and many of them magnificent; the streets are spacious and extremely well paved, and the public squares would not disparage any city in the world. When I walk in the deep valley of the North Loch, in a dark night, my imagination sometimes transports me into those gloomy forests described in the Arabian Tales, and the lofty edifices at a distance, give me the idea of those fairy enchanted palaces, which spring up before the
benighted traveller, and invite him to satisfy his hunger and curiosity.
Edinburgh is a city of palaces. The natural grandeur of her situation has excited a kindred enthusiasm in her artists; the spirit of improvement is abroad, and calls forth the productions of architecture and sculpture: the romantic edifices of the old town, and the open and airy splendour of the new, associate with the magnificent scenery of the environs, and make “ Auld Reekie” the wonder of Europe.
Previous to 1763, a lake separated the New from the Old Town of Edinburgh. In that year, the North Loch was drained, and the mud removed. At present it has the appear. ance of a valley, in which there are a few scattered buildings. A mound and a bridge communicate between the Old and New Town, and stretch over the Loch. The coup-d'ail from the bridge, in a fine starry evening is ex. tremely magnificent. The depth and darkness of the valley prevent you from seeing the houses and other objects in the Loch, and you discern nothing but the lights which glimmer in the windows. You fancy that a real lake floats before you, and that her “mirror blue" reflects the starry host with which the firmament is spangled.
The amazing height of the houses in the Old Town of Edinburgh,* attracted my ob
*"The extraordinary height of the houses was marked by lights, which, glimmering irregularly along their front, ascended so high among the attics, that they seemed at length to twinkle in the middle sky." Guy Mannering.
servation, as soon as I commenced my walks :hrough the city. Many of them are 13 stories high, not to mention the ground floor! In à cloudy day (that is, almost every day!) the tops of the houses appear at a distance to be confounded with the firmament, and the clouds are seen rolling over their roofs. At night, the view of these elevated buildings, when the numberless windows are illuminated, is extremely beautiful.
Opposite to High street, in which these high houses are situated, and on the other side of the Loch, is Princes street, which is the emporium of fashion and elegance. The buildings are all new, constructed of a beautiful gray stone, and arranged with the utmost symmetry. The shops are not inferior to the most splendid magazines of fashion in Bond street, and the hotels are the dearest and the most elegant in Scotland. This long street presents a delightful prospect when illuminated with
gas at night. The extensive range of lighted | candles, and the brilliant effect of the gas, with
the rich and vivid colours in the druggists' windows, produce one of the most magnificent prospects that I ever beheld, and give an idea of "th' immortal lights that live along the sky.”
I had not been long in the “ Athens of the North," as Edinburgh is gratuitously termed, before I was made sensible of a certain Pres. byterian stiffness in the manners of its inhabitants. I was immediately struck with the fu
nereal procession to church on Sundays—its solemn silence the freezing gravity of the persons composing it, who seemed rather to proceed to the solemn dirge of death, than to a pleasing duty.
The streets are all perfectly still during the hours of divine service: no sound breaks the silence which prevails, till the church doors open and disgorge the kirks of the motley throngs--then an endless stream pours along “ vires acquirens eundo,” till all the streets are filled. The rush is irresistibly impetuous; every one floats on the swelling waves of this human tide, and wo to him who should attempt to stem the furious current! Every woman carries a richly bound psalm book, which is not the least splendid part of her finery, and this she displays with an exquisite air of religious importance.
Such sad and disconsolate solemnity is apt to deter young persons from a religious life, by representing it as an unsociable state, that extinguishes all joy and gladness, and darkens the face of nature. “ Those who represent religion in so unamiable a light, (says Addison) are like the spies sent by Moses to make the discovery of the land of promise, when by their reports they discouraged the people from entering upon it. Those who show us the joy, the cheerfulness, the good humour that naturally spring up in this happy state, are like the spies bringing along with them the clusters of grapes, and delicious fruits, that might invite
their companions into the pleasant country which produced them."
The gloomy employment of Sunday in Edinburgh, appeared to me so much the more disagreeable, as I had just quitted France, where the Sabbath is really a “ day of rest from labour.” In Paris, every person is more gay, and seeks for amusement with greater alacrity on that day than any other; not that I approve of the frivolous, and sometimes sinful diversions in which some Parisians indulge themselves on the Sabbath—but I am not speaking of the vices of a few, but of the characteristic habits of a nation, and if I preferred an excess on any side, it would be the French frivolity to the Scotish misanthropic gloom.
Windows and doors, in nameless sculpture drest,
To John D
Edinburgh, December 1, 1818. . GRAY says that Edinburgh is the most picturesque (at a distance,) and the nastiest (when Dear,) of all capital cities! It is surrounded on all sides, except towards the Firth, with irregular rocky mountains separated by beautiful