Sir Walter Scott by John Buchan

Sir Walter Scott

byJohn Buchan

Kobo ebook | September 4, 2014

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In the autumn of the year 1771 an Edinburgh citizen, returning after many years' absence, would have noted certain changes in his native city. If, on the morning after his arrival at the White Horse Inn in the Canongate, he had ascended to the high places of the Castle hill, and looked north and east, he would have missed one familiar landmark. The Nor' Loch, his haunt on youthful holidays and the odorous grave of city refuse, had been drained, and its bed was now grass and shingle. Across the hollow which once had held its waters a huge mound of earth had been thrown, giving access to the distant fields. Farther east, another crossing was in process of making, a bridge to carry a broad highway. Before he had left home the Canongate had burst its bonds into New Street and St John Street, and he noted that the city had spilled itself farther southward beyond the South Bridge of the Cowgate into new streets and squares. But now the moat of the Nor' Loch was spanned, and on its farther shore building had begun according to the plans of the ingenious Mr Craig. He had heard much of these plans that morning in Lucky Boyd's hostelry—of how a new Register House, with the Adam brothers as architects, and paid for out of the forfeited Jacobite estates, was designed to rise at the end of the new bridge. And the spectator, according as he was a lover of old things or an amateur of novelties, would have sighed or approved. The little city, strung from the Castle to Holyroodhouse along her rib of hill, where more history had been made than in any place of like size save Athens, Rome and Jerusalem—which, according to the weather and the observer's standpoint, looked like a flag flung against the sky or a ship riding by the shore—was enlarging her bounds and entering upon a new career.

Another sight of some significance was to be had in the same year at the same season. From every corner of the north droves of black cattle were converging on Falkirk moor for the great autumn Tryst. It was the clearing-house of the Highlands, as Stagshawbank on the Tyne was the clearing-house of Scotland. The drover from Glen Affric, herding his kyloes among the autumn bracken, could see from his bivouac a cloud of dark smoke on the banks of the Carron river, and hear by day and night the clang of hammers. This was the Carron Ironworks, now eleven years old, and a canal was being made from Grangemouth-on-Forth to carry their products to the world. There, within sight of the Highland Line, a quarter of a century after a Jacobite army had campaigned on that very ground, the coal and iron of the Scottish midlands were being used in a promising industry. Cannon were being made for many nations, and the Carron pipes and sugar-boilers and fire-grates were soon to be famous throughout the land. The Highland drover, already perplexed by the intrusion of Lowland sheep on his hills and the cutting of his native woods by English companies, saw in the flame and smoke of the ironworks a final proof that his ancient world was crumbling.

There was a third portent, the most pregnant of all, which our returned exile, if he were a man of some education, had a chance of noting. He had heard with pleasure during his absence a rumour of good literature coming from the north. The London critics had spoken well of Mr David Hume's works in history and philosophy, of Mr Robertson's excursions in the former domain, of Mr Ferguson's treatise on civil society, and of the poetry of Mr Beattie of Aberdeen, while visitors had reported the surpassing eloquence of Mr Hugh Blair of the High Kirk of St Giles'. Our traveller, when he had access to these famous men, found that Edinburgh had indeed become a home of brilliant talk and genial company—Edinburgh with her endless taverns where entertainment was cheap, since the Forth at the door gave her oysters, and sound claret was to be had at eighteen shillings a dozen. Around the tavern board or the dinner-table he found the ill

Title:Sir Walter ScottFormat:Kobo ebookPublished:September 4, 2014Publisher:KbookLanguage:English

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ISBN:9990045714196

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