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SCOTT AND HIS INFLUENCE.
"Edina! Scotia's darling seat!
All hail thy palaces and towers,
So sang Burns, with genuine enthusiasm, though not in his best literary strain, when first, a visitor from his native Ayrshire, he saluted the Scottish capital. At that time Edinburgh merited the salutation, even had it been expressed better. The Old Town was there as we still see it, or more perfect and untouched-the most romantic aggregate of natural height and hollow, and of quaint and massive building raised thereon by the hand of man, that existed within the circuit of Britain; the ridge of the High Street alone, from its crown in the old
craggy Castle down to its foot in Holyrood Palace and Abbey, forming a range of the antique and the picturesque in street-architecture such as no other British city could exhibit. And then the scenery surrounding! Calton Hill near and ready for its monuments; the Lion of Arthur's Seat grimly keeping guard; the wooded Corstorphines lying soft on one side; the larger Pentlands looming behind at a greater distance; down from the main ridge, and across the separating chasm, with its green and rocky slopes, the beginnings of a new city spilt out of the old; and, over these beginnings, the flats of the Forth, the Forth's own flashing waters, and, still beyond them, sea and land in fading variety to the far horizon-the shores of Fife distinctly visible, and, under a passing burst of sunlight, the purple peaks of the Highland hills! Sunlight or mist, summer or winter, night or day, where was there such another British city? Then fill this city with its historical associations. Let the memories of old Scottish centuries be lodged within it as they were when Burns first saw it, and the actual relics of these centuries in their yet undiminished abundance; let its streets, its alleys, nay its individual "lands" and houses be thought of as still retaining the legends and traditions, some grotesque and others
ghastly, of the defunct Scottish life that had passed through them, and left its scars on their very woodwork, and its blood-stains and wine-stains on their very stones! All this Burns was a man to remember, and to this he makes due allusion also in his ode:
"With awe-struck thought and pitying tears
But he recognizes also other and more present claims in the Edinburgh of his day to his reverence, and to that of other Scotchmen :—
"Here Justice from her native skies
High wields her balance and her rod;
Yes; among the 70,000 souls or thereby who then constituted the population of Edinburgh, there was a greater proportionate number of men of intellectual and literary eminence than in any other British community, not excepting London. A North-British Literature-so to be named as being distinct from that general British Literature which had London
for its centre, and which reckoned among its contributors those Scotchmen and Irishmen, as well as Englishmen, who chanced to have made London their home-had by this time come into existence and established itself. The date of the rise of this NorthBritish Literature had been the reign of George II.; and Edinburgh had naturally become its centre, though Glasgow and Aberdeen assisted. At the time of Burns's visit, the Edinburgh stars belonging to this Literature were sufficiently numerous. Hume had been ten years dead, and some others had also disappeared; but Adam Smith and Monboddo and Blair and Robertson and Tytler and Henry and Hailes and Adam Ferguson, and the poets Home and Blacklock, and Henry Mackenzie and Harry Erskine, and the chemist Black, and Dugald Stewart, and others intermingled with these, formed together a very tolerable cluster of Northern Lights. Even as far as London their radiance could be seen, when Englishmen turned their eyes, which they rarely do, to the north; and, partly in compliment to them, partly with reference to the new local architecture, Edinburgh had begun to be called "The Modern Athens." The Ayrshire ploughman came into the midst of these men; received their praises and advices, and took the measure of them severally by
his own standard; and went back, little modified apparently by what he had seen, but full to his dying day of a Scotchman's respect for the capital of his native land.
What Burns then felt towards Edinburgh I believe that all educated Scotchmen, or all Scotchmen possessing anything of that amor patrie with which Scotchmen generally are credited, felt also in varying degree. Not an Ayrshire Scot alone, but an Aberdeenshire Scot, or a Scot from the west coast, or a Scot from Caithness or the remote Orkneys, must have regarded Edinburgh as the seat of his country's most memorable traditions, the centre of her general life, the pride of her common heart. To make a pilgrimage thither was, in those days of difficult travel, a duty of love to the distant provincials who had conceived the city as yet but from book and from fancy; and to have actually seen Edina's towers and palaces was to retain the patriotic vision for ever, and to blend it with the local and nearer imagery of their special homes. Her very dust to them was dear.
Seventy years have elapsed since then; but is it, or needs it be, different now? No; a thousand times No! The Old City is there still, hacked by the pickaxe, and scathed by fires, and maltreated,