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In Praise of Edinburgh, an Anthology in Prose and Verse (Classic Reprint)

In Praise of Edinburgh, an Anthology in Prose and Verse (Classic Reprint)

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Excerpt from In Praise of Edinburgh, an Anthology in Prose and Verse

The extracts gathered in this book include comments on Edinburgh from that of Ptolemy in the second century to that of King George v. in the twentieth. Inevitably there must be very many regrettable omissions.

The extracts have been arranged, as far as possible, in the chronological order of their subjects; contemporary accounts thus coming in the chronological order of their writers. This arrangement would seem the most satisfactory to the historical sense, for it tends to present a consecutive story, or set of pictures, of Edinburgh.

Just as the Edinburgh that was praised in the sixteenth century is not the same Edinburgh that was praised in the nineteenth century, so the nature of the praise changes with the centuries as does the city. For instance, if we except Gavin Douglas's delicious observations of Nature - not always praise - it is interesting to note how perception of scenic beauty does not creep into the descriptions of Edinburgh until about the middle of the eighteenth century, when the Bishop of Meath, writing to his sister, tells her of the view of the Forth and the country. Pennant, whom Johnson called observant, notices the views also, a few years later. Until that period travellers comment on the strength of the position of the Castle, and are uniform in their admiration of the 'one fair street,' and the height of the houses in Parliament Close.

It may also be noticed that our French visitors are generally eulogistic; but that some of our English guests - as Henry 111.'s daughter in 1255, Sir Anthony Weldon in 1617, Dr. Johnson in the eighteenth century and John Ruskin in the nineteenth, - can only be quoted by considering their remarks to have been inspired by home-sickness or by jealousy, and therefore to be accepted as praise in disguise.

Within the chronological barriers, an attempt has been made to present occasional continuity of subject matter, or sharp clash of contrasting opinion.

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