Till the night winds softly pass
In the year 1834, I spent several weeks in Edinburgh. I was fascinated by the singular beauties of that "romantic town," which Scott called his own, and which holds his memory, with that of Burns, as a most precious part of its inheritance. The castle with the precipitous rocky wall out of which it grows, the deep ravines with their bridges, pleasant Calton Hill and memorable Holyrood Palace, the new town and the old town with their strange contrasts, and Arthur's Seat overlooking all,--these varied and enchanting objects account for the fondness with which all who have once seen Edinburgh will always regard it.
Leave at home all your guineas, ye who enter here, would be a good motto to put over his door, unless you have them in plenty and can spare them, in which case Take all your guineas with you would be a better one. For you can here get their equivalent, and more than their equivalent, in the choicest products of the press and the finest work of the illuminator, the illustrator, and the binder. You will be sorely tempted. But do not be surprised when you ask the price of the volume you may happen to fancy. You are not dealing with a bouquiniste of the Quais, in Paris. You are not foraging in an old book-shop of New York or Boston. Do not suppose that I undervalue these dealers in old and rare volumes. Many a much-prized rarity have I obtained from Drake and Burnham and others of my townsmen, and from Denham in New York; and in my student years many a choice volume, sometimes even an Aldus or an Elzevir, have I found among the trumpery spread out on the parapets of the quays. But there is a difference between going out on the Fourth of July with a militia musket to shoot any catbird or "chipmunk" that turns up in a piece of woods within a few miles of our own cities, and shooting partridges in a nobleman's preserves on the First of September. I confess to having felt a certain awe on entering the precincts made sacred by their precious contents. The lord and master of so many Editiones Principes, the guardian of this great nursery full of incunabula, did not seem to me like a simple tradesman. I felt that I was in the presence of the literary purveyor of royal and imperial libraries, the man before whom millionaires tremble as they calculate, and billionaires pause and consider. I have recently received two of Mr. Quaritch's catalogues, from which I will give my reader an extract or two, to show him what kind of articles this prince of bibliopoles deals in.
Give him all these advantages, and he will still be longing to cross the water, to get back to that old home of his fathers, so delightful in itself, so infinitely desirable on account of its nearness to Paris, to Geneva, to Rome, to all that is most interesting in Europe. The less wealthy, less cultivated, less fastidious class of Americans are not so much haunted by these longings. But the convenience of living in the Old World is so great, and it is such a trial and such a risk to keep crossing the ocean, that it seems altogether likely that a considerable current of re-migration will gradually develop itself among our people.
We went to a luncheon at Lansdowne House, Lord Rosebery's residence, not far from our hotel. My companion tells a little incident which may please an American six-year-old: "The eldest of the four children, Sibyl, a pretty, bright child of six, told me that she wrote a letter to the Queen. I said, 'Did you begin, Dear Queen?' 'No,' she answered, 'I began, Your Majesty, and signed myself, Your little humble servant, Sibyl.'" A very cordial and homelike reception at this great house, where a couple of hours were passed most agreeably.
That bids the loosening keystone slide,
On Friday, the 18th, I went to a breakfast at the Combination Room, at which about fifty gentlemen were present, Dr. Sandys taking the chair. After the more serious business of the morning's repast was over, Dr. Macalister, at the call of the chairman, arose, and proposed my welfare in a very complimentary way. I of course had to respond, and I did so in the words which came of their own accord to my lips. After my unpremeditated answer, which was kindly received, a young gentleman of the university, Mr. Heitland, read a short poem, of which the following is the title:--