30 SEPTEMBER 1865, Page 11


THERE is at least one subject on which the national vanity of Scotland is well justified, and that is the beauty of her capital. Few cities in Europe rival Edinburgh in the beauty of its site, none is so unique in characteristics. Paris and St. Peters- burgh excel her in buildings, and Naples looks down upon a love- lier scene, but no place can show the special and, ao to speak, eccentric charm of Edinburgh, the inextricable commingling or, as it were, jumbling up of wild nature with modern civilization. Her principal street is bounded by a green and fresh ravine, full of trees, and grass, and precipitous banks, and looks straight on a castle-crowned rock as grim of aspect and abrupt of line as any rock upon the Rhine, but at the bottom of the ravine runs the locomotive, and by the side of the grey castle stretch grey houses, tall and gaunt, with odd gables and strange points and towers, which look as if they had existed for ever, but are covered with gilt advertisements. Out of the very tumult of the main street, at the point where it is hottest, almost touching with its feet the post office, and theatre, and High School, rises sharply a green hill far above the city, and at the top of it, an ascent of a minute, the visitor is in a new world, looking down upon the city stretched out like a panorama, with every building and street distinctly visible, and upon the gleaming Forth, which seems from that height almost to ring it in. He may lie -under the trees on the Forth side of the hill and believe himself in some remote county, till, as he turns to descend, he reads the blunt notice that any woman addressing any man upon the hill will be prosecuted, and remembers that he is in a great city, amidst a great city's vices. Or stand upon Dean Bridge. Below the spectator on each side is a deep, narrow ravine, untouched by art, with a brattling burn at the bottom rushing over the loose stones as if in the wilderness, and beyond are the towers of Donald- son's Hospital, the " only palace in Scotland," as the Queen, half- -envying, is reported to have said, and far away the stateliest building in the capital. Or, finally, drive from Princes Street in a cab,—the cab of civilization, roomy, and soft, and clean, the cab which has not reached London yet,—and in five minutes you are in the true wilderness, toiling up a range of hills as green, and bright, and free from enclosure as if they were in Argyllshire, with its own valleys, and knolls, and rocks, .and steep descents, and little lakes, in which the rocks above them throw a shadow so sleepily deep that the ripple caused by the boys' rods as they fish for minnows never disturbs it. Arthur's Seat, which is not, we may tell Londoners, an abrupt knoll, but a range of great mountains as seen through the small end of a telescope, belongs to Switzerland, and the gas- lights go all round it. That is to our minds the peculiarity of Edinburgh,—art and nature, the wilderness and the street, the lake and the aqueduct, in such close juxtaposition as almost to sug- gest the idea of collision, yet, art never conquering, there is from the collision no resulting vulgarity. The total absence of vulgarity, of garishness of any sort, or excessive inconsistency, is indeed a marked feature of Edinburgh as a city, as it is also, although in a less degree, of Edinburgh life. The city has no parks as we understand the word—it means, Scottice, a grass field—but their place is supplied by the" Meadows," the playground of Edinburgh, situated in the very heart of the houses, yet in their common-like look still keeping up the air of rustic life. Outside, the town, which Londoners are apt to believe contains only one hill, is girdled in with low but varied ranges, from the dim but rounded hummocks which somehow, though on the opposite side, seem to conceal the Forth, to the Braid Hills beyond Morningside, which just suggest the fall height of the Pentland range beyond. And beneath them all, like a burn below a ravine, lies the fresh green sea rolling at one corner over deep white sands a mile broad, and then at another breaking over sharp red boulders, so oddly placed as to suggest the thought that giant children have been playing at building houses and causeways,•and, suddenly interrupted, left their giant brown pebbles there. Twenty minutes take you from Edinburgh to a sea bath, thirty more place you again on a moun- tain aide, as fresh, and green, and breezy, and for all purposes of prospect as high, as the wildest hill in Wales.

Of Edinburgh life it does not become a mere visitor to speak, for he is almost certain to misunderstand it, but its special ex- ternal characteristics as apparent to a mere visitor seem to be these. Edinburgh is socially what no other city in the islands now is, what no city in France is, but what many cities are in Germany—a provincial capital. There is nothing of London about it, and nothing whatever of the county town. Life is far simpler than in London, far kindlier, far more penetrated with true and beneficial municipal feeling. Old residents complain that the ancient simplicity is dying of railways, tourists, and the wretched English freehandedness and love of osten- tation, but this is not apparent to the visitor. What he sees is that a man may live in Edinburgh as he chooses, doing with or without man-servants or carriage, as it pleases him, may exhibit any amount of eccentricity—Edinburgh is still full of characters—without social loss. He sees that the interest felt by each in each does not degenerate as in county towns into espion- age, that the people can and do live four and five independent families in a house without, jar, or bickering, or over much watch- fulness of one another, that no man hesitates to say, " I cannot afford it," no woman to affirm "I cannot abide waste," or as she probably pronounces it, " wIst," that dogs and cats are universal and very beautiful—it does not seem etiquette in Edinburgh to steal animals—that every local celebrity is known and defended instead of being attacked, and that every man, woman, and child in the city speaks; of it and its belongings as if he had created them all, and would never quite forget to glorify his handiwork.

Those traces indicate a pleasant people, though there is another side, and perhaps no words of ours would indicate the mixture of charac- teristics better than these two trifling facts. " Flats " or storeys

of houses are, in Edinburgh, bought and sold and lived in as freeholds. Imagine the hearty kindliness and respect for rights

and reasonability there must be in a proud, punctilious people

who can do that, whose wives do not quarrel with the wives over- head or on the ground floor, who can bear the hourly touch of

violent disparities of fortune, who can abstain from espionage, whose servants can keep from flying, under those circumstances, at each others' throats. On the other hand, look at this. It is the custom in Edinburgh, as in London, for the better class to quit the city in August and September for the beautiful watering places scattered all over Scotland, and when going they leave their houses absolutely without inmates, simply lock them up as if Edinburgh were already the place " where thieves do not break through nor steal." Well, they lock the pet cats out too. Imagine the trace of hardness, hardness as of granite, there must be in the

people who, able to take a summer tour, can yet do that! The poor "beasties " run about half wild, eating what they can get by chance,

possibly benefiting, like their masters, by unwonted exercise and fresh air, but growing awfully thin, and then return with promi- nent ribs, and hungry eyes, and torn far to the house, to be petted, and over-fed, and made much of till next September. The custom does not arise from want of consideration for animals, for the citizens love dogs,—you never see a cab without one on the box seat calmly surveying mankind,—and visibly pet them ; it is just hardness. The cats can live somehow outside for the month, and why should there be " what" on cats' meat ? That is the Scotch character, full of the most gentle kindliness and consideration, yet with a vein of flint in it somewhere, from which it is true you may draw fire, but a sudden stumble on which draws only pain to the stambler. For the rest, a simplicity like, but not equal to, that of Germany, a frankness as of those who know no superiors and cannot conceive any necessity for appearances, still seems to us to linger in Edinburgh society, sometimes softening, occasionally hardening, all intercourse, but always enriching it. From the pestilent county-town habit of detraction it is, except when its clergy are concerned either as subjects or as operators, almost entirely free.

The best point about Edinburgh, however, the one which most strikes a stranger, is the character of its lower class. The Scotch themselves often decry it, and do not like it, saying that it has been corrupted, but to a stranger it seems one of the best yet attained in any capital. Its main feature is reasonableness, reasonableness of the kind which produces a grave and somewhat slow courtesy and independence. However low his class, the " rough " in Edinburgh will always listen gravely and reply quietly, never gibes without a reason, and never puts on that brutally sullen manner with which the Englishman of the same kind cloaks the mauvaise honte which comes of inferiority. The sense of equality, though not so externally patent as in France, is just as strong, and rather more real, the reverence for money being distinctly less. There is no trace of colonial feeling in this bear- ing, servants in Scotland submitting to a discipline which would drive servants in England frantic, and the social inferior almost always giving place, say, 'for example, in a crowd, to the social superior ; but there is a self-assertion, a distinct dislike of that condescending, half-satirical manner which makes educated Englishmen so hated in all countries but their own, and in their own keeps classes so terribly apart. A Scotch cabby, for example, can converse,—a thing no Englishman of the lower class ever attempts—and an E linburgh tradesman of the lowest order, though far more anxious for custo.n than a Londoner, talks with his eyes on yours, and without eternal " Sirring." Perhaps the best illustra- tion of the internal difference is a little external one. In England one can judge approximately of a man's degree by his name, in Scot- land one cannot. There are names all over London which, as we read or hear them, we know do not belong to gentlemen ; but in Edinburgh a Murray is marquis and tobacconist, a Campbell earl and pawnbroker, a Scott duke and costermonger. Stewarts by dozens drive cabs, we counted eight Johnstones in one walk among the lowest tradesmen, Frasers keep ginshops, and Hays sell sweeties and halfpenny numbers of the London Journal. Eleven-twelfths of the names over Edinburgh shops are not vulgar names, and the fact, the result originally of clan connections, reveals the truth within. The Edinburgh man is as fond of getting on as the Englishman, and pushes much harder, but he does not hate social superiors in the same way, is quite capable of feeling for them, if needful, a pitying kindliness, of judging then in fact as he would judge his own class. The latent suspicion of intended wrong which never quits the English ser- vant or workman is in the Edinburgh native entirely wanting. The influence of grade does not weigh on him, or the influence of money. He is rarely without_humour of the quaintly-satirical kind, and is invariably devoid of that tendency to confuse insult with retort, which George Eliot points to in Silas Marner as universal among uneducated Englishmen. Grade he judges of necessity by something other than dress, being very often, if a Scotch gentleman is his interlocutor, decidedly the better dressed of the two, and he does not in his heart either admire or expect freehandednese. More than his due is acceptable of course, for it swells the stocking-foot, but he asks still in his mind, " Wharforr do ye what the maircies ? " One accidental advantage con- tributes very much to this visible equality. The low Scotch- man has no vulgarisms to fight, no " h" to pick up, no uncon- trollable habit of using, and therefore abusing, words he does not understand. The Edinburgh costermonger's talk differs only in accent from that of the Edinburgh middle-class man—unless the latter talks English—and there is therefore no consciousness on the score of utterance. Then he is educated in a way, and shares with the Parisian a profound and genuine respect for know- ledge of any kind,—could not comprehend, much less sympathize with, the low Londoner's hatred of " soft-spoken" men. He has his bad qualities no doubt, the most prominent ones being a visible disbelief in cleanliness, and a tendency when drunk to put himself out of civilization, but taken for all in all the lower Edinburgh citizen, workman or small shopkeeper, is the best result of a training -which, though unsuited for other countries, does visibly suit Scot- land. The result is a kindliness in the intercourse of classes which is exceedingly pleasant, and which in English cities tends to dis- appear. The Edinburgh employer will have his due and more than his due, drives very hard and counts farthings very keenly, but he never bullies, knows all about his employe and his family, and never treats him with that silent, unquestioning indifference, which so galls all races but our own. We have seen a master in Edinburgh chat in the genuine sense with a servant—an event which in London has probably not occurred in this century, and the fact is worth a volume as an illustration of social difference.