L UCKENB0OT.S AND PARLIAMENT CLOSE. I99 Gay, the poet,-who, during the latter years of his life, seems to have been as regularly installed into the household of the Duchess of Queensberry as ever any court-minstrel was in a palace of old,-accompanied his patroness to Edinburgh, and resided for some time in the Canongate, at Queensberry House. He became, as was to be anticipated, a frequent visitor of the Scottish poet, and is said to have derived great amusement from Ramsay’s humorous descriptions of the leading citizens as they daily assembled at the Cross, within sigh€ of his windows. That central spot “where merchants most do congregate,” was then a.dorned with the ancient structure demolished in 1756, and formed the daily promenade for the ruffled and powdered exquisite to display his finery, no less than for the trader bent only on business. The wits of Edinburgh used to meet there, at the poet’s shop, to amuse themselves with the intelligence of the day, and the most recent news in the world of letters. The late William Tytler, Esq., of Woodhouselee, had frequently seen Gay among these literary gossips, and described him as 8 pleasant-looking little man with a tye-wig. He recollected overhearing him desire Ramsay>o explain many of the Scottish words and allusions to national customs that occur in the Gentle Shepherd, and which he engaged on his return to England to communicate to Pope, who was already an admirer of the beauties of that admirable pastoral.’ The prospect, however, from Allan Ramsay’s window, possessed other attractions for the poet besides the grave and humorous glimpses of human nature it afforded; for, owing to the singular site of the Scottish capital, it commanded, although in the very heart of the town, a view for many miles into the country, looking across Preston Bay to the fertile landscape of East Lothian, and the heights that skirt the German Ocean. Allan Ramsay’s library and business were transferred by his successor, Mr James Macewan, to the shop below ; and from him they passed into the hands of Mr Alexander Kincaid, an eminent bookseller and publisher, and a man of highly cultivated mind, who took an active share in the management of civic affairs, and died while filling the ofice of Lord Provost, January 2184 1777. He was interred with all the honours due to his rank, and his funeral appears to have excited an universal sensation at the period.’ During his time the old land acquired an additional interest as a favourite lounge of Smollett, who visited Edinburgh in 1776, and resided for some time at his sister’s house in the Canongate. He appears to have derived the same amusement as Gay from watching the curious groups that daily assembled in front of this ancient tenement. In the lively account of his visit given in Humphrey Clinker, he remarks--“ All the people of business at Edinburgh, and even the genteel company, may be seen standing in crowds every day, from one to two in the afternoon, in the open street, at a place where formerly stood a marketcross, a curious piece of Gothic architecture, still to be seen in Lord Somerville’s garden in this neighbourhood” Kincaid was succeeded in the shop and business by Mr William Creech, in whose hands this haunt of the Muses suffered no diminution of its attractions. Ee received a liberal education in early life; added to which, an inexhaustible fund of amusing anecdote, and great conversational powers, served through life to make his society be courted by the most eminent men of hk time, notwithstanding the acquirement latterly of penurious habits, and such a miserly keenness for money, as precluded not benevolence 1 Scot. Mag., July 1802. 1 A particular account of the funeral is given by h o t , Appendix, No. XI.
200 MEMORIALS OF EDINBURGH. alone, but even, it is said, the honest discharge of commercial obligations.’ For forty years Mr Creech carried on the most extensive publishing concern in Scotland, and during the whole of this long period nearly all the valuable literary productions of the time passed through his hands. He published the writings of the celebrated judge and philosopher, Lord Kames, who appears to have regarded him with friendship and esteem. He was also the publisher of the works of Drs Blair, Beattie, Campbell (the opponent of Hume), Cullen, Gregory, Adam Smith, Henry Mackenzie (the Man of Feeling), Lord Woodhouselee, Dugald Stewart, and Burns, besides many others of inferior note ; all of whom resorted to the old land in the Luckenbooths, or to the more select assemblies that frequently took place at his breakfast table, designated by the wits Creech‘s levees. The old bibliopolist is the subject of Burns’ amusing poem, “ Willie’s amz,’’ written on the occasion of a long visit he paid to London in 1787, and forwarded to him by the poet at the time. One or two of its stanzas are very lively and characteristic :- 0 Willie was a witty wight, And had 0’ things an uuco slight ; Auld Reekie aye he keepit tight, And trig and braw ; But now they ’11 busk her like a fright, Willie ‘s awa,. Nae mair we see his levee door, Philosophers and poets pour, And toothy critics by the score The adjutant of a’ the core, In bloody raw ; Willie ’a awa. From the same classic haunt the Mirror and Lounger were originally issued, the appearance of which formed a new era in the literature of Edinburgh. The first paper of the Mirror appeared on Saturday, 23d January 1779, aud created quite a sensation among the blue-stocking coteries of the capital, The succeeding numbers were delivered at Mr Creech’s shop every Wednesday and Saturday, and afforded a general source of interest and literary amusement. Mr Mackenzie was the conductor and principal writer, but the chief contributors latterly formed themselves into the ‘‘ Mirror Club,” which consisted of Henry Mackenzie, Lord Craig, Lord Abercromby, Lord Bannatyne, Lord Cullen, George Home of Wedderburn, William Gordon of Newhall, and George Ogilvie, advocates.’ Mr Creech, like his predecessor, bore his share in the civic government, and twice filled the office of Lord Provost. His reputation is still preserved by his “ Fugitive Pieces,” a work of considerable local celebrity, although affording a very imperfect idea of the wit Some curious illustrations, both of the wit and penuriousness of this old city bookseller, will be found scattered through the pages of “ Ray’s Portraits.” ’ Lord Craig, then an advocate, was the originator, and, next to Mackenzie, the greatest contributor to the Mimr. The Club previously existed under the name of the Tabernacle, but assumed that which had been adopted for their periodical, The namea of the writers were carefully concealed, and in order to avoid observation, the Club held its weekly meetings in no fixed place. ‘‘ Sometimes in Clerihugh’s, in Writer‘s Court, sometimes in Somer’s, opposite the Guard House, in the High Street, sometimea in Stewart’s Oyster House, in the Old Fishmarket Close,” &c., when one of the most interesting occupations of the evening was the examination of the contents of the Contributors’ box, which stood open for all correspondents, at Yr Creech’s door.--Vide Scot. Biog. Dictionary,-Article “ Craig.”