Edinburgh: The Golden Age

Edinburgh: The Golden Age

Edinburgh: The Golden Age

Edinburgh: The Golden Age


"Edinburgh: The Golden Age is a major contribution to the literature on the Scottish Enlightenment and an extraordinarily lucid insight into Edinburgh during the most exciting and stimulating period of its history. Based on an astonishingly wide range of sources - local newspapers and journals, published accounts of travels to Scotland, diaries, letters, reminiscences etc., as well as more modern texts - it covers the social and cultural history of the city from around 1760 until 1832, the year in which Sir Walter Scott died." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


To many people Edinburgh is incomparably Britain's most beautiful city, even beyond such likely competitors as York, Bath or Oxford. It is a capital city, a working city, a stone city; a city built on hills and set in a staggering landscape. Its approach from the south-east is still alluring today, a second Athens with its Acropolis, even in spite of its now despoiled prospects. Old and New Towns still make their arresting contrast, however swallowed up in large conurbations.

How much greater was the effect two hundred years ago, when the protoNew Town first faced the Old from its long, windswept ridge – and how dramatically the vista of castle, rock and High Street struck the visitor of, say, Wordsworth's day. Stranger after stranger records admiration, and even the most prosaic are moved to near-poetry.

The sixty or so years between Edinburgh's first vestigial new northern suburb and the death of Sir Walter Scott in 1832 comprise a memorable period of such splendour that it is surprising that they have not yet received a full-length study of the city's life, experience and ideas. Architecture has received its due, poets and public men have their biographies. This book is the biography of the city — the new city between its inception in 1769 and the eventual irruption of the railway and industrial age, and the era of Reform, which changed it radically: the years of Modern Athens in full flower.

Important figures of the period include not only such obvious lions as Sir Walter Scott, Lord Cockburn, Henry Brougham, Thomas Carlyle and (especially) Francis Jeffrey of the Edinburgh Review, but less expected though equally celebrated figures like Sydney Smith and Thomas De Quincey, and leading English poets like Southey and Shelley, Coleridge and Wordsworth. There were distinguished ladies, their stockings tinged to whatever degree with blue – Mrs Grant of Laggan, the beautiful and accomplished Mrs Fletcher, Mrs Somerville the astronomer, and spinster authoresses like Susan Ferrier, society figures such as the famous Duchess of Gordon and Elizabeth Grant of Rothiemurchus. And there was an amazing infiltration from the New World, with young gentlemen of the Eastern states on their European travels or attending the celebrated University, and later, Washington Irving . . .

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