The History of Leith

June 15, 2012

A typical John Bull

IT may not be uninteresting to quote the ideas
entertained of Edinburgh by an English visitor in
the first years of the nineteenth century, as he was
—in his time—considered a typical John Bull.
” I now come back to this delightful and beautiful
city,” wrote William Cobbett in his Register.
” I thought Bristol, taking in its heights and Clifton
with its rocks and river, was the finest city in the
world; but it is nothing to Edinburgh, with its
castle, its hills, its pretty little seaport detached
from it, its vale of rich land lying all around, its
lofty hills in the background, its views across the
Firth. I think little of its streets and its rows of
fine houses, though all built of stone, and though
everything in London and Bath is beggary to these ;
I thing nothing of Holyrood House ; but I think a
great deal of the fine and well-ordered streets of
shops ; of the regularity which you perceive everywhere
in the management of business ; and I think
still more of the absence of that foppishness and
that affectation of carelessness and insolent assumption
of superiority in almost all the young men you
meet in the fashionable parts of the great towns in
England. I was not disappointed, for I expected
to find Edinburgh the finest city in the kingdom.
. . . . The people, however, still exceed the
place ; here all is civility; you do not meet with
rudeness, or with the want of disposition to oblige,
even in the persons of the lowest state of life. A
friend took me round the environs of the city; he
had a turnpike ticket, received at the first gate,
which cleared five or six gates. It was sufficient
for him to tell the gate-keepers that he had it.
When I saw that, I said to myself, ‘ Nota bene :
gate keepers take people’s word in Scotland,’ a thing
I have not seen before since I left Long Island.”
Now its seaport is no longer ” detached,” but has
become an integral part of Edinburgh, and all ” the
vale of rich land” between it and the Forth to
Granton, Trinity, and Newhaven, is covered by a
network of fine roads and avenues, bordered by
handsome villas.

source-Old and New Edinburgh

Some Text