The History of Leith

September 15, 2012

Edinburgh Society and Robert Burns

The room occupied by Burns in Baxter’s Close,
and from which he was wont to sally forth to dine
and sup with the magnates of the city, is still pointed
out, with its single window which opens into Lady
Stair’s Close. There, as Allan Cunningham records,
he had but ” his share of a deal table, a sanded
floor, and a chaff bed, at eighteenpence a week.”
According to the same biographer, the impression
which Burns made at first on the fair, the
titled, and the learned, of Edinburgh, “though
lessened by intimacy on the part of the men,
remained unimpaired on that of the softer sex
till his dying day. His company, during the
season of balls and festivities, continued to be
courted by all who desired to be reckoned gay
or polite. Cards of invitation fell thick on him;
he was not more welcomed to the plumed and
jewelled groups whom her fascinating Grace of
Gordon gathered about her, than he was to the
grave divines and polished scholars who assembled.
in the rooms of Stewart, Blair, or Robertson. . . .
But Edinburgh offered tables and entertainers of a
less staid character, when the glass circulated with
greater rapidity, when wit flowed more freely, and
when there were neither high-bred ladies to charm
conversation within the bounds of modesty, nor
serious philosophers nor grave divines to set a
limit to the licence of speech or the hours of
enjoyment. To those companions, who were all
of the better classes,
the levities of the rustic
poet’s wit and humour
were as welcome as
were the tenderest of
his narratives to the
accomplished Duchess
of Gordon or the beautiful
Miss Burnet of
Monboddo; theyraised
a social roar not at all
classic, and demanded
and provoked his sallies
of wild humour, or
indecorous mirth, with
as much delight as he
had witnessed among
the lads of Kyle,
when, at mill or forge,
his humorous sallies
abounded as the ale
flowed.”

source-Old and New Edinburgh

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