Friday, September 16th.
The sky the evening before, as you may remember the ostler told us, had been 'gay and dull,' and this morning it was downright dismal: very dark, and promising nothing but a wet day, and before breakfast was over the rain began, though not heavily. We set out upon our walk, and went through many streets to Holyrood House, and thence to the hill called Arthur's Seat, a high hill, very rocky at the top, and below covered with smooth turf, on which sheep were feeding. We climbed up till we came to St. Anthony's Well and Chapel, as it is called, but it is more like a hermitage than a chapel, - a small ruin, which from its situation is exceedingly interesting, though in itself not remarkable. We sat down on a stone not far from the chapel, overlooking a pastoral hollow as wild and solitary as any in the heart of the Highland mountains: there, instead of the roaring of torrents, we listened to the noises of the city, which were blended in one loud indistinct buzz, - a regular sound in the air, which in certain moods of feeling, and at certain times, might have a more tranquillizing effect upon the mind than those which we are accustomed to hear in such places.
The Castle rock looked exceedingly large through the misty air: a cloud of black smoke overhung the city, which combined with the rain and mist to conceal the shapes of the houses, - an obscurity which added much to the grandeur of the sound that proceeded from it. It was impossible to think of anything that was little or mean, the goings-on of trade, the strife of men, or every-day city business: - the impression was one, and it was visionary; like the conceptions of our childhood of Bagdad or Balsora when we have been reading the Arabian Nights' Entertainments. Though the rain was very heavy we remained upon the hill for some time, then returned by the same road by which we had come, through green flat fields, formerly the pleasure-grounds of Holyrood House, on the edge of which stands the old roofless chapel, of venerable architecture. It is a pity that it should be suffered to fall down, for the walls appear to be yet entire. Very near to the chapel is Holyrood House, which we could not but lament has nothing ancient in its appearance, being sash-windowed and not an irregular pile. It is very like a building for some national establishment, - a hospital for soldiers or sailors. You have a description of it in Stoddart's Tour, therefore I need not tell you what we saw there.
When we found ourselves once again in the streets of the city, we lamented over the heavy rain, and indeed before leaving the hill, much as we were indebted to the accident of the rain for the peculiar grandeur and affecting wildness of those objects we saw, we could not but regret that the Firth of Forth was entirely hidden from us, and all distant objects, and we strained our eyes till they ached, vainly trying to pierce through the thick mist. We walked industriously through the streets, street after street, and, in spite of wet and dirt, were exceedingly delighted. The old town, with its irregular houses, stage above stage, seen as we saw it, in the obscurity of a rainy day, hardly resembles the work of men, it is more like a piling up of rocks, and I cannot attempt to describe what we saw so imperfectly, but must say that, high as my expectations had been raised, the city of Edinburgh far surpassed all expectation. Gladly would we have stayed another day, but could not afford more time, and our notions of the weather of Scotland were so dismal, notwithstanding we ourselves had been so much favoured, that we had no hope of its mending. So at about six o'clock in the evening we departed, intending to sleep at an inn in the village of Roslin, about five miles from Edinburgh. The rain continued till we were almost at Roslin; but then it was quite dark, so we did not see the Castle that night.
Saturday, September 17th.
The morning very fine. We rose early and walked through the glen of Roslin, past Hawthornden, and considerably further, to the house of Mr. Walter Scott at Lasswade. Roslin Castle stands upon a woody bank above a stream, the North Esk, too large, I think, to be called a brook, yet an inconsiderable river. We looked down upon the ruin from higher ground. Near it stands the Chapel, a most elegant building, a ruin, though the walls and roof are entire. I never passed through a more delicious dell than the glen of Roslin, though the water of the stream is dingy and muddy. The banks are rocky on each side, and hung with pine wood. About a mile from the Castle, on the contrary side of the water, upon the edge of a very steep bank, stands Hawthornden, the house of Drummond the poet, whither Ben Jonson came on foot from London to visit his friend. We did hear to whom the house at present belongs, and some other particulars, but I have a very indistinct recollection of what was told us, except that many old trees had been lately cut down. After Hawthornden the glen widens, ceases to be rocky, and spreads out into a rich vale, scattered over with gentlemen's seats.
Arrived at Lasswade before Mr. and Mrs. Scott had risen, and waited some time in a large sitting-room. Breakfasted with them, and stayed till two o'clock, and Mr. Scott accompanied us back almost to Roslin, having given us directions respecting our future journey, and promised to meet us at Melrose two days after.
We ordered dinner on our return to the inn, and went to view the inside of the Chapel of Roslin, which is kept locked up, and so preserved from the injuries it might otherwise receive from idle boys; but as nothing is done to keep it together, it must in the end fall. The architecture within is exquisitely beautiful. The stone both of the roof and walls is sculptured with leaves and flowers, so delicately wrought that I could have admired them for hours, and the whole of their groundwork is stained by time with the softest colours. Some of those leaves and flowers were tinged perfectly green, and at one part the effect was most exquisite: three or four leaves of a small fern, resembling that which we call adder's tongue, grew round a cluster of them at the top of a pillar, and the natural product and the artificial were so intermingled that at first it was not easy to distinguish the living plant from the other, they being of an equally determined green, though the fern was of a deeper shade.
We set forward again after dinner. The afternoon was pleasant. Travelled through large tracts of ripe corn, interspersed with larger tracts of moorland - the houses at a considerable distance from each other, no longer thatched huts, but farm-houses resembling those of the farming counties in England, having many corn-stacks close to them. Dark when we reached Peebles; found a comfortable old-fashioned public-house, had a neat parlour, and drank tea.
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