Open main menu

Page:Footsteps of Dr. Johnson.djvu/111

This page needs to be proofread.


ST. GILES'S CHURCH. Si

magazine of antiquities," uttered those memorable words which have overcome the reluctance or the indolence of many an author : " A man may write at anytime if he will set himself doggedly to it." It was but a step from the Parliament House to the great church of St. Giles. Perhaps Johnson went round by the eastern end, and mourned over the fate which had befallen Dunedin's Cross less than twenty years before. A full century and more was to pass away before " the work of the Vandals " was undone, as far as it could be undone, by the pious affection of one of the greatest of Scotchmen.' Perhaps he turned to the west, and passed, little recking it, over the grave of John Knox. Even Boswell, Edin- burgh-born though he was, did not know where the great Reformer hope in the highway,' Dr. Johnson burst out." In the pavement of Parliament Close, a " way of common trade," a small stone in- scribed "I. K. 1572," marks where he rests. St. Giles' was at this time " divided into four places of Presbyterian worship. ' Come,' said Johnson jocularly to Dr. Robertson, ' let me see what was once a church.'" Writing to Mrs. Thrale the next day he said : " I told Robertson I wished to see the cathedral because it had once been a church." Its " original magnificence," the loss of which Boswell justly lamented, has been partly restored by the lavish changes of late years. Nevertheless, the student of history may in his turn lament that in this restoration there has of necessity disappeared much that was interesting. "There was swept away, with as much indifference as if it had been of yesterday, that plain, square, galleried apartment," which, as the meeting-place of the General Assembly, " had beheld the best exertions of the best men in the Kingdom ever since the year 1640." Jenny Geddes and her stool, moreover, are reluctant to answer the summons of the imagination in a scene which she herself would scarcely have recognized. Johnson went into only one of the four divisions, the New, or the High Church, as it was beginning to be called. Here Blair was preaching those sermons which passed through editions almost innumerable, and now can be bought in their calf binding for a few pence at almost any bookstall. The New Church was formed out of the ancient choir. In it were ranged the seats of the King, the judges, and the magistrates of the city. When Johnson saw it, " it was shamefully dirty. He said nothing at the

1 Mr. Gladstone restored it in 1885. 2 Cockburn's Life of Lord Jeffrey, i. 182.

M

�� �