Page:Footsteps of Dr. Johnson.djvu/78

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4 S INTRODUCTION.

from the dignity of writing. But it must be remembered that the true state of every nation is the state of common life." ' This indifference to pure air no doubt spread death far and wide. In Sir Walter Scott's family we see an instance of the unwholesomeness of the Old Town. His six elder brothers and sisters, who were all born in the College Wynd, died young. It was only by sending him to breathe country air that he was reared. His father's younger children were born in one of the new squares, and they for the most part were healthy."

From one burthen that weighed heavily in England the guests in most houses in Scotland were free. It was the Scotch, who, as Boswell boasted, " had the honour of being the first to abolish the unhospitable, troublesome, and ungracious custom of giving vails to servants. 'Sir,' said Johnson, 'you abolished vails, because you were too poor to be able to give them.' 1 How heavily they weighed on all but the rich is shown by an anecdote that I have read somewhere of a poor gentleman, who refused to dine with his kins- man, a nobleman of high rank, unless with the invitation a guinea were sent him to distribute among the expectant servants, who, with outstretched hands, always thronged the hall and blocked up the doorway as he left. " I paid ten shillings to my host's servants for my dinner and retired," is the record of a man who had received the honour of an invitation to the house of an English nobleman of high rank. ' Even Queen Caroline had complained of " the pretty in visiting her friends, not at their country houses, but in town. " That is your own fault (said the King), for my father, when he went to people's houses in town, never was fool enough to be giving away his money." 5 It was to the gentlemen of the county of Aberdeen that was due the merit of beginning this great reformation. About the year 1759 they resolved at a public meeting that vails should be abolished and wages in- creased. 6 Early in February, 1760, the Select Society of Edin- burgh, following their lead, passed a resolution to which their President, the historian Robertson, seems to have lent the graces of his style. They declared that " this custom, being unknown to

' Works, ix. 1 8. 4 Thicknesse's Observations on the Customs

'* Lockhart's Life of Scott, i. 108. and Manners of the French, 1766, p. 106.

3 Boswell's Johnson, ii. 78. Sheridan, in his 5 Lord Ilervey's Memoiis, ii. 50.

Life of Swift, records an earlier abolition of B Aniot's History of Edinburgh, p. 376.

vails in Ireland (Swift's Works, ii. 108).

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