Page:Footsteps of Dr. Johnson.djvu/91

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THE "EDINBURGH FLY." f,i

sovereign, but there was no Age of Queen Anne north of the Tweed. There was indeed that general diffusion of learning which was conspicuously wanting in England. An English traveller noticed with surprise how rare it was to find "a man of any rank but the lowest who had not some tincture of learning. It was the pride and delight of every father to give his son a liberal educa- tion." Nevertheless it had been " with their learning as with provisions in a besieged town, every man had a mouthful and no one a bellyful." That there was a foundation for Johnson's pointed saying was many years later candidly admitted by Sir Walter Scott. 3 So great had been the dearth of literature that the printer's art had fallen into decay. About the year 1 740 there were but four printing-houses in Edinburgh, which found scanty employment in producing school-books, law-papers, newspapers, sermons, and Bibles. By 1779 the number had risen from four to seven and twenty. 4 This rapid growth was by no means wholly due to an increase in Scotch authors. Edinburgh might have become " a hot-bed of genius," but such productiveness even in a hot-bed would have been unparalleled. The booksellers in late years, in defiance of the supposed law of copyright, had begun to reprint the works of standard English writers, and after a long litigation had been confirmed in what they were doing by a

The growth of literature in Scotland had taken a turn which was not unnatural. In the troubles of the seventeenth century the nation, while yet it was in its power, had neglected to refine its language. No great masters of style had risen. There had been no Sir William Temple "to give cadence to its prose."' The settled government and the freedom from tyranny which the country enjoyed on the fall of the Stuarts, the growth of material wealth which followed on the Union, the gradual diminution of bigotry and the scattering of darkness which was part of the general enlightenment of Europe had given birth to a love of modern litera- ture. The old classical learning no longer sufficed. Having no literature of their own which satisfied their aspirations, the younger generation of men was forced to acquire the language of their

1 Gentleman's Magazine for 1766, p. 167. * Arnot's Hillary of Edinburgh, p. 437.

Boswell's/oAiuOTf, ii. 363, . 3. ; Bos well 's/tfAJ<, i- 437. -27 2 . and Hume's

1 In the speech which he marie in 1824 on the Letters to Strahan, p. 275.

opening of the New Edinburgh Academy. Lock- '- Boswell's/oAHttW, iii. 257.

hart's Life of Scott, vii. 271.

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