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Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 442 Volume 17, New Series, June 19, 1852   By:

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No. 442. NEW SERIES. SATURDAY, JUNE 19, 1852. PRICE 1 1/2 d.


The roaring pell mell of the principal thoroughfares of London is curiously contrasted with the calm seclusion which is often found at no great distance in certain lanes, courts, and passages, and the effect is not a little heightened when in these by places we light upon some old building speaking of antique institutions or bygone habits of society. We lately had this idea brought strikingly before us on plunging abruptly out of Fleet Street into Crane Court, in search of the establishment known as the Scottish Hospital. We were all at once transferred into a quiet narrow street, as it might be called, full of printing and lithographic offices, tall, dark, and rusty, while closing up the further end stood a dingy building of narrow front, presenting an ornamental porch. A few minutes served to introduce us to a moderate sized hall, having a long table in the centre, and an arm chair at the upper end, while several old portraits graced the walls. It was not without a mental elevation of feeling, as well as some surprise, that we learned that this was a hall in which Newton had spent many an evening. It was, to be quite explicit, the meeting place of the Royal Society from 1710 till 1782, and, consequently, during not much less than twenty years of the latter life of the illustrious author of the Principia , who, as an office bearer in the institution, must have often taken an eminent place here. We were not, however, immediately in quest of the antiquities of the Royal Society. Our object was to form some acquaintance with the valuable institution which has succeeded to it in the possession of this house.

We must advert to a peculiarity of our Scottish countrymen, which can be set down only on the credit side of their character their sympathy with each other when they meet as wanderers in foreign countries. Scotland is just a small enough country to cause a certain unity of feeling amongst the people. Wherever they are, they feel that Scotsmen should stand, as their proverb has it, shoulder to shoulder . The more distant the clime in which they meet, they remember with the more intensity their common land of mountain and flood, their historical and poetical associations, the various national institutions which ages have endeared to them; and the more disposed are they to take an interest in each other's welfare. This is a feeling in which time and modern innovations work no change, and it is one of old standing.

When James VI. acceded to the throne of Elizabeth, he was followed southward by some of his favourite nobles, and there was of course an end put to that exclusive system of the late monarch which had kept down the number of Scotsmen in London, to what must now appear the astonishingly small one of fifty eight. Perhaps some exaggerations have been indulged in with regard to the host of traders and craftsmen who went southward in the train of King James, but there can be no doubt, that it was considerable in point of numbers. But where wealth is sought for, there also, by an inevitable law of nature, is poverty. The better class of Scotchmen settled in London, soon found their feelings of compassion excited in behalf of a set of miserable fellow countrymen who had failed to obtain employment or fix themselves in a mercantile position, and for whom the stated charities of the country were not available. Hence seems to have arisen, so early as 1613, the necessity for some system of mutual charity among the natives of Scotland in London. So far as can be ascertained, it was a handful of journeymen or hired artisans, who in that year associated to aid each other, and prevent themselves from becoming burdensome to strangers an interesting fact, as evincing in a remote period the predominance of that spirit of independence for which the modern Scottish peasantry has been famed, and which even yet survives in some degree of vigour, notwithstanding the fatally counteractive influence of poor laws... Continue reading book >>

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