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“It was a bright summer morning, about five o’clock, when Margaret left her husband’s side as usual, and went out to see her cow attended to. Before three minutes had elapsed, her husband was aroused by her coming in with dismal cries: ‘Eh, sirs! eh, sirs! did I ever think to live to see the day? O man, O man, O William—this is a terrible thing, indeed! Could I ever have thought to see’t?’

“‘Gracious, woman!’ exclaimed the worthy elder, by this time fully awake, ‘what is’t? is the coo deid?’ for it seemed to him that no greater calamity could have been expected to produce such doleful exclamations.

“‘The coo deid!’ responded Margaret; ‘waur, waur, ten times waur. There’s Dr. Dalgliesh only now gaun hame at five o’clock in the morning. It’s awfu’, it’s awfu’! What will things come to?’

“The elder, though a pattern of propriety himself, is not recorded as having taken any but a mild view of the minister’s conduct, more particularly as he knew that the patron of the parish was at Miss Ritchie’s inn, and that the reverend divine might have been detained rather late with him against his will. The strenuous Margaret drew no such charitable conclusions. She joined the Secession congregation next day, and never again attended the parish church.”

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We now pass on to Mr. William Chambers. He gives us a capital picture of an old Edinburgh book auction:—

“Peter was a dry humorist, somewhat saturnine from business misadventures. Professedly he was a bookseller in South College Street, and exhibited over his door a huge sham copy of Virgil by way of sign. His chief trade, however, was the auctioning of books and stationery at the agency p. 111office—a place with a strong smell of new furniture, amidst which it was necessary to pass before arriving at the saloon in the rear, where the auctions were habitually held. Warm, well-lighted, and comfortably fitted up with seats within a railed enclosure, environing the books to be disposed of, this place of evening resort was as good as a reading-room—indeed, rather better, for there was a constant fund of amusement in Peter’s caustic jocularities—as when he begged to remind his audience that this was a place for selling, not for reading books—sarcasms which always provoked a round of ironical applause. His favourite author was Goldsmith, an edition of whose works he had published, which pretty frequently figured in his catalogue. On coming to these works he always referred to them with profound respect—as, for example: ‘The next in the catalogue, gentlemen, is the works of Oliver Gooldsmith, the greatest writer that ever lived, except Shakspeare; what do you say for it?—I’ll put it up at ten shillings.’ Some one would perhaps audaciously bid twopence, which threw him into a rage, and he would indignantly call out: ‘Tippence, man; keep that for the brode,’ meaning the plate at the church-door. If the same person dared to repeat the insult with regard to some other work, Peter would say: ‘Dear me, has that poor man not yet got quit of his tippence?’ which turned the laugh, and effectually silenced him all the rest of the evening. Peter’s temper was apt to get ruffled when biddings temporarily ceased. He then declared that he might as well try to auction books in the poor-house. On such occasions, driven to desperation, he would try the audience with a bunch of quills, a dozen black-lead pencils, or a ‘quare’ of Bath-post, vengefully knocking which down at the price bidden for them, he would shout to ‘Wully,’ the clerk, to look after the money. Never minding Peter’s querulous observations further than to join in the general laugh, I, like a number of other penniless youths, got some good snatches of reading at the auctions in the agency office. I there saw and handled books which I had never before heard of, and in this manner obtained a kind of notion of bibliography. My brother, who, like myself, became a frequenter of the agency office, relished Peter highly, and has touched him of in one of his essays.”

A wealthy old man was Hutton, of Birmingham, who thus p. 112describes his early struggles to set up in business as a bookbinder:—

“A bookbinder, fostered by the frame, was such a novelty that many people gave me a book to bind, chiefly my acquaintances and their friends, and I perceived two advantages attend my work. I chiefly served those who were not judges; consequently, that work passed with them which would not with a master. And coming from a stockinger, it carried a merit, because no stockinger could produce its equal.

“Hitherto I had only used the wretched tools and the materials for binding which my bookseller chose to sell me; but I found there were many others wanting, which were only to be had in London; besides, I wished to fix a correspondence for what I wanted, without purchasing at second-hand. There was a necessity to take this journey; but an obstacle arose—I had no money.

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“My dear sister raised three guineas; sewed them in my shirt collar, for there was no doubt of my being robbed, and put eleven shillings in my pocket, for it was needful to have a sop to satisfy the rogues when they made the attack. From the diminutive sum I took, it may reasonably be supposed I should have nothing left to purchase.

“On Monday morning at three, April 8th, I set out. Not being accustomed to walk, my feet were blistered with the first ten miles. I must not, however, sink under the fatigue, but endeavour to proceed as if all were well; for much depended on this journey. Aided by resolution I marched on.

“Stopping at Leicester, I unfortunately left my knife, and did not discover the loss till I had proceeded eleven miles. I grieved, because it was the only keepsake I had of my worthy friend, Mr. Webb. Ten times its value could not have purchased it. I had marked it with ‘July 22, 1742, W. H.’

“A mile beyond Leicester I overtook a traveller with his head bound. ‘How far are you going?’ he asked. ‘To London,’ replied I. ‘So am I.’ ‘When do you expect to arrive?’ ‘On Wednesday night.’ ‘So do I.’ ‘What is the matter with your head?’ said I; ‘have you been fighting?’ He returned a blind answer, which convinced me of the affirmative. I did not half like my companion, especially as he took care to walk behind me. This probably, I thought, was one of the rogues likely to attack me. But when I p. 113understood he was a tailor my fears rather subsided, nor did I wonder his head was wrapped.