The New Edinburgh Edition of the Collected Works of Robert Louis Stevenson

Manuscript puzzle: Notes for Edinburgh Picturesque Notes

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The helpful comments from our readers were so many that I thought it would be interesting to present here cleaned-up versions of the two sets of notes referred to in the previous post. First of all the EPN jottings.

Notes for ‘The Pentland Hills’ and ‘The Parliament Close’ (Edinburgh Picturesque Notes), 1878.

[Yale, GEN MSS 664 box 38 folder 830 (RLS/F, Notebook F/Inland Voyage Notebook),  spread 2, recto page]

[RLS had published seven monthly ‘Notes on Edinburgh’ in the Portfolio, June-Dec 1878 and towards the end of that period wrote three additional essays for the book edition; this notebook seems to be the first notes for an eighth and ninth chapter (which became chapters X and III) with no mention here of the third addition, ‘The Villa Quarters’. There is another draft to ‘The Pentland Hills’ in the 1878 ‘Travels with a Donkey’ notebook in the Huntington Library. These first notes, though apparently just a quick jottings of ideas, are remarkably close to the sequence of the finished essays, showing RLS’s ability to conceive and rapidly sketch out the basic structure of an essay.]

8 Golf[1] . gibbet . Fairmilehead . Curlews. B. Bridge . Gauger . Clerk’s stone,[2]
Comiston[3] . H. Tryst . Peddie[4] . devil . The cottage, the farm. Conventicle . P. Charlie .
The hills . The view . Wind up to the tune of over the hills .

9. Crowded street. Bishops open[5] , signs on pavement[6] . J. K.[7] H of Midlothian . St Giles . Stork[8]
Gaille [?][9] . Robertson & Wilson[10] . P. Ho . Courts . Scott . gray bar[11] . the cellars.[12]

[1] Golf is not mentioned in the the published chapter, but the other notes correspond closely to the finished essay and appear in that order, down to RLS’s note to himself to ‘Wind up [i.e. conclude] to the tune of over the hills’.

[2] The essay refers instead to ‘an upright stone in a field’, known as ‘General Kay’s monument’. There is a landmark in the Cairngorms called Clach a’ Cleirich (the clerk’s stone); perhaps RLS confused the names here.

[3] After the story of the ‘upright stone in a field’ the published essay mentions the ghost of Comiston.

[4] This name is not in the published essay, but from its position in the list it must be associated with the devil of Hunter’s Tryst. The essay says that ‘chosen ministers were summoned out of Edinburgh and prayed by the hour’, so it possibly refers to James Peddie, minister of Bristo Street 1782-1845.

[5] Possibly a note for: ‘when the Bishops were ejected from the Convention in 1688, ‘all fourteen of them gathered together with pale faces and stood in a cloud in the Parliament Close’.

[6] Two memorials set into the roadway or pavement near St. Giles: the ‘Heart of Midlothian’ and ‘J.K.’ commemorating John Knox.

[7] ‘In the Parliament Close, trodden daily underfoot by advocates, two letters and a date mark the resting-place of … John Knox.’

[8] A stork nested on the roof of St. Giles in 1416 – the last record of breeding by the white stork in Britain. Not mentioned in the published essay.

[9] This looks like ‘Jaille’ with the first letter overwritten with ‘G’: perhaps RLS was uncertain about the spelling of jail/gaol.

[10] Robertson & Wilson: Andrew Wilson and George Robertson were condemned to death for smuggling in April 1736. At Wilson’s execution in the Grassmarket, when his body was cut down from the gallows against the wishes of the mob, John Porteous, the Captain of the City Guard, ordered shooting into the crowd and six died. Porteous was convicted of murder, but shortly before his execution he was seized – in ‘The Porteous Riot’ – from the Old Tolbooth, next to St. Giles’ by an angry mob and hurriedly hanged in the Grassmarket. This story is not included in the finished essay.

[11] Perhaps ‘gray bar’ is a note for ‘Here, you may see Scott’s place within the bar, where he wrote many a page of Waverley novels to the drone of judicial proceeding’.

[12] The cellars are described in the last part of the published essay.

Written by rdury

15/09/2012 at 3:13 pm

7 Responses

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  1. 2. ‘General Kay’s monument’ – aka the Caiystane, a 10 ft. (3m.) high, cup-marked, red sandstone monolith standing in Caiystane View off Oxgangs Road, between Fairmilehead and Hunter’s Tryst (near Swanston). ‘Clerk’s stone’ refers to the ‘Buckstane’, now outside Buckstone Farmhouse on Braid Road, but formerly sited some distance to the north, close to the highest point on Braid Road. The Buckstane is an old march, or boundary stone where the royal standard was mounted during the legendary ‘Hunt of Pentland’, when Robert Bruce challenged his knightly entourage to capture an elusive white stag; the beast was eventually brought to bay by ‘Help’ and ‘Hold’, the hounds of Sir William Sinclair of Roslin and Penicuik. In gratitude Sinclair was granted lands at Glencorse; he and his his successor, Clerk of Penicuik, was bound in homage to attend at the Buckstane should the monarch ever pass by and to give three blasts on a hunting horn – hence the Clerk family motto – ‘Free for a Blast’.

    Neil Brown

    15/09/2012 at 10:48 pm

    • So there are two stones – but they are presented as one and the same in EPN, so RLS did get a little confused:

      “A little further, the road to the right passes an upright stone in a field. The country people call it General Kay’s monument … But the stone is connected with one of those remarkable tenures of land which linger on into the modern world from Feudalism. Whenever the reigning sovereign passes by, a certain landed proprietor is held bound to climb on to the top, trumpet in hand, and sound a flourish”.


      16/09/2012 at 10:55 am

      • I doubt if he was confused. The position of ‘Clerk’s stone’ in his list – and perhaps whatever word(s) come(s) after it – show that his notes do not necessarily correspond to their order as dealt with in the book. The Buckstane is just not included in the final piece for some reason. I would hesitate to speculate why, because there are, as I am sure you are aware, many tales of a supposed liason of RLS and a local lass in at Buckstone Farm and around Fairmilehead, which I don’t want to get into – they are all, I am sure, fanciful to some degree … Anyway, in the ‘Pentland Hills’ chapter RLS leads us merrily from Burghmuirhead down through the foot of Morningside of the “tinkling” chisels, and up Braid Road to Fairmilehead cross roads. He then refers to Bow Bridge “below”, from a distance as it were, before telling us the story of the gauger walking from Edinburgh, who “when he got about the level” of Fairmilehead took out his flute and played, so warning the distiller at Bow Bridge of his imminent arrival. So, at this point in his narrative, RLS has not quite reached the summit crossroads at Fairmilehead. After he finishes his piece about the gauger, he resumes his travelogue: “A little further, the road to the right [from the actual crossroads at Fairmilehead] passes an upright stone in the field” – “General Kay’s monument”, as he calls it, otherwise the Caiystane.

        RLS’s narrative can be confusing, especially when his note order has now to be considered – my apologies if any of this is laboured …

        Neil Brown

        16/09/2012 at 11:37 am

  2. ‘Golf’? Although he begins the ‘To the Pentland Hills’ chapter to the south at ‘Boroughmuirhead’ [Burghmuirhead], RLS must have been intending to start his travelogue further to the north with some mention of the old courses on Bruntsfield Links, the rising ground to the south of the Meadows, where golf has supposedly been played from the 15th century. At the time of writing, several of the many clubs which played there were, owing to encroaching city tenement developments, in the process of moving away to wider prospects at Musselburgh and elsewhere. Golf did not start on the municipal Braid Hills courses until 1889; and at the Merchants of Edinburgh course at Craiglockhart until the 1920’s. Perhaps RLS was going to offer some mention of these earlier affairs, or, not himself being – as far as is known – much of a player of the royal and ancient game, criticise it playfully in some way.

    Incidentally, in mentioning ‘Boroughmuirhead’ RLS repeats the old erroneous chestnut about ‘where the Scottish army encamped before Flodden’. However, while it is true that the Scots army assembled on the Burgh Muir for the invasion of England on no less than six occasions from 1386, there is no such evidence that it did so in 1513 before the fatal battle. That RLS did not mention the ‘Borestane’, now built onto the wall of the former Morningside Parish Church, is strange, given the popular tradition that James IV raised his standard there on that occasion, and its stirring mention in Scott’s ‘Marmion’.

    Sources: in this, and the previous I have drawn on my own contributions to the ‘Encyclopaedia of Scotland’.

    Neil Brown

    16/09/2012 at 11:04 am

  3. You are right about RLS’s confusion over the Caiystane and Buckstane, Richard. I now see that plainly.

    ‘Dearsham’ is ‘clearshoes’ or ‘clearshoon’, Scots, RLS for some reason running both words together

    This is a note for Comiston’s back-gate ‘lady in white, “with the most beautiful, clear shoes upon her feet”.’

    Funny how you see things more clearly on returning to them at a later date …

    Neil Brown

    07/12/2012 at 3:59 pm

    • You’re right! Excellent! The running together of the two words isn’t a problem – people did it all the time when writing (usually words that are syntactically close like ‘Iam’). I can make out ‘shon’ or ‘shoes’ – and since the latter is in the finished text, that looks the better choice. The note made here is then developed at the beginning of the sixth paragraph of ‘To the Pentland Hills’:

      ‘The district is dear to the superstitious. Hard by, at the back-gate of Comiston, a belated carter beheld a lady in white, “with the most beautiful, clear shoes upon her feet,” who looked upon him in a very ghastly manner and then vanished.’


      07/12/2012 at 5:14 pm

  4. […] the last page of the Notebook, among the notes for Edinburgh: Picturesque Notes  is the single word ‘Guager’ [sic] as a reminder of the story about the excise officer […]

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