and yet there they sit, enchanted, and in damnatory
accents pray for each other’s growth in grace.
It would be well if there were no more than two;
but the sects in Scotland form a large family of
sisters, and the chalk lines are thickly drawn, and
run through the midst of many private homes.
Edinburgh is a city of churches, as though it were
a place of pilgrimage. You will see four within
a stone-cast at the head of the West Bow. Some
are crowded to the doors; some are empty like monuments;
and yet you will ever find new ones in the building.
Hence that surprising clamour of church bells that
suddenly breaks out upon the Sabbath morning from
Trinity and the sea-skirts to Morningside on the
borders of the hills. I have heard the chimes
of Oxford playing their symphony in a golden autumn
morning, and beautiful it was to hear. But
in Edinburgh all manner of loud bells join, or rather
disjoin, in one swelling, brutal babblement of noise.
Now one overtakes another, and now lags behind it;
now five or six all strike on the pained tympanum
at the same punctual instant of time, and make together
a dismal chord of discord; and now for a second all
seem to have conspired to hold their peace.
Indeed, there are not many uproars in this world
more dismal than that of the Sabbath bells in Edinburgh:
a harsh ecclesiastical tocsin; the outcry of incongruous
orthodoxies, calling on every separate conventicler
to put up a protest, each in his own synagogue, against
’right-hand extremes and left-hand defections.’
And surely there are few worse extremes than this
extremity of zeal; and few more deplorable defections
than this disloyalty to Christian love. Shakespeare
wrote a comedy of ‘Much Ado about Nothing.’
The Scottish nation made a fantastic tragedy on
the same subject. And it is for the success
of this remarkable piece that these bells are sounded
every Sabbath morning on the hills above the Forth.
How many of them might rest silent in the steeple,
how many of these ugly churches might be demolished
and turned once more into useful building material,
if people who think almost exactly the same thoughts
about religion would condescend to worship God under
the same roof! But there are the chalk lines.
And which is to pocket pride, and speak the foremost
It was Queen Mary who threw open the gardens of the
Grey Friars: a new and semi-rural cemetery in
those days, although it has grown an antiquity in
its turn and been superseded by half-a-dozen others.
The Friars must have had a pleasant time on summer
evenings; for their gardens were situated to a wish,
with the tall castle and the tallest of the castle
crags in front. Even now, it is one of our
famous Edinburgh points of view; and strangers are
led thither to see, by yet another instance, how
strangely the city lies upon her hills. The enclosure
is of an irregular shape; the double church of Old
and New Greyfriars stands on the level at the top;
a few thorns are dotted here and there, and the ground
falls by terrace and steep slope towards the north.
The open shows many slabs and table tombstones;
and all round the margin, the place is girt by an
array of aristocratic mausoleums appallingly adorned.