Sep 192017
 

The MeadowsMelville Dr, Edinburgh EH9 9EX

This large public park used to be a lake known as the South Loch until the early eighteenth century. The loch provided much of the city’s drinking water until 1621, when the first piped water supply was established. Its draining and conversion into a park by Sir Thomas Hope in 1722 is a good example of the Enlightenment enthusiasm for ‘improvement’. Later in the century it became a favourite place for James Hutton, the geologist, Adam Smith, the economist, and Joseph Black, the chemist, to take a stroll and discuss the latest ideas in science and philosophy.

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Friends of the Meadows and Bruntsfield Links – History and Archaeology

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Sep 192017
 

Adam Ferguson's House.3 Sciennes House Place, Edinburgh EH9 1NN

Adam Ferguson was professor of moral philosophy at the University of Edinburgh, and, as the author of the Essay on the History of Civil Society (1767), is often considered one of the founders of sociology. He regularly entertained many of the leading figures of the Scottish Enlightenment at his house in Sciennes. In Ferguson’s day the house was on the very edge of the city and, because of its remoteness, his friends jokingly referred to it as ‘Kamchatka’ after the peninsula in Siberia. In the winter of 1786/7 he hosted a dinner here at which the two most famous Scottish writers of the period, Robert Burns and the young Walter Scott, met for the first and only time.

Portrait of Adam Ferguson (1723–1816) by Sir Joshua Reynolds.

Portrait of Adam Ferguson (1723–1816) by Sir Joshua Reynolds.

Plaque commemorating the meeting of Robert Burns and Walter Scott at the house of Adam Ferguson.

Plaque commemorating the meeting of Robert Burns and Walter Scott at the house of Adam Ferguson.

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National Records of Scotland – Adam Ferguson (1723-1816)

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Sep 192017
 

Site of the house of Lord Monboddo13 St John St, Edinburgh EH8 8DG

James Burnett, Lord Monboddo (1714–99), was a judge and pioneer of comparative linguistics. He discussed his theories at ‘learned suppers’ held in this house where he entertained many of the leading figures of the Scottish Enlightenment. As well as expounding his ideas on the origins of languages his also speculated on the relationship between apes and humans, which has led some to see him as an early evolutionary thinker. His beautiful daughter Elizabeth, who died of tuberculosis in 1790 at the tragically early age of 24, was the subject of a poem by Robert Burns, ‘Elegy on the late Miss Elizabeth Burnet of Monboddo’.

Portrait of James Burnett, Lord Monboddo (1714–99).

Portrait of James Burnett, Lord Monboddo (1714–99).

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Sep 192017
 

Playhouse Close.Playhouse Close, 196 Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8BN

In the seventeenth century the Church of Scotland had traditionally taken a very negative view of the theatre, which they saw as promoting immorality. The first theatre in Glasgow was burned down as late as 1752 by a mob incited by hard-line ministers. It was therefore a sign of changing times when the Canongate Theatre, the first theatre in Edinburgh, was successfully opened in 1747 near what is now Playhouse Close without major incident. There was, however, a riot in the theatre in 1749 when some English officers requested that the orchestra play a song celebrating the battle of Culloden. When instead they played ‘You’re welcome, Charlie Stuart’ the officers attacked the musicians and chaos ensued.

Plaque in Playhouse Close.

Plaque in Playhouse Close.

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Sep 192017
 

Site of Boyd's InnBoyd’s Entry, St Mary St, Edinburgh EH8 8JW

This pub was where James Boswell, Edinburgh lawyer and biographer of Samuel Johnson, met up with Johnson before they embarked on their famous tour of the Hebrides in 1773. Boswell had first met Johnson when he was living in London in 1763 and the two had become close friends. Johnson wanted to visit the Highlands in part to try to prove that the supposed works of the ancient Gaelic poet Ossian, which were causing a literary sensation at the time, were not genuine, but had in fact been written by their supposed translator, James Macpherson. Many of the leading figures of the Scottish Enlightenment, including Hugh Blair and Adam Ferguson, energetically supported the authenticity of the work.

Caricature of Johnson and Boswell walking down the Royal Mile.

Caricature of Johnson and Boswell walking down the Royal Mile.

Plaque in Boyd's Entry.

Plaque in Boyd’s Entry.

Portrait of James Macpherson (1736–96) by George Romney.

Portrait of James Macpherson (1736–96) by George Romney.

Ossian Singing by Nicolai Abildgaard, 1787.

Ossian Singing by Nicolai Abildgaard, 1787.

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Sep 192017
 

James CourtJames’ Court 493 Lawnmarket Edinburgh EH1 2PB

The buildings at the back of Gladstone’s Land date from the 16th century and give a feel of the crowded Old Town of the 18th century. Before the New Town was built, Edinburgh was enclosed by a wall on top of the long ridge of volcanic rock down which runs the Royal Mile. Due to the lack of space, the city was built up instead of out, some tenements rising to 10 stories or more. The rich had rooms at the top of these builidings while the poor lived on the lower floors. James Court was opened out in 1725 to give more space. It was here in 1762 that the philosopher David Hume came to live, having been born across the road in Riddle’s Court in 1711.

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Sep 192017
 

Statue of David HumeThe Royal Mile, Edinburgh EH1 1RN

David Hume (1711–76), incongruously portrayed in this statue as an ancient Greek philosopher rather than a mid-eighteenth-century man of letters, is perhaps the best known figure of the Scottish Enlightenment. In the eighteenth century Edinburgh witnessed an unprecedented flowering of science, literature and philosophy. Hume was a contemporary of Adam Smith (1723–90), the great political economist, Adam Ferguson (1721–1816), the social theorist, Joseph Black (1727–99), the pioneering chemist and James Hutton (1726–97), the geologist. These figures all knew each other and socialised together in the convivial atmosphere of Edinburgh’s many clubs and hostelries. Together they helped develop many of the ideas and theories that made the modern world.

Portrait of David Hume (1711–1776) by Allan Ramsay.

Portrait of David Hume (1711–1776) by Allan Ramsay.

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Sep 192017
 

Site of Edinburgh Tolbooth197 High St, Edinburgh EH1

The story of Thomas Aikenhead shows how much Scotland had changed in the 50 years between the end of the 17th century and the period of the Scottish Enlightenment. It was in the Tolbooth that stood near the spot where a heart-shaped mosaic, the Heart of Midlothian, is now to be found that Aikenhead, a 20-year-old student at the University of Edinburgh, was held before being executed for basphemy in 1697. His crime was to mock the scriptures and call Jesus ‘an imposter’. Aitkenhead was the last person executed for blasphemy in Britain. If the philosopher David Hume had lived a few decades earlier his religious scepticism might perhaps have had more serious consequences for him.

An engraving of the old Edinburgh Tolbooth based on an eighteenth century painting by Alexander Naysmith.

An engraving of the old Edinburgh Tolbooth based on an eighteenth century painting by Alexander Naysmith.

Heart of Midlothian mosaic.

Heart of Midlothian mosaic.

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Sep 192017
 

Statue of Adam Smith192 The Royal Mile, Edinburgh EH1 1RF

The great economic theorist Adam Smith was born in Kirkcaldy in 1723. He studied moral philosophy at the University of Glasgow under Frances Hutcheson, whose chair he would later inherit. Hutcheson, a charismatic minister, had been one of David Hume’s most vociferous opponents. Smith also gave public lectures in Edinburgh including one on the ‘progress of opulence’, which formed the basis of his most famous work, The Wealth of Nations (1776). Influenced by an idea of Hume’s on the ‘partition of employments’ he isolated the basic principle that explains all social improvement: the division of labour. Smith is often portrayed as the prophet of neo-liberalism, but his Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) shows a deep concern for the role of conscience and sympathy in human affairs.

Portrait of Adam Smith (1723–1790) by an unknown artist.

Portrait of Adam Smith (1723–1790) by an unknown artist.

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Sep 192017
 

Dugald Stewart monument.Calton Hill, Edinburgh EH1 3BJ

This striking monument, based on a circular Greek Temple, commemorates one of the last important figures of the Scottish Enlightenment, the philosopher and professor of moral philosophy at the University of Edinburgh, Dugald Stewart. It was completed in 1831, three years after Stewart’s death. He was a disciple of the Scottish Common Sense school of philosophy founded by Thomas Reid, whose lectures at the University of Glagow he had attended. Well known students of Stewart included Lord Palmerston, the future prime minister, James Mill, the philosopher, and Sir Walter Scott, the novelist and poet.

Portrait of Dugald Stewart (1753–1828) by Henry Raeburn.

Portrait of Dugald Stewart (1753–1828) by Henry Raeburn.

Inscription on the memorial to Dugald Stewart.

Inscription on the memorial to Dugald Stewart.

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The University of Edinburgh – Dugald Stewwqrt (1753-1828)

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