Alexander Nasmyth


Born 1758 - Grassmarket ,
Edinburgh - Education ,
The Bibler's Seat ,
The brothers Erskine ,
Apprenticed to a coachbuilder ,
The Trustees' Academy ,
Huguenot artisans ,
Alexander Runciman ,
Copy of "The Laocoon" ,
Assistant to Allan Ramsay ,
Faculty of resourcefulness ,
Begins as portrait painter ,
Friendship with Miller of Dalswinton ,
Miller and the first steamboat ,
Visit to Italy ,
Marriage to Barbara Foulis ,
Burns the poet ,
Edinburgh clubs ,
Landscape beauty ,
Abandons portrait for landscape painting ,
David Roberts, R.A. ,
Dean Bridge ,
St. Bernard's Well ,
Nelson's Monument ,
Bow-and-string bridges ,
Sunday rivet

My father, Alexander Nasmyth, was the second son of Michael Nasmyth. He was born in his father's house in the Grassmarket on the 9th of September 1758. The Grassmarket was then a lively place. On certain days of the week it was busy with sheep and cattle fairs. It was the centre of Edinburgh traffic. Most of the inns were situated there, or in the street leading up to the Greyfriars Church gate.

The view from my grandfather's house was very grand. Standing up, right opposite, was the steep Castle rock, with its crown buildings and circular battery towering high overhead. They seemed almost to hang over the verge of the rock. The houses on the opposite side of the Grassmarket were crowded under the esplanade of the Castle Hill.

There was an inn opposite the house where my father was born, from which the first coach started from Edinburgh to Newcastle. The public notice stated that "The Coach would set out from the Grass Market ilka Tuesday at Twa o'clock in the day, GOD WULLIN', but whether or no on Wednesday." The "whether or no was meant, I presume, as a precaution to passengers, in case all the places on the coach might be taken, or not, on Wednesday,

Plan of the Grassmarket

The Grassmarket was also the place for public executions. The gibbet stone was at the east end of the Market. It consisted of a mass of solid sandstone, with a quadrangular hole in the middle, which served as a socket for the gallows. Most of the Covenanters who were executed for conscience' sake in the reigns of Charles II. and James II. breathed their last at this spot. The Porteous mob, in 1736, had its culmination here. When Captain Porteous was dragged out of the Tolbooth in the High Street and hurried down the West Bow, the gallows was not in its place; but the leaders of the mob hanged him from a dyer's pole, nearly opposite the gallows stone, on the south side of the street, not far from my grandfather's door See Heart of Midlothian

I have not much to say about my father's education. For the most part, he was his own schoolmaster. I have heard him say that his mother taught him his A B C; and that he afterwards learned to read at Mammy Smith's. This old lady kept a school for boys and girls at the top of a house in the Grassmarket. There my father was taught to rear his Bible, and to repeat his Carritch#

As it was only the bigger boys who could read the Bible, the strongest of them consummated the feat by climbing up the Castle rock, and reaching what they called "The Bibler's Seat." It must have been a break-neck adventure to get up to the place. The seat was almost immediately under the window of the room in which James VI was born. My father often pointed it out to me as one of the most dangerous bits of climbing in which he had been engaged in his younger years.

The Bibler's seat

The annexed illustration is from his own slight sepia drawing; the Bibler's Seat is marked + Not so daring, but much more mischievous, was a trick which he played with some of his companions on the tops of the houses on the north side of the Grassmarket. The boys took a barrel to the Castlehill, filled it with small stones, and then shot it down towards the roofs of the houses in the Grassmarket. The barrel leapt from rock to rock, burst, and scattered a shower of stones far and wide. The fun was to see the

  By PanEris using Melati.

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