Davie Bridges was a character. In my early days he was a cloth merchant in the High Street. His shop was very near that gigantic lounge, the old Parliament House, and was often resorted to by non-business visitors. Bridges had a good taste for pictures. He had a small but choice collection by the Old Masters, which he kept arranged in the warehouse under his shop. He took great pride in exhibiting them to his visitors, and expatiating upon their excellence. I remember being present in his warehouse with my father when a very beautiful small picture by Richard Wilson was under review. Davie burst out emphatically with, "Eh, man, did ye ever see such glorious buttery touches as on these clouds!" His joking friends clubbed him "Director-General of the Fine Arts for Scotland," a title which he complacently accepted. Besides showing off his pictures, Davie was an art critic, and wrote articles for the newspapers and magazines. Unfortunately, however, his attention to pictures prevented him from attending to his shop, and his customers (who were not artists) forsook him, and bought their clothes elsewhere. He accordingly shut up his shop, and devoted himself to art criticism, in which, for a time, he possessed a monopoly.]

The drinks were restricted to Edinburgh ale and whisky toddy.

An admirable picture of the club in full meeting was painted by William Allan, in which characteristic portraits of all the leading members were introduced in full social converse. Among the more prominent portraits is one of my father, who is represented as illustrating some subject he is describing, by drawing it on the part of the table before him, with his finger dipped in toddy. Other marked and well-known characteristics of the members are skilfully introduced in the picture. The artist afterwards sold it to Mr. Horrocks of Preston, in Lancashire.

Besides portrait painting, my father was much employed in assisting the noblemen and landed gentry of Scotland in improving the landscape appearance of their estates, especially when seen from their mansion windows. His fine taste, and his love of natural scenery, gave him great advantages in this respect. He selected the finest sites for the new mansions, when they were erected in lieu of the old towers and crenellated castles. Or, he designed alterations of the old buildings so as to preserve their romantic features, and at the same time to fit them for the requirements of modern domestic life.

In those early days of art-knowledge, there scarcely existed any artistic feeling for the landscape beauty of nature. There was an utter want of appreciation of the dignified beauty of the old castles and mansions, the remnants of which were in too many instances carted away as material for now buildings. There was also at that time an utter ignorance of the beauty and majesty of old trees. A forest of venerable oaks or beeches was a thing to be done away with. They were merely cut down as useless timber; even when they so finely embellished the landscape. My father exerted himself successfully to preserve these grand old forest trees. His fine sketches served to open the eyes of their possessors to the priceless treasures they were about to destroy; and he thus preserved the existence of many a picturesque old tree. He even took the pains in many cases to model the part of the estate he was dealing with; and he also modelled the old trees he wished to preserve. Thus, by a judicious clearing out of the intercepting young timber, he opened out distant views of the landscape, and at the same time preserved many a monarch of the forest.[note: It is even now to be deeply deplored that those who inherit or come into possession of landed estates do not feel sufficiently impressed with the possession of such grand memorials of the past. Alas! how often have we to lament the want of taste that leads to the sacrifice of these venerable treasures. Would that the young men at our universities especially those likely to inherit estates -- were impressed with the importance of preserving them. They would thus confer an inestimable benefit to thousands. About forty years ago Lord Cockburn published a pamphlet on How to Destroy the Beauty of Edinburgh! He enforced the charm of green foliage in combination with street architecture. The burgesses were then cutting down trees. His lordship went so far as to say "that he would as soon cut down a burgess as a tree!" Since then the growth of trees in Edinburgh, especially in what was once the North Loch, has been greatly improved; and might be still further improved if that famous tree, "The London plane," were employed.]

The Family Tree

  By PanEris using Melati.

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