A Rat in the Face

Princes Street Edinburgh, depicting the building of the Royal Institution, painted by Alexander Nasmyth, 1825.

Snippets 200.  Today marks something of a milestone on Windows into History, the 200th “snippet”.  If you will permit a little self-indulgence, I thought it would be nice to return to the subject of the very first “snippet”, from way back in May 2015, The Autobiography of a Stage-Coachman, by Thomas Cross, published in three volumes by Hurst and Blackett in 1861.  When I reached the end of the first volume, I was rather surprised to find that

…it ends mid sentence.  I suppose that’s one way to make sure your readers buy the next volume.  Volume 1 doesn’t finish at the end of a chapter, or even bother to finish a sentence.  It literally stops mid-sentence and volume 2 starts by completing the unfinished sentence, not that this is particularly relevant to today’s snippet.  It’s just something I found amusing.  So, on to volume 2, and we are still defying the title of the book, with the author not yet a stage-coachman.  Cross had a younger brother, who had chosen to be a printer, so Cross agreed to accompany his brother on a journey up to Edinburgh, where he was going to learn his trade from an established publisher in the city.  The brothers arrived in Edinburgh at 11 in the evening.

We took up our quarters at the hotel where the coach stopped, and were conducted to the very top of one of the lofty houses in the old town of Edinburgh. The room we were conducted to for our domicile, with its furniture, was of the meanest description, and void of every comfort; and I went to sleep with but a poor opinion of the cleanliness of the inhabitants of the modern Athens, when I lay down on what was not worthy to be called a bed.

In the morning I awoke in the greatest fright, for on my eyelids gradually relaxing, my sight rested on an immense rat on my shoulders, that sat gazing full in my face. My shouts of fear or horror drove the hateful vermin away, and roused my brother from his slumbers, who jumped to my assistance, supposing I had suffered some grievous injury. I soon recovered my senses, and hastily dressing ourselves, we beat a retreat from this filthy cock-loft.

On remonstrating with the landlord on the badness of our accommodation, and assuring him we were neither recruits nor tramps, he apologized by saying he was gone to bed when the coach arrived, and was not aware what part of the house had been allotted for our dormitory.

I then presented him with one of my father’s cards, and stated we were going to call on the Messrs. Ballantyne, if he would have the goodness to direct us.

The latter name was sufficient to call forth all his attention, and to insure us more agreeable treatment.

Messrs. Ballantyne refers to John Ballantyne, the publisher Cross’s brother was going to work with.  John Ballantyne (1774-1821) is best remembered as the publisher of the works of Walter Scott.

Princes Street Edinburgh, depicting the building of the Royal Institution, painted by Alexander Nasmyth, 1825.

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About Roger Pocock

Co-writer on junkyard.blog. Author of windowsintohistory.wordpress.com. Editor of frontiersmenhistorian.info
This entry was posted in 19th Century, Books, Britain, History, Humor, Humour, Memoirs, Snippets, Travel and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to A Rat in the Face

  1. 7mononoke says:

    Christ this almost put me in tears from laughter! Hilarious. Perfect title too.


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