We begin our tale in Edinburgh, in the early days of 1800. Or, more specifically, also in the final few days of the previous century as reported in the Caledonian Mercury on the 2nd January 1800.
“William Whyte in the most respectful manner informs the Nobility, Gentry, and his Friends, that he has commenced business as MUSIC-SELLER, STATIONER, and BOOKSELLER at the sign of the ORGAN, No. 1 South St Andrew’s Street, Edinburgh, where every article in the above branches may be had, and where the greatest attention will be shown, and the utmost dispatch and punctuality attended to, in executing the orders of those Ladies and Gentlemen who may be pleased to honour him with their commands.”
W.W. had, in stock, many NEW SONG, DUETS and GLEES written by a certain celebrated Miss Abrams, Callcott, as well as French prize-winning pedal harp music and the latest works of many composers with whom W.W. (”being lately from London”) had been impressed.
Music was far from the only treat available that day in early January. At WALKER THOMSON, and CO.’s, in Leith, grapes in jars were newly arrived, along with other delights such as MUSCATELL RAISINS and JORDAN ALMONDS.
In less joyous tidings, RODk MACKENZIE, Collector of INCOME TAX in the county of Ross, had written on the 24th December 1799 to give notice of his upcoming collections at Dingwall, Fortrose and Tain. Those in arrears should, “to prevent trouble and distress to themselves”, make sure they cleared their balance in full when he visited later in January. No Christmas-inspired leniency here.
If you are expecting me to draw some cohesive narrative from this here and now, you will be disappointed. These excerpts are simply piquant by-products of research undertaken for two other ongoing projects, too delicious not to share. If you’d like more, I will endeavour to share a selection of morsels every week for the foreseeable future.
All excerpts taken from: Caledonian Mercury, 2 Jan. 1800. British Library Newspapers, accessed via National Library of Scotland membership.