I’m usually not keen on literary tours, since there’s something inherently disappointing about the experience of walking up and down the floorboards of someone else’s apartment, trying to imagine what it was like for them to walk up and down the same floorboards a few hundred years earlier. But today in Edinburgh we did a little bit of literary tourism anyway, and it was nice.
I was excited because I got to visit James’s Court in Old Town, where Hume had once owned a flat, and which Boswell later rented for his young family in 1770-2. According to Milne’s edition of JB’s Edinburgh Journals, this was the house where JB had entertained General Paoli in late 1771. Nowadays, it presents the tourist with a plaque mentioning Boswell, Hume, and Johnson and a nice stone courtyard, but the buildings they were associated with were torn down in the 1880s. But I did enjoy the reconstructed 17th century tenement down the street, and imagining a household where everyone slept on the same straw, and where owning a flat with a free-standing bed, full-sized windows, and delft china was a prospect of unimaginable luxury.
My other literary pilgrimage was to the Elephant House, the “birthplace of Harry Potter,” which has excellent coffees, is convenient to the NLS, and, most importantly, has a warm and sunny view of Edinburgh Castle in its back room. It was the first moment I felt sufficiently warm all day. And tomorrow it’s the reading room in the NLS.