Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Battle of Camperdown

The Battle of Camperdown was fought on October 11, 1797.  This naval action involved the British Royal Navy under Admiral Adam Duncan, against the Dutch Navy which operated in concert with French interests at this time, the country having revolted against the Dutch Republic of William V shortly before.  The Netherlands at this point was known as the Batavian Republic.   

There is a point of connection between Adam Duncan and Walter Scott.  Scott, with his parents and family lived in George Square, Edinburgh, as did Adam Duncan.  William Howlitt, in “Sir Walter Scott Homes and Haunts…” provides the connection.  Further text is available at http://spenserians.cath.vt.edu/BiographyRecord.php?action=GET&bioid=35939

‘…George's-square is a quiet and respectable square, lying not far from Heriot's hospital, and opposite to Watson's hospital, on the left hand of the Meadows-walk. Mr. Robert Chambers — my great informant in these matters in Edinburgh, and who is an actual walking history of the place — every house, and almost every stone, appearing to suggest to him, some memorable fact connected with, it — stated that this was the first square built, when Edinburgh began to extend itself, and the nobility and wealthy merchants to think of coming down from their lofty stations in flats of the old town ten-storied houses, and seeking quieter and still more airy residences in the suburbs. It was the first sign of the new life and growth before the new town was thought of. No doubt, when Scott's father removed to it, it was the very centre of fashion, and still it bears traces of the old gentility. Ancient families still linger about it, and you see door-plates bearing some aristocratic title. At the top, or north side of the square, lived Lord Duncan, at the time that he set out to take command of the fleet, and fight the battle of Camperdown. Before his setting out, he walked to and fro on the pavement here before his house, and, with a friend, talked of his plans; so that the victory of Camperdown may be said to have been planned in this square. The house still belongs to the family. Many other remarkable people have lived just about here. Blacklock, the blind poet, lived near; and Anderson, the publisher of the series of The Poets, under his name, lived near also, in Windmill-street. A quieter square now could not, perhaps, be found; the grass was growing greenly amongst the stones when I visited it. The houses are capacious and good, and from the upper windows many of them look out over the green fields, and have a full view of the Pentland hills. The new town, however, has now taken precedence in public favour, and this square is thought to be on the wrong side of the city. The house which Scott's father occupied, is No. 25.

On the window of a small back room, on the ground floor, the name of Walter Scott still remains written on a pane of glass, with a diamond, in a schoolboy's hand. The present occupiers of the house told us, that not only the name, but verses had been found on several of the windows, undoubtedly by Walter Scott, and that they had had the panes taken out, and sent to London to admirers of the great author…’

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