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A wonderful book—richly informative, critically astute, and lucidly and vividly written.
Edinburgh and Glasgow enjoy a famously scratchy relationship. Resembling other intercity rivalries throughout the world, from Madrid and Barcelona, to Moscow and St. Petersburg, to Beijing and Shanghai, Scotland’s sparring metropolises just happen to be much smaller and closer together—like twin stars orbiting a common axis. Yet their size belies their world-historical importance as cultural and commercial capitals of the British Empire, and the mere forty miles between their city centers does not diminish their ...
Edinburgh and Glasgow enjoy a famously scratchy relationship. Resembling other intercity rivalries throughout the world, from Madrid and Barcelona, to Moscow and St. Petersburg, to Beijing and Shanghai, Scotland’s sparring metropolises just happen to be much smaller and closer together—like twin stars orbiting a common axis. Yet their size belies their world-historical importance as cultural and commercial capitals of the British Empire, and the mere forty miles between their city centers does not diminish their stubbornly individual nature.
Robert Crawford dares to bring both cities to life between the covers of one book. His story of the fluctuating fortunes of each city is animated by the one-upping that has been entrenched since the eighteenth century, when Edinburgh lost parliamentary sovereignty and took on its proud wistfulness, while Glasgow came into its industrial promise and defiance. Using landmarks and individuals as gateways to their character and past, this tale of two cities mixes novelty and familiarity just as Scotland’s capital and its largest city do. Crawford gives us Adam Smith and Walter Scott, the Scottish Enlightenment and the School of Art, but also tiny apartments, a poetry library, Spanish Civil War volunteers, and the nineteenth-century entrepreneur Maria Theresa Short. We see Glasgow’s best-known street through the eyes of a Victorian child, and Edinburgh University as it appeared to Charles Darwin.
Crawford's lively account, drawing on a wealth of historical and literary sources, affirms what people from Glasgow and Edinburgh have long doubted—that it is possible to love both cities at the same time.
A wonderful book—richly informative, critically astute, and lucidly and vividly written.
People familiar with either place will find much to divert them in these pages, and those who have never visited Scotland's great cities will feel that they have been there after reading Crawford's book.
A delightfully engaging mix of history, architectural reference, and literary allusion. A most enjoyable read, which will have wide appeal well beyond aficionados of these two great cities.
This book is a beautiful idea lovingly accomplished. It is high time that the old and ugly rivalry between Glasgow and Edinburgh ended, and this book shows us how to do it. Like an inspirational couples counsellor, Robert Crawford suggests that bigamy is the answer: we should learn to love both of these great cities with equal passion. He does, and so do I. You should try it, too.
From the eminent poet and professor of literature comes a thoughtful and provocative account of the rivalry that has dogged these two cities. It's [Crawford's] belief that this ongoing duel has played a significant part in shaping Scotland, but also that it ought now to be resolved.
As with all good ideas, one wonders why no-one has ever written a book about Glasgow and Edinburgh before...Crawford attempts, with admirable evenhandedness, to explain their parallel stories...It is of course remarkable that two cities just 50 or so miles apart are so different in character and sensibility. Travel from one to the other and you could be in another country...Far from seeing the Glasgow-Edinburgh rivalry as debilitating, Crawford regards it positively.
A fascinating book filled with pithy observations and unexpected anecdotes. Crawford comes across like an erudite, beady-eyed flâneur, alive to the relationship between topography and history, combining spirited insight with irreverent characterizations... Melding personal reminiscence with inspired historical research he has a keen eye for the ironies and contrasts of city life. As a result there is enough surprising information here to delight even those who know the territory well... Crawford assembles a compelling case for the idea that the two cities get more from their colorful rivalry than they would from a bland collaboration...This richly illustrated, intelligent and compelling work of history and reflection offers heartfelt tribute to both.
On Glasgow and Edinburgh is a thoroughly enjoyable book, all the more so for provoking arguments (the Glaswegian's favorite hobby). Readers familiar with the two cities will enjoy the recitation of familiar history and the frequent occurrence of unfamiliar fact and anecdote. Those who have not (yet) gazed from Castle Street in the New Town to Castle Rock, the high glory of the Old, will read about it and make plans to visit. After Edinburgh, they should fly around the world and arrive at Glasgow and discover Scotland all over again.
Robert Crawford is that rarest breed of Scotsman: one who professes to love Edinburgh and Glasgow equally...He has produced a walking guide to Scotland's greatest cities that will delight any literary-minded tourist. Many natives will learn much from this agreeable book too.
Crawford's aim is not to create a fast-paced travel guide to each city. Instead, he takes the reader in hand, moves to the center of town, selects 24 sites of interest in each city, and sets off on a walking tour. By journey's end, the reader is utterly—and equally—beguiled by Edinburgh and Glasgow...Crawford is a Scottish Walt Whitman, singing of the cities he loves.
This is an unfailingly intelligent and sympathetic book.
This is a fascinating book, if in some ways a peculiar one, part coffee table, part high table, elegant and erudite but wearing its learning lightly...Beautifully illustrated—the images of the Falkirk Wheel are stunning—and written in an effortlessly engaging style, On Glasgow and Edinburgh is a bold and breezy book.
The book offers a portrait, not a narrative history, and is intended for visitors as well as for natives and other Scots, many of whom will find, as I did, that they don't know either
city as well as they supposed...On Glasgow and Edinburgh is an enjoyable book, its learning leavened by the author's wit and sense of the absurd.
Crawford, impartially analyses the character, past and present of Scotland's two combatants, not in a dry academic treatise, but a lively and interesting urban exploration which I found captivating...Architecture, streets, parks, gardens, citizens of note, industry, government, history, the arts, vice; all these, and more, are covered here in
fascinating, minutely researched detail...Eminently readable, enlightening and
entertaining, On Glasgow and Edinburgh is truly a tale of two modern cities. This
might be the only book you'll ever need to read if you want to learn what makes these two places tick; elements in common and aspects which set them apart.
Affectionate, sharply observed and sharply written...On Glasgow and Edinburgh...is a highbrow guidebook, as useful to carry on a visit as it is pleasurable to read far away.
From Chapter Four: Hill, Hwa-wu, and Port
Edinburgh’s true acropolis is the Castle on its commanding rock. Yet in the Romantic era when the city became known as ‘the Athens of the North’, local visionaries seem to have thought two acropolises would be better than one. Soon after having shipped the Parthenon Frieze from Athens to London, the Scottish nobleman Lord Elgin (he of the Marbles), along with Sir Walter Scott, Lord Cockburn and other influential persons came to the conclusion that what Edinburgh needed was a hilltop temple of its own. Their chosen site was Calton Hill whose steep slopes dominate the view towards the east end of Princes Street. Here, as a memorial to the dead of the Napoleonic Wars, would arise ‘a restoration of the Parthenon’. Planned to occupy much of the summit and to sit on a vast, pillared base runneled with its own catacombs, this crowning glory of the Scottish capital would be even grander than its Athenian precursor. Edinburgh being Edinburgh, it might also double as a kirk.
All went well until the money ran out. By 1829 twelve columns topped by an architrave had been erected. Today those columns are still all that stands of the ‘National Monument’ intended as ‘a splendid addition to the architecture of the [British] empire.’ It catches the eye, but more as a doomed Romantic fragment than a neoclassical triumph. Its architect, William Playfair, saw Thomas Hamilton’s Scottish Greek Revival, Doric-columned Royal High School completed at the foot of Calton Hill, also in 1829. Yet Playfair’s unfinished Parthenon above it, that imposing might-have-been, remains dominant. In 1907 there were suggestions it might be completed as a celebration of the bicentenary of the Act of Union between Scotland and England. In 2007, when a pro-independence Scottish Government came to power, nobody was suggesting that. Curiously, the partial Parthenon had been earmarked in 1908 as a potential site for a Scottish Parliament; and so, in the later twentieth century, had the Royal High School. Edinburgh took a long time to come to terms with the fact that its second acropolis (nicknamed by some ‘Edinburgh’s disgrace’) was destined to remain forever unfinished, succeeding as a magnificent mistake.
This unrealised Parthenon was neither the first nor the last Classicizing monument in the Calton Hill area, and the coalescing of Romanticism and Classicism in Edinburgh will be prominent in this chapter. In the Old Calton Burying Ground, Robert Adam’s 1777 cylindrical monument to David Hume, the sky starkly visible through a circular aperture in its roof, takes its inspiration from the tomb of Theodoric at Ravenna. Higher on Calton Hill’s slopes, just after construction of the would-be Parthenon stopped, Thomas Hamilton modeled his 1830 Robert Burns Monument on Athens’s Choragic Monument of Lysicrates. Cheekily, in the following year Hamilton’s neoclassical rival, William Playfair, took the same Athenian original as the template for his nearby monument to Burns’s patron, Edinburgh University Enlightenment philosopher Dugald Stewart. Building these neoclassical structures at the height of the Romantic era may seem odd to us, but terms such as ‘Scottish Enlightenment’ (first used in 1900) and even ‘Romanticism’ are later academic labels. Just as Scott, the mighty novelist of the High Romantic era, was very much a son of the Enlightenment, so what we term the Scottish Enlightenment was shot through – from James Craig’s Rock House on Calton Hill onwards – with Gothic and Romantic dreams. Architecturally as well as in terms of literature and art, Enlightenment and Romantic forms in Edinburgh and elsewhere are not distinct but fused. The New Town was built to provide calmly neoclassical regularity, but also to enjoy those Romantic vistas of the Castle, Calton Hill, and the Firth of Forth. To stand on the summit of Calton Hill is to be surrounded by neoclassical fantasies, and to sense Edinburgh not just as ‘the Athens of the North’ but as what Walter Scott called ‘mine own Romantic town.’