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The Edinburgh Review: 150 Years After

John Clive records how, during the opening years of the 19th century, Edinburgh added to its European reputation by producing one of the most famous critical magazines of the age.

I like this place extremely and cannot help thinking that for a literary man, by which term I mean a man who is fond of Letters, it is the most eligible situation in the island.. It unites good Libraries liberally managed, learned men without any other system than that of pursuing truth, vffry good general society, large healthy virgins, with mild pleasing countenances and white swelling breasts —shores washed by the Sea—the romantic grandeur of antient and the beautiful regularity of modern building, and boundless floods of oxygene.

The place so highly praised is Edinburgh; the date, 1798; and the writer the Rev. Sydney Smith, originator of the Edinburgh Review, who had brought his pupil, Michael Hicks-Beach, to the “Athens of the North” when the Napoleonic wars had made access to Weimar difficult. It was a logical second choice. For at the turn of the century Edinburgh, like Weimar, enjoyed a European reputation as a centre of culture and learning. The real origin of the Review must be sought in the numerous clubs and learned societies which carried on the intellectual traditions of Edinburgh’s golden age—the period of the Scottish enlightenment of the mid-eighteenth century.

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