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Notes on Old Edinburgh

Isabella L. Bird

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .ch makes life brighter for an[Pg 6] hour is at the lips without waiting or scuffling. How can our sad and sorely-tempted ones escape the snare? Limited water and unlimited whisky, crowded dens and unwholesome air; we need nothing more to make a city full of drunkards.

We followed this water grievance into thirty-seven houses that day, and there was scarcely one in which it was not enlarged upon. Did our eyes wander round a room ever so stealthily, its occupier was ready to forestall the glance by saying, “Ah, sirs, it’s the dirt ye’re looking at, but how’s puir folk like us to be clean as has to haul every drop of water from that well?” Did we shrink ever so slightly from a child whose head and clothing were one mass of dirt, the movement was perceived, and the want of water, the distance from the well, and the long long stair, were the apologies offered.

I merely give one instance, which might be multiplied almost indefinit. . . Read More

Community Reviews

A heartbreakingly frank commentary on the poverty and deprivation that existed in the heart of Edinburgh once upon a time. For someone from Edinburgh, and who has walked through the streets mentioned here, it is an uncomfortable read. Comparing Edinburgh now to as it was then is to see just how far

I knew Edinburgh was grimy in the 1800s but I don't think I was aware of how hideous it actually was to live in the Old town. We don't know how lucky we are today.

Interesting book

Interesting insight into the squalor of Edinburgh during the Victorian era. I have read many books about Edinburgh during this time, and this just confirms things.

I knew that Old Town vs. New Town translated to the poor vs. The rich but I never would’ve imagined the absolute poverty of Cowgate. Makes me happy I occupied it in the 21st century vs the 19th century.

Not a travel book like her others, but a Dickensian look at poverty. Not enjoyable, but someone had to write it.

Wretched poverty in Edinburgh

A stark description of society in 1868 Edinburgh that illustrates the inability or unwillingness of institutions to successfully address the needs and problems of its destitute citizens - issues with which we still grapple today this day.

A shocking read about the tragic conditions of 19th century Edinburgh. As someone with no pre-existing knowledge on this topic, I was shocked to discover the harsh reality of the widespread poverty that existed during this time.

Edinburgh is one of my favourite cities, but this report published in 1868 shows a very different face. While nobody could suggest that poverty has been eradicated today, the abject poverty displayed here is heartbreaking. The squalor, the overcrowding in mean decayed buildings, many of the rooms wi