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Audubon in Edinburgh
by John Chalmers M.D.,F.R.C.S.

Dr. John Chalmers, the author of Audubon in Edinburgh and His Scottish Associates, is a retired orthopedic surgeon in Edinburgh, Scotland. After completing his medical education and training in Edinburgh, London, and Chicago--where he did research on the immunology of bone transplantation---he spent most of his professional career in Edinburgh until his retirement in 1990. Dr. Chalmers has spent much of his retirement researching Audubon’s activities in Edinburgh and has enjoyed writing Audubon in Edinburgh, a book that has put him in touch with many kindred spirits.

He first became interested in Audubon in 1940, when as a schoolboy on a bird walk near Portland, Oregon, he saw the Audubon warbler (as it was then called) and the MacGillivray warbler on the same day. Chalmers was intrigued to discover that Audubon had spent nearly three years in Edinburgh during a series of visits between 1826 and 1839. Audubon did his first engravings in Edinburgh and published his book Ornithological Biography with the assistance of leading Scottish natural historian William MacGillivray, Conservator of the Museum of The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.

"Audubon In Edinburgh"

Thank you very much, Laura, and I’d like first to thank Roswell Eldridge very warmly for inviting me here. It is a great experience to meet so many people who are interested in Audubon. And I’d like to thank Laura particularly for the kind way she’s organized us and set up this wonderful conference. And I’d also like to thank Larry and Diane for the opportunity of seeing this superb film.

The other day I was going through some loose papers and I came across my diary for 1940 which for some reason was still preserved, in which I kept a register of all the birds that I saw on that particular bird walk. [Picture on screen of handwritten notes.] It’s not very clear but you can see, I think, number 26, the Audubon Warbler. Number 28 was the MacGillivray Warbler. This is really what started me off. I became intensely interested in these two men when I discovered that they both worked together in Edinburgh.  

Audubon's Wood Warbler
MacGillivray's Ground Warbler

But why in Edinburgh?

You’ve heard that Audubon was frustrated in having his paintings engraved in America, largely due to the opposition of George Ord who was the literary executor of Alexander Wilson. So Audubon decided to see if he could get his paintings engraved in Europe. In 1826, with financial assistance from Lucy, he set sail from New Orleans to Liverpool. There he was warmly greeted by the family of William Rathbone, a wealthy merchant. His Liverpool contacts advised him that the only cities where his paintings might be engraved were London, Paris or Brussels. But before visiting these, Audubon decided to visit Edinburgh as a tourist.

Edinburgh had been a popular destination for American visitors since Benjamin Franklin’s endorsement. He said he would rather live in Edinburgh than anywhere else if he didn’t have to live in the United States. Franklin had written “I think the Time we spent there, was Six Weeks of the densest Happiness I have met with in any Part of my Life.  And the agreeable and instructive Society we found there in such Plenty, has left so pleasing an Impression on my Memory, that did not strong Connections draw me elsewhere, I believe Scotland would be the Country I should chuse to spend the Remainder of my Days in.”

And at that time Edinburgh was undergoing what is called its period of enlightenment, its golden age, and there was a great flourish of scientific, literary, artistic activity in the city at the time. The leader of these people was Sir Walter Scott. [Picture on screen of Sir Walter Scott.] Nobody nowadays reads Scott’s novels but they were terribly popular at the time that Audubon lived and he, himself, had read Scott’s novels. Believe me, they are very heavy reading. I don’t know if any of you have tried it, but Audubon had read them and admired them. His objective, before he settled down to get his engravings carried out, was to come to Edinburgh that he’d heard so much about, and he hoped that he might even see Sir Walter Scott.

The Scott Monument
Sir Walter Scott

Audubon’s initial impression of Edinburgh was very favorable. At that time Edinburgh was two cities: an old city [picture on screen of old city of Edinburgh], a rather tumble-down, medieval assembly of buildings, and a new town which was being built at the time of Audubon’s arrival, with very smart, new streets laid out in a reticular pattern. It was here that Audubon got his first lodgings, in George Street, in a house that was just here, opposite this church, [picture on screen of George Street] and he had very comfortable lodgings there with Mrs. Dickie at 2 George Street. He wrote “I walked a good deal and admired this city very much, the great breadth of the streets, their good pavement and footways, the beautiful uniformity of the buildings, their natural grey coloring and wonderful cleanliness.”

Last week I took a photograph of the church. You see things haven’t changed enormously since Audubon’s day. You see that church is still there. [Picture on screen of George Street today with cars in foreground.] The monument to Henry Melville is still there. But the house at No. 2 George Street where he lodged has been demolished. In this lodging he exhibited paintings and people stopped to see them. His reputation very quickly spread around the city.

Audubon gradually became involved in the social life of the city. Visitors flocked to admire his paintings at his lodgings and he greatly enjoyed a visit to the Theatre Royal to see Rob Roy, a play by Sir Walter Scott. He was becoming well known in Edinburgh. He cultivated his woodsman image; his long hair, handsome features and the wolfskin coat of the American woodsman appealed enormously to the Edinburgh matrons. [Picture on screen of Audubon in woodsman clothes and holding a shotgun.] This painting which was done in Edinburgh by John Syme was bought eventually by this gentleman here, James Wilson, who lived in Woodville Cottage which is here. [Pictures on screen of cottage and of Wilson studying a book, with his signature below his image.] He was a great admirer of Audubon and Audubon frequently visited this cottage. And this cottage still stands today. It’s just over my garden wall and it gives me an enormous thrill just to feel Audubon’s presence as Larry Hott said he had experienced at the Oakley Plantation at St. Francisville. You are very aware of Audubon’s presence in my neighborhood. I just wonder if he trespassed in the garden at my house. [Laughter from audience.]

Anyway, James Wilson purchased this portrait, hung it up in his study. It is now in the possession of the White House in Washington.

Ever subject to changes of mood, however, Audubon became depressed and missed his family. He was on the verge of leaving for London when he was introduced to the splendid engraver and artist William Home Lizars. [Picture on screen of William Home Lizars.]

Lizars, who at that time was engaged in engraving the bird paintings of Prideaux John Selby for his Illustrations of British Ornithology, was amazed by Audubon’s paintings and exclaimed “My God, I never saw anything like this before” and offered to undertake their engraving because he realized that Audubon’s paintings were so much superior to Selby’s. This was a mammoth task. Audubon insisted that his subjects should be reproduced “in size of life” which, in order to accommodate the largest birds, required that they be printed on double elephant folio measuring 75 by 100 cm. The engraving was done on copper sheets and the prints colored by hand by a team of colorists from Audubon’s originals, a time-consuming and expensive process.

Meanwhile the committee of the Royal Institution invited Audubon to exhibit his paintings in their hallswhich had just been built the year before Audubon’s arrival in Edinburgh and his exhibition there was the third one to be held. [Picture on screen of two buildings.]

The exhibition ran from 14th November to 23rd December 1826 and was enormously successful. He made quite a lot of much-needed money from entry fees and the sale of the catalogues. Entrance fees produced £152 and catalogue sales £20.

I took a photograph of the same building just the other day and you see how little it has changed from the time. It’s very interesting that in Edinburgh there are at least 40 buildings which Audubon either lived in or visited which are still in the same condition as they were in his day. I can only think of two buildings still surviving in the States (there may be others which people will no doubt tell me about). There’s Mill Grove and the Oakley Plantation house. They are the only ones that I can think of that are still standing in the U.S. but his DNA must be imprinted on at least 40 or more in or around Edinburgh.

Well, his showing of engravings added to his reputation and popularity and every night he was invited out to some social occasion. The flattery and attention appealed to his vanity but it had its drawbacks. He wrote to Lucy “I go to dine out…in the evening, and it is 1 or 2 in the morning when the party breaks up. Then painting all day, until, with my correspondence that increases daily, my head is like a hornet’s nest, and my body wearied beyond calculation. Yet it has to be done. I cannot refuse a single invitation. What a life, oh my Lucy! I could not stand this. I prefer my primitive roots after all.” But actually, he loved the adorations.

Another invitation was to stay with the Earl and Countess of Morton at Dalmahoy and he gave the Countess lessons in painting. Audubon was impressed by the luxury of all he saw. Paintings by Rembrandt, Claude Lorrain, Van Dyke and Titian adorned the walls and his bed was large enough for four. Leading off his room was a neat little closet. “It was a bathing room. Large porcelain tables, jars of water, drying linens, and all else wanted, lay about…beautifully contrived. I saw but touched nothing. I was clean enough.”

A useful contact was Sir David Brewster, the eminent optical physicist, “he is a great optician, and advises me to get a camera-lucida, so as to take the outline of my birds more rapidly and correctly. Such an instrument would be useful in saving time.” Audubon and his sons were to use this instrument in the work of reducing the size of the engravings for the Octavo edition.

Eventually Audubon succeeded in his ambition to meet Sir Walter Scott. “Sir Walter pressed my hand warmly and said he was ‘glad to have the honor of meeting me.’ …I could not forbear looking at him, my eyes feasted on his countenance. I watched his movements as I would those of a celestial being…”  Later Audubon was to meet Scott again on several occasions. He showed some of his paintings to Scott who wrote “The drawings are of first order – attitudes of the birds of the most animated character, and the situations appropriate…”

During this time Lizars managed to produce the first of the engravings, the Turkey Cock, [Picture on screen of Audubon’s painting of Wild Turkey.] which was also displayed. Audubon was thrilled; at last he could see the possible fulfilment of his dreams. Lizars had completed ten more engravings when his colorists went on strike. The reason for this was obvious. It was financial. Audubon had no capital and he could only pay for his engravings when he sold them. The cart went before the horse. And the colorists, who were poor people who couldn’t afford to wait until Audubon had sold his folios, not surprisingly went on strike. Selby’s paintings continued to be engraved because he was a wealthy man who could afford to pay up front. But as we heard, Audubon went down to London and found a new, perhaps even better engraver, Robert Havell. In order to thank the Royal Institution for their courtesy in allowing him to exhibit his paintings, he gave them this portrait of the turkey family which he described as completing in 18 days, a remarkable achievement when he was busy with all these other activities. This painting which has only recently been discovered in the attic of the Royal Institution, with a big hole in the middle and absolutely neglected for the last 100 years, has been very well restored. He did quite a lot of painting while in Edinburgh and I think it is not often realized that at least 40, perhaps 50, of Audubon’s paintings were done in Britain from museum specimens which he found in Edinburgh or in London.

Here is Robert Havell, Jr. who completed the task over a period of 13 years. [Picture on screen of Havell.] They had a tremendous partnership.

Audubon was obliged to spend some time in London to supervise the production of the engravings but he hated London and took every opportunity to return to Edinburgh, his beloved “Edina”, which he loved. These are the dates of his visits to Edinburgh.

[Chart on screen showing dates of Audubon’s visits to Edinburgh:
October 1826-April 1827
October 1827-November 1827
October 1830-April 1831
October 1834-December 1834
June 1835-December 1835
June 1838-July 1839]
When in Edinburgh, he met all sorts of worthies. One of them was this gentleman, George Combe, who was an ardent phrenologist [Picture on screen of man walking and of face mask.] Phrenology was a pseudo-science in which one told somebody’s character from the bumps and prominences on their skulls. George Combe was the leading advocate of this pseudo-science. He read Audubon’s head and, strangely, discovered him to be a great painter. [Laughter from audience.] Audubon wrote that having examined his skull in detail, Combe concluded that “I must be a strong and constant lover and affectionate father, that I had great veneration for high, talented men, that I would have made a brave general, that music was not to be compared with painting in me, that I was extraordinarily generous, etc. Now I know all these to be facts, and how they discovered them to be so is quite a puzzle to me.”

The phrenologists liked to take face masks of eminent people, notorious or glorious, and Combe obtained this face mask of Audubon which is now in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery of Scotland.

The person Audubon most wanted to meet was this gentleman, Robert Jameson, [picture on screen of Robert Jameson (1774-1854)] who figured prominently in Audubon’s Edinburgh experience. Jameson occupied the chair of Natural History at Edinburgh University and for no less than 50 years was a powerful figure in University circles. Jameson was very autocratic but he was a brilliant teacher. One of his greatest achievements was the creation of a splendid natural history museum in the newly-built University Quadrangle which became second in size and importance to the British Museum.

Jameson was at that moment, at the time of Audubon’s visit, preparing in Edinburgh a British edition of Alexander Wilson’s American Ornithology and his initial reception of Audubon was distinctly cool. Just as George Ord had prevented Audubon’ s entry into this field, so originally did Jameson. The ghost of Wilson, [picture on screen of Alexander Wilson 1766-1813] who had died 13 years before,was to haunt Audubon in Edinburgh as it had in America; Wilson still had a powerful influence on Audubon’s life. But after seeing his paintings, Jameson became more cordial and allowed Audubon free access to his museum which provided him with examples of birds missing hitherto from his portfolio.

This is just an aside: This is my proudest possession, the 1829 copy of Wilson’s American Ornithology. It’s a superb edition in which paintings are reproduced in one volume and three volumes of text accompanied it. Wonderful. [Picture of book on screen.]

This is the museum that Jameson built up in the University. [Picture on screen of interior of museum.] It was enormous and as I said, it was second only in importance and size to the British Museum in London and Audubon made good use of it. You can see here a live puma underneath one of the cases and the reason for this was that a lot of Jameson’s ex students went out to travel the world – it was a time of enormous exploration of the expanding Empire – and they were encouraged to send back to him specimens that they encountered in their travels. These were the nucleus and basis of the museum. Sometimes they sent back live specimens and this puma was one. It was quite tame and for a while it was kept as a free specimen in the museum. Eventually it became a bit of a nuisance and it had to be sent away. [Laughter from audience.]

Because all these specimens were coming in to the museum there was intense interest in the museum and to satisfy this interest, Jameson founded and was permanent president of what was known as the Wernerian Society (this was a natural history society). This is now largely forgotten, but for a time it became incredibly important and influential, rivalling the Royal Society of Edinburghin importance and prestige. At its meetings, which were held in the museum, the new acquisitions were shown and discussed. People longed to be elected a member of the Wernerian Society and Audubon was absolutely thrilled when Jameson allowed him to become a member. This was the first recognition of Audubon as a natural historian and a man of science as opposed to being just a painter and he found it enormously satisfying; you’ll notice that on a lot of his early engravings after his name at the bottom of the engravings he added the initials MWS (Member of the Wernerian Society). He was later elected to fellowship of the Royal Societies of Edinburgh and London and other influential societies here, but it was membership in the Wernerian Society which gave him greatest pleasure.

He wrote to Lucy “My situation in Edinburgh borders almost on the miraculous. Without education and with scarce none of those qualities necessary to better a man able to pass through the throng of the learned here, I am positively looked on by all of the professors and many of the principal persons as a very extraordinary man. What different times I keep here, courted as I am, from those I spent at home with certain people scarcely thought fit to look upon me.”

He was very delighted with the reception that he received.      

Audubon delivered several papers to the Wernerian Society, and some of these papers were published in journals. (1) Two of them were to land him in deep trouble. We’ve heard about George Ord’s campaign against Audubon, and he recruited a friend in Britain, a very eccentric man, Charles Waterton, who was very wealthy and a very good natural historian. Waterton, like Ord, was a great admirer of Wilson and Ord somehow or other instilled in Waterton his own feelings about Audubon. In a paper on the Turkey Vulture [picture on screen of two turkey vultures] Audubon had stated, correctly, that the vulture found its food by sight rather than by scent. Charles Waterton had just published an article in which he said the opposite, that it discovered its food by scent. This started the most extraordinary exchange of articles and letters in learned journals. Audubon was, in fact, quite right, but Waterton made a great issue of it. And then Waterton criticized many of Audubon’s writings. The other writing, in particular, that he criticized was the one in which Audubon described a rattlesnake climbing up a tree, [painting on screen of this] chasing a squirrel, eventually catching the squirrel in the tree and swallowing it tail first. Well, this was too much for Waterton, and indeed, too much for most of us, I think, today. [Audience laughter.] Audubon was not one to spoil a good story by over attention to accuracy. [Laughter from audience.]

One of the things which Waterton particularly criticized was the shape of the fang which didn’t point in the right direction. And he made a tremendously big issue of this. It’s quite extraordinary how heated the correspondence became in public journals over these rather trivial issues.

Waterton denounced both these papers and other observations of Audubon in scientific journals while Audubon’s friends rallied to his defence. Audubon wisely kept out of the debate, at least in public, and the concerted campaign of Ord and Waterton was counterproductive and simply rallied support for Audubon from many quarters.

Audubon wanted to publish the letter press, the book, to accompany his engravings and, although he wrote very vividly and well, he was acutely aware that he lacked scientific education and he felt that his English was imperfect. He felt the need for a collaborator to help write his book. In Edinburgh he found the ideal individual, William MacGillivray.

MacGillivray, like Audubon, was illegitimate. His father was a medical student. He was brought up on an uncle’s farm in Harris, an island off the coast of Scotland, and attended Aberdeen University at the age of 14 (which was the custom at that time), where he obtained an MA. He wanted to study medicine, but he, like Audubon, was obsessed with natural history from his earliest days and he gave up his study of medicine. [Picture on screen of William MacGillivray, 1796-1852.] He got married and was obliged to settle down and earn money. He obtained a job as assistant to Professor Jameson at Jameson’s museum. He was the museum curator for a period of nine years. He had to record all the specimens, he had to try and prevent them from being eaten by insects, he had to look after the museum boiler, he had to record all the visitors to the museum and collect the money. He translated foreign articles for Jameson in the evenings.

He was required to work six days a week without holiday - all for a salary of $7 a week. Jameson treated him very shabbily and in a very autocratic manner and eventually after nine years he couldn’t take it any more and he resigned. It was at this time in 1830 that his name was suggested to Audubon as a possible collaborator. 

MacGillivray and Audubon came to a financial agreement. MacGillivray agreed to edit Audubon’s text and Audubon agreed to pay him 16 guineas ($10) for every 16 pages that MacGillivray edited. This was a very valuable source of money at the time, as MacGillivray had no other employment and was in desperate need of cash. For the next nine years (1830-1839) the two men worked steadily to produce the five-volume Ornithological Biography which was published in Edinburgh by Adam and Charles Black, the publishers of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Soon after the commencement of this agreement, MacGillivray was appointed Conservatorof the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in 1831. It is behind this pillar and portico here [picture on screen of street with Royal College of Surgeons]. Given a relatively free hand by the College and liberated from Jameson’s rule, he went through a period of intense activity. He started a magazine, he helped Audubon with the production of the Ornithological Biography, he looked after his museum duties very well, and it was a most extraordinary period of activity. MacGillivray flourished. Not only did he carry out his museum duties to the complete satisfaction of the College Council but during his ten years in post he embarked on a prodigious output of literary endeavour. He published 13 books on a variety of natural history subjects, including the first three volumes of his magnum opus the History of British Birds. He wrote the section on ornithology in the 7th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (then an Edinburgh publication) and founded and was chief contributor to the Edinburgh Journal of Natural History and of the Physical Sciences. In addition, he continued to assist Audubon to write his Ornithological Biography.

MacGillivray persuaded Audubon that the dissection of birds, the internal anatomy of birds, was just as important as the external features and Audubon was compelled to dissect all the birds he was describing. Some of these dissections are illustrated by MacGillivray in Ornithological Biography. Audubon donated the specimens that he dissected to the museum. This is one of the catalogue entries, the American Swan Gizzard, which he donated to the museum. [Picture on screen of one of Audubon’s donations, extract from the catalogue of the Museum of the College of Surgeons.] About 40 specimens were given.

He had a very cordial working relationship with MacGillivray. The two men worked very effectively over a period of nine years to produce the five volumes of the Ornithological Biography. My own copy of this book is inscribed by Audubon himself to Charles Robison, Esquire [Picture on screen of inscription]. Robison was the secretary of the Royal Society of Edinburgh to which Audubon had been elected.

There could hardly have been a greater contrast between the two men. On the one hand there was Audubon, the handsome and ambitious extrovert, “five foot ten inches and erect, with muscles of steel” as he described himself, readily making new friends (and often losing them), while MacGillivray was “spare in form, shy and reserved in manner, wrapt in his own thoughts. He made few friends, but once made he clung to them with tenacity.” Despite the difference in their personalities the two men became firm friends. Audubon named the MacGillivray Warbler in his honor and MacGillivray christened one of his sons Audubon.

[Several bird pictures on screen during the following portions of Chalmers’ talk.]

The Great Auk became extinct during their lifetime and neither of them saw a living specimen. They both saw a stuffed specimen in Edinburgh and painted the same bird. Inspired by Audubon, MacGillivray commenced to paint the birds of Britain with the intention of publishing them in a format to match Audubon’s Birds of America. His paintings, most of which were done during his time with the College, are now in the Natural History Museum in London.Many show the influence of Audubon and some were prepared from specimens shot by Audubon in the vicinity of Edinburgh. The bird on the left is by Audubon and on the right is that of MacGillivray. MacGillivray shows quite considerable talent. This bird here, the Bob-Tailed Godwit, was shot by Audubon for MacGillivray to paint and I think from the attitude of the godwit you can sort of sense that Audubon influence. This intrigues me. This is the American Curlew [picture on screen] which we’ve already seen earlier today. This is MacGillivray’s curlew [picture on screen] and it looks to me as if he’s pinched the head and neck of this one and the body of this one from Audubon’s painting. [Laughter from audience.]

This is MacGillivray’s Golden Eagle which is incorporated into his headstone. [Picture of eagle and picture of gravestone on screen.]

Audubon said of MacGillivray’s paintings “I think them decidedly the best representations of birds I have ever seen, and have no hesitation in saying that, should they be engraved in a manner worthy of their excellence, they will form a work not only creditable to you but surpassing in splendor anything of the kind that Great Britain or even Europe has ever produced.” Alas, MacGillivray did not have the finances to complete his ambition. 

In April 1827 Audubon left Edinburgh for London and there in June he received the shattering news that Lizars, having completed ten of his engravings was unable to continue due to a strike of his colorists. Fortunately he was able to find in London an engraver, Robert Havell, who agreed to complete the task. [Picture on screen of Robert Havell, Jr.] Havell’s talents were at least as good as Lizars’ and he worked diligently over the next 12 years to complete the 435 engravings. Audubon’s plan was to have the engravings produced in folios of five plates at a time which were to be sold to subscribers for $10. As eventually 435 plates were produced the total cost was in the order of £200 ($1000) at a time when an average annual salary of a professional was £100. Clearly only institutions or very wealthy individuals could subscribe. The work of finding and persuading potential subscribers devolved on Audubon himself and he spent the next few years travelling in Britain, France and America for this purpose. Having demonstrated a complete lack of business enterprise at his early ventures in America, he now proved to be a most persuasive and energetic salesman, eventually managing to find nearly 200 subscribers who completed their purchase (many more defaulted). About half of the subscribers lived in Britain and half in America. Edinburgh University at the insistence of Professor Jameson became the 11th subscriber and Audubon regarded this as a good omen -- perhaps the remaining universities would follow -- and indeed many of them did. Four complete sets remain in Scotland, but alas, Edinburgh University, which had provided Audubon with so much support, sold its set in 1992 for $4.1 million – a disaster, for this was the only complete set in the city where it all started.

On the first three trips to Edinburgh Audubon came on his own and on the last threehe was accompanied by Lucy and his two sons, John Woodhouse and Victor. [Pictures of Audubon’s two sons on screen.] Between 1826 and 1839 he paid six visits to Edinburgh amounting in total to about three years.

The chief reason for these visits was the production of the Ornithological Biography, the text to accompany the engravings. It was necessary to publish the text separately from the engravings for it was (and is) required that copies of any book published in Britain should be offered to the six Libraries of Record, while books of engravings are exempt. 

[Picture on screen of printed page “Ornithological Biography of Birds of America and interspersed with Delineation of Americas scenery and manners, by John James Audubon, F.R. SS. L.&E., Edinburgh”.]

Towards the end of this period as the work on Ornithological Biography neared completion, Audubon and MacGillivray and sometimes their families went on a number of excursions together. The two boys, John Woodhouse and Victor, accompanied Audubon to Edinburgh on later trips, and John Woodhouse in particular did some very fine paintings in Edinburgh. As you all know, as Audubon’s faculties failed John Woodhouse completed The Quadrupeds of America and his talents were almost as good as those of his father’s. Victor also was a competent artist and helped considerably with some of the paintings. While he was in Edinburgh, John Woodhouse tried to copy works of art which he had access to. This [portrait on left-hand side of screen] was Sir Walter Scott, painted by Henry Raeburn, Scotland’s most famous portraitist. This [portrait on right-hand side of screen] is John Woodhouse’s reproduction which I think is an excellent copy. He painted quite a lot of portraits in Edinburgh, including the Lord Provost, the mayor of Edinburgh, and other individuals.

The two families went on a number of trips around Edinburgh, as they became less occupied with their activities, and one of the journeys was a walk through some hills, the Pentland Hills near Edinburgh, in which MacGillivray described all the birds which they saw, a lot of the trees and things, normal features as they went through this walk. One hundred and seventy years later, I repeated this walk at the same time of the year, and it was very fascinating to see all of the birds which they described, except for three, and I also saw a few others which they hadn’t described. But what was particularly intriguing was that some of the trees they described in their walk were still to be seen.

They visited the Bass Rock [picture on screen of large rock] which is a very large gannetry near Edinburgh and they went with their families on a tour of the Trossachs, the lake district in southern Scotland which Sir Walter Scott described so vividly in many of his novels. Audubon himself described this tour in great detail.

Their last outing was a walk through the hills to the south of Edinburgh which MacGillivray recorded in some detail and Audubon wrote “what beautiful walks there are” around Edinburgh.

When he returned to Edinburgh, his book was completed and in the introduction to the fifth volume of Ornithological Biography Audubon wrote:

 “When I presented you with the fourth volume of this work, I was in fair Edina; and now, when I offer you the fifth, I am in Edina still. What beautiful walks there are, Reader, around that superlatively beautiful city! The oftener I have rambled along them, the more I have thought with deep regret, that now at last I am on the eve of bidding those walks, and the friends whom I know I possess there, a last adieu. No man, methinks, can ever leave a country where he has been so kindly treated, without a deep feeling of sorrow…. 

To the Curators of the Library of the University of Edinburgh, for the liberality of which they have allowed me the use of many valuable works not otherwise to be procured, I offer my sincere thanks; as well as to Professor Jameson for the specimens which he has had the kindness to lend me from the rich Museum under his charge. Allow me also to mention the names of a few friends to whom I shall ever feel most deeply indebted. The first on the list is William MacGillivray, and I wish that you, Reader, and all the world besides, knew him as well as I do….
I have pleasure in saying that my enemies have been few, and my friends numerous. May the God who granted me life, industry, and perseverance to accomplish my task, forgive the former, and for ever bless the latter!”

This was to mark the end of Audubon’s time in Edinburgh. He left Britain for the last time on 25th June 1839 and MacGillivray left Edinburgh in 1841 to become Professor of Natural History at Marischal College in Aberdeen. This is a painting of Edinburgh at the time of his departure, [picture on screen of buildings on a hill with walls around them and outcroppings of boulders] and interestingly enough, it was engraved by Robert Havell. I had no idea that Robert Havell ever came to Edinburgh.

Thank you very much.

Footnote 1: Audubon made a lasting impression on at least one listener during several lectures he gave to the prestigeous Wernarian Society of Edinburgh in the winter of 1826-1827.  The listener was a reluctant medical student in Edinburgh, Charles Darwin.  In later years, Darwin was to cite a number of observations of Audubon to support the theory of evolution.  Documentation for this is nicely setout by Gerald Weissmann in his essay, Darwin’s Audubon, (Darwin’s Audubon: Science and the Liberal Imagination, Plenum, 1998).  Weissmann also documents the inordinate number of references to Audubon by Darwin compared to any other naturalist of the time. Chalmers tells me in recent correspondence that he was well aware of this important relationship and that, to his mind, "Darwin confirms Audubon as a natural scientist". ( See also page 179, John Chalmers,  Audubon in Edinburgh, National Museums of Scotland Publishing, 2003) - From a correspondance between John Chalmers and Roswell Eldridge, M.D. (editor).