Monuments on Calton Hill, Edinburgh, viewed from Newbridge. Photograph and text 2007 by George P. Landow. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL.]

The columns visible at the right of the obelisk form the circular Dugald Stewart Monument (1831), designed by William Henry Playfair. The highest monument (seen at left) is that for Lord Nelson, and according to the official Edinburgh City Council site, "The upturned telescope design was created by Robert Burn and was built between 1807 and 1815. In 1853 a time ball was introduced. It is lowered each day as the one o'clock gun is fired from Edinburgh Castle."

Not all vistors thought the monuments a success. Alfred Domett, a friend of Browning who praised Edinburgh as “a wonderful place witn all that a town should have,” intensely disliked

that Calton Hill with its hideous 'Nelson Monument' (so called) like an apothecary's physic-phial stuck into a disproportioned gallipot; useful perhaps as a lighthouse or land-mark, but ugly even for that. And that sham ruin or unfinished mock-Parthenon! nothing so imbecile and contemptible as any sham ruin; because the only circumstance that makes a real ruin interesting is the length of time it has stood, and the variety of generations or events it has actually witnessed or been connected with; and this cannot be imitated. And the actual columns look too small for the hill itself and unworthy of the site; if they preserve the real dimensions of the original, rather lowering one's idea of that than otherwise. The Scotch with their good sense will surely do away with, or alter, or disguise or somehow improve these disfiguring objects some day or other. The noble hill should be surmounted with something as noble in Art. [Diary, May 3, 1883]

References

"Dugald Stewart Monument, Edinburgh." www.edinburgharchitecture.co.uk. Viewed 20 September 2007.


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Last modified 6 December 2010