Saturday, August 25, 2007

Dinner with the Select Society

The Friday evening with the membership of the Select Society was for Herr von Traun a truly novel experience. Seated in a room of the Masonic Lodge above the Laigh Council House without regard to precedence, the members of the society embraced a wide variety of callings within the life of Edinburgh--faculty members at both the University of Edinburgh and of Glasgow, solicitors, artists, architects, Kirksmen and landlord squires from the countryside all gathered about, juggling a dizzying variety of conversations about the room with wit and aplomb, avoiding only topics "such as regard revealed religion, or which may give occasion to vent any principles of Jacobitism."

The topic of the main debate was "What are the most proper measures for a gentleman to promote industry on his own estate?" The meeting was presided over by a Professor of Moral Philosophy at Glasgow, who moderated debate with a thick Scots accent and a bit of stutter.

Herr von Traun's English was poor enough to render much of the evening's Scots-salted proceedings unintelligible to him, especially the discourses of the Glaswegian Dr. Cullen seated next to him, but he was received with great courtesy and interest by the assembled members of the club, and was asked to speak on the state of natural philosophy in the Rhineland. Herr von Traun offered a brief summary of his correspondence with the Turinese Conte di Menusiglio, to whom he had been introduced by the ducal Tutor, and with whom he had been in dialogue the last year on the nature of the combustion of gunpowder. The assembled society received the conclusion of his remarks with polite applause, and Herr von Traun was invited by a Mr. Ferguson, a former chaplain of the Black Watch, lately the Librarian at the Advocates Library, but recently made tutor to the Household of the Earl of Bute, to the nearby tavern at which it was customary for the more academic members of the society to retire after the meetings for supper, a wee dram and a further discussion of phlogiston theory.

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