Being informed that there was nothing worthy of observation in Ulva, we took boat, and proceeded to Inchkenneth, where we were introduced by our friend Col to Sir Allan M’Lean, the chief of his clan, and to two young ladies, his daughters. Inchkenneth is a pretty little island, a mile long, and about half a mile broad, all good land.
As we walked up from the shore, Dr Johnson’s heart was cheered by the sight of a road marked with cart-wheels, as on the main land; a thing which we had not seen for a long time. It gave us a pleasure similar to that which a traveller feels, when, whilst wandering on what he fears is a desert island, he perceives the print of human feet.
Military men acquire excellent habits of having all conveniencies about them. Sir Allan M’Lean, who had been long in the army, and had now a lease of the island, had formed a commodious habitation, though it consisted but of a few small buildings, only one story high. He had, in his little apartments, more things than I could enumerate in a page or two.
Among other agreeable circumstances, it was not the least, to find here a parcel of the Caledonian Mercury, published since we left Edinburgh; which I read with that pleasure which every man feels who has been for some time secluded from the animated scenes of the busy world.
Dr Johnson found books here. He bade me buy Bishop Gastrell’s Christian Institutes, which was lying in the room. He said, ‘I do not like to read any thing on a Sunday, but what is theological; not that I would scrupulously refuse to look at any thing which a friend should shew me in a newspaper; but in general, I would read only what is theological. I read just now some of Drummond’s Travels, before I perceived what books were here. I then took up Derham’s Physico-Theology.
Every particular concerning this island having been so well described by Dr Johnson, it would be superfluous in me to present the publick with the observations that I made upon it, in my Journal.
I was quite easy with Sir Allan almost instantaneously. He knew the great intimacy that had been between my father and his predecessor, Sir Hector, and was himself of a very frank disposition. After dinner, Sir Allan said he had got Dr Campbell about a hundred subscribers to his Britannia Elucidata (a work since published under the title of A Political Survey of Great Britain), of whom he believed twenty were dead, the publication having been so long delayed. JOHNSON. ‘Sir, I imagine the delay of publication is owing to this; that, after publication, there will be no more subscribers, and few will send the additional guinea to get their books: in which they will be wrong; for there will be a great deal of instruction in the work. I think highly of Campbell. In the first place, he has very good parts. In the second place, he has very extensive reading; not, perhaps, what is properly called learning, but history, politicks, and, in short, that popular knowledge which makes a man very useful. In the third place, he has learned much by what is called the vox viva. He talks with a great many people.’
Speaking of this gentleman, at Rasay, he told us, that he one day called on him, and they talked of Tull’s Husbandry. Dr Campbell said something. Dr Johnson began to dispute it. ‘Come,’ said Dr Campbell, ‘we do not want to get the better of one another: we want to encrease each other’s ideas.’ Dr Johnson took it in good part, and the conversation then went on coolly and instructively. His candour in relating this anecdote does him much credit, and his conduct on that occasion proves how easily he could be persuaded to talk from a better motive than ‘for victory’.
Dr Johnson here shewed so much of the spirit of a highlander, that he won Sir Allan’s heart: indeed, he has shewn it during the whole of our tour. One night, in Col, he strutted about the room with a broad-sword and target, and made a formidable appearance; and, another night, I took the liberty to put a large blue bonnet on his head. His age, his size, and his bushy grey wig, with this covering on it, presented the image of a venerable senachi: and, however unfavourable to the Lowland Scots, he seemed much pleased to assume the appearance of an ancient Caledonian. We only regretted that he could not be prevailed with to partake of the social glass. One of his arguments against drinking, appears to me not convincing. He urged, that, ‘in proportion as drinking makes a man different from what he is before he has drunk, it is bad; because it has so far affected his reason’. But may it not be answered, that a man may be altered by it FOR THE BETTER; that his spirits may be exhilarated, without his reason being affected? On the general subject of drinking, however, I do not mean positively to take the other side. I am dubius, non improbus.
In the evening, Sir Allan informed us that it was the custom of his house to have prayers every Sunday; and Miss M’Lean read the evening service, in which we all joined. I then read Ogden’s second and ninth sermons on prayer, which, with their other distinguished excellence, have the merit of being short. Dr Johnson said, that it was the most agreeable Sunday he had ever passed; and it made such an impression on his mind, that he afterwards wrote the following Latin verses upon Inchkenneth:
INSULA SANCTI KENNETHI
Parva quidem regio, sed relligione priorum
Nota, Caledonias panditur inter aquas;
Voce ubi Cennethus populos domuisse feroces
Dicitur, et vanos dedocuisse deos.
Huc ego delatus placido per coerula cursu
Scire locum volui quid daret itte novi.
Illic Leniades humili regnabat in aula,
Leniades magnis nobilitatus avis:
Una duas habuit casa cum genitore puellas,
Quas Amor undarum fingeret esse deas:
Non tamen inculti gelidis latuere sub antris,
Accola Danubii qualia saevus habet;
Mollia non deerant vacuae solatia vitae,
Sive libros poscant otia, sive lyram.
Luxerat illa dies, legis gens docta supernae
Spes hominum ac curas cum procul esse jubet,
Ponti inter strepitus sacri non munera cultus
Cessarunt; pietas hic quoque cura fuit:
Quid quod sacrifici versavit femina libros,
Legitimas faciunt pectora pura preces.
Quo vagor ulterius? quod ubique requiritur hic est;
Hic secura quies, hic et honestus amor.
We agreed to pass this day with Sir Allan, and he engaged to have every thing in order for our voyage to-morrow.
Being now soon to be separated from our amiable friend young Col, his merits were all remembered. At Ulva he had appeared in a new character, having given us a good prescription for a cold. On my mentioning him with warmth, Dr Johnson said, ‘Col does every thing for us: we will erect a statue to Col.’ ‘Yes,’ said I, ‘and we will have him with his various attributes and characters, like Mercury, or any other of the heathen gods. We will have him as a pilot; we will have him as a fisherman, as a hunter, as a husbandman, as a physician.’
I this morning took a spade, and dug a little grave in the floor of a ruined chapel, near Sir Allan M’Lean’s house, in which I buried some human bones I found there. Dr Johnson praised me for what I had done, though he owned, he could not have done it. He shewed in the chapel at Rasay his horrour at dead men’s bones. He shewed it again at Col’s house. In the charter-room there was a remarkable large shin-bone; which was said to have been a bone of John Garve, one of the lairds. Dr Johnson would not look at it; but started away.
At breakfast, I asked, ‘What is the reason that we are angry at a trader’s having opulence?’ JOHNSON. ‘Why, sir, the reason is (though I don’t undertake to prove that there is a reason), we see no qualities in trade that should entitle a man to superiority. We are not angry at a soldier’s getting riches, because we see that he possesses qualities which we have not. If a man returns from a battle, having lost one hand, and with the other full of gold, we feel that he deserves the gold; but we cannot think that a fellow, by sitting all day at a desk, is entitled to get above us.’ BOSWELL. ‘But, sir, may we not suppose a merchant to be a man of an enlarged mind, such as Addison in the Spectator describes Sir Andrew Freeport to have been?’ JOHNSON. ‘Why, sir, we may suppose any fictitious character. We may suppose a philosophical day-labourer, who is happy in reflecting that, by his labour, he contributes to the fertility of the earth, and to the support of his fellow-creatures; but we find no such philosophical day-labourer. A merchant may, perhaps, be a man of an enlarged mind; but there is nothing in trade connected with an enlarged mind.’
I mentioned that I heard Dr Solander say he was a Swedish Laplander. JOHNSON. ‘Sir, I don’t believe he is a Laplander. The Laplanders are not much above four feet high. He is as tall as you; and he has not the copper colour of a Laplander.’ BOSWELL. ‘But what motive could he have to make himself a Laplander?’ JOHNSON. ‘Why, sir, he must either mean the word Laplander in a very extensive sense, or may mean a voluntary degradation of himself. “For all my being the great man that you see me now, I was originally a barbarian”; as if Burke should say, “I came over a wild Irishman,” which he might say in his present state of exaltation.’
Having expressed a desire to have an island like Inchkenneth, Dr Johnson set himself to think what would be necessary for a man in such a situation. ‘Sir, I should build me a fortification, if I came to live here; for, if you have it not, what should hinder a parcel of ruffians to land in the night, and carry off every thing you have in the house, which, in a remote country, would be more valuable than cows and sheep? Add to all this the danger of having your throat cut.’ BOSWELL. ‘I would have a large dog.’ JOHNSON. ‘So you may, sir; but a large dog is of no use but to alarm. He, however, I apprehend, thinks too lightly of the power of that animal. I have heard him say, that he is afraid of no dog. ‘He would take him up by the hinder legs, which would render him quite helpless, and then knock his head against a stone, and beat out his brains.’ Topham Beauclerk told me, that at his house in the country, two large ferocious dogs were fighting. Dr Johnson looked steadily at them for a little while; and then, as one would separate two little boys, who are foolishly hurting each other, he ran up to them, and cuffed their heads till he drove them asunder. But few men have his intrepidity, Herculean strength, or presence of mind. Most thieves or robbers would be afraid to encounter a mastiff.
I observed, that, when young Col talked of the lands belonging to his family, he always said, ‘MY lands’. For this he had a plausible pretence; for he told me, there has been a custom in this family, that the laird resigns the estate to the eldest son when he comes of age, reserving to himself only a certain life-rent. He said, it was a voluntary custom; but I think I found an instance in the charter-room, that there was such an obligation in a contract of marriage. If the custom was voluntary, it was only curious; but if founded on obligation, it might be dangerous; for I have been told, that in Otaheite, whenever a child is born (a son, I think), the father loses his right to the estate and honours, and that this unnatural, or rather absurd custom, occasions the murder of many children.
Young Col told us he could run down a greyhound; ‘for,’ said he, ‘the dog runs himself out of breath, by going too quick, and then I get up with him.’ I accounted for his advantage over the dog, by remarking that Col had the faculty of reason, and knew how to moderate his pace, which the dog had not sense enough to do. Dr Johnson said, ‘He is a noble animal. He is as complete an islander as the mind can figure. He is a farmer, a sailor, a hunter, a fisher: he will run you down a dog: if any man has a tail it is Col. He is hospitable; and he has an intrepidity of talk, whether he understands the subject or not. I regret that he is not more intellectual.’
Dr Johnson observed, that there was nothing of which he would not undertake to persuade a Frenchman in a foreign country. I’ll carry a Frenchman to St Paul’s Church-yard, and I’ll tell him, “by our law you may walk half round the church; but, if you walk round the whole, you will be punished capitally”, and he will believe me at once. Now, no Englishman would readily swallow such a thing: he would go and inquire of somebody else.’ The Frenchman’s credulity, I observed, must be owing to his being accustomed to implicit submission; whereas every Englishman reasons upon the laws of his country, and instructs his representatives, who compose the legislature.
This day was passed in looking at a small island adjoining Inchkenneth, which afforded nothing worthy of observation; and in such social and gay entertainments as our little society could furnish.
After breakfast we took leave of the young ladies, and of our excellent companion Col, to whom we had been so much obliged. He had now put us under the care of his chief; and was to hasten back to Sky. We parted from him with very strong feelings of kindness and gratitude; and we hoped to have had some future opportunity of proving to him the sincerity of what we felt; but in the following year he was unfortunately lost in the Sound between Ulva and Mull; and this imperfect memorial, joined to the high honour of being tenderly and respectfully mentioned by Dr Johnson, is the only return which the uncertainty of human events has permitted us to make to this deserving young man.
Sir Allan, who obligingly undertook to accompany us to Icolmkill had a strong good boat, with four stout rowers. We coasted along Mull till we reached Gribon, where is what is called Mackinnon’s cave, compared with which that at Ulinish is inconsiderable. It is in a rock of a great height, close to the sea. Upon the left of its entrance there is a cascade, almost perpendicular from the top to the bottom of the rock. There is a tradition that it was conducted thither artificially, to supply the inhabitants of the cave with water. Dr Johnson gave no credit to this tradition. As, on the one hand, his faith in the Christian religion is firmly founded upon good grounds; so, on the other, he is incredulous when there is no sufficient reason for belief; being in this respect just the reverse of modern infidels, who, however nice and scrupulous in weighing the evidences of religion, are yet often so ready to believe the most absurd and improbable tales of another nature, that Lord Hailes well observed, a good essay might be written Sur la credulite des Incredules.
The height of this cave I cannot tell with any tolerable exactness: but it seemed to be very lofty, and to be a pretty regular arch. We penetrated, by candlelight, a great way; by our measurement, no less than four hundred and eighty-five feet. Tradition says, that a piper and twelve men once advanced into this cave, nobody can tell how far; and never returned. At the distance to which we proceeded the air was quite pure; for the candle burned freely, without the least appearance of the flame growing globular; but as we had only one, we thought it dangerous to venture farther, lest, should it have been extinguished, we should have had no means of ascertaining whether we could remain without danger. Dr Johnson said, this was the greatest natural curiosity he had ever seen.
We saw the island of Staffa, at no very great distance, but could not land upon it, the surge was so high on its rocky coast.
Sir Allan, anxious for the honour of Mull, was still talking of its woods, and pointing them out to Dr Johnson, as appearing at a distance on the skirts of that island, as we sailed along. JOHNSON. ‘Sir, I saw at Tobermorie. what they called a wood, which I unluckily took for HEATH. If you shew me what I shall take for FURZE, it will be something.’
In the afternoon we went ashore on the coast of Mull, and partook of a cold repast, which we carried with us. We hoped to have procured some rum or brandy for our boatmen and servants, from a publick-house near where we landed; but unfortunately a funeral a few days before had exhausted all their store. Mr Campbell however, one of the Duke of Argyle’s tacksmen, who lived in the neighbourhood, on receiving a message from Sir Allan, sent us a liberal supply.
We continued to coast along Mull, and passed by Nuns’ Island, which, it is said, belonged to the nuns of Icolmkill, and from which, we were told, the stone for the buildings there was taken. As we sailed along by moonlight, in a sea somewhat rough, and often between black and gloomy rocks, Dr Johnson said, ‘If this be not ROVING AMONG THE HEBRIDES, nothing is.’ The repetition of words which he had so often previously used, made a strong impression on my imagination; and, by a natural course of thinking, led me to consider how our present adventures would appear to me at a future period.
I have often experienced, that scenes through which a man has passed, improve by lying in the memory: they grow mellow. Acti labores sunt jucundi. This may be owing to comparing them with present listless ease. Even harsh scenes acquire a softness by length of time: † and some are like very loud sounds, which do not please, or at least do not please so much, till you are removed to a certain distance. They may be compared to strong coarse pictures, which will not bear to be viewed near. Even pleasing scenes improve by time, and seem more exquisite in recollection, than when they were present; if they have not faded to dimness in the memory. Perhaps, there is so much evil in every human enjoyment, when present — so much dross mixed with it — that it requires to be refined by time; and yet I do not see why time should not melt away the good and the evil in equal proportions; why the shade should decay, and the light remain in preservation.
† [Note: I have lately observed that this thought has been elegantly expressed by Cowley:
Things which offend when present and affright.
In memory, well painted, move delight.]
After a tedious sail, which, by our following various turnings of the coast of Mull, was extended to about forty miles, it gave us no small pleasure to perceive a light in the village of Icolmkill, in which almost all the inhabitants of the island live, close to where the ancient building stood. As we approached the shore, the tower of the cathedral, just discernable in the air, was a picturesque object.
When we had landed upon the sacred place, which, as long as I can remember, I had thought on with veneration, Dr Johnson and I cordially embraced. We had long talked of visiting Icolmkill; and, from the lateness of the season, were at times very doubtful whether we should be able to effect our purpose. To have seen it, even alone, would have given me great satisfaction; but the venerable scene was rendered much more pleasing by the company of my great and pious friend, who was no less affected by it than I was; and who has described the impressions it should make on the mind, with such strength of thought, and energy of language, that I shall quote his words, as conveying my own sensations much more forcibly than I am capable of doing:
We are now treading that illustrious island, which was once the luminary of the Caledonian regions, whence savage clans and roving barbarians derived the benefits of knowledge, and the blessings of religion. To abstract the mind from all local emotion would be impossible, if it were endeavoured, and would be foolish if it were possible. Whatever withdraws us from the power of our senses, whatever makes the past, the distant, or the future, predominate over the present, advances us in the dignity of thinking beings. Far from me, and from my friends, be such frigid philosophy as may conduct us indifferent and unmoved over any ground which has been dignified by wisdom, bravery or virtue. That man is little to be envied, whose patriotism would not gain force upon the plain of Marathon, or whose piety would not grow warmer among the ruins of Iona! †
† [Note: Had our tour produced nothing else but this sublime passage, the world must have acknowledged that it was not made in vain. The present respectable President of the Royal Society was so much struck on reading it, that he clasped his hands together, and remained for some time in an attitude of silent admiration.]
Upon hearing that Sir Allan M’Lean was arrived, the inhabitants, who still consider themselves as the people of M’Lean, to whom the island formerly belonged, though the Duke of Argyle has at present possession of it, ran eagerly to him.
We were accommodated this night in a large barn, the island affording no lodging that we should have liked so well. Some good hay was strewed at one end of it, to form a bed for us, upon which we lay with our clothes on; and we were furnished with blankets from the village. Each of us had a portmanteau for a pillow. When I awaked in the morning, and looked round me, I could not help smiling at the idea of the Chief of the M’Leans, the great English moralist, and myself, lying thus extended in such a situation.
Early in the morning we surveyed the remains of antiquity at this place, accompanied by an illiterate fellow, as cicerone, who called himself a descendant of a cousin of Saint Columba, the founder of the religious establishment here. As I knew that many persons had already examined them, and as I saw Dr Johnson inspecting and measuring several of the ruins of which he has since given so full an account, my mind was quiescent; and I resolved; to stroll among them at my ease, to take no trouble to investigate minutely, and only receive the general impression of solemn antiquity, and the particular ideas of such objects as should of themselves strike my attention.
We walked from the monastery of nuns to the great church or cathedral, as they call it, along an old broken causeway. They told us, that this had been a street; and that there were good houses built on each side. Dr Johnson doubted if it was any thing more than a paved road for the nuns. The convent of monks, the great church, Oran’s chapel, and four other chapels, are still to be discerned. But I must own that Icolmkill did not answer my expectations; for they were high, from what I had read of it, and still more from what I had heard and thought of it, from my earliest years. Dr Johnson said, it came up to his expectations, because he had taken his impression from an account of it subjoined to Sacheverel’s History of the Isle of Man, where it is said, there is not much to be seen here. We were both disappointed, when we were shewn what are called the monuments of the kings of Scotland, Ireland, and Denmark, and of a king of France. There are only some grave-stones flat on the earth, and we could see no inscriptions. How far short was this of marble monuments, like those in Westminster Abbey, which I had imagined here! The grave-stones of Sir Allan M’Lean’s family, and of that of M’Quarrie, had as good an appearance as the royal grave-stones; if they were royal, we doubted.
My easiness to give credit to what I heard in the course of our tour was too great. Dr Johnson’s peculiar accuracy of investigation detected much traditional fiction, and many gross mistakes. It is not to be wondered at, that he was provoked by people carelessly telling him, with the utmost readiness and confidence, what he found, on questioning them a little more, was erroneous. Of this there were innumerable instances.
I left him and Sir Allan to breakfast in our barn, and stole back again to the cathedral, to indulge in solitude and devout meditation. While contemplating the venerable ruins, I reflected with much satisfaction, that the solemn scenes of piety never lose their sanctity and influence, though the cares and follies of life may prevent us from visiting them, or may even make us fancy that their effects are only ‘as yesterday, when it is past’, and never again to be perceived. I hoped, that, ever after having been in this holy place, I should maintain an exemplary conduct. One has a strange propensity to fix upon some point of time from whence a better course of life may begin.
Being desirous to visit the opposite shore of the island, where Saint Columba is said to have landed, I procured a horse from one M’Ginnis, who ran along as my guide. The M’Ginnises are said to be a branch of the clan of M’Lean. Sir Allan had been told that this man had refused to send him some rum, at which the knight was in great indignation. ‘You rascal!’ said he. ‘Don’t you know that I can hang you, if I please?’ Not averting to the chieftain’s power over his clan, I imagined that Sir Allan had known of some capital crime that the fellow had committed, which he could discover, and so get him condemned; and said, ‘How so?’ ‘Why,’ said Sir Allan, ‘are they not all my people?’ Sensible in my inadvertency, and most willing to contribute what I could towards the continuation of feudal authority, ‘Very true,’ said I. Sir Allan went on: ‘Refuse to send rum to me, you rascal! Don’t you know that, if I order you to go and cut a man’s throat, you are to do it?’ ‘Yes, an’t please your honour! and my own too, and hang myself too.’ The poor fellow denied that he had refused to send the rum. His making these professions was not merely a pretence in presence of his chief; for after he and I were out of Sir Allan’s hearing, he told me, ‘Had he sent his dog for the rum, I would have given it: I would cut my bones for him.’ It was very remarkable to find such an attachment to a chief, though he had then no connection with the island, and had not been there for fourteen years. Sir Allan, by way of upbraiding the fellow, said, ‘I believe you are a CAMPBELL.’
The place which I went to see is about two miles from the village. They call it Portawherry, from the wherry in which Columba came; though, when they shew the length of his vessel, as marked on the beach by two heaps of stones, they say, ‘Here is the length of the currach,’ using the Erse word.
Icolmkill is a fertile island. The inhabitants export some cattle and grain; and I was told, they import nothing but iron and salt. They are industrious, and make their own woollen and linen cloth; and they brew a good deal of beer, which we did not find in any of the other islands.
We set sail again about mid-day, and in the evening landed on Mull, near the house of the Reverend Mr Neal M’Leod, who having been informed of our coming, by a message from Sir Allan, came out to meet us. We were this night very agreeably entertained at his house. Dr Johnson observed to me, that he was the cleanest-headed man that he had met in the Western islands. He seemed to be well acquainted with Dr Johnson’s writings, and courteously said, ‘I have been often obliged to you, though I never had the pleasure of seeing you before.’
He told us, he had lived for some time in St Kilda, under the tuition of the minister or catechist there, and had there first read Horace and Virgil. The scenes which they describe must have been a strong contrast to the dreary waste around him.
This morning the subject of politicks was introduced. JOHNSON. ‘Pulteney was as paltry a fellow as could be. He was a Whig, who pretended to be honest; and you know it is ridiculous for a Whig to pretend to be honest. He cannot hold it out.’ He called Mr Pitt a meteor; Sir Robert Walpole a fixed star. He said, ‘It is wonderful to think that all the force of government was required to prevent Wilkes from being chosen the chief magistrate of London, though the liverymen knew he would rob their shops, knew he would debauch their daughters.’ †
† [Note: I think it incumbent on me to make some observation on this strong satirical sally on my classical companion, Mr Wilkes. Reporting it lately from memory, in his presence, I expressed it thus: ‘They knew he would rob their shops, IF HE DURST; they knew he would debauch their daughters, IF HE COULD, which, according to the French phrase, may be said rencherir on Dr Johnson; but on looking into my Journal, I found it as above, and would by no means make any addition. Mr Wilkes received both readings with a good humour that I cannot enough admire. Indeed both he and I (as, with respect to myself, the reader has more than once had occasion to observe in the course of this Journal) are too fond of a bon mot, not to relish it, though we should be ourselves the object of it.
Let me add, in justice to the gentleman here mentioned, that at a subsequent period, he was elected chief magistrate of London, and discharged the duties of that high office with great honour to himself, and advantage to the city. Some years before Dr Johnson died, I was fortunate enough to bring him and Mr Wilkes together; the consequence of which was, that they were ever afterwards on easy and not unfriendly terms. The particulars I shall have great pleasure in relating at large in my Life of Dr Johnson.]
BOSWELL. ‘The history of England is so strange, that, if it were not so well vouched as it is, it would hardly be credible.’ JOHNSON. ‘Sir, if it were told as shortly, and with as little preparation for introducing the different events, as the history of the Jewish kings, it would be equally liable to objections of improbability.’ Mr M’Leod was much pleased with the justice and novelty of the thought. Dr Johnson illustrated what he had said, as follows: ‘Take, as an instance, Charles the First’s concessions to his parliament, which were greater and greater, in proportion as the parliament grew more insolent, and less deserving of trust. Had these concessions been related nakedly, without any detail of the circumstances which generally led to them, they would not have been believed.’
Sir Allan M’Lean bragged, that Scotland had the advantage of England, by its having more water. JOHNSON, ‘Sir, we would not have your water, to take the vile bogs which produced it. You have too much! A man who is drowned has more water than either of us’; and then he laughed. (But this was surely robust sophistry: for the people of taste in England, who have seen Scotland, own that its variety of rivers and lakes makes it naturally more beautiful than England, in that respect.) Pursuing his victory over Sir Allan, he proceeded: ‘Your country consists of two things, stone and water. There is, indeed, a little earth above the stone in some places, but a very little; and the stone is always appearing. It is like a man in rags; the naked skin is still peeping out.’
He took leave of Mr M’Leod, saying, ‘Sir, I thank you for your entertainment, and your conversation.’ Mr Campbell, who had been so polite yesterday, came this morning on purpose to breakfast with us, and very obligingly furnished us with horses to proceed on our journey to Mr M’Lean’s of Lochbuy, where we were to pass the night. We dined at the house of Dr Alexander M’Lean, another physician in Mull, who was so much struck with the uncommon conversation of Dr Johnson, that he observed to me, ‘This man is just a HOGSHEAD of sense.’
Dr Johnson said of the Turkish Spy, which lay in the room, that it told nothing but what every body might have known at that time; and that what was good in it, did not pay you for the trouble of reading to find it.
After a very tedious ride, through what appeared to me the most gloomy and desolate country I had ever beheld, we arrived, between seven and eight o’clock, at Moy, the seat of the Laird of Lochbuy. Buy, in Erse, signifies yellow, and I at first imagined that the loch or branch of the sea here, was thus denominated, in the same manner as the Red Sea; but I afterwards learned that it derived its name from a hill above it, which being of a yellowish hue, has the epithet of Buy.
We had heard much of Lochbuy’s being a great roaring braggadocio, a kind of Sir John Falstaff, both in size and manners; but we found that they had swelled him up to a fictitious size, and clothed him with imaginary qualities. Col’s idea of him was equally extravagant, though very different: he told us, he was quite a Don Quixote; and said, he would give a great deal to see him and Dr Johnson together. The truth is, that Lochbuy proved to be only a bluff, comely, noisy old gentleman, proud of his hereditary consequence, and a very hearty and hospitable landlord. Lady Lochbuy was sister to Sir Allan M’Lean, but much older. He said to me, ‘They are quite Antediluvians.’ Being told that Dr Johnson did not hear well, Lochbuy bawled out to him, ‘Are you of the Johnstons of Glencro, or of Ardnamurchan?’ Dr Johnson gave him a significant look, but made no answer; and I told Lochbuy that he was not Johnston, but Johnson, and that he was an Englishman.
Lochbuy some years ago tried to prove himself a weak man, liable to imposition, or, as we term it in Scotland, a FACILE man, in order to set aside a lease which he had granted; but failed in the attempt. On my mentioning this circumstance to Dr Johnson, he seemed much surprized that such a suit was admitted by the Scottish law, and observed, that ‘in England no man is allowed to STULTIFY himself.’ † Sir Allan, Lochbuy, and I, had the conversation chiefly to ourselves to-night: Dr Johnson, being extremely weary, went to bed soon after supper.
† [Note: This maxim, however, has been controverted. See Blackstone’s Commentaries, Vol. II, p. 292; and the authorities there quoted.]
Before Dr Johnson came to breakfast, Lady Lochbuy said, ‘he was a DUNGEON of wit’; a very common phrase in Scotland to express a profoundness of intellect, though he afterwards told me, that he never had heard it. She proposed that he should have some cold sheep’s head for breakfast. Sir Allan seemed displeased at his sister’s vulgarity, and wondered how such a thought should come into her head. From a mischievous love of sport, I took the lady’s part; and very gravely said, ‘I think it is but fair to give him an offer of it. If he does not choose it, he may let it alone.’ ‘I think so,’ said the lady, looking at her brother with an air of victory. Sir Allan, finding the matter desperate, strutted about the room, and took snuff. When Dr Johnson came in, she called to him, ‘Do you choose any cold sheep’s-head, sir?’ ‘No, Madam,’ said he, with a tone of surprise and anger. ‘It is here, sir,’ said she, supposing he had refused it to save the trouble of bringing it in. They thus went on at cross purposes, till he confirmed his refusal in a manner not to be misunderstood; while I sat quietly by, and enjoyed my success.
After breakfast, we surveyed the old castle, in the pit or dungeon of which Lochbuy had some years before taken upon him to imprison several persons; and though he had been fined a considerable sum by the Court of Justiciary, he was so little affected by it, that while we were examining the dungeon, he said to me, with a smile, ‘Your father knows something of this’ (alluding to my father’s having sat as one of the judges on his trial). Sir Allan whispered me, that the laird could not be persuaded, that he had lost his heritable jurisdiction.
We then set out for the ferry, by which we were to cross to the main land of Argyleshire. Lochbuy and Sir Allan accompanied us. We were told much of a war-saddle, on which this reputed Don Quixote used to be mounted; but we did not see it, for the young laird had applied it to a less noble purpose, having taken it to Falkirk fair WITH A DROVE OF BLACK CATTLE.
We bade adieu to Lochbuy, and to our very kind conductor. Sir Allan M’Lean, on the shore of Mull, and then got into the ferry-boat, the bottom of which was strewed with branches of trees or bushes, upon which we sat. We had a good day and a fine passage, and in the evening landed at Oban, where we found a tolerable inn. After having been so long confined at different times in islands, from which it was always uncertain when we could get away, it was comfortable to be now on the main land, and to know that, if in health, we might get to any place in Scotland or England in a certain number of days.
Here we discovered from the conjectures which were formed, that the people on the main land were intirely ignorant of our motions; for in a Glasgow news-paper we found a paragraph, which, as it contains a just and well-turned compliment to my illustrious friend, I shall insert:
We are well assured that Dr Johnson is confined by tempestuous weather to the isle of Sky; it being unsafe to venture, in a small boat upon such a stormy surge as is very common there at this time of the year. Such a philosopher, detained on an almost barren island, resembles a whale left upon the strand. The latter will be welcome to every body, on account of his oil, his bone, etc. and the other will charm his companions, and the rude inhabitants, with his superior knowledge and wisdom, calm resignation, and unbounded benevolence.
After a good night’s rest, we breakfasted at our leisure. We talked of Goldsmith’s Traveller, of which Dr Johnson spoke highly; and, while I was helping him on with his great coat, he repeated from it the character of the British nation, which he did with such energy, that the tear started into his eye:
‘“Stern o’er each bosom reason holds her state.
With daring aims irregularly great,
Pride in their port, defiance in their eye,
I see the lords of humankind pass by,
Intent on high designs, a thoughtful band,
By forms unfashion’d; fresh from nature’s hand;
Fierce in their native hardiness of soul,
True to imagin’d right, above control,
While ev’n the peasant boasts these rights to scan,
And learns to venerate himself as man.”’
We could get but one bridle here, which, according to the maxim detur digniori, was appropriated to Dr Johnson’s sheltie. I and Joseph rode with halters. We crossed in a ferry-boat a pretty wide lake, and on the farther side of it, close by the shore, found a hut for our inn. We were much wet. I changed my clothes in part, and was at pains to get myself well dried. Dr Johnson resolutely kept on all his clothes, wet as they were, letting them steam before the smoky turf fire. I thought him in the wrong; but his firmness was, perhaps, a species of heroism.
I remember but little of our conversation. I mentioned Shenstone’s saying of Pope, that he had the art of condensing sense more than any body. Dr Johnson said, ‘It is not true, sir. There is more sense in a line of Cowley than in a page’ (or a sentence of ten lines — I am not quite certain of the very phrase) ‘of Pope.’ He maintained that Archibald, Duke of Argyle, was a narrow man. I wondered at this; and observed, that his building so great a house at Inveraray was not like a narrow man. ‘Sir,’ said he, ‘when a narrow man has resolved to build a house, he builds it like another man. But Archibald, Duke of Argyle, was narrow in his ordinary expences, in his quotidian expences.’
The distinction is very just. It is in the ordinary expences of life that a man’s liberality or narrowness is to be discovered. I never heard the word quotidian in this sense, and I imagined it to be a word of Dr Johnson’s own fabrication; but I have since found it in Young’s Night Thoughts (Night fifth):
Death’s a destroyer of quotidian prey.
and in my friend’s Dictionary, supported by the authorities of Charles I and Dr Donne.
It rained very hard as we journied on after dinner. The roar of torrents from the mountains, as we passed along in the dusk, and the other circumstances attending our ride this evening, have been mentioned with so much animation by Dr Johnson, that I shall not attempt to say any thing on the subject.
We got at night to Inveraray, where we found an excellent inn. Even here, Dr Johnson would not change his wet clothes.
The prospect of good accommodation cheered us much. We supped well; and after supper, Dr Johnson, whom I had not seen taste any fermented liquor during all our travels, called for a gill of whisky. ‘Come,’ said he, ‘let me know what it is that makes a Scotchman happy!’ He drank it all but a drop, which I begged leave to pour into my glass, that I might say we had drunk whisky together. I proposed Mrs Thrale should be our toast. He would not have HER drunk in whisky, but rather ‘some insular lady’, so we drank one of the ladies whom we had lately left. He owned tonight, that he got as good a room and bed as at an English inn.
I had here the pleasure of finding a letter from home, which relieved me from the anxiety I had suffered, in consequence of not having received any account of my family for many weeks. I also found a letter from Mr Garrick, which was a regale as agreeable as a pineapple would be in a desert. He had favoured me with his correspondence for many years; and when Dr Johnson and I were at Inverness, I had written to him as follows:
My dear Sir,
Sunday, 29 August, 1773
Here I am, and Mr Samuel Johnson actually with me. We were a night at Fores, in coming to which, in the dusk of the evening, we passed over a bleak and blasted heath where Macbeth met the witches. Your old preceptor repeated, with much solemnity, the speech
How far is’t called to Fores? What are these
So wither’d and so wild in their attire, etc.
This day we visited the ruins of Macbeth’s castle at Inverness. I have had great romantick satisfaction in seeing Johnson upon the classical scenes of Shakspeare in Scotland; which I really looked upon as almost as improbable as that ‘Birnam wood should come to Dunsinane’. Indeed, as I have always been accustomed to view him as a permanent London object, it would not be much more wonderful to me to see St Paul’s church moving along where we now are. As yet we have travelled in postchaises; but to-morrow we are to mount on horseback, and ascend into the mountains by Fort Augustus, and so on to the ferry, where we are to cross to Sky. We shall see that island fully, and then visit some more of the Hebrides; after which we are to land in Argyleshire, proceed by Glasgow to Auchinleck, repose there a competent time, and then return to Edinburgh, from whence the Rambler will depart for old England again, as soon as he finds it convenient. Hitherto we have had a very prosperous expedition. I flatter myself servetur ad imum, qualis ab incepto processerit. He is in excellent spirits, and I have a rich Journal of his conversation. Look back, Davy, † to Litchfield; run up through the time that has elapsed since you first knew Mr Johnson, and enjoy with me his present extraordinary tour. I could not resist the impulse of writing to you from this place. The situation of the old castle corresponds exactly to Shakspeare’s description. While we were there to-day, it happened oddly, that a raven perched upon one of the chimney-tops, and croaked. Then I in my turn repeated,
‘The raven himself is hoarse.
That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan,
Under my battlements.’
I wish you had been with us. Think what enthusiastick happiness I shall have to see Mr Samuel Johnson walking among the romantick rocks and woods of my ancestors at Auchinleck! Write to me at Edinburgh. You owe me his verses on great George and tuneful Cibber, and the bad verses which led him to make his fine ones on Philips the musician. Keep your promise, and let me have them. I offer my very best compliments to Mrs Garrick, and ever am
Your warm admirer and friend,JAMES BOSWELL.
To David Garrick, Esq;
† [Note: I took the liberty of giving this familiar appellation to my celebrated friend, to bring in a more lively manner to his remembrance the period when he was Dr Johnson’s pupil.]
His answer was as follows.
September 14, 1773,
You stole away from London, and left us all in the lurch; for we expected you one night at the club, and knew nothing of your departure. Had I payed you what I owed you, for the book you bought for me, I should only have grieved for the loss of your company, and slept with a quiet conscience; but, wounded as it is, it must remain so till I see you again, though I am sure our good friend Mr Johnson will discharge the debt for me, if you will let him. Your account of your journey to Fores, the RAVEN, OLD CASTLE, &c. &c. made me half mad. Are you not rather too late in the year for fine weather, which is the life and soul of seeing places? I hope your pleasure will continue qualis ab incepto, &c.
Your friend ——† threatens me much. I only wish that he would put his threats in execution, and, if he prints his play, I will forgive him. I remember he complained to you, that his bookseller called for the money for some copies of his — which I subscribed for, and that I desired him to call again. The truth is, that my wife was not at home, and that for weeks together I have not ten shillings in my pocket. However, had it been otherwise, it was not so great a crime to draw his poetical vengeance upon me. I despise all that he can do, and am glad that I can so easily get rid of him and his ingratitude. I am hardened both to abuse and ingratitude.
You, I am sure, will no more recommend your poetasters to my civility and good offices.
Shall I recommend to you a play of Eschylus (the Prometheus), published and translated by poor old Morell, who is a good scholar, and an acquaintance of mine. It will be but half a guinea, and your name shall be put in the list I am making for him. You will be in very good company.
Now for the Epitaphs!
(These, together with the verses on George the Second, and Colley Gibber, as his Poet Laureat, of which imperfect copies are gone about, will appear in my Life of Dr Johnson.)
I have no more paper, or I should have said more to you. My love and respects to Mr Johnson.
I can’t write. I have the gout in my hand.
To James Boswell, Esq., Edinburgh.
† [Note: I have suppressed my friend’s name from an apprehension of wounding his sensibility; but I would not withhold from my readers a passage which shews Mr Garrick’s mode of writing as the Manager of a Theatre, and contains a pleasing trait of his domestick life. His judgment of dramatick pieces, so far as concerns their exhibition on the stage, must be allowed to have considerable weight. But from the effect which a perusal of the tragedy here condemned had upon myself, and from the opinions of some eminent criticks. I venture to pronounce that it has much poetical merit; and Its author has distinguished himself by several performances which shew that the epithet poetaster was, in the present Instance, much misapplied.]
We passed the forenoon calmly and placidly. I prevailed on Dr Johnson to read aloud Ogden’s sixth sermon on prayer, which he did with a distinct expression, and pleasing solemnity. He praised my favourite preacher, his elegant language, and remarkable acuteness; and said, he fought infidels with their own weapons.
As a specimen of Ogden’s manner, I insert the following passage from the sermon which Dr Johnson now read. The preacher, after arguing against that vain philosophy which maintains, in conformity with the hard principle of eternal necessity, or unchangeable predetermination, that the only effect of prayer for others, although we are exhorted to pray for them, is to produce good dispositions in ourselves towards them; thus expresses himself:
A plain man may be apt to ask, But if this then, though enjoined in the holy Scriptures, is to be my real aim and intention, when I am taught to pray for other persons, why is it that I do not plainly so express it? Why is not the form of the petition brought nearer to the meaning? Give them, say I to our heavenly father, what is good. But this, I am to understand, will be as it will be, and is not for me to alter. What is it then that I am doing? I am desiring to become charitable myself; and why may I not plainly say so? Is there shame in it, or impiety? The wish is laudable: why should I form designs to hide it?
Or is it, perhaps, better to be brought about by indirect means, and in this artful manner? Alas! who is it that I would impose on? From whom can it be, in this commerce, that I desire to hide any thing? When, as my Saviour commands me, I have ‘entered into my closet, and shut my door’, there are but two parties privy to my devotions, God and my own heart; which of the two am I deceiving?
He wished to have more books, and, upon inquiring if there were any in the house, was told that a waiter had some, which were brought to him; but I recollect none of them, except Hervey’s Meditations. He thought slightingly of this admired book. He treated it with ridicule, and would not allow even the scene of the dying husband and father to be pathetick. I am not an impartial judge; for Hervey’s Meditations engaged my affections in my early years. He read a passage concerning the moon, ludicrously, and shewed how easily he could, in the same style, make reflections on that planet, the very reverse of Hervey’s, representing her as treacherous to mankind. He did this with much humour; but I have not preserved the particulars. He then indulged a playful fancy, in making a Meditation on a Pudding, of which I hastily wrote down, in his presence, the following note; which, though imperfect, may serve to give my readers some idea of it.
MEDITATION ON A PUDDING
Let us seriously reflect of what a pudding is composed. It is composed of flour that once waved in the golden grain, and drank the dews of the morning; of milk pressed from the swelling udder by the gentle hand of the beauteous milk-maid, whose beauty and innocence might have recommended a worse draught; who, while she stroked the udder, indulged no ambitious thoughts of wandering in palaces, formed no plans for the destruction of her fellow-creatures: milk, which is drawn from the cow, that useful animal, that eats the grass of the field, and supplies us with that which made the greatest part of the food of mankind in the age which the poets have agreed to call golden. It is made with an egg, that miracle of nature, which the theoretical Burnet has compared to creation. An egg contains water within its beautiful smooth surface; and an unformed mass, by the incubation of the parent, becomes a regular animal, furnished with bones and sinews, and covered with feathers. Let us consider; can there be more wanting to complete the Meditation on a Pudding? If more is wanting, more may be found. It contains salt, which keeps the sea from putrefaction: salt, which is made the image of intellectual excellence, contributes to the formation of a pudding.
In a magazine I found a saying of Dr Johnson’s, something to this purpose; that the happiest part of a man’s life is what he passes lying awake in bed in the morning. I read it to him. He said, ‘I may, perhaps, have said this; for nobody, at times, talks more laxly than I do.’ I ventured to suggest to him, that this was dangerous from one of his authority.
I spoke of living in the country, and upon what footing one should be with neighbours. I observed that some people were afraid of being on too easy a footing with them, from an apprehension that their time would not be their own. He made the obvious remark, that it depended much on what kind of neighbours one has, whether it was desirable to be on an easy footing with them, or not. I mentioned a certain baronet, who told me, he never was happy in the country, till he was not on speaking terms with his neighbours, which he contrived in different ways to bring about. ‘Lord —-’, said he, ‘stuck along; but at last the fellow pounded my pigs, and then I got rid of him.’ JOHNSON. ‘Nay, sir, My Lord got rid of Sir John, and shewed how little he valued him, by putting his pigs in the pound.’
I told Dr Johnson I was in some difficulty how to act at Inveraray. I had reason to think that the Duchess of Argyle disliked me, on account of my zeal in the Douglas cause; but the Duke of Argyle had always been pleased to treat me with great civility. They were now at the castle, which is a very short walk from our inn; and the question was, whether I should go and pay my respects there. Dr Johnson, to whom I had stated the case, was clear that I ought; but, in his usual way, he was very shy of discovering a desire to be invited there himself. Though from a conviction of the benefit of subordination to society, he has always shewn great respect to persons of high rank, when he happened to be in their company, yet his pride of character has ever made him guard against any appearance of courting the great. Besides, he was impatient to go to Glasgow, where he expected letters. At the same time he was, I believe, secretly not unwilling to have attention paid him by so great a chieftain, and so exalted a nobleman. He insisted that I should not go to the castle this day before dinner, as it would look like seeking an invitation. ‘But,’ said I, ‘if the duke invites us to dine with him to-morrow, shall we accept?’ ‘Yes, sir,’ I think he said, ‘to be sure.’ But, he added, ‘He won’t ask us!’ I mentioned, that I was afraid my company might be disagreeable to the duchess. He treated this objection with a manly disdain: ‘THAT, sir, he must settle with his wife.’ We dined well. I went to the castle just about the time when I supposed the ladies would be retired from dinner. I sent in my name; and, being shewn in, found the amiable duke sitting at the head of his table with several gentlemen. I was most politely received, and gave his grace some particulars of the curious journey which I had been making with Dr Johnson. When we rose from table, the duke said to me, ‘I hope you and Dr Johnson will dine with us to-morrow.’ I thanked his grace; but told him, my friend was in a great hurry to get back to London. The duke, with a kind complacency, said, ‘He will stay one day; and I will take care he shall see this place to advantage.’ I said, I should be sure to let him know his grace’s invitation. As I was going away, the duke said, ‘Mr Boswell, won’t you have some tea?’ I thought it best to get over the meeting with the duchess this night; so respectfully agreed. I was conducted to the drawing-room by the duke, who announced my name; but the duchess, who was sitting with her daughter, Lady Betty Hamilton, and some other ladies, took not the least notice of me. I should have been mortified at being thus coldly received by a lady of whom I, with the rest of the world, have always entertained a very high admiration, had I not been consoled by the obliging attention of the duke.
When I returned to the inn, I informed Dr Johnson of the Duke of Argyle’s invitation, with which he was much pleased, and readily accepted of it. We talked of a violent contest which was then carrying on, with a view to the next general election for Ayrshire; where one of the candidates, in order to undermine the old and established interest, had artfully held himself out as a champion for the independency of the county against aristocratick influence, and had persuaded several gentlemen into a resolution to oppose every candidate who was supported by peers. ‘Foolish fellows!’ said Dr Johnson. ‘Didn’t they see that they are as much dependent upon the peers one way as the other. The peers have but to OPPOSE a candidate, to ensure him success. It is said, the only way to make a pig go forward, is to pull him back by the tail. These people must be treated like pigs.’
My acquaintance, the Reverend Mr John M’Aulay, one of the ministers of Inveraray, and brother to our good friend at Calder, came to us this morning, and accompanied us to the castle, where I presented Dr Johnson to the Duke of Argyle. We were shewn through the house; and I never shall forget the impression made upon my fancy by some of the ladies’ maids tripping about in neat morning dresses. After seeing for a long time little but rusticity, their lively manner, and gay inviting appearance, pleased me so much, that I thought, for the moment, I could have been a knight-errant for them. †
† [Note: On reflection, at the distance of several years, I wonder that my venerable fellow-traveller should have read this passage without censuring my levity.]
We then got into a low one-horse chair, ordered for us by the duke, in which we drove about the place. Dr Johnson was much struck by the grandeur and elegance of this princely seat. He thought, however, the castle too low, and wished it had been a story higher. He said, ‘What I admire here, is the total defiance of expence.’ I had a particular pride in shewing him a great number of fine old trees, to compensate for the nakedness which had made such an impression on him on the eastern coast of Scotland.
When we came in, before dinner, we found the duke and some gentlemen in the hall. Dr Johnson took much notice of the large collection of arms, which are excellently disposed there. I told what he had said to Sir Alexander McDonald, of his ancestors not suffering their arms to rust. ‘Well,’ said the doctor, ‘but let us be glad we live in times when arms MAY rust. We can sit to-day at his grace’s table, without any risk of being attacked, and perhaps sitting down again wounded or maimed.’ The duke placed Dr Johnson next himself at table. I was in fine spirits; and though sensible that I had the misfortune of not being in favour with the duchess, I was not in the least disconcerted, and offered her grace some of the dish that was before me. It must be owned that I was in the right to be quite unconcerned, if I could. I was the Duke of Argyle’s guest; and I had no reason to suppose that he adopted the prejudices and resentments of the Duchess of Hamilton.
I knew it was the rule of modern high life not to drink to any body; but, that I might have the satisfaction for once to look the duchess in the face, with a glass in my hand, I with a respectful air addressed her, ‘My Lady Duchess, I have the honour to drink your grace’s good health.’ I repeated the words audibly, and with a steady countenance. This was, perhaps, rather too much; but some allowance must be made for human feelings.
The duchess was very attentive to Dr Johnson. I know not how a middle state came to be mentioned. Her grace wished to hear him on that point. ‘Madam,’ said he, ‘your own relation, Mr Archibald Campbell, can tell you better about it than I can. He was a bishop of the nonjuring communion, and wrote a book upon the subject.’ † He engaged to get it for her grace. He afterwards gave a full history of Mr Archibald Campbell, which I am sorry I do not recollect particularly. He said, Mr Campbell had been bred a violent Whig, but afterwards ‘kept BETTER COMPANY, and became a Tory’. He said this with a smile, in pleasant allusion, as I thought, to the opposition between his own political principles and those of the duke’s clan. He added that Mr Campbell, after the Revolution, was thrown in gaol on account of his tenets; but, on application by letter to the old Lord Townshend, was released: that he always spoke of his Lordship with great gratitude, saying, ‘though a WHIG, he had humanity’.
† [Note: As this book is now become very scarce, I shall subjoin the title, which is curious:
‘The Doctrines of a Middle State between Death and the Resurrection: Of Prayers for the Dead: And the Necessity of Purification: plainly proved from the holy Scriptures, and the Writings of the Fathers of the Primitive Church: And acknowledged by several learned Fathers and great Divines of the Church of England and others since the Reformation. To which is added, an Appendix concerning the Descent of the Soul of Christ into Hell, while his Body lay in the Grave. Together with the Judgment of the Reverend Dr Hickes concerning this Book, so far as relates to a Middle State, particular Judgment, and Prayers for the Dead as it appeared in the first Edition. And a Manuscript of the Right Reverend Bishop Overall upon the Subject of a Middle State, and never before printed. Also, a Preservative against several of the Errors of the Roman Church, in six small Treatises. By the Honourable Archibald Campbell.’ Folio, 1721.]
Dr Johnson and I passed some time together, in June 1784, at Pembroke College, Oxford, with the Reverend Dr Adams, the master, and I having expressed a regret that my note relative to Mr Archibald Campbell was imperfect, he was then so good as to write with his own hand, on the blank page of my Journal, opposite to that which contains what I have now mentioned, the following paragraph; which, however, is not quite so full as the narrative he gave at Inveraray:
The Honourable Archibald Campbell was, I believe, the nephew of the Marquis of Argyle. He began life by engaging in Monmouth’s rebellion, and, to escape the law, lived some time in Surinam. When he returned, he became zealous for episcopacy and monarchy; and at the Revolution adhered not only to the Nonjurors, but to those who refused to communicate with the Church of England, or to be present at any worship where the usurper was mentioned as king. He was, I believe, more than once apprehended in the reign of King William, and once at the accession of George. He was the familiar friend of Hicks and Nelson; a man of letters, but injudicious; and very curious and inquisitive, but credulous. He lived in 1743, or 44, about 75 years old.
The subject of luxury having been introduced, Dr Johnson defended it. ‘We have now,’ said he, ‘a splendid dinner before us. Which of all these dishes is unwholsome?’ The duke asserted, that he had observed the grandees of Spain diminished in their size by luxury. Dr Johnson politely refrained from opposing directly an observation which the duke himself had made; but said, ‘Man must be very different from other animals, if he is diminished by good living; for the size of all other animals is increased by it.’ I made some remark that seemed to imply a belief in second sight. The duchess said, ‘I fancy you will be a METHODIST.’ This was the only sentence her grace deigned to utter to me; and I take it for granted, she thought it a good hit on my CREDULITY in the Douglas cause.
A gentleman in company, after dinner, was desired by the duke to go to another room, for a specimen of curious marble, which his grace wished to shew us. He brought a wrong piece, upon which the duke sent him back again. He could not refuse; but, to avoid any appearance of servility, he whistled as he walked out of the room, to show his independency. On my mentioning this afterwards to Dr Johnson, he said, it was a nice trait of character.
Dr Johnson talked a great deal, and was so entertaining, that Lady Betty Hamilton, after dinner, went and placed her chair close to his, leaned upon the back of it, and listened eagerly. It would have made a fine picture to have drawn the Sage and her at this time in their several attitudes. He did not know, all the while, how much he was honoured. I told him afterwards. I never saw him so gentle and complaisant as this day.
We went to tea. The duke and I walked up and down the drawing-room, conversing. The duchess still continued to shew the same marked coldness for me; for which, though I suffered from it, I made every allowance, considering the very warm part that I had taken for Douglas, cause in which she thought her son deeply interested. Had not her grace discovered some displeasure towards me, I should have suspected her of insensibility or dissimulation.
Her grace made Dr Johnson come and sit by her, and asked him why he made his journey so late in the year. ‘Why, madam,’ said he, ‘you know Mr Boswell must attend the Court of Session, and it does not rise till the twelfth of August.’ She said, with some sharpness, ‘I KNOW NOTHING of Mr Boswell.’ Poor Lady Lucy Douglas, to whom I mentioned this, observed, ‘She knew TOO MUCH of Mr Boswell.’ I shall make no remark on her grace’s speech. I indeed felt it as rather too severe; but when I recollected that my punishment was inflicted by so dignified a beauty, I had that kind of consolation which a man would feel who is strangled by a SILKEN CORD. Dr Johnson was all attention to her grace. He used afterwards a droll expression, upon her enjoying the three titles of Hamilton, Brandon, and Argyle. Borrowing an image from the Turkish empire, he called her a ‘Duchess with three tails’.
He was much pleased with our visit at the castle of Inveraray. The Duke of Argyle was exceedingly polite to him, and, upon his complaining of the shelties which he had hitherto ridden being too small for him, his grace told him he should be provided with a good horse to carry him next day.
Mr John M’Aulay passed the evening with us at our inn. When Dr Johnson spoke of people whose principles were good, but whose practice was faulty, Mr M’Aulay said, he had no notion of people being in earnest in their good professions, whose practice was not suitable to them. The Doctor grew warm, and said, ‘Sir, you are so grossly ignorant of human nature, as not to know that a man may be very sincere in good principles, without having good practice?’
Dr Johnson was unquestionably in the right; and whoever examines himself candidly, will be satisfied of it, though the inconsistency between principles and practice is greater in some men than in others.
I recollect very little of this night’s conversation. I am sorry that indolence came upon me towards the conclusion of our journey, so that I did not write down what passed with the same assiduity as during the greatest part of it.
Mr M’Aulay breakfasted with us, nothing hurt or dismayed by his last night’s correction. Being a man of good sense, he had a just admiration of Dr Johnson. Either yesterday morning, or this, I communicated to Dr Johnson, from Mr M’Aulay’s information, the news that Dr Beattie had got a pension of two hundred pounds a year. He sat up in his bed, clapped his hands, and cried, ‘O brave we!’ a peculiar exclamation of his when he rejoices. †
† [Note: Having mentioned, more than once, that my Journal was perused by Dr Johnson, I think it proper to inform my readers that this is the last paragraph which he read.]
As we sat over our tea, Mr Home’s Tragedy of Douglas was mentioned. I put Dr Johnson in mind, that once, in a coffee-house at Oxford, he called to old Mr Sheridan, ‘How came you, sir, to give Home a gold medal for writing that foolish play?’ and defied Mr Sheridan to shew ten good lines in it. He did not insist they should be together, but that there were not ten good lines in the whole play. He now persisted in this. I endeavoured to defend that pathetick and beautiful tragedy, and repeated the following passage:
‘” . . . Sincerity,
Thou first of virtues! let no mortal leave
Thy onward path, although the earth should gape,
And from the gulph of hell destruction cry.
To take dissimulation’s winding way.”’
JOHNSON. ‘That will not do, sir. Nothing is good but what is consistent with truth or probability, which this is not. Juvenal, indeed, gives us a noble picture of inflexible virtue:
Esto bonus miles, tutor bonus, arbiter idem
Integer: ambiguae si quando citabere testis,
Incertaeque rei, Phalaris licet imperet, ut sis
Falsus, et admoto dictet perjuria tauro,
Summum crede nefas animam praeferre pudori,
Et propter vitam vivendi perdere causas.†
An honest guardian, arbitrator just.
Be thou; thy station deem a sacred trust.
With thy good sword maintain thy country’s cause;
In every action venerate its laws:
The lie suborn’d if falsely urg’d to swear,
Though torture wait thee, torture firmly bear;
To forfeit honour, think the highest shame,
And life too dearly bought by loss of fame;
Nor, to preserve it, with thy virtue give
That for which only man should wish to live.
For this and the other translations to which no signature is affixed, I am indebted to the friend whose observations are mentioned in notes.]
He repeated the lines with great force and dignity; then added, ‘And, after this, comes Johnny Hoe, with his EARTH GAPING, and his DESTRUCTION CRYING— Pooh!’ †
† [Note: I am sorry that I was unlucky in my quotation. But notwithstanding the acuteness of Dr Johnson’s criticism, and the power of his ridicule, the Tragedy of Douglas still continues to be generally and deservedly admired.]
While we were lamenting the number of ruined religious buildings which we had lately seen, I spoke with peculiar feeling to the miserable neglect of the chapel belonging to the palace of Holyrood House, in which are deposited the remains of many of the kings of Scotland, and of many of our nobility. I said, it was a disgrace to the country that it was not repaired: and particularly complained that my friend Douglas, the representative of a great house, and proprietor of a vast estate, should suffer the sacred spot where his mother lies interred, to be unroofed, and exposed to all the inclemencies of the weather. Dr Johnson, who, I know not how, had formed an opinion on the Hamilton side, in the Douglas cause, slily answered, ‘Sir, sir, don’t be too severe upon the gentleman; don’t accuse him of want of filial piety! Lady Jane Douglas was not HIS mother.’ He roused my zeal so much that I took the liberty to tell him he knew nothing of the cause; which I do most seriously believe was the case.
We were now ‘in a country of bridles and saddles’, and set out fully equipped. The Duke of Argyle was obliging enough to mount Dr Johnson on a stately steed from his grace’s stable. My friend was highly pleased, and Joseph said, ‘He now looks like a bishop.’
We dined at the inn at Tarbat, and at night came to Rosedow, the beautiful seat of Sir James Colquhoun, on the banks of Lochlomond, where I, and any friends whom I have introduced, have ever been received with kind and elegant hospitality.
When I went into Dr Johnson’s room this morning, I observed to him how wonderfully courteous he had been at Inveraray, and said, ‘You were quite a fine gentleman, when with the duchess.’ He answered, in good humour, ‘Sir, I look upon myself as a very polite man’: and he was right, in a proper manly sense of the word. As an immediate proof of it, let me observe, that he would not send back the Duke of Argyle’s horse without a letter of thanks, which I copied.
To his Grace the Duke of ARGYLE.
That kindness which disposed your grace to supply me with the horse, which I have now returned, will make you pleased to hear that he has carried me well.
By my diligence in the little commission with which I was honoured by the duchess, I will endeavour to shew how highly I value the favours which I have received, and how much I desire to be thought,
Your grace’s most obedient,
and most humble servant,
Rosedow, Oct. 29, 1773.
The duke was so attentive to his respectable guest, that on the same day, he wrote him an answer, which was received at Auchinleck:
To Dr JOHNSON, Auchinleck, Ayrshire. Sir,
I am glad to hear your journey from this place was not unpleasant, in regard to your horse. I wish I could have supplied you with good weather, which I am afraid you felt the want of.
The Duchess of Argyle desires her compliments to you, and is much obliged to you for remembering her commission. I am, sir,
Your most obedient humble servant,
Inveraray, Oct. 29, 1773.
I am happy to insert every memorial of the honour done to my great friend. Indeed, I was at all times desirous to preserve the letters which he received from eminent persons, of which, as of all other papers, he was very negligent; and I once proposed to him, that they should be committed to my care, as his Gustos Rotulorum. I wish he had complied with my request, as by that means many valuable writings might have been preserved, that are now lost. †
† [Note: As a remarkable instance of his negligence, I remember some years ago to have found lying loose in his study, and without the cover, which contained the address, a letter to him from Lord Thurlow, to whom he had made an application as Chancellor, in behalf of a poor literary friend. It was expressed in such terms of respect for Dr Johnson, that, in my zeal for his reputation, I remonstrated warmly with him on his strange inattention, and obtained his permission to take a copy of it; by which probably it has been preserved, as the original I have reason to suppose is lost.]
After breakfast, Dr Johnson and I were furnished with a boat, and sailed about upon Lochlomond, and landed on some of the islands which are interspersed. He was much pleased with the scene, which is so well known by the accounts of various travellers, that it is unnecessary for me to attempt any description of it.
I recollect none of his conversation, except that, when talking of dress, he said, ‘Sir, were I to have any thing fine, it should be very fine. Were I to wear a ring, it should not be a bauble, but a stone of great value. Were I to wear a laced or embroidered waistcoat, it should be very rich. I had once a very rich laced waistcoat, which I wore the first night of my tragedy.’
Lady Helen Colquhoun being a very pious woman, the conversation, after dinner, took a religious turn. Her ladyship defended the presbyterian mode of publick worship; upon which Dr Johnson delivered those excellent arguments for a form of prayer which he has introduced into his Journey. I am myself fully convinced that a form of prayer for publick worship is in general most decent and edifying. Solennia verba have a kind of prescriptive sanctity, and make a deeper impression on the mind than extemporaneous effusions, in which, as we know not what they are to be, we cannot readily acquiesce. Yet I would allow also of a certain portion of extempore address, as occasion may require. This is the practice of the French Protestant churches. And although the office of forming supplications to the throne of Heaven is, in my mind, too great a trust to be indiscriminately committed to the discretion of every minister, I do not mean to deny that sincere devotion may be experienced when joining in prayer with those who use no Liturgy.
We were favoured with Sir James Colquhoun’s coach to convey us in the evening to Cameron, the seat of Commissary Smollet. Our satisfaction of finding ourselves again in a comfortable carriage was very great. We had a pleasing conviction of the commodiousness of civilization, and heartily laughed at the ravings of those absurd visionaries who have attempted to persuade us of the superior advantages of a state of nature.
Mr Smollet was a man of considerable learning, with abundance of animal spirits; so that he was a very good companion for Dr Johnson, who said to me, ‘We have had more solid talk here than at any place where we have been.’
I remember Dr Johnson gave us this evening an able and eloquent discourse on the origin of evil, and on the consistency of moral evil with the power and goodness of God. He shewed us how it arose from our free agency, an extinction of which would be a still greater evil than any we experience. I know not that he said any thing absolutely new, but he said a great deal wonderfully well; and perceiving us to be delighted and satisfied, he concluded his harangue with an air of benevolent triumph over an objection which has distressed many worthy minds: This then is the answer to the question, [words in Greek]?’ Mrs Smollet whispered me, that it was the best sermon she had ever heard. Much do I upbraid myself for having neglected to preserve it.
Mr Smollet pleased Dr Johnson, by producing a collection of news-papers in the time of the Usurpation, from which it appeared that all sorts of crimes were very frequent during that horrible anarchy. By the side of the high road to Glasgow, at some distance from his house, he had erected a pillar to the memory of his ingenious kinsman, Dr Smollet; and he consulted Dr Johnson as to an inscription for it. Lord Kames, who, though he had a great store of knowledge, with much ingenuity, and uncommon activity of mind, was no profound scholar, had it seems recommended an English inscription. Dr Johnson treated this with great contempt, saying ‘An English inscription would be a disgrace to Dr Smollet’; and, in answer to what Lord Kames had urged, as to the advantage of its being in English, because it would be generally understood, I observed, that all to whom Dr Smollet’s merit could be an object of respect and imitation, would understand it as well in Latin; and that surely it was not meant for the Highland drovers, or other such people, who pass and repass that way.
We were then shewn a Latin inscription, proposed for this monument. Dr Johnson sat down with an ardent and liberal earnestness to revise it, and greatly improved it by several additions and variations. I unfortunately did not take a copy of it, as it originally stood; but I have happily preserved every fragment of what Dr Johnson wrote:
Quisquis ades, viator,
Vel mente felix, vel studiis cultus,
Immorare paululum memoriae
TOBIAE SMOLLET M.D.
Viri iis virtutibus
Quas in homine et cive
Et laudes, et imiteris,
. . . . .
Postquam mira . . .
Se. . . . . . . . .
. . . .
Tali tantoque viro, suo patrueli,
. . . . ..
Amoris eheul inane monumentum,
In ipsis Leviniae ripis,
Quas primis infans vagitibus personuit,
Versiculisque jam fere moriturus illustravit,
. . . . . . . . .†
† [Note: The epitaph which has been inscribed on the pillar erected on the banks of the Leven, in honour of Dr Smollet, is as follows. The part which was written by Dr Johnson, it appears, has been altered: whether for the better, the reader will judge. The alterations are distinguished by italicks [all caps]
Si lepores ingeniique venam benignam,
Si morum callidissimum pictorem,
Unquam es miratus,
Immorare paululum memoriae
TOBIAE SMOLLET, M.D.
Viri virtutibus HISCE
Quas in homine et cive
Et laudes et imiteris.
Haud mediocriter ornati:
Qui in literis variis versatus.
Postquam felicitate SIBI PROPRIA
Sese posteris commendaverat,
Morte acerba raptus
Anno oetatis 51
Eheul quam procul a patria!
Prope Liburni portum in Italia,
Tali tantoque viro, patrueli suo,
Cui in decursu lampada
Se pottus tradidisse decuit,
Amoris, eheul inane monumentum
In ipsis Leviniae ripis,
Quas VERSICULIS SUB EXITU VITAE ILLUSTRATAS
Primis infans vagitibus personuit,
JACOBUS SMOLLET de Bonhill
Abi et reminscere.
Hoc quidem honore,
Non modo defuncti memoriae,
Verum ettam exemplo, prospectum esse;
Aliis enim, si modo digni sint,
Idem erit virtutis praemium!]
We had this morning a singular proof of Dr Johnson’s quick and retentive memory. Hay’s translation of Martial was lying in a window. I said, I thought it was pretty well done, and shewed him a particular epigram, I think, of ten, but am certain of eight, lines. He read it, and tossed away the book, saying ‘No, it is NOT pretty well.’ As I persisted in my opinion, he said, ‘Why, sir, the original is thus’ (and he repeated it); ‘and this man’s translation is thus,’ and then he repeated that also, exactly, though he had never seen it before, and read it over only once, and that too, without any intention of getting it by heart.
Here a post-chaise, which I had ordered from Glasgow, came for us, and we drove on in high spirits. We stopped at Dunbarton, and though the approach to the castle there is very steep, Dr Johnson ascended it with alacrity, and surveyed all that was to be seen. During the whole of our tour he shewed uncommon spirit, could not bear to be treated like an old or infirm man, and was very unwilling to accept of any assistance, insomuch that, at our landing at Icolmkill, when Sir Allan McLean and I submitted to be carried on men’s shoulders from the boat to the shore, as it could not be brought quite close to land, he sprang into the sea, and waded vigorously out.
On our arrival at the Saracen’s Head Inn, at Glasgow, I was made happy by good accounts from home; and Dr Johnson, who had not received a single letter since we left Aberdeen, found here a great many, the perusal of which entertained him much. He enjoyed in imagination the comforts which we could now command, and seemed to be in high glee. I remember, he put a leg up on each side of the grate, and said, with a mock solemnity, by way of soliloquy, but loud enough for me to hear it, ‘Here am I, an ENGLISH man, sitting by a COAL fire.’
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:52