We got a fresh chaise here, a very good one, and very good horses. We breakfasted at Cullen. They set down dried haddocks broiled, along with our tea. I ate one; but Dr Johnson was disgusted by the sight of them, so they were removed. Cullen has a comfortable appearance, though but a very small town, and the houses mostly poor buildings.
I called on Mr Robertson, who has the charge of Lord Findlater’s affairs, and was formerly Lord Monboddo’s clerk, was three times in France with him, and translated Condamine’s Account of the Savage Girl, to which his lordship wrote a preface, containing several remarks of his own. Robertson said, he did not believe so much as his lordship did; that it was plain to him, the girl confounded what she imagined with what she remembered: that, besides, she perceived Condamine and Lord Monboddo forming theories, and she adapted her story to them.
Dr Johnson said, ‘It is a pity to see Lord Monboddo publish such notions as he has done; a man of sense, and of so much elegant learning. There would be little in a fool doing it; we should only laugh; but when a wise man does it, we are sorry. Other people have strange notions; but they conceal them. If they have tails, they hide them; but Monboddo is as jealous of his tail as a squirrel.’ I shall here put down some more remarks of Dr Johnson’s on Lord Monboddo, which were not made exactly at this time, but come in well from connection. He said, he did not approve of a judge’s calling himself FARMER Burnett, † and going about with a little round hat. He laughed heartily at his lordship’s saying he was an ENTHUSIASTICAL farmer; ‘for,’ said he, ‘what can he do in farming by his ENTHUSIASM?’ Here, however, I think Dr Johnson mistaken. He who wishes to be successful, or happy, ought to be enthusiastical, that is to say, very keen in all the occupations or diversions of life. An ordinary gentleman-farmer will be satisfied with looking at his fields once or twice a day: an enthusiastical farmer will be constantly employed on them; will have his mind earnestly engaged; will talk perpetually of them. But Dr Johnson has much of the nil admirari in smaller concerns. That survey of life which gave birth to his Vanity of Human Wishes early sobered his mind. Besides, so great a mind as his cannot be moved by inferior objects: an elephant does not run and skip like lesser animals.
† [Note: It is the custom in Scotland for the judges of the Court of Session to have the title of LORDS, from their estates: thus Mr Burnett is Lord MONBODDO, as Mr Home was Lord KAMES. There is something a little aukward in this; for they are denominated in deeds by their NAMES, with the addition of one of the Senators of the College of Justice’; and subscribe their Christian and surname, as JAMES BURNETT, HENRY HOME, even in judicial acts.]
Mr Robertson sent a servant with us, to shew us through Lord Findlater’s wood, by which our way was shortened, and we saw some part of his domain, which is indeed admirably laid out. Dr Johnson did not choose to walk through it. He always said, that he was not come to Scotland to see fine places, of which there were enough in England; but wild objects — mountains, waterfalls, peculiar manners; in short, things which he had not seen before. I have a notion that he at no time has had much taste for rural beauties. I have myself very little.
Dr Johnson said, there was nothing more contemptible than a country gentleman living beyond his income, and every year growing poorer and poorer. He spoke strongly of the influence which a man has by being rich. ‘A man,’ said he, ‘who keeps his money, has in reality more use from it, than he can have by spending it.’ I observed that this looked very like a paradox; but he explained it thus: ‘If it were certain that a man would keep his money locked up for ever, to be sure he would have no influence; but, as so many want money, and he has the power of giving it, and they know not but by gaining his favour they may obtain it, the rich man will always have the greatest influence. He again who lavishes his money, is laughed at as foolish, and in a great degree with justice, considering how much is spent from vanity. Even those who partake of a man’s hospitality, have but a transient kindness for him. If he has not the command of money, people know he cannot help them, if he would; whereas the rich man always can, if he will, and for the chance of that, will have much weight.’ BOSWELL. ‘But philosophers and satirists have all treated a miser as contemptible.’ JOHNSON. ‘He is so philosophically; but not in the practice of life.’ BOSWELL. ‘Let me see now — I do not know the instances of misers in England, so as to examine into their influence.’ JOHNSON. ‘We have had few misers in England.’ BOSWELL. ‘There was Lowther.” JOHNSON. ‘Why, sir, Lowther, by keeping his money, had the command of the county, which the family has now lost, by spending it. † I take it, he lent a great deal; and that is the way to have influence, and yet preserve one’s wealth. A man may lend his money upon very good security, and yet have his debtor much under his power.’ BOSWELL. ‘No doubt, sir. He can always distress him for the money; as no man borrows, who is able to pay on demand quite conveniently.’
† [Note: I do not know what was at this time the state of the parliamentary interest of the ancient family of Lowther; a family before the Conquest: but all the nation knows it to be very extensive at present. A due mixture of severity and kindness, oeconomy and munificence, characterizes its present Representative.]
We dined at Elgin, and saw the noble ruins of the cathedral. Though it rained much, Dr Johnson examined them with a most patient attention. He could not here feel any abhorrence at the Scottish reformers, for he had been told by Lord Hailes, that it was destroyed before the Reformation, by the Lord of Badenoch, † who had a quarrel with the bishop. The bishop’s house, and those of the other clergy, which are still pretty entire, do not seem to have been proportioned to the magnificence of the cathedral, which has been of great extent, and had very fine carved work. The ground within the walls of the cathedral is employed as a burying-place. The family of Gordon have their vault here; but it has nothing grand.
† [Note: NOTE, by Lord Hailes: ‘The cathedral of Elgin was burnt by the Lord of Badenoch, because the Bishop of Moray had pronounced an award not to his liking. The indemnification that the see obtained, was that the Lord of Badenoch stood for three days bare footed at the great gate of the cathedral. The story is in the Chartulary of Elgin.’]
We passed Gordon Castle † this forenoon, which has a princely appearance. Fochabers, the neighbouring village, is a poor place, many of the houses being ruinous; but it is remarkable, they have in general orchards well stored with apple-trees. Elgin has what in England are called piazzas, that run in many places on each side of the street. It must have been a much better place formerly. Probably it had piazzas all along the town, as I have seen at Bologna. I approved much of such structures in a town, on account of their conveniency in wet weather. Dr Johnson disapproved of them, ‘because,’ said he, ‘it makes the under story of a house very dark, which greatly over-balances the conveniency, when it is considered how small a part of the year it rains; how few are usually in the street at such times; that many who are might as well be at home; and the little that people suffer, supposing them to be as much wet as they commonly are in walking a street’.
† [Note: I am not sure whether the duke was at home. But, not having the honour of being much known to his grace, I could not have presumed to enter his castle, though to introduce even so celebrated a stranger. We were at any rate in a hurry to get forward to the wildness which we came to see. Perhaps, if this noble family had still preserved that sequestered magnificence which they maintained when Catholicks, corresponding with the Grand Duke of Tuscany, we might have been induced to have procured proper letters of introduction, and devoted some time to the contemplation of venerable superstitious state.]
We fared but ill at our inn here; and Dr Johnson said, this was the first time he had seen a dinner in Scotland that he could not eat.
In the afternoon, we drove over the very heath where Macbeth met the witches, according to tradition. Dr Johnson again solemnly repeated
‘“How far is’t called to Fores? What are these,
So wither’d, and so wild in their attire
That look not like the inhabitants o’ the earth.
And yet are on’t “’
He repeated a good deal more of Macbeth. His recitation was grand and affecting, and, as Sir Joshua Reynolds has observed to me, had no more tone than it should have: it was the better for it. He then parodied the ‘All-hail’ of the witches to Macbeth, addressing himself to me. I had purchased some land called Dalblair; and, as in Scotland it is customary to distinguish landed men by the name of their estates, I had thus two titles, Dalblair and Young Auchinleck. So my friend, in imitation of
All hail Macbeth! hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor!
condescended to amuse himself with uttering
All hail Dalblair! hail to thee, Laird of Auchinleck!
We got to Fores at night, and found an admirable inn, in which Dr Johnson was pleased to meet with a landlord who styled himself ‘Wine-Cooper, from London’.
It was dark when we came to Fores last night; so we did not see what is called King Duncan’s monument. I shall now mark some gleanings of Dr Johnson’s conversation. I spoke of Leonidas, and said there were some good passages in it. JOHNSON. ‘Why, you must SEEK for them.’ He said, Paul Whitehead’s Manners was a poor performance. Speaking of Derrick, he told me he had a kindness for him, and had often said, that if his letters had been written by one of a more established name, they would have been thought very pretty letters.
This morning I introduced the subject of the origin of evil. JOHNSON. ‘Moral evil is occasioned by free will, which implies choice between good and evil. With all the evil that there is, there is no man but would rather be a free agent, than a mere machine without the evil; and what is best for each individual, must be best for the whole. If a man would rather be the machine, I cannot argue with him. He is a different being from me.’ BOSWELL. ‘A man, as a machine, may have agreeable sensations; for instance, he may have pleasure in musick.’ JOHNSON, ‘No, sir, he can not have pleasure in musick; at least no power of producing musick; for he who can produce musick may let it alone: he who can play upon a fiddle may break it: such a man is not a machine.’ This reasoning satisfied me. It is certain, there cannot be a free agent, unless there is the power of being evil as well as good. We must take the inherent possibilities of things into consideration, in our reasonings or conjectures concerning the works of God.
We came to Nairn to breakfast. Though a county town and royal burgh, it is a miserable place. Over the room where we sat, a girl was spinning wool with a great wheel, and singing, an Erse song: ‘I’ll warrant you,’ said Dr Johnson, ‘one of the songs of Ossian.’ He then repeated these lines:
‘“Verse sweetens toil, however rude the sound.
All at her work the village maiden sings;
Nor, while she turns the giddy wheel around
Revolves the sad vicissitude of things.”’
I thought I had heard these lines before. JOHNSON. ‘I fancy not, sir; for they are in a detached poem, the name of which I do not remember, written by one Giffard, a parson.’
I expected Mr Kenneth M’Aulay, the minister of Calder, who published the history of St Kilda, a book which Dr Johnson liked, would have met us here, as I had written to him from Aberdeen. But I received a letter from him, telling me that he could not leave home, as he was to administer the sacrament the following Sunday, and earnestly requesting to see us at his manse. ‘We’ll go,’ said Dr Johnson; which we accordingly did. Mrs M’Aulay received us, and told us her husband was in the church distributing tokens. † We arrived between twelve and one o’clock, and it was near three before he came to us.
† [Note: In Scotland, there is a great deal of preparation before administering the sacrament. The minister of the parish examines the people as to their fitness, and to those of whom he approves gives little pieces of tin, stamped with the name of the parish, as TOKENS, which they must produce before receiving it. This is a species of priestly power, and sometimes may be abused. I remember a lawsuit brought by a person against his parish minister, for refusing him admission to that sacred ordinance.]
Dr Johnson thanked him for his book, and said ‘it was a very pretty piece of topography’. M’Aulay did not seem much to mind the compliment. From his conversation, Dr Johnson was persuaded that he had not written the book which goes under his name. I myself always suspected so; and I have been told it was written by the learned Dr John M’Pherson of Sky, from the materials collected by M’Aulay. Dr Johnson said privately to me, ‘There is a combination in it of which M’Aulay is not capable.’ However, he was exceedingly hospitable; and, as he obligingly promised us a route for our tour through the Western Isles, we agreed to stay with him all night.
After dinner, we walked to the old castle of Calder (pronounced Cawder), the Thane of Cawdor’s seat. I was sorry that my friend, this ‘prosperous gentleman’, was not there. The old tower must be of great antiquity. There is a draw-bridge — what has been a moat — and an ancient court. There is a hawthorn-tree, which rises like a wooden pillar through the rooms of the castle; for, by a strange conceit, the walls have been built round it. The thickness of the walls, the small slaunting windows, and a great iron door at the entrance on the second story as you ascend the stairs, all indicate the rude times in which this castle was erected. There were here some large venerable trees.
I was afraid of a quarrel between Dr Johnson and Mr M’Aulay, who talked slightingly of the lower English clergy. The Doctor gave him a frowning look, and said, ‘This is a day of novelties: I have seen old trees in Scotland, and I have heard the English clergy treated with disrespect.’
I dreaded that a whole evening at Caldermanse would be heavy; however, Mr Grant, an intelligent and well-bred minister in the neighbourhood, was there, and assisted us by his conversation. Dr Johnson, talking of hereditary occupations in the Highlands, said, ‘There is no harm in such a custom as this; but it is wrong to enforce it, and oblige a man to be a taylor or a smith, because his father has been one.’ This custom, however, is not peculiar to our Highlands; it is well known that in India a similar practice prevails.
Mr M’Aulay began a rhapsody against creeds and confessions. Dr Johnson shewed, that ‘what he called “imposition”, was only a voluntary declaration of agreement in certain articles of faith, which a church has a right to require, just as any other society can insist on certain rules being observed by its members. Nobody is compelled to be of the church, as nobody is compelled to enter into a society.’ This was a very clear and just view of the subject: but, M’Aulay could not be driven out of his track. Dr Johnson said, ‘Sir, you are a BIGOT TO LAXNESS.’
Mr M’Aulay and I laid the map of Scotland before us; and he pointed out a rout for us from Inverness, by Fort Augustus, to Glenelg, Sky, Mull, Icolmkill, Lorn, and Inveraray, which I wrote down. As my father was to begin the northern circuit about the 18th of September, it was necessary for us to make our tour with great expedition, so as to get to Auchinleck before he set out, or to protract it, so as not to be there till his return, which would be about the 10th of October. By M’Aulay’s calculation, we were not to land in Lorn till the 20th of September. I thought that the interruptions by bad days, or by occasional excursions, might make it ten days later; and I thought too, that we might perhaps go to Benbecula, and visit Clanranald, which would take a week of itself.
Dr Johnson went up with Mr Grant to the library, which consisted of a tolerable collection; but the Doctor thought it rather a lady’s library, with some Latin books in it by chance, than the library of a clergyman. It had only two of the Latin fathers, and one of the Greek fathers in Latin. I doubted whether Dr Johnson would be present at a Presbyterian prayer. I told Mr M’Aulay so, and said that the Doctor might sit in the library while we were at family worship. Mr M’Aulay said, he would omit it, rather than give Dr Johnson offence: but I would by no means agree that an excess of politeness, even to so great a man, should prevent what I esteem as one of the best pious regulations. I know nothing more beneficial, more comfortable, more agreeable, than that the little societies of each family should regularly assemble, and unite in praise and prayer to our heavenly Father, from whom we daily receive so much good, and may hope for more in a higher state of existence. I mentioned to Dr Johnson the over-delicate scrupulosity of our host. He said, he had no objection to hear the prayer. This was a pleasing surprise to me; for he refused to go and hear Principal Robertson preach. ‘I will hear him,’ said he, ‘if he will get up into a tree and preach; but I will not give a sanction, by my presence, to a Presbyterian assembly.’
Mr Grant having prayed, Dr Johnson said, his prayer was a very good one; but objected to his not having introduced the Lord’s Prayer. He told us, that an Italian of some note in London said once to him, ‘We have in our service a prayer called the Pater Noster, which is a very fine composition. I wonder who is the author of it.’ A singular instance of ignorance in a man of some literature and general inquiry!
Dr Johnson had brought a Sallust with him in his pocket from Edinburgh. He gave it last night to Mr M’Aulay’s son, a smart young lad about eleven years old. Dr Johnson had given an account of the education at Oxford, in all its gradations. The advantage of being servitor to a youth of little fortune struck Mrs M’Aulay much. I observed it aloud. Dr Johnson very handsomely and kindly said, that, if they would send their boy to him, when he was ready for the university, he would get him made a servitor, and perhaps would do more for him. He could not promise to do more; but would undertake for the servitorship. †
† [Note: Dr Johnson did not neglect what he had undertaken. By his interest with the Rev. Dr Adams, master of Pembroke College, Oxford, where he was educated for some time, he obtained a servitorship for young M’Aulay. But it seems he had other views; and I believe went abroad.]
I should have mentioned that Mr White, a Welchman, who has been many years factor (i.e. steward) on the estate of Calder, drank tea with us last night, and upon getting a note from Mr M’Aulay, asked us to his house. We had not time to accept of his invitation. He gave us a letter of introduction to Mr Ferne, master of stores at Fort George. He shewed it to me. It recommended ‘two celebrated gentlemen; no less than Dr Johnson, AUTHOR OF HIS DICTIONARY, and Mr Boswell, known at Edinburgh by the name of Paoli’. He said, he hoped I had no objection to what he had written; if I had, he would alter it. I thought it was a pity to check his effusions, and acquiesced; taking care, however, to seal the letter, that it might not appear that I had read it.
A conversation took place, about saying grace at breakfast (as we do in Scotland) as well as at dinner and supper; in which Dr Johnson said, ‘It is enough if we have stated seasons of prayer; no matter when. A man may as well pray when he mounts his horse, or a woman when she milks her cow, (which Mr Grant told us is done in the Highlands), as at meals; and custom is to be followed.’ †
† [Note: He could not bear to have it thought that, in any instance whatever, the Scots are more pious than the English. I think grace as proper at breakfast as at any other meal. It is the pleasantest meal we have. Dr Johnson has allowed the peculiar merit of breakfast in Scotland.]
We proceeded to Fort George. When we came into the square, I sent a soldier with the letter to Mr Ferne. He came to us immediately, and along with him came Major Brewse of the Engineers, pronounced BRUCE. He said he believed it was originally the same Norman name with Bruce. That he had dined at a house in London, where were three Bruces, one of the Irish line, one of the Scottish line, and himself of the English line. He said he was shewn it in the Herald’s office spelt fourteen different ways. I told him the different spellings of my name. Dr Johnson observed, that there had been great disputes about the spelling of Shakspear’s name; at last it was thought it would be settled by looking at the original copy of his will; but, upon examining it, he was found to have written it himself no less than three different ways.
Mr Ferne and Major Brewse first carried us to wait on Sir Eyre Coote, whose regiment, the 37th, was lying here, and who then commanded the fort. He asked us to dine with him, which we agreed to do.
Before dinner we examined the fort. The Major explained the fortification to us, and Mr Ferne gave us an account of the stores. Dr Johnson talked of the proportions of charcoal and salt-petre in making gunpowder, of granulating it, and of giving it a gloss. He made a very good figure upon these topicks. He said to me afterwards, that he had talked OSTENTATIOUSLY. We reposed ourselves a little in Mr Ferne’s house. He had every thing in neat order as in England; and a tolerable collection of books. I looked into Pennant’s Tour in Scotland. He says little of this fort; but that ‘the barracks, &c. form several streets’. This is aggrandizing. Mr Ferne observed, if he had said they form a square, with a row of buildings before it, he would have given a juster description. Dr Johnson remarked, ‘how seldom descriptions correspond with realities; and the reason is, that people do not write them till some time after, and then their imagination has added circumstances’.
We talked of Sir Adolphus Oughton. The Major said, he knew a great deal for a military man. JOHNSON. ‘Sir, you will find few men, of any profession, who know more. Sir Adolphus is a very extraordinary man; a man of boundless curiosity and unwearied diligence.’
I know not how the Major contrived to introduce the contest between Warburton and Lowth. JOHNSON. ‘Warburton kept his temper all along, while Lowth was in a passion. Lowth published some of Warburton’s letters. Warburton drew HIM on to write some very abusive letters, and then asked his leave to publish them; which he knew Lowth could not refuse, after what he had done. So that Warburton contrived that he should publish, apparently with Lowth’s consent, what could not but shew Lowth in a disadvantageous light.’ †
† [Note: Here Dr Johnson gave us part of a conversation held between a Great Personage and him, in the library at the Queen’s Palace, to the course of which this contest was considered. I have been at great pains to get that conversation as perfectly preserved as possible. It may perhaps at some future time be given to the publick.]
At three the drum beat for dinner. I, for a little while, fancied myself a military man, and it pleased me. We went to Sir Eyre Coote’s, at the governour’s house, and found him a most gentleman-like man. His lady is a very agreeable woman, with an uncommonly mild and sweet tone of voice. There was a pretty large company: Mr Ferne, Major Brewse, and several officers. Sir Eyre had come from the East Indies by land, through the Desarts of Arabia. He told us, the Arabs could live five days without victuals, and subsist for three weeks on nothing else but the blood of their camels, who could lose so much of it as would suffice for that time, without being exhausted. He highly praised the virtue of the Arabs; their fidelity, if they undertook to conduct any person; and said, they would sacrifice their lives rather than let him be robbed. Dr Johnson, who is always for maintaining the superiority of civilized over uncivilized men, said, ‘Why, sir, I can see no superiour virtue in this. A serjeant and twelve men, who are my guard, will die, rather than that I shall be robbed.’ Colonel Pennington, of the 37th regiment, took up the argument with a good deal of spirit and ingenuity. PENNINGTON. ‘But the soldiers are compelled to this, by fear of punishment.’ JOHNSON. ‘Well, sir, the Arabs are compelled by the fear of infamy.’ PENNINGTON. ‘The soldiers have the same fear of infamy, and the fear of punishment besides; so have less virtue; because they act less voluntarily.’ Lady Coote observed very well, that it ought to be known if there was not, among the Arabs, some punishment for not being faithful on such occasions.
We talked of the stage. I observed, that we had not now such a company of actors as in the last age; Wilks, Booth, &c. &c. JOHNSON. ‘You think so, because there is one who excels all the rest so much: you compare them with Garrick, and see the deficiency. Garrick’s great distinction is his universality. He can represent all modes of life, but that of an easy fine-bred gentleman.’ PENNINGTON. ‘He should give over playing young parts.’ JOHNSON. ‘He does not take them now; but he does not leave off those which he has been used to play, because he does them better than any one else can do them. If you had generations of actors, if they swarmed like bees, the young ones might drive off the old. Mrs Gibber, I think, got more reputation than she deserved, as she had a great sameness; though her expression was undoubtedly very fine. Mrs Clive was the best player I ever saw. Mrs Pritchard was a very good one; but she had something affected in her manner: I imagine she had some player of the former age in her eye, which occasioned it.’
Colonel Pennington said, Garrick sometimes failed in emphasis; as for instance, in Hamlet,
I will speak DAGGERS to her; but use NONE,
I will SPEAK daggers to her; but USE none.
We had a dinner of two complete courses, variety of wines, and the regimental band of musick playing in the square, before the window, after it. I enjoyed this day much. We were quite easy and cheerful, Dr Johnson said, ‘I shall always remember this fort with gratitude.’ I could not help being struck with some admiration, at finding upon this barren sandy point, such buildings, such a dinner, such company: it was like enchantment. Dr Johnson, on the other hand, said to me more rationally, that it did not strike HIM as any thing extraordinary; because he knew, here was a large sum of money expended in building a fort; here was a regiment. If there had been less than what we found, it would have surprized him. HE looked coolly and deliberately through all the gradations: my warm imagination jumped from the barren sands to the splendid dinner and brilliant company, to borrow the expression of an absurd poet,
Without ands or ifs,
I leapt from off the sands upon the cliffs.
The whole scene gave me a strong impression of the power and excellence of human art.
We left the fort between six and seven o’clock: Sir Eyre Coote, Colonel Pennington, and several more, accompanied us down stairs, and saw us into our chaise. There could not be greater attention paid to any visitors. Sir Eyre spoke of the hardships which Dr Johnson had before him. BOSWELL. ‘Considering what he has said of us, we must make him feel something rough in Scotland.’ Sir Eyre said to him, ‘You must change your name, sir.’ BOSWELL. ‘Ay, to Dr M’Gregor.’
We got safely to Inverness, and put up at Mackenzie’s inn. Mr Keith, the collector of Excise here, my old acquaintance at Ayr, who had seen us at the fort, visited us in the evening, and engaged us to dine with him next day, promising to breakfast with us, and take us to the English chapel; so that we were at once commodiously arranged.
Not finding a letter here that I expected, I felt a momentary impatience to be at home. Transient clouds darkened my imagination, and in those clouds I saw events from which I shrunk; but a sentence or two of the Rambler’s conversation gave me firmness, and I considered that I was upon an expedition for which I had wished for years, and the recollection of which would be a treasure to me for life.
Mr Keith breakfasted with us. Dr Johnson expatiated rather too strongly upon the benefits derived to Scotland from the Union, and the bad state of our people before it. I am entertained with his copious exaggeration upon that subject; but I am uneasy when people are by, who do not know him as well as I do, and may be apt to think him narrow-minded. † I therefore diverted the subject.
† [Note: It is remarkable that Dr Johnson read this gentle remonstrance, and took no notice of it to me.]
The English chapel, to which we went this morning, was but mean. The altar was a bare fir table, with a coarse stool for kneeling on, covered with a piece of thick sail-cloth doubled, by way of cushion. The congregation was small. Mr Tait, the clergyman, read prayers very well, though with much of the Scotch accent. He preached on ‘Love your Enemies’. It was remarkable that, when talking of the connections amongst men, he said, that some connected themselves with men of distinguished talents, and since they could not equal them, tried to deck themselves with their merit, by being their companions. The sentence was to this purpose. It had an odd coincidence with what might be said of my connecting myself with Dr Johnson.
After church, we walked down to the Quay. We then went to Macbeth’s castle. I had a romantick satisfaction in seeing Dr Johnson actually in it. It perfectly corresponds with Shakspeare’s description, which Sir Joshua Reynolds has so happily illustrated, in one of his notes on our immortal poet:
This castle hath a pleasant seat: the air
Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself
Unto our gentle sense, &c.
Just as we came out of it, a raven perched on one of the chimney-tops, and croaked. Then I repeated
‘ . . . The raven himself is hoarse.
That croaks the fatal enterance of Duncan
Under my battlements.’
We dined at Mr Keith’s. Mrs Keith was rather too attentive to Dr Johnson, asking him many questions about his drinking only water. He repressed that observation, by saying to me, ‘You may remember that Lady Errol took no notice of this.’
Dr Johnson has the happy art (for which I have heard my father praise the old Earl of Aberdeen) of instructing himself, by making every man he meets tell him something of what he knows best. He led Keith to talk to him of the Excise in Scotland, and, in the course of conversation, mentioned that his friend Mr Thrale, the great brewer, paid twenty thousand pounds a year to the revenue; and that he had four casks, each of which holds sixteen hundred barrels — above a thousand hogsheads.
After this there was little conversation that deserves to be remembered. I shall therefore here again glean what I have omitted on former days. Dr Gerard, at Aberdeen, told us, that when he was in Wales, he was shewn a valley inhabited by Danes, who still retain their own language, and are quite a distinct people. Dr Johnson thought it could not be true, or all the kingdom must have heard of it. He said to me, as we travelled, ‘these people, sir, that Gerard talks of, may have somewhat of a PEREGRINITY in their dialect, which relation has augmented to a different language’. I asked him if peregrinity was an English word: he laughed, and said, ‘No.’ I told him this was the second time that I had heard him coin a word. When Foote broke his leg, I observed that it would make him fitter for taking off George Faulkner as Peter Paragragh, poor George having a wooden leg. Dr Johnson at that time said, ‘George will rejoice at the DEPEDITATION of Foote’; and when I challenged that word, laughed, and owned he had made it, and added that he had not made above three or four in his dictionary. †
† [Note: When upon the subject of this PEREGRINITY, he told me some particulars concerning the compilation of his Dictionary, and concerning his throwing off Lord Chesterfield’s patronage, of which very erroneous accounts have been circulated. These particulars, with others which he afterwards gave me — as also his celebrated letter to lord Chesterfield, which he dictated to me — I reserve for his Life.]
Having conducted Dr Johnson to our inn, I begged permission to leave him for a little, that I might run about and pay some short visits to several good people of Inverness. He said to me, ‘You have all the old-fashioned principles, good and bad.’ I acknowledge I have. That of attention to relations in the remotest degree, or to worthy persons, in every state whom I have once known, I inherit from my father. It gave me much satisfaction to hear every body at Inverness speak of him with uncommon regard. Mr Keith and Mr Grant, whom we had seen at Mr M’Aulay’s, supped with us at the inn. We had roasted kid, which Dr Johnson had never tasted before. He relished it much.
This day we were to begin our EQUITATION, as I said; for I would needs make a word too. It is remarkable, that my noble, and to me most constant friend, the Earl of Pembroke (who, if there is too much ease on my part, will please to pardon what his benevolent, gay, social intercourse, and lively correspondence, have insensibly produced) has since hit upon the very same word. The title of the first edition of his lordship’s very useful book was, in simple terms, A Method of Breaking Horses and Teaching Soldiers to Ride. The title of the second edition is, Military Equitation.
We might have taken a chaise to Fort Augustus, but, had we not hired horses at Inverness, we should not have found them afterwards: so we resolved to begin here to ride. We had three horses, for Dr Johnson, myself, and Joseph, and one which carried our portmanteaus, and two Highlanders who walked along with us, John Hay and Lauchland Vass, whom Dr Johnson has remembered with credit in his Journey, though he has omitted their names. Dr Johnson rode very well.
About three miles beyond Inverness, we saw, just by the road, a very complete specimen of what is called a Druid’s temple. There was a double circle, one of very large, the other of smaller stones. Dr Johnson justly observed, that, ‘to go and see one druidical temple is only to see that it is nothing, for there is neither art nor power in it; and seeing one is quite enough’.
It was a delightful day. Lochness, and the road upon the side of it, shaded with birch trees, and the hills above it, pleased us much. The scene was as sequestered and agreeably wild as could be desired, and for a time engrossed all our attention.
To see Dr Johnson in any new situation is always an interesting object to me; and, as I saw him now for the first time on horseback, jaunting about at his ease in quest of pleasure and novelty, the very different occupations of his former laborious life, his admirable productions, his London, his Rambler, &c. &c. immediately presented themselves to my mind, and the contrast made a strong impression on my imagination.
When we had advanced a good way by the side of Lochness, I perceived a little hut, with an old looking woman at the door of it. I thought here might be a scene that would amuse Dr Johnson: so I mentioned it to him. ‘Let’s go in,’ said he. We dismounted, and we and our guides entered the hut. It was a wretched little hovel of earth only, I think, and for a window had only a small hole, which was stopped with a piece of turf, that was taken out occasionally to let in light. In the middle of the room or space which we entered, was a fire of peat, the smoke going out at a hole in the roof. She had a pot upon it, with goat’s flesh, boiling. There was at one end under the same roof, but divided by a kind of partition made of wattles, a pen or fold in which we saw a good many kids.
Dr Johnson was curious to know where she slept. I asked one of the guides, who questioned her in Erse. She answered with a tone of emotion, saying (as he told us) she was afraid we wanted to go to bed to her. This coquetry, or whatever it may be called, of so wretched a being, was truly ludicrous. Dr Johnson and I afterwards were merry upon it. I said, it was he who alarmed the poor woman’s virtue. ‘No, sir,’ said he, ‘she’ll say, ‘“There came a wicked young fellow, a wild dog, who I believe would have ravished me, had there not been with him a grave old gentleman, who repressed him: but when he gets out of the sight of his tutor, I’ll warrant you he’ll spare no woman he meets, young or old.”’ ‘No, sir,’ I replied, ‘she’ll say, “There was a terrible ruffian who would have forced me, had it not been for a civil decent young man who, I take it, was an angel sent from heaven to protect me.”’
Dr Johnson would not hurt her delicacy, by insisting on ‘seeing her bedchamber’, like Archer in The Beaux’ Stratagem. But my curiosity was more ardent; I lighted a piece of paper, and went into the place where the bed was. There was a little partition of wicker, rather more neatly done than that for the fold, and close by the wall was a kind of bedstead of wood with heath upon it by way of bed; at the foot of which I saw some sort of blankets or covering rolled up in a heap. The woman’s name was Fraser; so was her husband’s. He was a man of eighty. Mr Fraser of Balnain allows him to live in this hut, and keep sixty goats, for taking care of his woods, where he then was. They had five children, the eldest only thirteen. Two were gone to Inverness to buy meal; the rest were looking after the goats. This contented family had four stacks of barley, twenty-four sheaves in each. They had a few fowls. We were informed that they lived all the spring without meal, upon milk and curds and whey alone. What they get for their goats, kids, and fowls, maintains them during the rest of the year.
She asked us to sit down and take a dram. I saw one chair. She said she was as happy as any woman in Scotland. She could hardly speak any English except a few detached words. Dr Johnson was pleased at seeing, for the first time, such a state of human life. She asked for snuff. It is her luxury, and she uses a great deal. We had none; but gave her six pence a piece. She then brought out her whisky bottle. I tasted it; as did Joseph and our guides: so I gave her sixpence more. She sent us away with many prayers in Erse.
We dined at a publick house called the General’s Hut, from General Wade, who was lodged there when he commanded in the North. Near it is the meanest parish kirk I ever saw. It is a shame it should be on a high road. After dinner, we passed through a good deal of mountainous country. I had known Mr Trapaud, the deputy governour of Fort Augustus, twelve years ago, at a circuit at Inverness, where my father was judge. I sent forward one of our guides, and Joseph, with a card to him, that he might know Dr Johnson and I were coming up, leaving it to him to invite us or not. It was dark when we arrived. The inn was wretched. Government ought to build one, or give the resident governour an additional salary; as in the present state of things, he must necessarily be put to a great expence in entertaining travellers. Joseph announced to us, when we alighted, that the governour waited for us at the gate of the fort. We walked to it. He met us, and with much civility conducted us to his house. It was comfortable to find ourselves in a well built little square, and a neatly furnished house, in good company, and with a good supper before us; in short, with all the conveniencies of civilized life in the midst of rude mountains. Mrs Trapaud, and the governour’s daughter, and her husband. Captain Newmarsh, were all most obliging and polite. The governour had excellent animal spirits, the conversation of a soldier, and somewhat of a Frenchman, to which his extraction entitles him. He is brother to General Cyrus Trapaud. We passed a very agreeable evening.
The governour has a very good garden. We looked at it, and at the rest of the fort, which is but small, and may be commanded from a variety of hills around. We also looked at the galley or sloop belonging to the fort, which sails upon the Loch, and brings what is wanted for the garrison. Captains Urie and Darippe, of the 15th regiment of foot, breakfasted with us. They had served in America, and entertained Dr Johnson much with an account of the Indians. He said, he could make a very pretty book out of them, were he to stay there. Governour Trapaud was much struck with Dr Johnson. ‘I like to hear him,’ said he; ‘it is so majestick. I should be glad to hear him speak in your court.’ He pressed us to stay dinner; but I considered that we had a rude road before us, which we could more easily encounter in the morning, and that it was hard to say when we might get up, were we to sit down to good entertainment, in good company: I therefore begged the governour would excuse us. Here too, I had another very pleasing proof how much my father is regarded. The governour expressed the highest respect for him, and bade me tell him, that, if he would come that way on the northern circuit, he would do him all the honours of the garrison.
Between twelve and one we set out, and travelled eleven miles, through a wild country, till we came to a house in Glenmorison, called Anoch, kept by a M’Queen. † Our landlord was a sensible fellow: he had learnt his grammar, and Dr Johnson justly observed, that ‘a man is the better for that as long as he lives.’ There were some books here: a Treatise against Drunkenness, translated from the French; a volume of the Spectator; a volume of Prideaux’s Connection, and Cyrus’s Travels. M’Queen said he had more volumes; and his pride seemed to be much piqued that we were surprised at his having books.
† [Note: A M’Queen is a Highland mode of expression. An Englishman would say ONE M’Queen. But where there are clans or tribes of men, distinguished by patronymick surnames, the individuals of each are considered as if they were of different species, at least as much as nations are distinguished; so that a M’QUEEN, a M’DONALD, a M’LEAN, is said, as we say a Frenchman, an Italian, a Spaniard.]
Near to this place we had passed a party of soldiers, under a serjeant’s command, at work upon the road. We gave them two shillings to drink. They came to our inn, and made merry in the barn. We went and paid them a visit, Dr Johnson saying, ‘Come, let’s go and give ’em another shilling a-piece.’ We did so; and he was saluted ‘My Lord’ by all of them. He is really generous, loves influence, and has the way of gaining it. He said, ‘I am quite feudal, sir.’ Here I agree with him. I said, I regretted I was not the head of a clan; however, though not possessed of such an hereditary advantage, I would always endeavour to make my tenants follow me. I could not be a PATRIARCHAL chief, but I would be a FEUDAL chief.
The poor soldiers got too much liquor. Some of them fought, and left blood upon the spot, and cursed whisky next morning. The house here was built of thick turfs, and thatched with thinner turfs and heath. It had three rooms in length, and a little room which projected. Where we sat, the side-walls were WAINSCOTTED, as Dr Johnson said, with wicker, very neatly plaited. Our landlord had made the whole with his own hands.
After dinner, M’Queen sat by us a while, and talked with us. He said, all the Laird of Glenmorison’s people would bleed for him, if they were well used; but that seventy men had gone out of the Glen to America. That he himself intended to go next year; for that the rent of his farm, which twenty years ago was only five pounds, was now raised to twenty pounds. That he could pay ten pounds, and live; but no more. Dr Johnson said, he wished M’Queen Laird of Glenmorison, and the laird to go to America. M’Queen very generously answered, he should be sorry for it; for the laird could not shift for himself in America as he could do.
I talked of the officers whom we had left to day; how much service they had seen, and how little they got for it, even of fame. JOHNSON. ‘Sir, a soldier gets as little as any man can get.’ BOSWELL. ‘Goldsmith has acquired more fame than all the officers last war, who were not Generals.’ JOHNSON. ‘Why, sir, you will find ten thousand fit to do what they did, before you find one who does what Goldsmith has done. You must consider, that a thing is valued according to its rarity. A pebble that paves the street is in itself more useful than the diamond upon a lady’s finger.’ I wish our friend Goldsmith had heard this.
I yesterday expressed my wonder that John Hay, one of our guides, who had been pressed aboard a man of war, did not choose to continue in it longer than nine months, after which time he got off. JOHNSON. ‘Why, sir, no man will be a sailor, who has contrivance enough to get himself into a jail; for, being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned.’
We had tea in the afternoon, and our landlord’s daughter, a modest civil girl, very neatly drest, made it for us. She told us, she had been a year at Inverness, and learnt reading and writing, sewing, knotting, working lace, and pastry. Dr Johnson made her a present of a book which he had bought at Inverness. †
† [Note: This book has given rise to much inquiry, which has ended in ludicrous surprise. Several ladies, wishing to learn the kind of reading which the great and good Dr Johnson esteemed most fit for a young woman, desired to know what book he had selected for this Highland nymph. They never adverted,’ said he, ‘that I had no CHOICE in the matter. I have said that I presented her with a book which I HAPPENED to have about me.’ And what was this book? My readers, prepare your features for merriment. It was Cocker’s Arithmetick! Wherever this was mentioned, there was a loud laugh, at which Dr Johnson, when present used sometimes to be a little angry. One day, when we were dining at General Oglethorpe’s, where we had many a valuable day, I ventured to interrogate him, ‘But, sir, is it not somewhat singular that you should HAPPEN to have Cocker’s Arithmetick about you on your journey? What made you buy such a book at Inverness?’ He gave me a very sufficient answer. ‘Why, sir, if you are to have but one book with you upon a Journey, let it be a book of science. When you have read through a book of entertainment, you know it, and it can do no more for you; but a book of science is inexhaustible.’]
The room had some deals laid across the joists, as a kind of ceiling. There were two beds in the room, and a woman’s gown was hung on a rope to make a curtain of separation between them. Joseph had sheets, which my wife had sent with us, laid on them. We had much hesitation, whether to undress, or lie down with our clothes on. I said at last. ‘I’ll plunge in! There will be less harbour for vermin about me, when I am stripped!’ Dr Johnson said, he was like one hesitating whether to go into the cold bath. At last he resolved too. I observed, he might serve a campaign. JOHNSON. ‘I could do all that can be done by patience: whether I should have strength enough, I know not.’ He was in excellent humour. To see the Rambler as I saw him tonight, was really an amusement. I yesterday told him, I was thinking of writing a poetical letter to him. On his Return from Scotland, in the stile of Swift’s humorous epistle in the character of Mary Gulliver to her husband, Captain Lemuel Gulliver, on his return to England from the country of the Houyhnhums:
At early morn I to the market haste,
Studious in ev’ry thing to please thy taste.
A curious FOWL and SPARAGRASS I chose;
(For I remember you were fond of those:)
Three shillings cost the first, the last sev’n groats;
Sullen you turn from both, and call for OATS.
He laughed, and asked in whose name I would write it. I said, in Mrs Thrale’s. He was angry. ‘Sir, if you have any sense of decency or delicacy, you won’t do that!’ BOSWELL. ‘Then let it be in Cole’s, the landlord of the Mitre tavern; where we have so often sat together.’ JOHNSON. ‘Ay, that may do.’
After we had offered up our private devotions, and had chatted a little from our beds, Dr Johnson said, ‘God bless us both, for Jesus Christ’s sake! Good night!’ I pronounced ‘Amen.’ He fell asleep immediately. I was not so fortunate for a long time. I fancied myself bit by innumerable vermin under the clothes; and that a spider was travelling from the wainscot towards my mouth. At last I fell into insensibility.
I awaked very early. I began to imagine that the landlord, being about to emigrate, might murder us to get our money, and lay it upon the soldiers in the barn. Such groundless fears will arise in the mind, before it has resumed its vigour after sleep! Dr Johnson had had the same kind of ideas; for he told me afterwards, that he considered so many soldiers, having seen us, would be witnesses, should any harm be done, and that circumstance, I suppose, ‘he considered as a security. When I got up, I found him sound asleep in his miserable stye, as I may call it, with a coloured handkerchief tied round his head. With difficulty could I awaken him. It reminded me of Henry the Fourth’s fine soliloquy on sleep; for there was here as ‘uneasy a pallet’ as the poet’s imagination could possibly conceive.
A red coat of the 15th regiment, whether officer, or only serjeant, I could not be sure, came to the house, in his way to the mountains to shoot deer, which it seems the Laird of Glenmorison does not hinder any body to do. Few, indeed, can do them harm. We had him to breakfast with us. We got away about eight. M’Queen walked some miles to give us a convoy. He had, in 1745, joined the Highland army at Fort Augustus, and continued in it till after the battle of Culloden. As he narrated the particulars of that ill-advised, but brave attempt, I could not refrain from tears. There is a certain association of ideas in my mind upon that subject, by which I am strongly affected. The very Highland names, or the sound of a bagpipe; will stir my blood, and fill me with a mixture of melancholy and respect for courage; with pity for an unfortunate and superstitious regard for antiquity, and thoughtless inclination for war; in short, with a crowd of sensations with which sober rationality has nothing to do.
We passed through Glensheal, with prodigious mountains on each side. We saw where the battle was fought in the year 1719; Dr Johnson owned he was now in a scene of as wild nature as he could see; but he corrected me sometimes in my inaccurate observations. ‘There,’ said I, ‘is a mountain like a cone.’ JOHNSON. ‘No, sir. It would be called so in a book; and when a man comes to look at it, he sees it is not so. It is indeed pointed at the top; but one side of it is larger than the other.’ Another mountain I called immense. JOHNSON. ‘No; it is no more than a considerable protuberance.’
We came to a rich green valley, comparatively speaking, and stopped a while to let our horses rest and eat grass. †
† [Note: Dr Johnson, in his Journey, thus beautifully describes his situation here: ‘I sat down on a bank, such as a writer of romance might have delighted to feign. I had, indeed, no trees to whisper over my head; but a clear rivulet streamed at my feet. The day was calm, the air soft, and all was rudeness, silence, and solitude. Before me, and on either side, were high hills, which, by hindering the eye from ranging, forced the mind to find entertainment for itself. Whether I spent the hour well, I know not: for here I first conceived the thought of this narration.’ The Critical Reviewers, with a spirit and expression worthy of the subject, say, ‘We congratulate the publick on the event with which this quotation concludes, and are fully persuaded that the hour in which the entertaining traveller conceived this narrative will be considered, by every reader of taste, as a fortunate event in the annals of literature. Were it suitable to the talk in which we are at present engaged, to indulge ourselves in a poetical flight, we would invoke the winds of the Caledonian mountains to blow for ever, with their softest breezes, on the bank where our author reclined, and request of Flora, that it might be perpetually adorned with the gayest and most fragrant productions of the year.’]
We soon afterwards came to Auchnasheal, a kind of rural village, a number of cottages being built together, as we saw all along in the Highlands. We passed many miles this day without seeing a house, but only little summer-huts, called shielings. Evan Campbell, servant to Mr Murchison, factor to the Laird of Macleod in Glenelg, ran along with us to-day. He was a very obliging fellow. At Auchnasheal, we sat down on a green turf-seat at the end of a house; they brought us out two wooden dishes of milk, which we tasted. One of them was frothed like a syllabub. I saw a woman preparing it with such a stick as is used for chocolate, and in the same manner. We had a considerable circle about us, men, women and children, all M’Craas, Lord Seaforth’s people. Not one of them could speak English. I observed to Dr Johnson, it was much the same as being with a tribe of Indians. JOHNSON. ‘Yes, sir; but not so terrifying.’ I gave all who chose it, snuff and tobacco. Governour Trapaud had made us buy a quantity at Fort Augustus, and put them up in small parcels. I also gave each person a bit of wheat bread, which they had never tasted before. I then gave a penny apiece to each child. I told Dr Johnson of this; upon which he called to Joseph and our guides, for change for a shilling, and declared that he would distribute among the children. Upon this being announced in Erse, there was a great stir; not only did some children come running down from neighbouring huts, but I observed one black-haired man, who had been with us all along, had gone off, and returned, bringing a very young child. My fellow traveller then ordered the children to be drawn up in a row; and he dealt about his copper, and made them and their parents all happy. The poor M’Craas, whatever may be their present state, were of considerable estimation in the year 1715, when there was a line in a song.
And aw the brave M’Craas are coming.†
† [Note: The M’Craas, or Macraes, were since that time brought into the king’s army, by the late Lord Seaforth. When they lay in Edinburgh castle in 1778, and were ordered to embark for Jersey, they with a number of other men in the regiment, for different reasons, but especially an apprehension that they were to be sold to the East-India Company, though enlisted not to be sent out of Great-Britain without their own consent, made a determined mutiny and encamped upon the lofty mountain, Arthur’s Seat, where they remained three days and three nights; bidding defiance to all the force in Scotland. At last they came down, and embarked peaceably, having obtained formal articles of capitulation, signed by Sir Adolphus Oughton, commander in chief, General Skene, deputy commander, the Duke of Buccleugh, and the Earl of Dunmore, which quieted them. Since the secession of the Commons of Rome to the Mons Sacer, a more spirited exertion has not been made. I gave great attention to it from first to last, and have drawn up a particular account of it. Those brave fellows have since served their country effectually at Jersey, and also in the East Indies, to which, alter being better informed, they voluntarily agreed to go.]
There was great diversity in the faces of the circle around us: Some were as black and wild in their appearance as any American savages whatever. One woman was as comely almost as the figure of Sappho, as we see it painted. We asked the old woman, the mistress of the house where we had the milk, (which by the bye, Dr Johnson told me, for I did not observe it myself, was built not of turf, but of stone,) what we should pay. She said, what we pleased. One of our guides asked her, in Erse, if a shilling was enough. She said, ‘Yes.’ But some of the men bade her ask more. This vexed me; because it shewed a desire to impose upon strangers, as they knew that even a shilling was high payment. The woman, however, honestly persisted in her price; so I gave her half a crown. Thus we had one good scene of life uncommon to us. The people were very much pleased, gave us many blessings, and said they had not had such a day since the old Laird of Macleod’s time.
Dr Johnson was much refreshed by this repast. He was pleased when I told him he would make a good chief. He said, ‘Were I a chief, I would dress my servants better than myself, and knock a fellow down if he looked saucy to a Macdonald in rags: but I would not treat men as brutes. I would let them know why all of my clan were to have attention paid to them. I would tell my upper servants why, and make them tell the others.’
We rode on well, till we came to the high mountain called the Rattakin, by which time both Dr Johnson and the horses were a good deal fatigued. It is a terrible steep climb, notwithstanding the road is formed slanting along it; however, we made it out. On the top of it we met Captain M’Leod of Balmenoch (a Dutch officer who had come from Sky) riding with his sword slung across him. He asked, ‘Is this Mr Boswell?’ which was a proof that we were expected. Going down the hill on the other side was no easy task. As Dr Johnson was a great weight, the two guides agreed that he should ride the horses alternately. Hay’s were the two best, and the Doctor would not ride but upon one or other of them, a black or a brown. But, as Hay complained much after ascending the Rattakin, the Doctor was prevailed with to mount one of Vass’s greys. As he rode upon it down hill, it did not go well; and he grumbled. I walked on a little before, but was excessively entertained with the method taken to keep him in good humour. Hay led the horse’s head, talking to Dr Johnson as much as he could; and (having heard him, in the forenoon, express a pastoral pleasure on seeing the goats browzing) just when the Doctor was uttering his displeasure, the fellow cried, with a very Highland accent, ‘See such pretty goats!’ Then he whistled, WHU! and made them jump. Little did he conceive what Doctor Johnson was. Here now was a common ignorant Highland clown imagining that he could divert, as one does a child, DR SAMUEL JOHNSON! The ludicrousness, absurdity, and extraordinary contrast between what the fellow fancied, and the reality, was truly comick. It grew dusky; and we had a very tedious ride for what was called five miles; but I am sure would measure ten. We had no conversation. I was riding forward to the inn at Glenelg, on the shore opposite to Sky, that I might take proper measures, before Dr Johnson, who was now advancing in dreary silence, Hay leading his horse, should arrive. Vass also walked by the side of his horse, and Joseph followed behind: as therefore he was thus attended, and seemed to be in deep meditation, I thought there could be no harm in leaving him for a little while. He called me back with a tremendous shout, and was really in a passion with me for leaving him. I told him my intentions, but he was not satisfied, and said, ‘Do you know, I should as soon have thought of picking a pocket, as doing so.’ BOSWELL. ‘I am diverted with you, sir.’ JOHNSON. ‘Sir, I could never be diverted with incivility. Doing such a thing, makes one lose confidence in him who has done it, as one cannot tell what he may do next.’ His extraordinary warmth confounded me so much, that I justified myself but lamely to him; yet my intentions were not improper. I wished to get on, to see how we were to be lodged, and how we were to get a boat; all which I thought I could best settle myself, without his having any trouble. To apply his great mind to minute particulars, is wrong: it is like taking an immense balance, such as is kept on quays for weighing cargoes of ships, to weigh a guinea. I knew I had neat little scales, which would do better; and that his attention to every thing which falls in his way, and his uncommon desire to be always in the right, would make him weigh, if he knew of the particulars: it was right therefore for me to weigh them, and let him have them only in effect. I however continued to ride by him, finding he wished I should do so.
As we passed the barracks at Bernea, I looked at them wishfully, as soldiers have always every thing in the best order: but there was only a serjeant and a few men there. We came on to the inn at Glenelg. There was no provender for our horses: so they were sent to grass, with a man to watch them. A maid shewed us up stairs into a room damp and dirty, with bare walls, a variety of bad smells, a coarse black greasy fir table, and forms of the same kind; and out of a wretched bed started a fellow from his sleep, like Edgar in King Lear, ‘Poor Tom’s a-cold’. †
† [Note: It is amusing to observe the different images which this being presented to Dr Johnson and me. The Doctor, in his Journey, compares him to a Cyclops.]
This inn was furnished with not a single article that we could either eat or drink; but Mr Murchison, factor to the Laird of Macleod in Glenelg, sent us a bottle of rum and some sugar, with a polite message, to acquaint us, that he was very sorry that he did not hear of us till we had passed his house, otherwise he should have insisted on our sleeping there that night; and that, if he were not obliged to set out for Inverness early next morning, he would have waited upon us. Such extraordinary attention from this gentleman, to entire strangers, deserves the most honourable commemoration.
Our bad accommodation here made me uneasy, and almost fretful. Dr Johnson was calm. I said, he was so from vanity. JOHNSON. ‘No, sir, it is from philosophy.’ It pleased me to see that the Rambler could practise so well his own lessons.
I resumed the subject of my leaving him on the road, and endeavoured to defend it better. He was still violent upon that head, and said, ‘Sir, had you gone on, I was thinking that I should have returned with you to Edinburgh, and then have parted from you, and never spoken to you more.’
I sent for fresh hay, with which we made beds for ourselves, each in a room, equally miserable. Like Wolfe, we had a ‘choice of difficulties’. Dr Johnson made things easier by comparison. At M’Queen’s, last night, he observed, that few were so well lodged in a ship. To-night he said, we were better than if we had been upon the hill. He lay down buttoned up in his great coat. I had my sheets spread on the hay, and my clothes and great coat laid over me, by way of blankets.
I had slept ill. Dr Johnson’s anger had affected me much. I considered that, without any bad intention, I might suddenly forfeit his friendship; and was impatient to see him this morning. I told him how uneasy he had made me, by what he had said, and reminded him of his own remark at Aberdeen, upon old friendships being hastily broken off. He owned, he had spoken to me in passion; that he would not have done what he threatened; and that, if he had, he should have been ten times worse than I; that forming intimacies, would indeed be ‘limning the water’, were they liable to such sudden dissolution; and he added, ‘Let’s think no more on’t.’ BOSWELL. ‘Well then, sir, I shall be easy. Remember, I am to have fair warning in case of any quarrel. You are never to spring a mine upon me. It was absurd in me to believe you.’ JOHNSON. ‘You deserved about as much, as to believe me from night to morning.’ After breakfast, we got into a boat for Sky. It rained much when we set off, but cleared up as we advanced. One of the boatmen, who spoke English, said, that a mile at land was two miles at sea. I then observed, that from Glenelg to Armidale in Sky, which was our present course, and is called twelve, was only six miles: but this he could not understand. ‘Well,’ said Dr Johnson, ‘never talk to me of the native good sense of the Highlanders. Here is a fellow who calls one mile two, and yet cannot comprehend that twelve such imaginary miles make in truth but six.’
We reached the shore of Armidale before one o’clock. Sir Alexander M’Donald came down to receive us. He and his lady (formerly Miss Bosville of Yorkshire) were then in a house built by a tenant at this place, which is in the district of Slate, the family mansion here having been burned in Sir Donald Macdonald’s time.
The most ancient seat of the chief of the Macdonalds in the Isle of Sky was at Duntulm, where there are the remains of a stately castle. The principal residence of the family is now at Mugstot, at which there is a considerable building. Sir Alexander and Lady Macdonald had come to Armidale in their way to Edinburgh, where it was necessary for them to be soon after this time.
Armidale is situated on a pretty bay of the narrow sea, which flows between the main land of Scotland and the Isle of Sky. In front there is a grand prospect of the rude mountains of Moidart and Knoidart. Behind are hills gently rising and covered with a finer verdure than I expected to see in this climate, and the scene is enlivened by a number of little clear brooks.
Sir Alexander Macdonald having been an Eton scholar, and being a gentleman of talents, Dr Johnson had been very well pleased with him in London. But my fellow traveller and I were now full of the old Highland spirit, and were dissatisfied at hearing of racked rents and emigration; and finding a chief not surrounded by his clan. Dr Johnson said, ‘Sir, the Highland chiefs should not be allowed to go farther south than Aberdeen. A strong-minded man, like Sir James Macdonald, may be improved by an English education; but in general, they will be tamed into insignificance.’
We found here Mr Janes of Aberdeenshire, a naturalist. Janes said he had been at Dr Johnson’s in London, with Ferguson the astronomer. JOHNSON. ‘It is strange that, in such distant places, I should meet with any one who knows me. I should have thought I might hide myself in Sky.’
This day proving wet, we should have passed our time very uncomfortably, had we not found in the house two chests of books, which we eagerly ransacked. After dinner, when I alone was left at table with the few Highland gentlemen who were of the company, having talked with very high respect of Sir James Macdonald, they were all so much affected as to shed tears. One of them was Mr Donald Macdonald, who had been lieutenant of grenadiers in the Highland regiment, raised by Colonel Montgomery, now Earl of Eglintoune, in the war before last; one of those regiments which the late Lord Chatham prided himself in having brought from ‘the mountains of the north’: by doing which he contributed to extinguish in the Highlands the remains of disaffection to the present Royal Family. From this gentleman’s conversation, I first learnt how very popular his Colonel was among the Highlanders; of which I had such continued proofs, during the whole course of my tour, that on my return I could not help telling the noble Earl himself, that I did not before know how great a man he was.
We were advised by some persons here to visit Rasay, in our way to Dunvegan, the seat of the Laird of Macleod. Being informed that the Rev. Mr Donald M’Queen was the most intelligent man in Sky, and having been favoured with a letter of introduction to him, by the learned Sir James Foulis, I sent it to him by an express, and requested he would meet us at Rasay; and at the same time enclosed a letter to the Laird of Macleod, informing him that we intended in a few days to have the honour of waiting on him at Dunvegan.
Dr Johnson this day endeavoured to obtain some knowledge of the state of the country; but complained that he could get no distinct information about any thing, from those with whom he conversed.
My endeavours to rouse the English-bred chieftain, in whose house we were, to the feudal and patriarchal feelings, proving ineffectual, Dr Johnson this morning tried to bring him to our way of thinking. JOHNSON. ‘Were I in your place, sir, in seven years I would make this an independant island. I would roast oxen whole, and hang out a flag as a signal to the Macdonalds to come and get beef and whisky.’ Sir Alexander was still starting difficulties. JOHNSON. ‘Nay, sir; if you are born to object, I have done with you. Sir, I would have a magazine of arms.’ SIR ALEXANDER. ‘They would rust.’ JOHNSON. ‘Let there be men to keep them clean. Your ancestors did not use to let their arms rust.’
We attempted in vain to communicate to him a portion of our enthusiasm. He bore with so polite a good-nature our warm, and what some might call Gothick, expostulations, on this subject, that I should not forgive myself, were I to record all that Dr Johnson’s ardour led him to say. This day was little better than a blank.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:52