It was a storm of wind and rain; so we could not set out. I wrote some of this Journal, and talked awhile with Dr Johnson in his room, and passed the day, I cannot well say how, but very pleasantly. I was here amused to find Mr Cumberland’s comedy of the Fashionable Lover, in which he has very well drawn a Highland character, Colin M’Cleod, of the same name with the family under whose roof we now were. Dr Johnson was much pleased with the Laird of Macleod, who is indeed a most promising youth, and with a noble spirit struggles with difficulties, and endeavours to preserve his people. He has been left with an incumbrance of forty thousand pounds debt, and annuities to the amount of thirteen hundred pounds a year. Dr Johnson said, ‘If he gets the better of all this, he’ll be a hero; and I hope he will. I have not met with a young man who had more desire to learn, or who has learnt more. I have seen nobody that I wish more to do a kindness to than Macleod.’ Such was the honourable elogium, on this young chieftain, pronounced by an accurate observer, whose praise was never lightly bestowed.
There is neither justice of peace, nor constable in Rasay. Sky has Mr M’Cleod of Ulinish, who is the sheriff substitute, and no other justice of peace. The want of the execution of justice is much felt among the islanders. Macleod very sensibly observed, that taking away the heritable jurisdictions had not been of such service in the islands, as was imagined. They had not authority enough in lieu of them. What could formerly have been settled at once, must now either take much time and trouble, or be neglected. Dr Johnson said, ‘A country is in a bad state, which is governed only by laws; because a thousand things occur for which laws cannot provide, and where authority ought to interpose. Now destroying the authority of the chiefs set the people loose. It did not pretend to bring any positive good, but only to cure some evil; and I am not well enough acquainted with the country to know what degree of evil the heritable jurisdictions occasioned.’ I maintained hardly any; because the chiefs generally acted right, for their own sakes.
Dr Johnson was now wishing to move. There was not enough of intellectual entertainment for him, after he had satisfyed his curiosity, which he did, by asking questions, till he had exhausted the island; and where there was so numerous a company, mostly young people, there was such a flow of familiar talk, so much noise, and so much singing and dancing, that little opportunity was left for his energetick conversation. He seemed sensible of this; for when I told him how happy they were at having him there, he said, ‘Yet we have not been able to entertain them much.’ I was fretted, from irritability of nerves, by M’Cruslick’s too obstreperous mirth. I complained of it to my friend, observing we should be better if he was gone. ‘No, sir,’ said he. ‘He puts something into our society, and takes nothing out of it.’ Dr Johnson, however, had several opportunities of instructing the company; but I am sorry to say, that I did not pay sufficient attention to what passed, as his discourse now turned chiefly on mechanicks, agriculture and such subjects, rather than on science and wit. Last night Lady Rasay shewed him the operation of wawking cloth, that is, thickening it in the same manner as is done by a mill. Here it is performed by women, who kneel upon the ground, and rub it with both their hands, singing an Erse song all the time. He was asking questions while they were performing this operation, and, amidst their loud and wild howl, his voice was heard even in the room above.
They dance here every night. The queen of our ball was the eldest Miss Macleod, of Rasay, an elegant well-bred woman, and celebrated for her beauty over all those regions, by the name of Miss Flora Rasay. † There seemed to be no jealousy, no discontent among them; and the gaiety of the scene was such, that I for a moment doubted whether unhappiness had any place in Rasay. But my delusion was soon dispelled, by recollecting the following lines of my fellow-traveller:
Yet hope not life from grief or danger free,
Nor think the doom of man revers’d for thee!
† [Note: She had been some time at Edinburgh, to which she again went, and was married to my worthy neighbour, Colonel Mure Campbell, now Earl of Loudoun; but she died soon afterwards, leaving one daughter.]
It was a beautiful day, and although we did not approve of travelling on Sunday, we resolved to set out, as we were in an island from whence one must take occasion as it serves. Macleod and Talisker sailed in a boat of Rasay’s for Sconser, to take the shortest way to Dunvegan. M’Cruslick went with them to Sconser, from whence he was to go to Slate, and so to the main land. We were resolved to pay a visit at Kingsburgh, and see the celebrated Miss Flora Macdonald, who is married to the present Mr Macdonald of Kingsburgh; so took that road, though not so near. All the family, but Lady Rasay, walked down to the shore to see us depart. Rasay himself went with us in a large boat, with eight oars, built in his island; as did Mr Malcolm M’Cleod, Mr Donald M’Queen, Dr Macleod, and some others. We had a most pleasant sail between Rasay and Sky; and passed by a cave, where Martin says fowls were caught by lighting fire in the mouth of it. Malcolm remembers this. But it is not now practised, as few fowls come into it.
We spoke of death. Dr Johnson on this subject observed, that the boastings of some men, as to dying easily, were idle talk, proceeding from partial views. I mentioned Hawthornden’s Cypress Grove, where it is said that the world is a mere show; and that it is unreasonable for a man to wish to continue in the show-room, after he has seen it. Let him go cheerfully out, and give place to other spectators. JOHNSON. ‘Yes, sir, if he is sure he is to be well, after he goes out of it. But if he is to grow blind after he goes out of the show-room, and never to see any thing again; or if he does not know whither he is to go next, a man will not go cheerfully out of a show-room. No wise man will be contented to die, if he thinks he is to go into a state of punishment. Nay, no wise man will be contented to die, if he thinks he is to fall into annihilation: for however unhappy any man’s existence may be, he yet would rather have it, than not exist at all. No; there is no rational principle by which a man can die contented, but a trust in the mercy of God, through the merits of Jesus Christ.’ This short sermon, delivered with an earnest tone, in a boat upon the sea, which was perfectly calm, on a day appropriated to religious worship, while every one listened with an air of satisfaction, had a most pleasing effect upon my mind.
Pursuing the same train of serious reflection, he added, that it seemed certain that happiness could not be found in this life, because so many had tried to find it, in such a variety of ways, and had not found it.
We reached the harbour of Portree, in Sky, which is a large and good one. There was lying in it a vessel to carry off the emigrants, called the Nestor. It made a short settlement of the differences between a chief and his clan:
. . . Nestor componere lites
Inter Peleiden festinat & inter Atriden.
We approached her, and she hoisted her colours. Dr Johnson and Mr M’Queen remained in the boat: Rasay and I, and the rest went on board of her. She was a very pretty vessel, and, as we were told, the largest in Clyde. Mr Harrison, the captain shewed her to us. The cabin was commodious, and even elegant. There was a little library, finely bound. Portree has its name from King James the Fifth having landed there in his tour through the Western Isles, Ree in Erse being King, as Re is in Italian; so it is Port-Royal. There was here a tolerable inn. On our landing, I had the pleasure of finding a letter from home; and there were also letters to Dr Johnson and me, from Lord Elibank, which had been sent after us from Edinburgh. His lordship’s letter to me was as follows:
I flew to Edinburgh the moment I heard of Mr Johnson’s arrival; but so defective was my intelligence, that I came too late. It is but justice to believe, that I could never forgive myself, nor deserve to be forgiven by others, if I was to foil in any mark of respect to that very great genius. — I hold him in the highest veneration: for that very reason I was resolved to take no share in the merit, perhaps guilt, of inticing him to honour this country with a visit. — I could not persuade myself there was any thing in Scotland worthy to have a Summer of Samuel Johnson bestowed on it; but since he has done us that compliment, for heaven’s sake inform me of your motions. I will attend them most religiously; and though I should regret to let Mr Johnson go a mile out of his way on my account, old as I am, I shall be glad to go five hundred miles to enjoy a day of his company. Have the charity to send a council-post † with intelligence; the post does not suit us in the country. At any rate write to me. I will attend you in the north, when I shall know where to find you.
My dear Boswell,
Obedient humble servant,
August 21st, 1773.
† [Note: A term in Scotland for a special messenger, such as was formerly sent with dispatches by the lords of the council.]
The letter to Dr Johnson was in these words:
I was to have kissed your hands at Edinburgh, the moment I heard of you; but you were gone.
I hope my friend Boswell will inform me of your motions. It will be cruel to deprive me an instant of the honour of attending you. As I value you more than any King in Christendom, I will perform that duty with infinitely greater alacrity than any courtier. I can contribute but little to your entertainment; but, my sincere esteem for you gives me some tide to the opportunity of expressing it.
I dare say you are by this time sensible that things are pretty much the same, as when Buchanan complained of being born solo et seculo inerudito. Let me hear of you, and be persuaded that none of your admirers is more sincerely devoted to you, than,
Your most obedient,
And most humble servant,
Dr Johnson, on the following Tuesday, answered for both of us, thus:
On the rugged shore of Skie, I had the honour of your lordship’s letter, and can with great truth declare, that no place is so gloomy but that it would be cheered by such a testimony of regard, from a mind so well qualified to estimate characters, and to deal out approbation in its due proportions. If I have more than my share, it is your lordship’s fault; for I have always reverenced your judgment too much, to exalt myself in your presence by any false pretensions.
Mr Boswell and I are at present at the disposal of the winds, and therefore cannot fix the time at which we shall have the honour of seeing your lordship. But we should either of us think ourselves injured by the supposition that we would miss your lordship’s conversation, when we could enjoy it; for I have often declared that I never met you without going away a wiser man.
I am, my Lord,
Your lordship’s most obedient
And most humble servant,
At Portree, Mr Donald M’Queen went to church and officiated in Erse, and then came to dinner. Dr Johnson and I resolved that we should treat the company, so I played the landlord, or master of the feast, having previously ordered Joseph to pay the bill.
Sir James Macdonald intended to have built a village here, which would have done great good. A village is like a heart to a country. It produces a perpetual circulation, and gives the people an opportunity to make profit of many little articles, which would otherwise be in a good measure lost. We had here a dinner, et praeterea nihil. Dr Johnson did not talk. When we were about to depart, we found that Rasay had been before-hand with us, and that all was paid: I would fain have contested this matter with him, but seeing him resolved, I declined it. We parted with cordial embraces from him and worthy Malcolm. In the evening Dr Johnson and I remounted our horses, accompanied by Mr M’Queen and Dr Macleod. It rained very hard. We rode what they call six miles, upon Rasay’s lands in Sky, to Dr Macleod’s house. On the road Dr Johnson appeared to be somewhat out of spirits. When I talked of our meeting Lord Elibank, he said, ‘I cannot be with him much. I long to be again in civilized life; but can stay but for a short while’ (he meant at Edinburgh). He said, ‘Let us go to Dunvegan to-morrow.’ ‘Yes,’ said I, ‘if it is not a deluge.’ ‘At any rate,’ he replied. This shewed a kind of fretful impatience; nor was it to be wondered at, considering our disagreeable ride. I feared he would give up Mull and Icolmkill, for he said something of his apprehensions of being detained by bad weather in going to Mull and Iona. However I hoped well. We had a dish of tea at Dr Macleod’s, who had a pretty good house, where was his brother, a half-pay officer. His lady was a polite, agreeable woman. Dr Johnson said, he was glad to see that he was so well married, for he had an esteem for physicians. The doctor accompanied us to Kingsburgh, which is called a mile farther; but the computation of Sky has no connection whatever with real distance.
I was highly pleased to see Dr Johnson safely arrived at Kingsburgh, and received by the hospitable Mr Macdonald, who, with a most respectful attention, supported him into the house. Kingsburgh was completely the figure of a gallant highlander, exhibiting ‘the graceful mien and manly looks’, which our popular Scotch song has justly attributed to that character. He had his tartan plaid thrown about him, a large blue bonnet with a knot of black ribband like a cockade, a brown short coat of a kind of duffil, a tartan waistoat with gold buttons and gold button-holes, a bluish philibeg, and tartan hose. He had jet black hair tied behind, and was a large stately man, with a steady sensible countenance.
There was a comfortable parlour with a good fire, and a dram went round. By and by supper was served, at which there appeared the lady of the house, the celebrated Miss Flora Macdonald. She is a little woman, of a genteel appearance, and uncommonly mild and well bred. To see Dr Samuel Johnson, the great champion of the English Tories, salute Miss Flora Macdonald in the isle of Sky, was a striking sight; for though somewhat congenial in their notions, it was very improbable they should meet here.
Miss Flora Macdonald (for so I shall call her) told me, she heard upon the main land, as she was returning home about a fortnight before, that Mr Boswell was coming to Sky, and one Mr Johnson, a young English buck, with him. He was highly entertained with this fancy. Giving an account of the afternoon which we passed at Anock, he said, ‘I, being a BUCK, had miss in to make tea.’ He was rather quiescent tonight, and went early to bed. I was in a cordial humour, and promoted a cheerful glass. The punch was excellent. Honest Mr M’Queen observed that I was in high glee, ‘my governour being gone to bed’. Yet in reality my heart was grieved, when I recollected that Kingsburgh was embarrassed in his affairs, and intended to go to America. However, nothing but what was good was present, and I pleased myself in thinking that so spirited a man should be well every where. I slept in the same room with Dr Johnson. Each had a neat bed, with tartan curtains, in an upper chamber.
The room where we lay was a celebrated one. Dr Johnson’s bed was the very bed in which the grandson of the unfortunate King James the Second † lay, on one of the nights after the failure of his rash attempt in 1745-6, while he was eluding the pursuit of the emissaries of government, which had offered thirty thousand pounds as a reward for apprehending him.
† [Note: I do not call him the Prince of Wales, or the Prince, because I am quite satisfied that the right which the House of Stuart had to the throne is extinguished. I do not call him the Pretender, because it appears to me as an insult to one who is still alive, and, I suppose, thinks very differently. It may be a parliamentary expression; but it is not a gentlemanly expression. I KNOW, and I exult in having it in my power to tell, that the ONLY PERSON in the world who is intitled to be offended at this delicacy, thinks and feels as I do; and has liberality of mind and generosity of sentiment enough to approve of my tenderness for what even HAS BEEN Blood Royal. That he is A PRINCE by COURTESY, cannot be denied; because his mother was the daughter of Sobiesky, king of Poland. I shall, therefore, ON THAT ACCOUNT ALONE, distinguish him by the name of PRINCE CHARLES EDWARD.]
To see Dr Samuel Johnson lying in that bed, in the isle of Sky, in the house of Miss Flora Macdonald, struck me with such a group of ideas as it is not easy for words to describe, as they passed through the mind. He smiled and said, ‘I have had no ambitious thoughts in it.’ †
† [Note: This perhaps, was said in allusion to some lines ascribed to Pope, on his lying, at John Duke of Argyle’s, at Adderbury, in the same bed in which Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, had slept.
With no poetick ardour fir’d,
I press the bed where Wilmot lay.
That here he liv’d; or here expir’d.
Begets no numbers, grave or gay.]
The room was decorated with a great variety of maps and prints. Among others, was Hogarth’s print of Wilkes grinning, with the cap of liberty on a pole by him. That too was a curious circumstance in the scene this morning; such a contrast was Wilkes to the above group. It reminded me of Sir William Chambers’s Account of Oriental Gardening, in which we are told all odd, strange, ugly, and even terrible objects, are introduced, for the sake of variety; a wild extravagance of taste which is so well ridiculed in the celebrated Epistle to him. The following lines of that poem immediately occurred to me;
Here too, O king of vengeance! in thy fane,
Tremendous Wilkes shall rattle his gold chain.
Upon the table in our room I found in the morning a slip of paper, on which Dr Johnson had written with his pencil these words:
Quantum cedat virtutibus aurum. †
† [Note: With virtue weigh’d, what worthless trash is gold!]
What he meant by writing them I could not tell. † He had caught cold a day or two ago, and the rain yesterday having made it worse, he was become very deaf. At breakfast he said, he would have given a good deal rather than not have lain in that bed. I owned he was the lucky man; and observed, that without doubt it had been contrived between Mrs Macdonald and him. She seemed to acquiesce; adding, ‘You know young BUCKS are always favourites of the ladies.’ He spoke of Prince Charles being here, and asked Mrs Macdonald, ‘WHO was with him? We were told, madam, in England, there was one Miss Flora Macdonald with him.’ She said, ‘they were very right’; and perceiving Dr Johnson’s curiosity, though he had delicacy enough not to question her, very obligingly entertained him with a recital of the particulars which she herself knew of that escape, which does so much honour to the humanity, fidelity, and generosity, of the Highlanders. Dr Johnson listened to her with placid attention, and said, ‘All this should be written down.’
† [Note: Since the first edition of this book, an ingenious friend has observed to me, that Dr Johnson had probably been thinking on the reward which was offered by government for the apprehension of the grandson of King James II and that he meant by these words to express his admiration of the Highlanders, whose fidelity and attachment had resisted the golden temptation that had been held out to them.]
From what she told us, and from what I was told by others personally concerned, and from a paper of information which Rasay was so good as to send me, at my desire, I have compiled the following abstract, which, as it contains some curious anecdotes, will, I imagine not be uninteresting to my readers, and even, perhaps, be of some use to future historians.
Prince Charles Edward, after the battle of Culloden, was conveyed to what is called the Long Island, where he lay for some time concealed. But intelligence having been obtained where he was, and a number of troops having come in quest of him, it became absolutely necessary for him to quit that country without delay. Miss Flora Macdonald, then a young lady, animated by what she thought the sacred principle of loyalty, offered, with the magnanimity of a heroine, to accompany him in an open boat to Sky, though the coast they were to quit was guarded by ships. He dressed himself in women’s clothes, and passed as her supposed maid, by the name of Betty Bourke, an Irish girl. They got off undiscovered, though several shots were fired to bring them to, and landed at Mugstot, the seat of Sir Alexander Macdonald. Sir Alexander was then at Fort Augustus, with the Duke of Cumberland; but his lady was at home. Prince Charles took his post upon a hill near the house. Flora Macdonald waited on Lady Margaret, and acquainted her of the enterprise in which she was engaged. Her ladyship, whose active benevolence was ever seconded by superior talents, shewed a perfect presence of mind, and readiness of invention, and at once settled that Prince Charles should be conducted to old Rasay, who was himself concealed with some select friends. The plan was instantly communicated to Kingsburgh, who was dispatched to the hill to inform the Wanderer, and carry him refreshments. When Kingsburgh approached, he started up, and advanced, holding a large knotted stick, and in appearance ready to knock him down, till he said, ‘I am Macdonald of Kingsburgh, come to serve your highness.’ The Wanderer answered, ‘It is well,’ and was satisfied with the plan.
Flora Macdonald dined with Lady Margaret, at whose table there sat an officer of the army, stationed here with a party of soldiers, to watch for Prince Charles in case of his flying to the isle of Sky. She afterwards often laughed in good humour with this gentleman, on her having so well deceived him.
After dinner, Flora Macdonald on horseback, and her supposed maid, and Kingsburgh, with a servant carrying some linen, all on foot, proceeded towards that gentleman’s house. Upon the road was a small rivulet which they were obliged to cross. The Wanderer, forgetting his assumed sex, that his clothes might not be wet, held them up a great deal too high. Kingsburgh mentioned this to him, observing, it might make a discovery. He said he would be more careful for the future. He was as good as his word; for the next brook they crossed, he did not hold up his clothes at all, but let them float upon the water. He was very awkward in his female dress. His size was so large, and his strides so great, that some women whom they met reported that they had seen a very big woman, who looked like a man in woman’s clothes, and that perhaps it was (as they expressed themselves) the PRINCE, after whom so much search was making.
At Kingsburgh he met with a most cordial reception; seemed gay at supper, and after it indulged himself in a cheerful glass with his worthy host. As he had not had his clothes off for a long time, the comfort of a good bed was highly relished by him, and he slept soundly till next day at one o’clock.
The mistress of Corrichatachin told me, that in the forenoon she went into her father’s room, who was also in bed, and suggested to him her apprehensions that a party of the military might come up, and that his guest had better not remain here too long. Her father said, ‘Let the poor man repose himself after his fatigues; and as for me, I care not, though they take off this old grey head ten or eleven years sooner than I should die in the course of nature.’ He then wrapped himself in the bed-clothes, and again fell fast asleep.
On the afternoon of that day, the Wanderer, still in the same dress, set out for Portree, with Flora Macdonald and a man servant. His shoes being very bad, Kingsburgh provided him with a new pair, and taking up the old ones, said, ‘I will faithfully keep them till you are safely settled at St James’s. I will then introduce myself by shaking them at you, to put you in mind of your night’s entertainment and protection under my roof.’ He smiled, and said, ‘Be as good as your word!’ Kingsburgh kept the shoes as long as he lived. After his death, a zealous Jacobite gentleman gave twenty guineas for them. Old Mrs Macdonald, after her guest had left the house, took the sheets in which he had lain, folded them carefully, and charged her daughter that they should be kept unwashed, and that, when she died, her body should be wrapped in them as a winding sheet. Her will was religiously observed.
Upon the road to Portree, Prince Charles changed his dress, and put on man’s clothes again; a tartan short coat and a waistcoat, with philibeg and short hose, a plaid, and a wig and bonnet.
Mr Donald M’Donald, called Donald Roy, had been sent express to the present Rasay, then the young laird, who was at that time at his sister’s house, about three miles from Portree, attending his brother, Dr Macleod, who was recovering of a wound he had received at the battle of Culloden. Mr M’Donald communicated to young Rasay the plan of conveying the Wanderer to where old Rasay was; but was told that old Rasay had fled to Knoidart, a part of Glengary’s estate. There was then a dilemma what should be done. Donald Roy proposed that he should conduct the Wanderer to the main land; but young Rasay thought it too dangerous at that time, and said it would be better to conceal him in the island of Rasay, till old Rasay could be informed where he was, and give his advice what was best. But the difficulty was, how to get him to Rasay. They could not trust a Portree crew, and all the Rasay boats had been destroyed, or carried off by the military except two belonging to Malcolm M’Leod, which he had concealed somewhere.
Dr Macleod being informed of this difficulty, said he would risk his life once more for Prince Charles; and it having occurred, that there was a little boat upon a fresh water lake in the neighbourhood, young Rasay and Dr Macleod, with the help of some women, brought it to the sea, by extraordinary exertion, across a Highland mile of land, one half of which was bog, and the other a steep precipice.
These gallant brothers, with the assistance of one little boy, rowed the small boat to Rasay, where they were to endeavour to find Captain M’Leod, as Malcolm was then called, and get one of his good boats, with which they might return to Portree, and receive the Wanderer; or, in case of not finding him, they were to make the small boat serve, though the danger was considerable.
Fortunately, on their first landing, they found their cousin Malcolm, who, with the utmost alacrity, got ready one of his boats, with two strong men. John M’Kenzie, and Donald M’Friar. Malcolm, being the oldest man, and most cautious, said, that as young Rasay had not hitherto appeared in the unfortunate business, he ought not to run any risk; but that Dr Macleod and himself, who were already publickly engaged, should go on this expedition. Young Rasay answered, with an oath, that he would go, at the risk of his life and fortune. ‘In God’s name then,’ said Malcolm, ‘let us proceed.’ The two boatmen, however, now stopped short, till they should be informed of their destination; and M’Kenzie declared he would not move an oar till he knew where they were going. Upon which they were both sworn to secrecy; and the business being imparted to them, they were eager to put off to sea without loss of time. The boat soon landed about half a mile from the inn at Portree.
All this was negotiated before the Wanderer got forward to Portree. Malcolm M’Leod, and M’Friar, were dispatched to look for him. In a short time he appeared, and went into the publick house. Here Donald Roy, whom he had seen at Mugstot, received him, and informed him of what had been concerted. He wanted silver for a guinea, but the landlord had only thirteen shillings. He was going to accept of this for his guinea; but Donald Roy very judiciously observed, that it would discover him to be some great man; so he desisted. He slipped out of the house, leaving his fair protectress, whom he never again saw; and Malcolm Macleod was presented to him by Donald Roy, as a captain in his army. Young Rasay and Dr Macleod had waited, in impatient anxiety, in the boat. When he came, their names were announced to him. He would not permit the usual ceremonies of respect, but saluted them as his equals.
Donald Roy staid in Sky, to be in readiness to get intelligence, and give an alarm in case the troops should discover the retreat to Rasay; and Prince Charles was then conveyed in a boat to that island in the night. He slept a little upon the passage, and they landed about day-break. There was some difficulty in accommodating him with a lodging, as almost all the houses in the island had been burnt by soldiery. They repaired to a little hut, which some shepherds had lately built, and having prepared it as well as they could, and made a bed of heath for the stranger, they kindled a fire, and partook of some provisions which had been sent with him from Kingsburgh. It was observed, that he would not taste wheat-bread, or brandy, while oat-bread and whisky lasted; ‘for these,’ said he, ‘are my own country’s bread and drink’. This was very engaging to the Highlanders.
Young Rasay being the only person of the company that durst appear with safety, he went in quest of something fresh for them to eat; but though he was amidst his own cows, sheep, and goats, he could not venture to take any of them for fear of a discovery, but was obliged to supply himself by stealth. He therefore caught a kid, and brought it to the hut in his plaid, and it was killed and drest, and furnished them a meal which they relished much. The distressed Wanderer, whose health was now a good deal impaired by hunger, fatigue, and watching, slept a long time, but seemed to be frequently disturbed. Malcolm told me he would start from broken slumbers, and speak to himself in different languages, French, Italian, and English. I must however acknowledge, that it is highly probable that my worthy friend Malcolm did not know precisely the difference between French and Italian. One of his expressions in English was, ‘O God! Poor Scotland!’
While they were in the hut, M’Kenzie and M’Friar, the two boatmen, were placed as sentinels upon different eminences; and one day an incident happened, which must not be omitted. There was a man wandering about the island, selling tobacco. Nobody knew him, and he was suspected to be a spy. M’Kenzie came running to the hut, and told that this suspected person was approaching. Upon which the three gentlemen, young Rasay, Dr Macleod, and Malcom, held a council of war upon him, and were unanimously of opinion that he should instantly be put to death. Prince Charles, at once assuming a grave and even severe countenance, said, ‘God forbid that we should take away a man’s life, who may be innocent, while we can preserve our own.’ The gentlemen however persisted in their resolution, while he as strenuously continued to take the merciful side. John M’Kenzie, who sat watching at the door of the hut, and overheard the debate, said in Erse, ‘Well, well; he must be shot. You are the king, but we are the parliament, and will do what we choose.’ Prince Charles, seeing the gentlemen smile, asked what the man had said, and being told it in English, he observed that he was a clever fellow, and, notwithstanding the perilous situation in which he was, laughed loud and heartily. Luckily the unknown person did not perceive that there were people in the hut, at least did not come to it, but walked on past it, unknowing of his risk. It was afterwards found out that he was one of the Highland army, who was himself in danger. Had he come to them, they were resolved to dispatch him; for, as Malcolm said to me, ‘We could not keep him with us, and we durst not let him go. In such a situation, I would have shot my brother, if I had not been sure of him.’ John M’Kenzie was at Rasay’s house, when we were there.† About eighteen years before, he hurt one of his legs when dancing, and being obliged to have it cut off, he now was going about with a wooden leg. The story of his being a Member of Parliament is not yet forgotten. I took him out a little way from the house, gave him a shilling to drink Rasay’s health, and led him into a detail of the particulars which I have just related. With less foundation, some writers have traced the idea of a parliament, and of the British constitution, in rude and early times. I was curious to know if he had really heard, or understood, any thing of that subject, which, had he been a greater man, would probably have been eagerly maintained. ‘Why, John,’ said I, ‘did you think the king should be controuled by a parliament?’ He answered, ‘I thought, sir, there were many voices against one.’
† [Note: This old Scottish Member of Parliament, I am Informed, is still living (1785).]
The conversation then turning on the times, the Wanderer said, that to be sure, the life he had led of late was a very hard one; but he would rather live in the way he now did, for ten years, than fall into the hands of his enemies. The gentlemen asked him, what he thought his enemies would do with him, should he have the misfortune to fall into their hands. He said, he did not believe they would dare to take his life publickly, but he dreaded being privately destroyed by poison or assassination. He was very particular in his inquiries about the wound which Dr Macleod had received at the battle of Culloden, from a ball which entered at one shoulder, and went cross to the other. The doctor happened still to have on the coat which he wore on that occasion. He mentioned, that he himself had his horse shot under him at Culloden; that the ball hit the horse about two inches from his knee, and made him so unruly that he was obliged to change him for another. He threw out some reflections on the conduct of the disastrous affair at Culloden, saying, however, that perhaps it was rash in him to do so. I am now convinced that his suspicions were groundless; for I have had a good deal of conversation upon the subject with my very worthy and ingenious friend, Mr Andrew Lumisden, who was under secretary to Prince Charles, and afterwards principal secretary to his father at Rome, who, he assured me, was perfectly satisfied both of the abilities and honour of the generals who commanded the highland army on that occasion. Mr Lumisden has written an account of the three battles in 1745-6, at once accurate and classical. Talking of the different Highland corps, the gentlemen who were present wished to have his opinion which were the best soldiers. He said, he did not like comparisons among those corps: they were all best.
He told his conductors, he did not think it advisable to remain long in any one place; and that he expected a French ship to come for him to Lochbroom, among the Mackenzies. It then was proposed to carry him in one of Malcolm’s boats to Lochbroom, though the distance was fifteen leagues coastwise. But he thought this would be too dangerous, and desired that at any rate, they might first endeavour to obtain intelligence. Upon which young Rasay wrote to his friend, Mr M’Kenzie of Applecross, but received an answer, that there was no appearance of any French ship.
It was therefore resolved that they should return to Sky, which they did, and landed in Strath, where they reposed in a cow-house belonging to Mr Niccolson of Scorbreck. The sea was very rough, and the boat took in a good deal of water. The Wanderer asked if there was danger, as he was not used to such a vessel. Upon being told there was not, he sung an Erse song with much vivacity. He had by this time acquired a good deal of the Erse language.
Young Rasay was now dispatched to where Donald Roy was, that they might get all the intelligence they could; and the Wanderer, with much earnestness, charged Dr Macleod to have a boat ready, at a certain place about seven miles off, as he said he intended it should carry him upon a matter of great consequence; and gave the doctor a case, containing a silver spoon, knife, and fork, saying, ‘keep you that till I see you’, which the doctor understood to be two days from that time. But all these orders were only blinds; for he had another plan in his head, but wisely thought it safest to trust his secrets to no more persons than was absolutely necessary. Having then desired Malcolm to walk with him a little way from the house, he soon opened his mind, saying, ‘I deliver myself to you. Conduct me to the Laird of M’Kinnon’s country.’ Malcolm objected that it was very dangerous, as so many parties of soldiers were in motion. He answered. ‘There is nothing now to be done without danger.’ He then said, that Malcolm must be the master, and he the servant; so he took the bag, in which his linen was put up, and carried it on his shoulder; and observing that his waistcoat, which was of scarlet tartan, with a gold twist button, was finer than Malcolm’s, which was of a plain ordinary tartan, he put on Malcolm’s waistcoat, and gave him his; remarking at the same time, that it did not look well that the servant should be better dressed than the master.
Malcolm, though an excellent walker, found himself excelled by Prince Charles, who told him, he should not much mind the parties that were looking for him, were he once but a musquet shot from them; but that he was somewhat afraid of the highlanders who were against him. He was well used to walking in Italy, in pursuit of game; and he was even now so keen a sportsman, that, having observed some partridges, he was going to take a shot; but Malcolm cautioned him against it, observing that the firing might be heard by the tenders who were hovering upon the coast.
As they proceeded through the mountains, taking many a circuit to avoid any houses, Malcolm, to try his resolution, asked him what they should do, should they fall in with a party of soldiers: he answered. ‘Fight to be sure!’ Having asked Malcolm if he should be known in his present dress, and Malcolm having replied he would, he said, ‘Then I’ll blacken my face with powder.’ ‘That,’ said Malcolm, ‘would discover you at once.’
‘Then,’ said he, ‘I must be put in the greatest dishabille possible.’ So he pulled off his wig, tied a handkerchief round his head, and put his night-cap over it, tore the ruffles from his shirt, took the buckles out of his shoes, and made Malcolm fasten them with strings; but still Malcolm thought he would be known. ‘I have so odd a face,’ said he, ‘that no man ever saw me but he would know me again.’
He seemed unwilling to give credit to the horrid narrative of men being massacred in cold blood, after victory had declared for the army commanded by the Duke of Cumberland. He could not allow himself to think that a general could be so barbarous.
When they came within two miles of M’Kinnon’s house, Malcolm asked if he chose to see the laird. ‘No,’ said he, ‘by no means. I know M’Kinnon to be as good and as honest a man as any in the world, but he is not fit for my purpose at present. You must conduct me to some other house; but let it be a gentleman’s house.’ Malcolm then determined that they should go to the house of his brother-in-law, Mr John M’Kinnon, and from thence be conveyed to the main land of Scotland, and claim the assistance of Macdonald of Scothouse. The Wanderer at first objected to this, because Scothouse was cousin to a person of whom he had suspicions. But he acquiesced in Malcolm’s opinion.
When they were near Mr John M’Kinnon’s house, they met a man of the name of Ross, who had been a private soldier in the Highland army. He fixed his eyes steadily on the Wanderer in his disguise, and having at once recognized him, he clapped his hands, and exclaimed, ‘Alas! is this the case?’ Finding that there was now a discovery, Malcolm asked, ‘What’s to be done?’ ‘Swear him to secrecy,’ answered Prince Charles. Upon which Malcolm drew his dirk, and on the naked blade, made him take a solemn oath, that he would say nothing of his having seen the Wanderer, till his escape should be made publick.
Malcolm’s sister, whose house they reached pretty early in the morning, asked him who the person was that was along with him. He said it was one Lewis Caw, from Crieff, who being a fugitive like himself, for the same reason, he had engaged him as his servant, but that he had fallen sick. ‘Poor man!’ said she, ‘I pity him. At the same time my heart warms to a man of his appearance.’ Her husband was gone a little way from home; but was expected every minute to return. She set down to her brother a plentiful Highland breakfast. Prince Charles acted the servant very well, sitting at a respectful distance, with his bonnet off. Malcolm then said to him, ‘Mr Caw, you have as much need of this as I have; there is enough for us both: you had better draw nearer and share with me.’ Upon which he rose, made a profound bow, sat down at table with his supposed master, and eat very heartily. After this there came in an old woman, who, after the mode of ancient hospitality, brought warm water, and washed Malcolm’s feet. He desired her to wash the feet of the poor man who attended him. She at first seemed averse to this, from pride, as thinking him beneath her, and in the periphrastick language of the highlanders and the Irish, said warmly, ‘Though I wash your father’s son’s feet, why should I wash his father’s son’s feet?’ She was however persuaded to do it.
They then went to bed, and slept for some time; and when Malcolm awaked, he was told that Mr John M’Kinnon, his brother-in-law, was in sight. He sprang out to talk to him before he shoulld see Prince Charles. After saluting him, Malcolm, pointing to the sea, said, ‘What, John, if the prince should be prisoner on board one of those tenders?’ ‘God forbid!’ replied John. ‘What if we had him here?’ said Malcolm. ‘I wish we had,’ answered John; ‘we should take care of him.’ ‘Well, John,’ said Malcolm, ‘he is in your house.’ John, in a transport of joy, wanted to run directly in, and pay his obeisance; but Malcolm stopped him, saying, ‘Now is your time to behave well, and do nothing that can discover him.’ John composed himself, and having sent away all his servants upon different errands, he was introduced into the presence of his guest, and was then desired to go and get ready a boat lying near his house, which, though but a small leaky one, they resolved to take, rather than go to the Laird of M’Kinnon. John M’Kinnon, however, thought otherwise; and upon his return told them, that his chief and Lady M’Kinnon were coming in the laird’s boat. Prince Charles said to his trusty Malcolm. ‘I am sorry for this, but must make the best of it.’ M’Kinnon then walked up from the shore, and did homage to the Wanderer. His lady waited in a cave, to which they all repaired, and were entertained with cold meat and wine. Mr Malcolm M’Leod being now superseded by the Laird of M’Kinnon, desired leave to return, which was granted him, and Prince Charles wrote a short note, which he subscribed ‘James Thompson’, informing his friends that he had got away from Sky, and thanking them for their kindness; and he desired this might be speedily conveyed to young Rasay and Dr Macleod, that they might not wait longer in expectation of seeing him again. He bade a cordial adieu to Malcolm, and insisted on his accepting of a silver stock-buckle, and ten guineas from his purse, though, as Malcolm told me, it did not appear to contain above forty. Malcolm at first begged to be excused, saying, that he had a few guineas at his service; but Prince Charles answered, ‘You will have need of money. I shall get enough when I come upon the main land.’
The Laird of M’Kinnon then conveyed him to the opposite coast of Knoidart. Old Rasay, to whom intelligence had been sent, was crossing at the same time to Sky; but as they did not know of each other, and each had apprehensions, the two boats kept aloof.
These are the particulars which I have collected concerning the extraordinary concealment and escapes of Prince Charles, in the Hebrides. He was often in imminent danger. The troops traced him from the Long Island, across Sky, to Portree, but there lost him.
Here I stop, having received no farther authentic information of his fatigues and perils before he escaped to France. Kings and subjects may both take a lesson of moderation from the melancholy fate of the House of Stuart; that kings may not suffer degradation and exile, and subjects may not be harrassed by the evils of a disputed succession.
Let me close the scene on that unfortunate House with the elegant and pathetick reflections of Voltaire, in his Histoire Generale. ‘Que les hommes prives,’ says that brilliant writer, speaking of Prince Charles, ‘qui se croyent malheureux, jettent les yeux sur ce prince et ses ancetres.’
In another place he thus sums up the sad story of the family in general:
II n’y a aucun exemple dans l’histoire d’une maison si longtems infortunee. Le premier des Rois d’Ecosse, qui eut le nom de Jacques, apres avoir ete dix-huit ans prisonnier en Angleterre, mourut assassine, avec sa femme, par la main de ses sujets. Jacques II, son fils, fut tue a vingt-neuf ans en combattant centre les Anglois. Jacques III, mis en prison par son peuple, fut tue ensuite par les revoltes, dans une battaille. Jacques IV perit dans un combat qu’il perdit. Marie Stuart, sa petite fille, chassee, de son trone, fugitive en Angleterre, ayant langui dix-huit ans en prison, se vit condamnee a mort par des juges Anglais, et eut la tete tranchee. Charles I, petit fils de Marie, Roi d’Ecosse et d’Angleterre, vendu par les Ecossois, et juge a mort par les Anglais, mourut sur un echauffaut dans la place publique. Jacques, son fils, septieme du nom, et deuxieme en Angleterre, fut chasse de ses trois royaumes; et pour comble de malheur on contesta a son fils sa naissance; le fils ne tenta de remonter sur le trone de ces peres, que pour faire perir ses amis par des bourreaux; et nous avons vu le Prince Charles Edouard, reunuissant en vain les vertus de ses peres, et le courage du Roy Jean Sobieski, son ayeul maternel, executer les exploits et essuyer les malheurs les plus incroyables. Si quelque chose justifie ceux qui croyent une fatalite a laquelle rien ne peut se soustraire, c’est cette suite continuelle de malheurs qui a persecute la maison de Stuart, pendant plus de trois-cent annees.
The gallant Malcolm was apprehended in about ten days after they separated, put aboard a ship and carried prisoner to London. He said, the prisoners in general were very ill treated in their passage; but there were soldiers on board who lived well, and sometimes invited him to share with them: that he had the good fortune not to be thrown into jail, but was confined in the house of a messenger, of the name of Dick. To his astonishment, only one witness could be found against him, though he had been so openly engaged; and therefore, for want of sufficient evidence, he was set at liberty. He added, that he thought himself in such danger, that he would gladly have compounded for banishment. Yet, he said, he should never be so ready for death as he then was. There is philosophical truth in this. A man will meet death much more firmly at one time than another. The enthusiasm even of a mistaken principle warms the mind, and sets it above the fear of death; which in our cooler moments, if we really think of it, cannot but be terrible, or at least very awful.
Miss Flora Macdonald being then also in London, under the protection of Lady Primrose, that lady provided a post-chaise to convey her to Scotland, and desired she might choose any friend she pleased to accompany her. She chose Malcolm. ‘So,’ said he, with a triumphant air, ‘I went to London to be hanged, and returned in a post-chaise with Miss Flora Macdonald.’
Mr Macleod of Muiravenside, whom we saw at Rasay, assured us that Prince Charles was in London in 1759, and that there was then a plan in agitation for restoring his family. Dr Johnson could scarcely credit this story, and said, there could be no probable plan at that time. Such an attempt could not have succeeded, unless the King of Prussia had stopped the army in Germany; for both the army and the fleet would, even without orders, have fought for the King, to whom they had engaged themselves.
Having related so many particulars concerning the grandson of the unfortunate King James the Second; having given due praise to fidelity and generous attachment, which, however erroneous the judgement may be, are honourable for the heart; I must do the highlanders the justice to attest, that I found every where amongst them a high opinion of the virtues of the King now upon the throne, and an honest disposition to be faithful subjects to his majesty, whose family had possessed the sovereignty of this country so long, that a change, even for the abdicated family, would now hurt the best feelings of all his subjects.
The abstract point of right would involve us in a discussion of remote and perplexed questions; and after all, we should have no clear principle of decision. That establishment, which, from political necessity, took place in 1688, by a breach in the succession of our kings, and which, whatever benefits may have accrued from it, certainly gave a shock to our monarchy, the able and constitutional Blackstone, wisely rests on the solid footing of authority: ‘Our ancestors having most indisputably a competent jurisdiction to decide this great and important question, and having, in fact decided it, it is now become our duty, at this distance of time, to acquiesce in their determination.’ †
† [Note: Commentaries on the Laws of England, Book I. chap. 3.]
Mr Paley, the present Archdeacon of Carlisle, in his Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy, having, with much clearness of argument, shewn the duty of submission to civil government to be founded neither on an indefeasible jus divinum, nor on COMPACT, but on EXPEDIANCY, lays down this rational position:
Irregularity in the first foundation of a state, or subsequent violence, fraud, or injustice, in getting possession of the supreme power, are not sufficient reasons for resistance, after the government is once peaceably settled. No subject of the British Empire conceives himself engaged to vindicate the justice of the Norman claim or conquest, or apprehends that his duty in any manner depends upon that controversy. So likewise, if the house of Lancaster, or even the posterity of Cromwell, had been at this day seated upon the throne of England, we should have been as little concerned to enquire how the founder of the family came there. †
† [Note: Book VI. chap. 3. Since I have quoted Mr Archdeacon Paley upon one subject, I cannot but transcribe, from his excellent work, a distinguished passage in support of the Christian Revelation. After shewing, in decent but strong terms, the unfairness of the INDIRECT attempts of modern infidels to unsettle and perplex religious principles, and particularly the irony, banter, and sneer, of one whom he politely calls ‘an eloquent historian’, the archdeacon thus expresses himself:
‘Seriousness is not constraint of thought; nor levity, freedom. Every mind which wishes the advancement of truth and knowledge, in the most important of all human researches, must abhor this licentiousness, as violating no less the laws of reasoning than the rights of decency. There is but one description of men to whose principles it ought to be tolerable. I mean that class of reasoners who can see LITTLE in Christianity even supposing it to be true. To such adversaries we address this reflection. Had Jesus Christ delivered no other declaration than the following, “The hour is coming in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth, — they that have done well unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation,” he had pronounced a message of inestimable importance, and well worthy of that splendid apparatus of prophecy and miracles with which his mission was introduced and attested — a message in which the wisest of mankind would rejoice to find an answer to their doubts, and rest to their inquiries. It is idle to say that a future state had been discovered already. It had been discovered as the Copernican System was; it was one guess amongst many. He alone discovers who PROVES; and no man can prove this point but the teacher who testifies by miracles that his doctrine comes from God’ (Book V. chap. 9).
If infidelity be disingenuously dispersed in every shape that is likely to allure, surprise, or beguile the imagination — in a fable, a tale, a novel, a poem, in books of travels, of philosophy, of natural history, as Mr Paley has well observed — I hope it is fair in me thus to meet such poison with an unexpected antidote, which I cannot doubt will be found powerful.]
In conformity with this doctrine, I myself, though fully persuaded that the House of Stuart had originally no right to the crown of Scotland; for that Baliol, and not Bruce, was the lawful heir; should yet have thought it very culpable to have rebelled, on that account, against Charles the First, or even a prince of that house much nearer the time, in order to assert the claim of the posterity of Baliol.
However convinced I am of the justice of that principle, which holds allegiance and protection to be reciprocal, I do however acknowledge, that I am not satisfied with the cold sentiment which would confine the exertions of the subject within the strict line of duty. I would have every breast animated with the FERVOUR of loyalty; with that generous attachment which delights in doing somewhat more than is required, and makes ‘service perfect freedom’. And, therefore, as our most gracious Sovereign, on his accession to the throne, gloried in being born a Briton; so, in my more private sphere, Ego me nunc denique natum gratulor. I am happy that a disputed succession no longer distracts our minds; and that a monarchy, established by law, is now so sanctioned by time, that we can fully indulge those feelings of loyalty which I am ambitious to excite. They are feelings which have ever actuated the inhabitants of the Highlands and the Hebrides. The plant of loyalty is there in full vigour, and the Brunswick graft now flourishes like a native shoot. To that spirited race of people I may with propriety apply the elegant lines of a modern poet, on the ‘facile temper of the beauteous sex’:
Like birds new-caught, who flutter for a time.
And struggle with captivity in vain;
But by-and-by they rest, they smooth their plumes.
And to NEW MASTERS sing their former notes. †
† [Note: Agis, a tragedy, by John Home.]
Surely such notes are much better than the querulous growlings of suspicious Whigs and discontented Republicans.
Kingsburgh conducted us in his boat, across one of the lochs, as they call them, or arms of the sea, which flow in upon all the coasts of Sky, to a mile beyond a place called Grishinish. Our horses had been sent round by land to meet us. By this sail we saved eight miles of bad riding. Dr Johnson said, ‘When we take into the computation what we have saved, and what we have gained, by this agreeable sail, it is a great deal.’ He observed, ‘it is very disagreeable riding in Sky. The way is so narrow, one only at a time can travel, so it is quite unsocial; and you cannot indulge in meditation by yourself, because you must be always attending to the steps which your horse takes.’ This was a just and clear description of its inconveniencies.
The topick of emigration being again introduced, Dr Johnson said, that ‘a rapacious chief would make a wilderness of his estate’. Mr Donald M’Queen told us, that the oppression, which then made so much noise, was owing to landlords listening to bad advice in the letting of their lands; that interested and designed people flattered them with golden dreams of much higher rents than could reasonably be paid; and that some of the gentlemen tacksmen, or upper tenants, were themselves in part the occasion of the mischief, by over-rating the farms of others. That many of the tacksmen, rather than comply with exorbitant demands, had gone off to America, and impoverished the country, by draining it of its wealth; and that their places were filled by a number of poor people, who had lived under them, properly speaking, as servants, paid by a certain proportion of the produce of the lands, though called sub-tenants. I observed, that if the men of substance were once banished from a Highland estate, it might probably be greatly reduced in its value; for one bad year might ruin a set of poor tenants, and men of any property would not settle in such a country, unless from the temptation of getting land extremely cheap; for an inhabitant of any good county in Britain, had better go to America than to the Highlands or the Hebrides. Here, therefore was a consideration that ought to induce a chief to act a more liberal part, from a mere motive of interest, independent of the lofty and honourable principle of keeping a clan together, to be in readiness to serve his king. I added, that I could not help thinking a little arbitrary power in the sovereign, to control the bad policy and greediness of the chiefs, might sometimes be of service. In France a chief would not be permitted to force a number of the king’s subjects out of the country. Dr Johnson concurred with me, observing, that ‘were an oppressive chieftain a subject of the French king, he would probably be admonished by a LETTER’.
During our sail, Dr Johnson asked about the use of the dirk, with which he imagined the highlanders cut their meat. He was told, they had a knife and fork besides, to eat with. He asked, how did the women do? and was answered, some of them had a knife and fork too; but in general the men, when they had cut their meat, handed their knives and forks to the women, and they themselves eat with their fingers. The old tutor of Macdonald always eat fish with his fingers, alledging that a knife and fork gave it a bad taste. I took the liberty to observe to Dr Johnson, that he did so. ‘Yes,’ said he; ‘but it is because I am short-sighted, and afraid of bones, for which reason I am not fond of eating many kinds of fish, because I must use my fingers.’
Dr M’Pherson’s Dissertations on Scottish Antiquities, which he had looked at when at Corrichatachin, being mentioned, he remarked, that ‘you might read half an hour, and ask yourself what you had been reading: there were so many words to so little matter, that there was no getting through the book’. As soon as we reached the shore, we took leave of Kingsburgh, and mounted our horses. We passed through a wild moor, in many places so soft that we were obliged to walk, which was very fatiguing to Dr Johnson. Once he had advanced on horseback to a very bad step. There was a steep declivity on his left, to which he was so near, that there was not room for him to dismount in the usual way. He tried to alight on the other side, as if he had been a ‘young buck’ indeed, but in the attempt he fell at his length upon the ground; from which, however, he got up immediately without being hurt. During this dreary ride, we were sometimes relieved by a view of branches of the sea, that universal medium of connection amongst mankind. A guide, who had been sent with us from Kingsburgh, explored the way (much in the same manner as, I suppose, is pursued in the wilds of America) by observing certain marks known only to the inhabitants. We arrived at Dunvegan late in the afternoon. The great size of the castle, which is partly old and partly new, and is built upon a rock close to the sea, while the land around it presents nothing but wild, moorish, hilly, and craggy appearances, gave a rude magnificence to the scene. Having dismounted, we ascended a flight of steps, which was made by the late Macleod, for the accomodation of persons coming to him by land, there formerly being, for security, no other access to the castle but from the sea; so that visitors who came by the land were under the necessity of getting into a boat, and sailed round to the only place where it could be approached. We were introduced into a stately dining-room, and received by Lady Macleod, mother of the laird, who, with his friend Talisker, having been detained on the road, did not arrive till some time after us.
We found the lady of the house a very polite and sensible woman, who had lived for some time in London, and had there been in Dr Johnson’s company. After we had dined, we repaired to the drawing-room, where some of the young ladies of the family, with their mother, were at tea. This room had formerly been the bed-chamber of Sir Roderick Macleod, one of the old lairds; and he chose it, because, behind it, there was a considerable cascade, the sound of which disposed him to sleep. Above his bed was this inscription: SIR RORIE M’LEOD OF DUNVEGAN, KNIGHT. GOD SEND GOOD REST! Rorie is the contraction of Roderick. He was called Rorie More, that is, great Rorie, not from his size, but from his spirit. Our entertainment here was in so elegant a style, and reminded my fellow-traveller so much of England, that he became quite joyous. He laughed, and said, ‘Boswell, we came in at the wrong end of this island.’ ‘Sir,’ said I, ‘it was best to keep this for the last.’ He answered, ‘I would have it both first and last.’
Dr Johnson said in the morning, ‘Is not this a fine lady?’ There was not a word now of his ‘impatience to be in civilized life’; though indeed I should beg pardon — he found it here. We had slept well, and lain long. After breakfast we surveyed the castle, and the garden. Mr Bethune, the parish minister, Magnus M’Leod, of Claggan, brother to Talisker, and M’Leod, of Bay, two substantial gentlemen of the clan, dined with us. We had admirable venison, generous wine; in a word, all that a good table has. This was really the hall of a chief. Lady M’Leod had been much obliged to my father, who had settled by arbitration, a variety of perplexed claims between her and her relation, the Laird of Brodie, which she now repaid by particular attention to me. M’Leod started the subject of making women do penance in the church for fornication. JOHNSON. ‘It is right, sir. Infamy is attached to the crime, by universal opinion, as soon as it is known. I would not be the man who would discover it, if I alone knew it, for a woman may reform; nor would I commend a parson who divulges a woman’s first offence; but being once divulged, it ought to be infamous. Consider, of what importance to society the chastity of women is. Upon that all the property in the world depends. We hang a thief for stealing a sheep; but the unchastity of a woman transfers sheep, and farm and all, from the right owner. I have much more reverence for a common prostitute than for a woman who conceals her guilt. The prostitute is known. She cannot deceive: she cannot bring a strumpet into the arms of an honest man, without his knowledge.’ BOSWELL. ‘There is, however, a great difference between the licentiousness of a single woman, and that of a married woman.’ JOHNSON. ‘Yes, sir; there is a great difference between stealing a shilling, and stealing a thousand pounds; between simply taking a man’s purse, and murdering him first, and then taking it. But when one begins to be vicious, it is easy to go on. Where single women are licentious, you rarely find faithful married women.’ BOSWELL. ‘And yet we are told that in some nations in India, the distinction is strictly observed.’ JOHNSON. ‘Nay, don’t give us India. That puts me in mind of Montesquieu, who is really a fellow of genius too in many respects; whenever he wants to support a strange opinion, he quotes you the practice of Japan or of some other distant country, of which he knows nothing. To support polygamy, he tells you of the island of Formosa, where there are ten women born for one man. He had but to suppose another island, where there are ten men born for one woman, and so make a marriage between them.’ †
† [Note: What my friend treated as so wild a supposition, has actually happened in the western islands of Scotland, if we may believe Martin, who tells it of the islands of Col and Tyr-yi, and says that it is proved by the parish registers.]
At supper, Lady Macleod mentioned Dr Cadogan’s book on the gout. JOHNSON. ‘It is a good book in general, but a foolish one in particulars. It is good in general, as recommending temperance and exercise, and cheerfulness. In that respect it is only Dr Cheyne’s book told in a new way; and there should come out such a book every thirty years, dressed in the mode of the times. It is foolish, in maintaining that the gout is not hereditary, and that one fit of it, when gone, is like a fever when gone.’ Lady Macleod objected that the author does not practice what he teaches. †
† [Note: This was a general reflection against Dr Cadogan, when his very popular book was first published. It was said, that whatever precepts he might give to others, he himself indulged freely in the bottle. But I have since had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with him, and, if his own testimony may be believed (and I have never heard it impeached), his course of life, has been conformable to his doctrine.]
JOHNSON. ‘I cannot help that, madam. That does not make his book the worse. People are influenced more by what a man says, if his practice is suitable to it, because they are blockheads. The more intellectual people are, the readier will they attend to what a man tells them. If it is just, they will follow it, be his practice what it will. No man practises so well as he writes. I have, all my life long, been lying till noon; yet I tell all young men, and tell them with great sincerity, that nobody who does not rise early will ever do any good. Only consider! You read a book; you are convinced by it; you do not know the authour. Suppose you afterwards know him, and find that he does not practice what he teaches; are you to give up your former conviction At this rate you would be kept in a state of equilibrium, when reading every book, till you knew how the authour practised.’ ‘But,’ said Lady M’Leod, ‘you would think better of Dr Cadogan, if he acted according to his principles.’ JOHNSON. ‘Why, madam, to be sure, a man who acts in the face of light, is worse than a man who does not know so much; yet I think no man should be the worse thought of for publishing good principles. There is something noble in publishing truth, though it condemns one’s self.’ I expressed some surprize at Cadogan’s recommending good humour, as if it were quite in our power to attain it. JOHNSON. ‘Why, sir, a man grows better humoured as he grows older. He improves by experience. When young, he thinks himself of great consequence, and every thing of importance. As he advances in life, he learns to think himself of no consequence, and little things of little importance; and so he becomes more patient, and better pleased. All good humour and complaisance are acquired. Naturally a child seizes directly what it sees, and thinks of pleasing itself only. By degrees, it is taught to please others, and to prefer others; and that this will ultimately produce the greatest happiness. If a man is not convinced of that, he never will practice it. Common language speaks the truth as to this: we say, a person is well BRED.
As it is said, that all material motion is primarily in a right line, and is never per circuitum, never in another form, unless by some particular cause; so it may be said intellectual motion is.’ Lady M’Leod asked, if no man was naturally good. JOHNSON. ‘No, madam, no more than a wolf.’ BOSWELL. ‘Nor no woman, sir?’ JOHNSON. ‘No, sir.’ Lady M’Leod started at this, saying, in a low voice, ‘This is worse than Swift.’
M’Leod of Ulinish had come in the afternoon. We were a jovial company at supper. The laird, surrounded by so many of his clan, was to me a pleasing sight. They listened with wonder and pleasure, while Dr Johnson harangued. I am vexed that I cannot take down his full train of eloquence.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:52