Slike strani


The hand of Providence.

[August 24.

The earl said grace, both before and after supper, with much decency. He told us a story of a man who was executed at Perth, some years ago, for murdering a woman who was with child by him, and a former child he had by her. His hand was cut off: he was then pulled up; but the rope broke, and he was forced to lie an hour on the ground, till another rope was brought from Perth, the execution being in a wood at some distance,-at the place where the murders were committed. There, (said my lord,) I see the hand of Providence.' I was really happy here. I saw in this nobleman the best dispositions and best principles; and I saw him, in my mind's eye', to be the representative of the ancient Boyds of Kilmarnock. I was afraid he might have urged drinking, as, I believe, he used formerly to do; but he drank port and water out of a large glass himself, and let us do as we pleased3. He went with us to our rooms at night; said, he took the visit very kindly; and told me, my father and he were very

peer of Scotland, from a vain ambition to excel a fencing-master in his own art, played at rapier and dagger with him. The fencingmaster, whose fame and bread were at stake, put out one of his lordship's eyes. Exasperated at this, Lord Sanquhar hired ruffians, and had the fencing-master assassinated; for which his lordship was capitally tried, condemned, and hanged. Not being a peer of England, he was tried by the name of Robert Crichton, Esq.; but he was admitted to be a baron of three hundred years' standing.-See the State Trials; and the History of England by Hume, who applauds the impartial justice executed upon a man of high rank. BOSWELL. The 'stronger abilities' that Chesterfield encountered were Johnson's. Boswell thought wrongly that it was of Johnson that his Lordship complained in his letters to his son. Ante, i. 310, note 2. A certain King' was Frederick the Great. Ante, i. 503. The fencing-master was murdered in his own house in London, five years after Sanquhar (or Sanquire) had lost his eye. Bacon, who was Solicitor-General, said :-' Certainly the circumstance of time is heavy unto you; it is now five years since this unfortunate man, Turner, be it upon accident or despight, gave the provocation which was the seed of your malice.' State Trials, ii. 743, and Hume's History, ed. 1802, vi. 61.

1 Hamlet, act i. sc. 2.

Perhaps Lord Errol was the Scotch Lord mentioned ante, iii. 193, and the nobleman mentioned ib. p. 375.


August 25.] Relations a man's ready friends.


old acquaintance;-that I now knew the way to Slains, and he hoped to see me there again.

I had a most elegant room; but there was a fire in it which blazed; and the sea, to which my windows looked, roared; and the pillows were made of the feathers of some sea-fowl, which had to me a disagreeable smell; so that, by all these causes, I was kept awake a good while. I saw, in imagination, Lord Errol's father, Lord Kilmarnock' (who was beheaded on Towerhill in 1746), and I was somewhat dreary. But the thought did not last long, and I fell asleep.

WEDNESDAY, August 25.

We got up between seven and eight, and found Mr. Boyd in the dining-room, with tea and coffee before him, to give us breakfast. We were in an admirable humour. Lady Errol had given each of us a copy of an ode by Beattie, on the birth of her son, Lord Hay. Mr. Boyd asked Dr. Johnson how he liked it. Dr. Johnson, who did not admire it, got off very well, by taking it out, and reading the second and third stanzas of it with much melody. This, without his saying a word, pleased Mr. Boyd. He observed, however, to Dr. Johnson, that the expression as to the family of Errol,

'A thousand years have seen it shine,'

compared with what went before, was an anticlimax, and that it would have been better

'Ages have seen,' &c.

Dr. Johnson said, 'So great a number as a thousand is better. Dolus latet in universalibus. Ages might be only two ages.' He talked of the advantage of keeping up the connections of relationship, which produce much kindness. 'Every man (said he) who comes into the world, has need of friends. If he has to get them for himself, half his life is spent before his merit is known. Relations are a man's ready friends who support him. When a man is in real distress, he flies

1 'Pitied by gentle minds Kilmarnock died.' Ante, i. 208.

I 20

Elections carried by Nabobs.

[August 25.

into the arms of his relations. An old lawyer, who had much experience in making wills, told me, that after people had deliberated long, and thought of many for their executors, they settled at last by fixing on their relations. This shews the universality of the principle.'

I regretted the decay of respect for men of family, and that a Nabob now would carry an election from them. JOHNSON. Why, Sir, the Nabob will carry it by means of his wealth, in a country where money is highly valued, as it must be where nothing can be had without money; but, if it comes to personal preference, the man of family will always carry it'. There is generally a scoundrelism about a low man'.' Mr. Boyd said, that was a good ism.

I said, I believed mankind were happier in the ancient feudal state of subordination, than they are in the modern state of independency. JOHNSON. To be sure, the Chief was: but we must think of the number of individuals. That they were less happy, seems plain; for that state from which all escape as soon as they can, and to which none return after they have left it, must be less happy; and this is the case with the state of dependance on a chief or great man.'


Sir Walter Scott describes the talk that he had in 1814 near Slains Castle with an old fisherman. The old man says Slains is now inhabited by a Mr. Bowles, who comes so far from the southward that naebody kens whare he comes frae. "Was he frae the Indies?” Na; he did not think he came that road. He was far frae the Southland. Naebody ever heard the name of the place; but he had brought more guid out o' Peterhead than a' the Lords he had seen in Slains, and he had seen three."' Lockhart's Scott, ed. 1839, iv. 188. The first of the three was Johnson's host.

See ante, ii. 175, and iii. 1, note 2.

3 ' Smollett, in Humphry Clinker (Letter of Sept. 6), writing of the Highlanders and their chiefs, says: The original attachment is founded on something prior to the feudal system, about which the writers of this age have made such a pother, as if it was a new discovery, like the Copernican system. . . . For my part I expect to see the use of trunk-hose and buttered ale ascribed to the influence of the feudal system. See ante, ii. 204.

I mentioned

August 25.]

A Druid's temple.


I mentioned the happiness of the French in their subordination, by the reciprocal benevolence and attachment between the great and those in lower rank'. Mr. Boyd gave us an instance of their gentlemanly spirit. An old Chevalier de Malthe, of ancient noblesse, but in low circumstances, was in a coffee-house at Paris, where was Julien, the great manufacturer at the Gobelins, of the fine tapestry, so much distinguished both for the figures and the colours. The chevalier's carriage was very old. Says Julien, with a plebeian insolence. I think, Sir, you had better have your carriage new painted.' The chevalier looked at him with indignant contempt, and answered, 'Well, Sir, you may take it home and dye it.' All the coffee-house rejoiced at Julien's confusion.

We set out about nine. Dr. Johnson was curious to see one of those structures which northern antiquarians call a Druid's temple. I had a recollection of one at Strichen; which I had seen fifteen years ago; so we went four miles out of our road, after passing Old Deer, and went thither. Mr. Fraser, the proprietor, was at home, and shewed it to us. But I had augmented it in my mind; for all that remains is two stones set up on end, with a long one laid upon them, as was usual, and one stone at a little distance from them. That stone was the capital one of the circle which surrounded what now remains. Mr. Fraser was very

1 Mme. Riccoboni wrote to Garrick on May 3, 1769-Vous conviendrez que les nobles sont peu ménagés par vos auteurs; le sot, le fat, ou le malhonnête homme mêlé dans l'intrigue est presque toujours un lord.' Garrick Corres. ii. 561. Dr. Moore (View of Society in France, i. 29) writing in 1779 says:-I am convinced there is no country in Europe where royal favour, high birth, and the military profession could be allowed such privileges as they have in France, and where there would be so few instances of their producing rough and brutal behaviour to inferiors.' Mrs. Piozzi, writing in 1784, though she did not publish her book till 1789, said:-'The French are really a contented race of mortals;-precluded almost from possibility of adventure, the low Parisian leads a gentle, humble life, nor envies that greatness he never can obtain.' Journey through France, i. 13.



An imaginary college.

[August 25. hospitable'. There was a fair at Strichen; and he had several of his neighbours from it at dinner. One of them, Dr. Fraser, who had been in the army, remembered to have seen Dr. Johnson at a lecture on experimental philosophy, at Lichfield. The doctor recollected being at the lecture; and he was surprised to find here somebody who knew him.

Mr. Fraser sent a servant to conduct us by a short passage into the high-road. I observed to Dr. Johnson, that I had a most disagreeable notion of the life of country gentlemen; that I left Mr. Fraser just now, as one leaves a prisoner in a jail. Dr. Johnson said, that I was right in thinking them unhappy; for that they had not enough to keep their minds in motion'.

I started a thought this afternoon which amused us a great part of the way. If, (said I,) our club should come and set up in St. Andrews, as a college, to teach all that each of us can, in the several departments of learning and taste, we should rebuild the city: we should draw a wonderful concourse of students.' Dr. Johnson entered fully into the spirit of the project. We immediately fell to distributing

'He is the worthy son of a worthy father, the late Lord Strichen, one of our judges, to whose kind notice I was much obliged. Lord Strichen was a man not only honest, but highly generous; for after his succession to the family estate, he paid a large sum of debts contracted by his predecessor, which he was not under any obligation to pay. Let me here, for the credit of Ayrshire, my own county, record a noble instance of liberal honesty in William Hutchison, drover, in Lanehead, Kyle, who formerly obtained a full discharge from his creditors upon a composition of his debts; but upon being restored to good circumstances, invited his creditors last winter to a dinner, without telling the reason, and paid them their full sums, principal and interest. They presented him with a piece of plate, with an inscription to commemorate this extraordinary instance of true worth; which should make some people in Scotland blush, while, though mean themselves, they strut about under the protection of great alliance, conscious of the wretchedness of numbers who have lost by them, to whom they never think of making reparation, but indulge themselves and their families in most unsuitable expence. BOSWELL.

2 See ante, ii. 223; iii. 401; and iv. June 30, 1784.


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