Slike strani

Sir Alexander Macdonald.

[Sept. 2.

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


'See ante, p. 101.

2 See ante, ii. 194, note 2.

* Boswell, in a note that he added to the second edition (see post, end of the Journal), says that he has omitted a few observations the publication of which might perhaps be considered as passing the bounds of a strict decorum.' In the first edition (p. 165) the next three paragraphs were as follows:- Instead of finding the head of the Macdonalds surrounded with his clan, and a festive entertainment, we had a small company, and cannot boast of our cheer. The particulars are minuted in my Journal, but I shall not trouble the publick with them. I shall mention but one characteristick circumstance. My shrewd and hearty friend Sir Thomas (Wentworth) Blacket, Lady Macdonald's uncle, who had preceded us in a visit to this chief, upon


Sept. 2.]

Sir Alexander Macdonald.


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

being asked by him if the punch-bowl then upon the table was not a very handsome one, replied, "Yes-if it were full."

'Sir Alexander Macdonald having been an Eton scholar, Dr. Johnson had formed an opinion of him which was much diminished when he beheld him in the isle of Sky, where we heard heavy complaints of rents racked, and the people driven to emigration. Dr. Johnson said, "It grieves me to see the chief of a great clan appear to such disadvantage. This gentleman has talents, nay some learning; but he is totally unfit for this situation. Sir, the Highland chiefs should not be allowed to go farther south than Aberdeen. A strong-minded man, like his brother Sir James, may be improved by an English education; but in general they will be tamed into insignificance."

'I meditated an escape from this house the very next day; but Dr. Johnson resolved that we should weather it out till Monday.'


Johnson wrote to Mrs. Thrale:- We saw the isle of Skie before us, darkening the horizon with its rocky coast. A boat was procured, and we launched into one of the straits of the Atlantick Ocean. We had a passage of about twelve miles to the point where sided, having come from his seat in the middle of the island to a small house on the shore, as we believe, that he might with less reproach entertain us meanly. If he aspired to meanness, his retrograde ambition was completely gratified . . . Boswell was very angry, and reproached him with his improper parsimony.' Piozzi Letters, i. 137. A little later he wrote: I have done thinking of ***** whom we now call Sir Sawney; he has disgusted all mankind by injudicious parsimony, and given occasion to so many stories, that ✶✶✶✶ has some thoughts of collecting them, and making a novel of his life.' Ib. p. 198. The last of Rowlandson's Caricatures of Boswell's Journal is entitled Revising for the Second Edition. Macdonald is represented as seizing Boswell by the throat and pointing with his stick to the Journal that lies open at pages 168, 169. On the ground lie pages 165, 167, torn out. Boswell, in an agony of fear, is begging for mercy.


Racked rents and emigration.

[Sept. 3.

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 fellowtraveller 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 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

'Here, in Badenoch, here, in Lochaber anon, in Lochiel, in Knoydart, Moydart, Morrer, Ardgower, and Ardnamurchan, Here I see him and here: I see him; anon I lose him.' Clough's Bothie, p. 125. 'See his Latin verses addressed to Dr. Johnson, in the APPENDIX. BOSWELL.

• See ante, i. 520.

'See ante, ii. 180.

• See ante, ii. 114.



Sept. 3.] Laxity of Highland conversation.


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


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'.


1 See ante, iii. 225, note 1.


2 Such is the laxity of Highland conversation, that the inquirer is kept in continual suspense, and by a kind of intellectual retrogradation knows less as he hears more.' Johnson's Works, ix. 47. 'They are not much accustomed to be interrogated by others, and seem never to have thought upon interrogating themselves; so that if they do not know what they tell to be true, they likewise do not distinctly perceive it to be false. Mr. Boswell was very diligent in his inquiries; and the result of his investigations was, that the answer to the second question was commonly such as nullified the answer to the first.' Ib. p. 114.



An English-bred chieftain.

[Sept. 4.


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 independent island. I would roast oxen whole, and hang out a flag as a signal to the Macdonalds to come and get beef and whiskey.' 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.

1 Mr. Carruthers, in his edition of Boswell's Hebrides, says (p. xiv): The new management and high rents took the tacksmen, or larger tenants, by surprise. They were indignant at the treatment they received, and selling off their stock they emigrated to America. In the twenty years from 1772 to 1792, sixteen vessels with emigrants sailed from the western shores of Inverness-shire and Ross-shire, containing about 6400 persons, who carried with them in specie at least £38,400. A desperate effort was made by the tacksmen on the estate of Lord Macdonald. They bound themselves by a solemn oath not to offer for any farm that might become vacant. The combination failed of its object, but it appeared so formidable in the eyes of the " Englishbred chieftain," that he retreated precipitately from Skye and never afterwards returned.'

* Dr. Johnson seems to have forgotten that a Highlander going armed at this period incurred the penalty of serving as a common soldier for the first, and of transportation beyond sea for a second offence. And as for calling out his clan,' twelve Highlanders and a bagpipe made a rebellion. WALter Scott.


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