Slike strani
PDF
ePub

198

Bentley and his opponents.

[Sept. 10.

owing to its being directly opposite to the western' coast of Sky, where the watery clouds are broken by high mountains. The hills here, and indeed all the healthy grounds in general abound with the sweet-smelling plant which the Highlanders call gaul, and (I think) with dwarf juniper in many places. There is enough of turf, which is their fuel, and it is thought there is a mine of coal.-Such are the observations which I made upon the island of Rasay, upon comparing it with the description given by Martin, whose book we had with us.

There has been an ancient league between the families of Macdonald and Rasay. Whenever the head of either family dies, his sword is given to the head of the other. The present Rasay has the late Sir James Macdonald's sword. Old Rasay joined the Highland army in 1745, but prudently guarded against a forfeiture, by previously conveying his estate to the present gentleman, his eldest son'. On that occasion, Sir Alexander, father of the late Sir James Macdonald, was very friendly to his neighbour. 'Don't be afraid, Rasay,' said he; 'I'll use all my interest to keep you safe; and if your estate should be taken, I'll buy it for the family.'-And he would have done it.

Let me now gather some gold dust,—some more fragments of Dr. Johnson's conversation, without regard to order of time. He said, 'he thought very highly of Bentley; that no man now went so far in the kinds of learning that he cultivated; that the many attacks on him were owing to envy, and to a desire of being known, by being in competition with such a man; that it was safe to attack him, because he never answered his opponents, but let them die

'Boswell means that the eastern coast of Sky is westward of Rasay. CROKER.

2 The Prince was hidden in his distress two nights at Rasay, and the King's troops burnt the whole country, and killed some of the cattle. You may guess at the opinions that prevail in this country; they are, however, content with fighting for their King; they do not drink for him. We had no foolish healths.' Piozzi Letters, i. 145.

See ante, iv. 251, where he said:-You have, perhaps, no man who knows as much Greek and Latin as Bentley.'

away.

Sept. 10.] Mallet and the LIFE OF MARLBOROUGH.

199

away'. It was attacking a man who would not beat them, because his beating them would make them live the longer. And he was right not to answer; for, in his hazardous method of writing, he could not but be often enough wrong; so it was better to leave things to their general appearance, than own himself to have erred in particulars.' He said, 'Mallet was the prettiest drest puppet about town, and always kept good company'. That, from his way of talking he saw, and always said, that he had not written any part of the Life of the Duke of Marlborough, though perhaps he intended to do it at some time, in which case he was not culpable in taking the pension3. That he imagined the Duchess furnished the materials for her Apology, which Hooke wrote, and Hooke furnished the words and the order, and all that in which the art of writing consists. That the Duchess had not superior parts, but was a bold frontless woman, who knew how to make the most of her opportunities in life.

1

1 See ante, ii. 70, and post, Oct. 1.

"See ante, i. 311, note I.

Steele had had the Duke of Marlborough's papers, and in some of his exigencies put them in pawn. They then remained with the old Duchess, who, in her will, assigned the task to Glover [the author of Leonidas] and Mallet, with a reward of a thousand pounds, and a prohibition to insert any verses. Glover rejected, I suppose with disdain, the legacy, and devolved the whole work upon Mallet; who had from the late Duke of Marlborough a pension to promote his industry, and who talked of the discoveries which he had made; but left not, when he died, any historical labours behind him.' Johnson's Works, viii. 466. The Duchess died in 1744 and Mallet in 1765. For more than twenty years he thus imposed more or less successfully on the world. About the year 1751 he played on Garrick's vanity. 'Mallet, in a familiar conversation with Garrick, discoursing of the diligence which he was then exerting upon the Life of Marlborough, let him know, that in the series of great men quickly to be exhibited, he should find a niche for the hero of the theatre. Garrick professed to wonder by what artifice he could be introduced; but Mallet let him know, that by a dexterous anticipation he should fix him in a conspicuous place. "Mr. Mallet," says Garrick in his gratitude of exultation, "have you left off to write for the stage?" Mallet then confessed that he had a drama in his hands. Garrick promised to act it; and Alfred was produced.' Ib. p. 465. See ante, iii. 439.

That

The Laird of Macleod.

[Sept. 11.

That Hooke got a large sum of money for writing her Apology'. That he wondered Hooke should have been weak enough to insert so profligate a maxim, as that to tell another's secret to one's friend is no breach of confidence'; though perhaps Hooke, who was a virtuous man3, as his History shews, and did not wish her well, though he wrote her Apology, might see its ill tendency, and yet insert it at her desire. He was acting only ministerially.' I apprehended, however, that Hooke was bound to give his best advice. I speak as a lawyer. Though I have had clients whose causes I could not, as a private man, approve; yet, if I undertook them, I would not do any thing that might be prejudicial to them, even at their desire, without warning them of their danger.

200

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 11.

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

'According to Dr. Warton (Essay on Pope, ii. 140) he received £5000. 'Old Marlborough,' wrote Horace Walpole in March, 1742 (Letters, i. 139), 'has at last published her Memoirs; they are digested by one Hooke, who wrote a Roman history; but from her materials, which are so womanish that I am sure the man might sooner have made a gown and petticoat with them.'

• See ante, i. 177.

2

''Hooke,' says Dr. Warton (Essay on Pope, ii. 141), 'was a Mystic and a Quietist, and a warm disciple of Fénelon. It was he who brought a Catholic priest to take Pope's confession on his death-bed.' See Cumberland's Memoirs, i. 344.

of

Sept. 11.]

The heritable jurisdictions.

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.

201

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

[ocr errors]

1 Mr. Croker says that though he sold a great tract of land in Harris, he left at his death in 1801 the original debt of £50,000 [Boswell says £40,000] increased to £70,000.' When Johnson visited Macleod at Dunvegan, he wrote to Mrs. Thrale:- Here, though poor Macleod had been left by his grandfather overwhelmed with debts, we had another exhibition of feudal hospitality. There were two stags in the house, and venison came to the table every day in its various forms. Macleod, besides his estate in Sky, larger I suppose than some English counties, is proprietor of nine inhabited isles; and of his isles uninhabited I doubt if he very exactly knows the number. I told him that he was a mighty monarch. Such dominions fill an Englishman with envious wonder; but when he surveys the naked mountain, and treads the quaking moor; and wanders over the wild regions of gloomy barrenness, his wonder may continue, but his envy ceases. The unprofitableness of these vast domains can be conceived only by the means of positive instances. The heir of Col, an island not far distant, has lately told me how wealthy he should be if he could let Rum, another of his islands, for twopence halfpenny an acre; and Macleod has an estate which the surveyor reports to contain 80,000 acres, rented at £600 a year.' Piozzi Letters, i. 154.

They were abolished by an act passed in 1747, being 'reckoned among the principal sources of the rebellions. They certainly kept the common people in subjection to their chiefs. By this act they were legally emancipated from slavery; but as the tenants enjoyed no leases, and were at all times liable to be ejected from their farms, they still depended on the pleasure of their lords, notwithstanding

was

The heritable jurisdictions.

[Sept. 11.

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.

202

Dr. Johnson was now wishing to move. There was not enough of intellectual entertainment for him, after he had satisfied 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 conversation2. He seemed sensible of this; for when I told him how happy they were at having him there, he said,

this interposition of the legislature, which granted a valuable consideration in money to every nobleman and petty baron, who was thus deprived of one part of his inheritance.' Smollett's England, iii. 206. See ante, p. 51, note 2, and post, Oct. 22.

''I doubt not but that since the regular judges have made their circuits through the whole country, right has been everywhere more wisely and more equally distributed; the complaint is, that litigation is grown troublesome, and that the magistrates are too few and therefore often too remote for general convenience. . . In all greater questions there is now happily an end to all fear or hope from malice or from favour. The roads are secure in those places through which forty years ago no traveller could pass without a convoy. No scheme of policy has in any country yet brought the rich and poor on equal terms into courts of judicature. Perhaps experience improving on experience may in time effect it.' Johnson's Works, ix. 90.

'He described Rasay as 'the seat of plenty, civility, and cheerfulness.' Piozzi Letters, i. 152.

[ocr errors]

'Yet

« PrejšnjaNaprej »