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The joyous life in Rasay.
• 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 doubred whether unhappiness had any place in Rasay. But my delusion was soon dispelled, by recollecting the following lines of my fellow-traveller :
! •We heard the women singing as they waulked the cloth, by rubbing it with their hands and feet, and screaming all the while in a sort of chorus. At a distance the sound was wild and sweet enough, but rather discordant when you approached too near the performers.' Lockhart's Scott, iv. 307.
* 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. BOSWELL. “She is a celebrated beauty; has been admired at Edinburgh; dresses her head very high; and has manners so ladylike that I wish her head-dress was lower.' Piozzi Letters, i. 144. See ante, iii. 134.
Departure from Rasay.
* Yet hope not life from pain or danger free,
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 12. 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
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
*Yet hope not life from grief or danger free,
The Vanity of Human Wishes. ? • Rasay accompanied us in his six-oared boat, which he said was his coach and six. It is indeed the vehicle in which the ladies take the air and pay their visits, but they have taken very little care for accommodations. There is no way in or out of a boat for a woman but by being carried ; and in the boat thus dignified with a pompous Sept. 12.)
1; name there is no seat but an occasional bundle of straw.' Piozzi Letters, i. 152. In describing the distance of one family from another, Johnson writes :- Visits last several days, and are commonly paid by water; yet I never saw a boat furnished with benches. Works, ix.
a .' 100.
A short sermon upon the sea.
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 allo. 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
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 :
· See ante, ii. 122, and iii. 174.
· "They which forewent us did leave a Roome for us, and should wee grieve to doe the same to these which should come after us? Who beeing admitted to see the exquisite rarities of some antiquaries cabinet is grieved, all viewed, to have the courtaine drawen, and give place to new pilgrimes?" A Cypresse Grove, by William Drummond of Hawthorne-denne, ed. 1630, p. 68. • See ante, iii. 174, 335.
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:* DEAR BOSWELL,
'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 fail 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
•While hoary Nestor, by experience wise,
FRANCIS. Horace, i Epis. ii. 11. * See ante, p. 16. · Lord Elibank died Aug. 3, 1778, aged 75. Gent. Mag. 1778, p. 391.
• A term in Scotland for a special messenger, such as was formerly sent with dispatches by the lords of the council.
not suit us in the country.–At any rate write to me.
I will at tend you in the north, when I shall know where to find you.
• I am,
“My dear Boswell,
• Obedient humble servant, *August 21st, 1773.'
*ELIBANK.' The letter to Dr. Johnson was in these words :DEAR SIR,
‘I was to have kissed your hands at Edinburgh, the moment I heard of you ; but you was 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 title to the opportunity of express
'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,
* Dear Sir,
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