Slike strani


Johnson as a fox-hunter.

(Sept. 24.


having so much learning, was, though ingenious, yet a fallacy in logick. It was as if there should be a dispute whether a man's hair is well dressed, and Dr. Johnson should say, 'Sir, his hair cannot be well dressed; for he has a dirty shirt. No man who has not clean linen has his hair well dressed.' When some days afterwards he read this passage, he said, “No, Sir; I did not say that a man's hair could not be well dressed because he has not clean linen, but because he is bald.'

He used one argument against the Scottish clergy being learned, which I doubt was not good. “As we believe a man dead till we know that he is alive; so we believe men ignorant till we know that they are learned.' Now our maxim in law is, to presume a man alive, till we know he is dead. However, indeed, it may be answered, that we must first know he has lived ; and that we have never known the learning of the Scottish clergy. Mr. M'Queen, though he was of opinion that Dr. Johnson had deserted the point really in dispute, was much pleased with what he said, and owned to me, he thought it very just ; and Mrs. M‘Leod was so much captivated by his eloquence, that she told me ‘I was a good advocate for a bad cause.'

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FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 24. This was a good day. Dr. Johnson told us, at breakfast, that he rode harder at a fox chace than any body'. “The English (said he) are the only nation who ride hard a-hunting. A Frenchman goes out upon a managed’ horse, and capers in the field, and no more thinks of leaping a hedge than of mounting a breach. Lord Powerscourt laid a wager, in France, that he would ride a great many miles in a certain short time. The French academicians set to work, and calculated that, from the resistance of the air, it was impossible. His lordship however performed it.'

i See ante, i. 517, note I.

* Johnson defines manage in this sense to train a horse to graceful action, and quotes Young : • They vault from hunters to the managed steed.'

Our Sept. 24.)

A scarcity of specie in Sky.


Our money being nearly exhausted, we sent a bill for thirty pounds, drawn on Sir William Forbes and Co.', to Lochbraccadale, but our messenger found it very difficult to procure cash for it; at length, however, he got us value from the master of a vessel which was to carry away some emigrants. There is a great scarcity of specie in Sky”. Mr. M'Queen said he had the utmost difficulty to pay his servants' wages, or to pay for any little thing which he has to buy. The rents are paid in bills”, which the drovers give. The people consume a vast deal of snuff and tobacco, for which they must pay ready money; and pedlars, who come about selling goods, as there is not a shop in the island, carry away the cash. If there were encouragement given to fisheries and manufactures, there might be a circulation of money introduced. I got one-and-twenty shillings in silver at Portree, which was thought a wonderful store.

Talisker, Mr. M'Queen, and I, walked out, an; looked at no less than fifteen different waterfalls near the house, in the space of about a quarter of a mile'. We also saw Cuchillin's well, said to have been the favourite spring of that ancient

+ Of Sir William Forbes of a later generation, Lockhart (Life of Scott, ix. 179) writes as follows :— Sir William Forbes, whose bankinghouse was one of Messrs. Ballantyne's chief creditors, crowned his generous efforts for Scott's relief by privately paying the whole of Abud's demand (nearly £2000) out of his own pocket.'

* This scarcity of cash still exists on the islands, in several of which five shilling notes are necessarily issued to have some circulating medium. If you insist on having change, you must purchase something at a shop. WALTER SCOTT.

3. The payment of rent in kind has been so long disused in England that it is totally forgotten. It was practised very lately in the Hebrides, and probably still continues, not only in St. Kilda, where money is not yet known, but in others of the smaller and remoter islands.' Johnson's Works, ix. 110.

• A place where the imagination is more amused cannot easily be found. The mountains about it are of great height, with waterfalls succeeding one another so fast, that as one ceases to be heard another begins.' Piozzi Letters, i. 157. V.-19


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hero. I drank of it. The water is admirable. On the shore are many stones full of crystallizations in the heart.

Though our obliging friend, Mr. M‘Lean, was but the young laird, he had the title of Col constantly given him. After dinner he and I walked to the top of Prieshwell, a very high rocky hill, from whence there is a view of Barra,—the Long Island, -Bernera,--the Loch of Dunvegan,--part of Rum - part of Rasay, and a vast deal of the isle of Sky. Col, though he had come into Sky with an intention to be at Dunvegan, and pass a considerable time in the island, most politely resolved first to conduct us to Mull, and then to return to Sky. This was a very fortunate circumstance; for he planned an expedition for us of more variety than merely going to Mull. He proposed we should see the islands of Egg, Muck, Col, and Tyr-yi. In all these islands he could shew us every thing worth seeing; and in Mull he said he should be as if at home, his father having lands there, and he a farm.

Dr. Johnson did not talk much to-day, but seemed intent in listening to the schemes of future excursion, planned by Col. Dr. Birch', however, being mentioned, he said, he had more anecdotes than any man. I said, Percy had a great many; that he flowed with them like one of the brooks here. JOHNSON. “If Percy is like one of the brooks here, Birch was like the river Thames. Birch excelled Percy in that, as much as Percy excels Goldsmith. I mentioned Lord Hailes as a man of anecdote. He was not pleased with him, for publishing only such memorials and letters as were unfavourable for the Stuart family?. “If, (said he,) a man fairly warns you, “I am to give all the ill; do you find the good;" he may : but if the object which he professes be to give a view of a reign, let him tell all the truth. I would tell truth of the two Georges, or of that scoundrel, King William'. Granger's

See ante, i. 184.

Johnson seems to be speaking of Hailes's Memorials and Letters relating to the History of Britain in the reign of James I and of Charles I.

* See ante, ii. 391.


Sept. 25.]

Every island a prison.


Biographical History is full of curious anecdote, but might have been better done. The dog is a Whig. I do not like much to see a Whig in any dress; but I hate to see a Whig in a parson's gowno.'

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 25. It was resolved that we should set out, in order to return to Slate, to be in readiness to take boat whenever there should be a fair wind. Dr. Johnson remained in his chamber writing a letter, and it was long before we could get him into motion. He did not come to breakfast, but had it sent to him. When he had finished his letter, it was twelve o'clock, and we should have set out at ten. When I went up to him, he said to me, ‘Do you remember a song which

, begins,

“Every island is a prison

Strongly guarded by the sea;
Kings and princes, for that reason,

Prisoners are, as well as we?;
I suppose he had been thinking of our confined situation.

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See ante, iii. 104.

. In all ages of the world priests have been enemies to liberty, and it is certain that this steady conduct of theirs must have been founded on fixed reasons of interest and ambition. Liberty of thinking and of expressing our thoughts is always fatal to priestly power, and to those pious frauds on which it is commonly founded. ... Hence it must happen in such a government as that of Britain, that the established clergy, while things are in their natural situation, will always be of the Court-party; as, on the contrary, dissenters of all kinds will be of the Country-party. Hume's Essays, Part 1, No. viii.

* In the original Every island's but a prison. The song is by a Mr. Coffey, and is given in Ritson's English Songs (1813), ii. 122. It begins :

• Welcome, welcome, brother debtor,

To this poor but merry place,
Where no bailiff, dun, nor setter,

Dares to show his frightful face.'
See ante, iii. 305.
• He wrote to Mrs. Thrale the day before (perhaps it was this day,




Cottages in Sky.

(Sept. 25.

He would fain have gone in a boat from hence, instead of riding back to Slate. A scheme for it was proposed. He said, “We'll not be driven tamely from it:'-but it proved impracticable.

We took leave of M'Leod and Talisker, from whom we parted with regret. Talisker, having been bred to physick, had a tincture of scholarship in his conversation, which pleased Dr. Johnson, and he had some very good books; and being a colonel in the Dutch service, he and his lady, in consequence of having lived abroad, had introduced the ease and politeness of the continent into this rude region.

Young Col was now our leader. Mr. M‘Queen was to accompany us half a day more. We stopped at a little hut, where we saw an old woman grinding with the quern, the ancient Highland instrument, which it is said was used by the Romans, but which, being very slow in its operation, is almost entirely gone into disuse.

The walls of the cottages in Sky, instead of being one compacted mass of stones, are often formed by two exterior surfaces of stone, filled up with earth in the middle, which makes them very warm. The roof is generally bad. They are thatched, sometimes with straw, sometimes with heath, sometimes with fern. The thatch is secured by ropes of straw, or of heath; and, to fix the ropes, there is a stone tied to the end of each. These stones hang round the bottom of the roof, and make it look like a lady's hair in papers; but I should think that, when there is wind, they would come down, and knock people on the head.

We dined at the inn at Sconser, where I had the pleasure to find a letter from my wife. Here we parted from our learned companion, Mr. Donald M'Queen. Dr. Johnson

and the copyist blundered) :—I am still in Sky. Do you remember

the song

“ Ev'ry island is a prison,

Strongly guarded by the sea"? We have at one time no boat, and at another may have too much wind; but of our reception here we have no reason to complain.' Piozzi Letters, i. 143.


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