Slike strani


Life in a Highland house.

[Sept. 28.

his knee some time, while he and she drank tea.

He was now like a buck' indeed. All the company were much entertained to find him so easy and pleasant. To me it was highly comick, to see the grave philosopher,—the Rambler, -toying with a Highland beauty' !--But what could he do? He must have been surly, and weak too, had he not behaved as he did. He would have been laughed at, and not more respected, though less loved.

He read to-night, to himself, as he sat in company, a great deal of my Journal, and said to me, 'The more I read of this, I think the more highly of you.' The gentlemen sat a long time at their punch, after he and I had retired to our chambers. The manner in which they were attended struck me as singular :—The bell being broken, a smart lad lay on a table in the corner of the room, ready to spring up and bring the kettle, whenever it was wanted. They continued drinking, and singing Erse songs, till near five in the morning, when they all came into my room, where some of them had beds. Unluckily for me, they found a bottle of punch in a corner, which they drank; and Corrichatachin went for another, which they also drank. They made many apologies for disturbing me. I told them, that, having been kept awake by their mirth, I had once thoughts of getting up, and joining them again. Honest Corrichatachin said, 'To have had

So, I would have given a cow.'

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28. The weather was worse than yesterday. I felt as if imprisoned. Dr. Johnson said, it was irksome to be detained thus: yet he seemed to have less uneasiness, or more patience, than I had. What made our situation worse here was, that we had no rooms that we could command; for the good people had no notion that a man could have any occasion but for a mere sleeping-place; so, during the day,

you done

1 See ante, p. 210.

· See ante, ii. 137, where he took upon his knee a young woman who came to consult him on the subject of Methodism.


Sept. 28.]

Ancient Irish pride of family.


the bed-chambers were common to all the house. Servants eat in Dr. Johnson's; and mine was a kind of general rendezvous of all under the roof, children and dogs not excepted. As the gentlemen occupied the parlour, the ladies had no place to sit in, during the day, but Dr. Johnson's room. I had always some quiet time for writing in it, before he was up; and, by degrees, I accustomed the ladies to let me sit in it after breakfast, at my Journal, without minding me.

Dr. Johnson was this morning for going to see as many islands as we could ; not recollecting the uncertainty of the season, which might detain us in one place for many weeks. He said to me, 'I have more the spirit of adventure than you. For my part, I was anxious to get to Mull, from

' whence we might almost any day reach the main land.

Dr. Johnson mentioned, that the few ancient Irish gentlemen yet remaining have the highest pride of family; that Mr. Sandford, a friend of his, whose mother was Irish, told him, that O'Hara (who was true Irish, both by father and mother) and he, and Mr. Ponsonby, son to the Earl of Besborough, the greatest man of the three, but of an English family, went to see one of those ancient Irish, and that he distinguished them thus: “O'Hara, you are welcome! Mr. Sandford, your mother's son is welcome! Mr. Ponsonby, you may sit down.'

He talked both of threshing and thatching. He said, it was very difficult to determine how to agree with a thresher. 'If you pay him by the day's wages, he will thresh no more than he pleases; though to be sure, the negligence of a thresher is more easily detected than that of most labourers, because he must always make a sound while he works. If you pay him by the piece, by the quantity of grain which he produces, he will thresh only while the grain comes freely, and, though he leaves a good deal in the ear, it is not worth while to thresh the straw over again ; nor can you fix him to do it sufficiently, because it is so difficult to prove how much less a man threshes than he ought to do. Here then is a dilemma: but, for my part, I would engage him by the

day: 300

Farmers and farm-labourers.

(Sept. 28.

day: I would rather trust his idleness than his fraud.' He said, a roof thatched with Lincolnshire reeds would last seventy years, as he was informed when in that county; and that he told this in London to a great thatcher, who said, he believed it might be true. Such are the pains that Dr. Johnson takes to get the best information on every subject'.

He proceeded :— It is difficult for a farmer in England to find day-labourers, because the lowest manufacturers can always get more than a day-labourer. It is of no consequence how high the wages of manufacturers are; but it would be of very bad consequence to raise the wages of those who procure the immediate necessaries of life, for that would raise the price of provisions. Here then is a problem for politicians. It is not reasonable that the most useful body of men should be the worst paid; yet it does not appear how it can be ordered otherwise. It were to be wished, that a mode for its being otherwise were found

In the mean time, it is better to give temporary assistance by charitable contributions to poor labourers, at times when provisions are high, than to raise their wages; because, if wages are once raised, they will never get down again?.'

Happily the weather cleared up between one and two o'clock, and we got ready to depart; but our kind host and hostess would not let us go without taking a snatch, as they called it; which was in truth a very good dinner. While the punch went round, Dr. Johnson kept a close whispering conference with Mrs. M'Kinnon, which, however, was loud enough to let us hear that the subject of it was the particulars of Prince Charles's escape. The company were entertained and pleased to observe it. Upon that subject, there was something congenial between the soul of Dr. Samuel Johnson, and that of an isle of Sky farmer's wife. It is curious to see people, how far so ever removed from each other in the general system of their lives, come close together


See ante, pp. 244, 280.

? See ante, iv. 203.


Sept. 28.] Boswell's leading the conversation.


on a particular point which is common to each. We were merry with Corrichatachin, on Dr. Johnson's whispering with his wife. She, perceiving this, humorously cried, 'I

. am in love with him. What is it to live and not to love?' Upon her saying something, which I did not hear, or cannot recollect, he seized her hand eagerly, and kissed it.

As we were going, the Scottish phrase of 'honest man !' which is an expression of kindness and regard, was again and again applied by the company to Dr. Johnson. I was also treated with much civility; and I must take some merit from my assiduous attention to him, and from my contriving that he shall be easy wherever he goes, that he shall not be asked twice to eat or drink any thing (which always disgusts him), that he shall be provided with water at his meals, and many such little things, which, if not attended to, would fret him. I also may be allowed to claim some merit in leading the conversation : I do not mean leading, as in an orchestra, by playing the first fiddle; but leading as one does in examining a witness-starting topics, and making him pursue them. He appears to me like a great mill, into which a subject is thrown to be ground. It requires, indeed, fertile minds to furnish materials for this mill. I regret whenever I see it unemployed; but sometimes I feel myself quite barren, and have nothing to throw in. I know not if this mill be a good figure; though Pope makes his mind a mill for turning verses'. We set out about four. Young Corrichatachin went with

We had a fine evening, and arrived in good time at Ostig, the residence of Mr. Martin M‘Pherson, minister of Slate. It is a pretty good house, built by his father, upon a farm near the church. We were received here with much kindness by Mr. and Mrs. M‘Pherson, and his sister, Miss M.Pherson, who pleased Dr. Johnson much, by singing Erse songs, and pla

and playing on the guittar. He afterwards sent her



• If ey'ry wheel of that unwearied mill
That turned ten thousand verses now stands still.'
Imitations of Horace, 2 Epis. ii. 78.

a present 302

Dr. Ml Pherson's Latin poetry.

(Sept. 28.

a present of his Rasselas. In his bed-chamber was a press stored with books, Greek, Latin, French, and English, most of which had belonged to the father of our host, the learned Dr. M.Pherson; who, though his Dissertations have been mentioned in a former page' as unsatisfactory, was a man of distinguished talents. Dr. Johnson looked at a Latin paraphrase of the song of Moses, written by him, and published in the Scots Magazine for 1747, and said, “It does him honour; he has a good deal of Latin, and good Latin.' Dr. M.Pherson published also in the same magazine, June 1739, an original Latin ode, which he wrote from the isle of Barra, where he was minister for some years. It is very poetical, and exhibits a striking proof how much all things depend upon comparison : for Barra, it seems, appeared to him so much worse than Sky, his natale solum, that he languished for its blessed mountains,' and thought himself buried alive amongst barbarians where he was. My readers will probably not be displeased to have a specimen of this ode :

*Hei mihi! quantos patior dolores,
Dum procul specto juga ter beata;
Dum feræ Barræ steriles arenas

Solus oberro.

Ingemo, indignor, crucior, quod inter
Barbaros Thulen lateam colentes;
Torpeo languens, morior sepultus,

Carcere cæco.'

After wishing for wings to fly over to his dear country, which was in his view, from what he calls Thule, as being the most western isle of Scotland, except St. Kilda ; after describing the pleasures of society, and the miseries of solitude, he, at last, with becoming propriety, has recourse to the only sure relief of thinking men,-Sursum corda'—the hope of a better world, disposes his mind to resignation :

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1 Ante, p. 235.

*Nescio qua natale solum dulcedine captos

Ovid, Ex Pont. i. 3. 35. • Lift up your hearts.


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