« PrejšnjaNaprej »
observed, a good essay might be written Sur la crédulité des Incrédules.
The height of this cave I cannot tell with any tolerable exactness; but it seemed to be very lofty, and to be a pretty regular arch. We penetrated, by candlelight, a great way; by our measurement, no less than four hundred and eightyfive feet. Tradition says, that a piper and twelve men once advanced into this cave, nobody can tell how far; and never returned. At the distance to which we proceeded the air was quite pure; for the candle burned freely, without the least appearance of the flame growing globular; but as we had only one, we thought it dangerous to venture farther, lest, should it have been extinguished, we should have had no means of ascertaining whether we could remain without danger. Dr. Johnson said, this was the greatest natural curiosity he had ever seen.
We saw the island of Staffa, at no very great distance, but could not land upon it, the surge was so high on its rocky coast.
Sir Allan, anxious for the honour of Mull, was still talking of its woods, and pointing them out to Dr. Johnson, as appearing at a distance on the skirts of that island, as we sailed along. JOHNSON. 'Sir, I saw at Tobermorie what they called a wood, which I unluckily took for heath. If you shew me what I shall take for furze, it will be something.'
In the afternoon we went ashore on the coast of Mull, and partook of a cold repast, which we carried with us. We hoped to have procured some rum or brandy for our boatmen and servants, from a publick-house near where we landed; but unfortunately a funeral a few days before had exhausted all their store’. Mr. Campbell, however, one of the Duke of
· Sir James Mackintosh says (Life, ii. 257) :-Dr. Johnson visited Iona without looking at Staffa, which lay in sight, with that indifference to natural objects, either of taste or scientific curiosity, which characterised him.' This is a fair enough sample of much of the criticism under which Johnson's reputation has suffered.
• Smollett in Humphry Clinker (Letter of Sept. 3) describes a Highland funeral. Our entertainer seemed to think it a disparagement to
Argyle's tacksmen, who lived in the neighbourhood, on receiving a message from Sir Allan, sent us a liberal supply.
We continued to coast along Mull, and passed by Nuns’ Island, which, it is said, belonged to the nuns of Icolmkill, and from which, we are told, the stone for the buildings there was taken. As we sailed along by moon-light, in a sea somewhat rough, and often between black and gloomy rocks, Dr. Johnson said, “If this be not roving among the Hebrides, nothing is'.' The repetition of words which he had so often previously used, made a strong impression on my imagination; and, by a natural course of thinking, led
, me to consider how our present adventures would appear to me at a future period.
• I have often experienced, that scenes through which a man has passed, improve by lying in the memory: they grow mellow. Acti labores sunt jucundi”. This owing to comparing them with present listless ease. Even harsh scenes acquire a softness by length of time"; and some are like very loud sounds, which do not please, or at least do not please so much, till you are removed to a certain distance. They may be compared to strong coarse pictures, which will not bear to be viewed near. Even pleasing scenes
his family that not above a hundred gallons of whisky had been drunk upon such a solemn occasion.'
1.We then entered the boat again ; the night came upon us; the wind rose; the sea swelled; and Boswell desired to be set on dry ground: we, however, pursued our navigation, and passed by several little islands in the silent solemnity of faint moon-shine, seeing little, and hearing only the wind and water.' Piozzi Letters, i. 176.
Cicero De Finibus, ii. 32. : I have lately observed that this thought has been elegantly expressed by Cowley :
“Things which offend when present, and affright,
In memory, well painted, move delight.' BOSWELL. The lines are found in the Ode upon His Majesty's Restoration and Return, stanza 12. They may have been suggested by Virgil's lines--
* Revocate arimos, maestumque timorem
Æneid, i. 202.
Landing on Iona.
improve by time, and seem more exquisite in recollection, than when they were present; if they have not faded to dimness in the memory. Perhaps, there is so much evil in every human enjoyment, when present,- so much dross mixed with it, that it requires to be refined by time; and yet I do not see why time should not melt away the good and the evil in equal proportions ;-why the shade should decay, and the light remain in preservation.
After a tedious sail, which, by our following various turnings of the coast of Mull, was extended to about forty miles, it gave us no small pleasure to perceive a light in the village at Icolmkill, in which almost all the inhabitants of the island live, close to where the ancient building stood. As we approached the shore, the tower of the cathedral, just discernible in the air, was a picturesque object.
When we had landed upon the sacred place, which, as long as I can remember, I had thought on with veneration, Dr. Johnson and I cordially embraced. We had long talked of visiting Icolmkill; and, from the lateness of the season, were at times very doubtful whether we should be able to effect our purpose. To have seen it, even alone, would have given me great satisfaction ; but the venerable scene was rendered much more pleasing by the company of my great and pious friend, who was no less affected by it than I was; and who has described the impressions it should make on the mind, with such strength of thought, and energy of language, that I shall quote his words, as conveying my own sensations much more forcibly than I am capable of doing:
'We were now treading that illustrious Island, which was once the luminary of the Caledonian regions, whence savage clans and roving barbarians derived the benefits of knowledge, and the blessings of religion. To abstract the mind from all local emotion would be impossible, if it were endeavoured, and would be foolish if it were possible. Whatever withdraws us from the power of our senses, whatever makes the past, the distant, or the future, predominate over the present, advances us in the dignity of thinking beings.
Far Oct. 19.)
Among the ruins of Iona.
Far from me, and from my friends, be such frigid philosophy as may conduct us indifferent and unmoved over any ground which has been dignified by wisdom, bravery, or virtue. That man is little to be envied, whose patriotism would not gain force upon the plain of Marathon, or whose piety would not grow warmer among the ruins of Iona'!'
Upon hearing that Sir Allan M‘Lean was arrived, the inhabitants, who still consider themselves as the people of M‘Lean, to whom the island formerly belonged, though the Duke of Argyle has at present possession of it, ran eagerly to him.
We were accommodated this night in a large barn, the island affording no lodging that we should have liked so well. Some good hay was strewed at one end of it, to form a bed for us, upon which we lay with our clothes on; and we were furnished with blankets from the village'. Each of us had a portmanteau for a pillow. When I awaked in the morning, and looked round me, I could not help smiling at the idea of the chief of the M‘Leans, the great English Moralist, and myself, lying thus extended in such a situation.
| Had our Tour produced nothing else but this sublime passage, the world must have acknowledged that it was not made in vain. The present respectable President of the Royal Society was so much struck on reading it, that he clasped his hands together, and remained for some time in an attitude of silent admiration. Boswell. Boswell again quotes this passage (which is found in Johnson's Works, ix. 145), ante, iii. 197. The President was Sir Joseph Banks. Johnson says in Rasselas, ch. xi :—That the supreme being may be more easily propitiated in one place than in another is the dream of idle superstition ; but that some places may operate upon our own minds in an uncommon manner is an opinion which hourly experience will justify. He who supposes that his vices may be more successfully combated in Palestine will, perhaps, find himself mistaken, yet he may go thither without folly; he who thinks they will be more freely pardoned dishonours at once his reason and religion.'
? • Sir Allan went to the headman of the island, whom fame, but fame delights in amplifying, represents as worth no less than fifty pounds. He was, perhaps, proud 'enough of his guests, but ill prepared for our entertainment; however he soon produced more provision than men not luxurious require.' Johnson's Works, ix. 146.
Among the ruins of lona.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 20. Early in the morning we surveyed the remains of antiquity at this place, accompanied by an illiterate fellow, as Cicerone, who called himself a descendant of a cousin of Saint Columba, the founder of the religious establishment here. As I knew that many persons had already examined them, and as I saw Dr. Johnson inspecting and measuring several of the ruins of which he has since given so full an account, my mind was quiescent; and I resolved to stroll among them at my ease, to take no trouble to investigate minutely, and only receive the general impression of solemn antiquity, and the particular ideas of such objects as should of themselves strike my attention.
We walked from the monastery of Nuns to the great church or cathedral, as they call it, along an old broken causeway. They told us, that this had been a street; and that there were good houses built on each side. Dr. Johnson doubted if it was any thing more than a paved road for the nuns. The convent of Monks, the great church, Oran's chapel, and four other chapels, are still to be discerned. But I must own that Icolmkill did not answer my expectations; for they were high, from what I had read of it, and still more from what I had heard and thought of it, from my carliest years. Dr. Johnson said, it came up to his expectations, because he had taken his impression from an account of it subjoined to Sacheverel's History of the Isle of Man', where it is said, there is not much to be seen here. We were both disappointed, when we were shewn what are called the monuments of the kings of Scotland, Ireland, and Denmark, and of a King of France. There are only some grave-stones Alat on the carth, and we could see no inscriptions. How far short was this of marble monuments, like those in Westminster-Abbey, which I had imagined here! The grave-stones of Sir Allan M‘Lean's family, and of that
| An Account of the Isle of Man. With a voyage to I-Columb-Kill. By W. Sacheverell, Esq., late Governour of Man. 1702.