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his opinion that Fingal was certainly genuine, for that he had heard a great part of it repeated in the original,' Dr. Johnson indignantly asked him whether he understood the original; to which an answer being given in the negative, •Why then, (said Dr. Johnson,) we see to what this testimony comes :—thus it is.'
I mention this as' a remarkable proof how liable the mind of man is to credulity, when not guarded by such strict examination as that which Dr. Johnson habitually practised. 'The talents and integrity of the gentleman who made the remark, are unquestionable; yet, had not Dr. Johnson made him advert to the consideration, that he who does not understand a language, cannot know that something which is recited to him is in that language, he might have believed, and reported to this hour, that he had heard a great part of Fingal repeated in the original.'
For the satisfaction of those on the north of the Tweed, who may think Dr. Johnson's account of Caledonian credulity and inaccuracy too strong, it is but fair to add, that he admitted the same kind of ready belief might be found in his own country. “He would undertake, (he said,) to write an epick poem on the story of Robin Hood”, and half England, to whom the names and places he should mention in it are familiar, would believe and declare they had heard it from their earliest years.'
One of his objections to the authenticity of Fingal, during the conversation at Ulinish*, is omitted in my Journal, but I perfectly recollect it. “Why is not the original deposited in some publick library, instead of exhibiting attestations of its existence? Suppose there were a question in a court of
" justice, whether a man be dead or alive: You aver he is 444
1 In the first edition, this gentleman's talents and integrity are, &c.
**A Scotchman must be a very sturdy moralist who does not love Scotland better than truth: he will always love it better than inquiry; and if falsehood flatters his vanity, will not be very diligent to detect it.' Johnson's Works, ix, 116. See ante, ii. 356. : See ante, p. 187. • See ante, p. 275.
5 See ante, iv. 292.
alive, and you bring fifty witnesses to swear it: I answer,
Why do you not produce the man?"' This is an argument founded upon one of the first principles of the law of evidence, which Gilbert' would have held to be irrefragable.
I do not think it incumbent on me to give any precise decided opinion upon this question, as to which I believe more than some, and less than others. The subject appears to have now become very uninteresting to the publick. That Fingal is not from beginning to end a translation from the Gallick, but that some passages have been supplied by the editor to connect the whole, I have heard admitted by very warm advocates for its authenticity. If this be the case, why are not these distinctly ascertained ? Antiquaries, and admirers of the work, may complain, that they are in a situation similar to that of the unhappy gentleman, whose wife informed him, on her death-bed, that one of their reputed children was not his; and, when he eagerly begged her to declare which of them it was, she answered, “That you
, shall never know ;' and expired, leaving him in irremediable doubt as to them all.
I beg leave now to say something upon second sight, of which I have related two instances', as they impressed my mind at the time. I own, I returned from the Hebrides with a considerable degree of faith in the many stories of that kind which I heard with a too easy acquiescence, without any
close examination of the evidence: but, since that time, my belief in those stories has been much weakened', by reflecting on the careless inaccuracy of narrative in common matters, from which we may certainly conclude that there may be the same in what is more extraordinary. It is but just, however, to add, that the belief in second sight is not peculiar to the Highlands and Isles'.
· Lord Chief Baron Geoffrey Gilbert published in 1760 a book on the Law of Evidence.
· See ante, ii. 345. • Three instances, ante, pp. 182, 364.
• See ante, ii. 363. ' An instance is given in Sacheverell's Account of the Isle of Man, ed. 1702, p. 14.
Some Nov. 10.)
Some years after our Tour, a cause' was tried in the Court of Session, where the principal fact to be ascertained was, whether a ship-master, who used to frequent the Western Highlands and Isles, was drowned in one particular year, or in the year after. A great number of witnesses from those parts were examined on each side, and swore directly contrary to each other, upon this simple question. One of them, a very respectable Chieftain, who told me a story of second sight, which I have not mentioned, but which I too implicitly believed, had in this case, previous to this publick examination, not only said, but attested under his hand, that he had seen the ship-master in the year subsequent to that in which the court was finally satisfied he was drowned. When interrogated with the strictness of judicial inquiry, and under the awe of an oath, he recollected himself better, and retracted what he had formerly asserted, apologising for his inaccuracy, by telling the judges, “A man will say what he will not swear. By many he was much censured, and it was maintained that every gentleman would be as attentive to truth without the sanction of an oath, as with it. Dr. Johnson, though he himself was distinguished at all times by a scrupulous adherence to truth, controverted this proposition; and as a proof that this was not, though it ought to be, the case, urged the very different decisions of elections under Mr. Grenville's Act’, from those formerly made. 'Gentlemen will not pronounce upon oath what they would have said, and voted in the house, without that sanction.'
However difficult it may be for men who believe in preternatural communications, in modern times, to satisfy those who are of a different opinion, they may easily refute the doctrine of their opponents, who impute a belief in second
'Mr. J. T. Clark, the Keeper of the Advocates' Library, Edinburgh, obligingly informs me that in the margin of the copy of Boswell's Journal in that Library it is stated that this cause was Wilson versus Maclean. • See ante, iv. 86, note 3.
Garrick and Foote compared.
sight to superstition. To entertain a visionary notion that one sees a distant or future event, may be called superstition: but the correspondence of the fact or event with such an impression on the fancy, though certainly very wonderful, if proved, has no more connection with superstition, than magnetism or electricity.
After dinner, various topicks were discussed; but I recollect only one particular. Dr. Johnson compared the different talents of Garrick and Foote', as companions, and gave Garrick greatly the preference for elegance, though he allowed Foote extraordinary powers of entertainment. He said, 'Garrick is restrained by some principle; but Foote has the advantage of an unlimited range. Garrick has some delicacy of feeling; it is possible to put him out; you may get the better of him; but Foote is the most incompressible fellow that I ever knew ; when you have driven him into a corner, and think you are sure of him, he runs through between your legs, or jumps over your head, and makes his escape.'
Dr. Erskine® and Mr. Robert Walker, two very respectable ministers of Edinburgh, supped with us, as did the Reverend Dr. Webster". The conversation turned on the Moravian missions, and on the Methodists. Dr. Johnson observed in general, that missionaries were too sanguine in their accounts of their success among savages, and that much of what they tell is not to be believed. He owned that the Methodists had done good ; had spread religious impressions among the vulgar part of mankind': but, he
* said, they had great bitterness against other Christians, and that he never could get a Methodist to explain in what he excelled others; that it always ended in the indispensible necessity of hearing one of their preachers'.
i See ante, iii. 79, 209.
+ See ante, i. 530. We now observe that the Methodists, where they scatter their opinions, represent themselves as preaching the Gospel to unconvert
Nov. 11.) Dr. Robertson's studied compliment.
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER II. Principal Robertson came to us as we sat at breakfast, he advanced to Dr. Johnson, repeating a line of Virgil, which I forget. I suppose, either
‘Post varios casus, per tot discrimina rerum'
-multum ille et terris jactatus, et altoʻ.' Every body had accosted us with some studied compliment on our return. Dr. Johnson said, “I am really ashamed of the congratulations which we receive. We are addressed as if we had made a voyage to Nova Zembla, and suffered five persecutions in Japan". And he afterwards remarked, that, 'to see a man come up with a formal air, and a Latin line, when we had no fatigue and no danger, was provoking. I told him, he was not sensible of the danger, having lain under cover in the boat during the stormo: he was like the
ed nations; and enthusiasts of all kinds have been inclined to disguise their particular tenets with pompous appellations, and to imagine themselves the great instruments of salvation. Johnson's Works, vi. 417. •Through various hazards and events we move.'
Dryden, [Æneid, 1. 204]. BOSWELL. * Long labours both by sea and land he bore.'
Dryden, [Æneid, 1. 3]. BOSWELL. The Jesuits, headed by Francis Xavier, made their appearance in Japan in 1549. The first persecution was in 1587; it was followed by others in 1590, 1597, 1637, 1638. Encyclo. Brit. 8th edit. xii. 697.
* *They congratulate our return as if we had been with Phipps or Banks; I am ashamed of their salutations.' Piozzi Letters, i. 203. Phipps had gone this year to the Arctic Ocean (ante, p. 268), and Banks had accompanied Captain Cook in 1768-1771. Johnson says however (Works, ix. 84), that “to the southern inhabitants of Scotland the state of the mountains and the islands is equally unknown with that of Borneo or Sumatra.' See ante, p. 322, note 1, where Scott says that 'the whole expedition was highly perilous.' Smollett, in Humphry Clinker (Letter of July 18), says of Scotland in general :'The people at the other end of the island know as little of Scotland as of Japan. • In sailing from Sky to Col. Ante, p. 318.