« PrejšnjaNaprej »
Johnson's encomium of Boswell.
the pride of which was his predominant passion. He was then in his thirty-third year, and had been about four years happily married. His inclination was to be a soldier'; but his father, a respectable' Judge, had pressed him into the profession of the law. He had travelled a good deal, and seen many varieties of human life. He had thought more than any body supposed, and had a pretty good stock of general learning and knowledge'. He had all Dr. Johnson's principles, with some degree of relaxation. He had rather too little, than too much prudence; and, his imagination being lively, he often said things of which the effect was very different from the intention'. He resembled sometimes 'The best good man, with the worst natur'd muse".' He cannot deny himself the vanity of finishing with the encomium of Dr. Johnson, whose friendly partiality to the companion of his Tour represents him as one 'whose acuteness would help my enquiry, and whose gaiety of conversation, and civility of manners, are sufficient to counteract the inconveniences of travel, in countries less hospitable than we have passed.'
versant la Mediterranée sur de frêles navires pour venir s'asseoir au foyer de la nationalité Corse, des hommes graves tels que Boswel et Volney obéissaient sans doute à un sentiment bien plus élevé qu'au besoin vulgaire d'une puérile curiosité.'
1 See ante, i. 462. 2 For respectable, see ante, iii. 273, note 2. 3 Boswell, in the last of his Hypochondriacks, says :-'I perceive that my essays are not so lively as I expected they would be, but they are more learned. And I beg I may not be charged with excessive arrogance when I venture to say that they contain a considerable portion of original thinking.' London Mag. 1783, p. 124.
Burns, in The Author's Earnest Cry and Prayer, says :-
Boswell and Burns were born within a few miles of each other, Boswell being the elder by eighteen years.
'For pointed satire I would Buckhurst choose,
The best good man, with the worst-natured muse.' Rochester's Imitations of Horace, Sat. i. 10. Johnson's Works, ix. 1. See ante, ii. 318, where he wrote to BosDr. Johnson
August 18.] Johnson's Diary of his own Life.
Dr. Johnson thought it unnecessary to put himself to the additional expence of bringing with him Francis Barber, his faithful black servant; so we were attended only by my man, Joseph Ritter, a Bohemian; a fine stately fellow above six feet high, who had been over a great part of Europe, and spoke many languages. He was the best servant I ever saw. Let not my readers disdain his introduction! For Dr. Johnson gave him this character: Sir, he is a civil man,
and a wise man'.'
From an erroneous apprehension of violence, Dr. Johnson had provided a pair of pistols, some gunpowder, and a quantity of bullets: but upon being assured we should run no risk of meeting any robbers, he left his arms and ammunition in an open drawer, of which he gave my wife the charge. He also left in that drawer one volume of a pretty full and curious Diary of his Life, of which I have a few fragments; but the book has been destroyed. I wish female curiosity had been strong enough to have had it all transcribed; which might easily have been done; and I should think the theft, being pro bono publico, might have been forgiven. But I may be wrong. My wife told me she never
well:-'I have endeavoured to do you some justice in the first paragraph [of the Journey].' The day before he started for Scotland he wrote to Dr. Taylor:- Mr. Boswell, an active lively fellow, is to conduct me round the country.' Notes and Queries, 6th S. v. 422. 'His inquisitiveness,' he said, 'is seconded by great activity.' Works, ix. 8. On Oct. 7 he wrote from Skye:- Boswell will praise my resolution and perseverance; and I shall in return celebrate his good humour and perpetual cheerfulness. . . . It is very convenient to travel with him, for there is no house where he is not received with kindness and respect.' Piozzi Letters, i. 198. He told Mrs. Knowles that Boswell was the best travelling companion in the world.' Ante, iii. 334. Mr. Croker says (Croker's Boswell, p. 280) :-- I asked Lord Stowell in what estimation he found Boswell amongst his countrymen. "Generally liked as a good-natured jolly fellow," replied his lordship. "But was he respected?" "Well, I think he had about the proportion of respect that you might guess would be shown to a jolly fellow." His lordship thought there was more regard than respect.' Hebrides, p. 40.
1 See ante, ii, 119, 472.
The Frith of Forth.
once looked into it'.-She did not seem quite easy when we left her but away we went!
Mr. Nairne, advocate, was to go with us as far as St. Andrews. It gives me pleasure that, by mentioning his name, I connect his title to the just and handsome compliment paid him by Dr. Johnson, in his book: A gentleman who could stay with us only long enough to make us know how much we lost by his leaving us'.' When we came to Leith, I talked with perhaps too boasting an air, how pretty the Frith of Forth looked; as indeed, after the prospect from Constantinople, of which I have been told, and that from Naples, which I have seen, I believe the view of that Frith and its environs, from the Castle-hill of Edinburgh, is the finest prospect in Europe. 'Ay, (said Dr. Johnson,) that is the state of the world. Water is the same every where. "Una est injusti cærula forma maris3."'
I told him the port here was the mouth of the river or water of Leith. 'Not Lethe,' said Mr. Nairne. Why, Sir, (said Dr. Johnson,) when a Scotchman sets out from this port for England, he forgets his native country.' NAIRNE.
There were two quarto volumes of this Diary; perhaps one of them Johnson took with him. Boswell had 'accidentally seen them and had read a great deal in them,' as he owned to Johnson (ante, under Dec. 9, 1784), and moreover had, it should seem, copied from them (ante, i. 292). The 'few fragments' he had received from Francis Barber (ante, i. 32).
2 In the original 'how much we lost at separation.' Johnson's Works, ix. 1. Mr. William Nairne was afterwards a Judge of the Court of Sessions by the title of Lord Dunsinnan. Sir Walter Scott wrote of him :- He was a man of scrupulous integrity. When sheriff depute of Perthshire, he found upon reflection, that he had decided a poor man's case erroneously; and as the only remedy, supplied the litigant privately with money to carry the suit to the supreme court, where his judgment was reversed.' Croker's Boswell, p. 280. Non illic urbes, non tu mirabere silvas: Una est injusti cærula forma maris.
Ovid. Amor. L. II. El. xi. Nor groves nor towns the ruthless ocean shows; Unvaried still its azure surface flows.
'I hope, Sir, you will forget England here.' JOHNSON. 'Then 'twill still be more Lethe.' He observed of the Pier or Quay, 'you have no occasion for so large a one: your trade does not require it: but you are like a shopkeeper who takes a shop, not only for what he has to put in it, but that it may be believed he has a great deal to put into it.' It is very true, that there is now, comparatively, little trade upon the eastern coast of Scotland. The riches of Glasgow shew how much there is in the west; and perhaps we shall find trade travel westward on a great scale, as well as a small.
We talked of a man's drowning himself. JOHNSON. ‘I should never think it time to make away with myself.' I put the case of Eustace Budgell', who was accused of forging a will, and sunk himself in the Thames, before the trial of its authenticity came on. Suppose, Sir, (said I,) that a man is absolutely sure, that, if he lives a few days longer, he shall be detected in a fraud, the consequence of which will be utter disgrace and expulsion from society.' JOHNSON. 'Then, Sir, let him go abroad to a distant country; let him go to some place where he is not known. Don't let him go to the devil where he is known!'
He then said, 'I see a number of people bare-footed here: I suppose you all went so before the Union. Boswell, your ancestors went so, when they had as much land as your family has now. Yet Auchinleck is the Field of Stones: there would be bad going bare-footed there. The Lairds, however, did it.' I bought some speldings, fish (generally whitings) salted and dried in a particular manner, being dipped in the sea and dried in the sun, and eaten by the Scots by way of a relish. He had never seen them, though they are sold in London. I insisted on scottifying his
1 See ante, ii. 263.
* My friend, General Campbell, Governour of Madras, tells me, that they made speldings in the East-Indies, particularly at Bombay, where they call them Bambaloes. BosWELL. Johnson had told Boswell that he was the most unscottified of his countrymen.' Ante, ii. 278.
palate; but he was very reluctant. With difficulty I prevailed with him to let a bit of one of them lie in his mouth. He did not like it.
In crossing the Frith, Dr. Johnson determined that we should land upon Inch Keith'. On approaching it, we first observed a high rocky shore. We coasted about, and put into a little bay on the North-west. We clambered up a very steep ascent, on which was very good grass, but rather a profusion of thistles. There were sixteen head of black cattle grazing upon the island. Lord Hailes observed to me, that Brantome calls it L'isle des Chevaux, and that it was probably 'a safer stable' than many others in his time. The fort', with an inscription on it, Maria Re 1564, is strongly built. Dr. Johnson examined it with much attention. He stalked like a giant among the luxuriant thistles and nettles. There are three wells in the island; but we could not find one in the fort. There must probably have been one, though now filled up, as a garrison could not subsist without it. But I have dwelt too long on this little spot. Dr. Johnson afterwards bade me try to write a description of our discovering Inch Keith, in the usual style of travellers, describing fully every particular; stating the grounds on which we concluded that it must have once been inhabited, and introducing many sage reflections; and we should see how a thing might be covered in words, so as to induce people to come and survey it. All that was told might be true, and yet in reality there might be nothing to see. He said, 'I'd have this island. I'd build a house, make a good landingplace, have a garden, and vines, and all sorts of trees. A rich man, of a hospitable turn, here, would have many visitors from Edinburgh.' When we got into our boat again, he called to me, 'Come, now, pay a classical compliment to the
1 'A small island, which neither of my companions had ever visited, though, lying within their view, it had all their lives solicited their notice.' Johnson's Works, ix. I.
2 The remains of the fort have been removed to assist in constructing a very useful lighthouse upon the island. WALTER SCOTT.