« PrejšnjaNaprej »
Scottish clergy is certainly greater than that of the English. His taking up the topic of their not having so much learning, was, though ingenious, yet a fallacy in logic. 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. Macqueen, 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. Macleod was so much captivated by his eloquence, that she told me, "I was a good advocate for a bad cause.”
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 24.
This was a good day. Dr. Johnson told us at breakfast that he rode harder at a fox chase 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. lordship however performed it."
Our money being nearly exhausted, we sent a bill for thirty pounds, drawn on Sir William Forbes and Co., to Lochbracadale, 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. Macqueen 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 circu
lation of money introduced. I got one-and-twenty shillings in silver at Portree, which was thought a wonderful store.
Talisker, Mr. Macqueen, and I, walked out, and 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 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. Maclean, 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-ri [Tiree]. In all these islands he could show us everything 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
*The water of Cuchillin's well was so highly valued by old Talisker that he would drink no other when at home, though the spring was at some distance, and could only be reached by fording a stream. On one occasion it was found that the servant had neglected to fetch the usual supply, and, though the night was dark and stormy, he was ordered off to repair the omission. The faithless Donald, to save the dreary walk, filled his pail at a more convenient spring: Talisker detected the imposition, and sent Donald back again; but, with marvellous condescension, he resolved to accompany him, to make sure against any further mistake. Cuchillin's well was reached and the pail replenished; and as Donald trudged behind his master, ruminating on the consequences of detection, he contrived to dip the pail in the stream, and to take home for his outwitted master a liquid as unlike the well-known water of Cuchillin's well as that which had at first excited his suspicious ire. The blame was laid upon the well, which it was concluded must have been subjected to some disturbing causes, and the adroit Highlander escaped punishment. Drinking from this memorable spring, and living temperately, Talisker reached the goodly age of eighty, dying July 14th, 1798.-ED.
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 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 gown.”*
It was resolved that we should set out, in order to return to Slate, to be in readiness to take a 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;
* On retiring to his own room Johnson indulged in one of these serious retrospects and self-communings, which were common with him at certain seasons, particularly his birthday. The following is among his "Prayers and Meditations:"
"Talisker, in Sky, Sept. 24, 1773. "On last Saturday was my sixty-fourth birthday. I might perhaps have forgotten it had not Boswell told me of it; and, what pleased me less, told the family at Dunve vegan. The last year is added to those of which little use has been made. I tried in the summer to learn Dutch, and was interrupted by an inflammation in my eye. I set out in August on this journey to Sky. I find my memory uncertain, but hope it is only by a life immethodical and scattered. Of my body, I do not perceive that exercise or change of air has yet either increased the strength or activity. My nights are still disturbed by flatulencies. My hope is, for resolution I dare no longer call it, to divide my time regularly, and to keep such a journal of my time as may give me comfort on reviewing it. But when I consider my age and the broken state of my body, I have great reason to fear lest death should lay hold upon me while I am only yet designing to live. But I have yet hope.
"ALMIGHTY God, most merciful Father, look down upon me with pity! Thou hast protected me in childhood and youth; support me, Lord, in my declining years. Preserve me from the dangers of sinful presumption. Give me, if it be best for me, stability of purposes and tranquillity of mind. Let the year which I have now begun be spent to thy glory and to the furtherance of my salvation. Take not from me thy Holy Spirit, but as death approaches prepare me to appear joyfully in thy presence, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."-ED.
+ The song begins differently, thus
"Welcome, welcome, brother debtor
To this poor but merry place,
Dares to show his frightful face."
The lines quoted by Johnson form part of the third stanza. In a copy of "A Select Collection of English Songs," in three volumes, published by Johnson, St. Paul's
I suppose he had been thinking of our confined situation. 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 Macleod and Talisker, from whom we parted with regret. Talisker, having been bred to physic, 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.
Macqueen 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 Macqueen. Dr. Johnson took leave of him very affectionately, saying, "Dear sir, do not forget me !"-We settled that he should write an account of the Isle of Sky, which Dr. Johnson promised to revise. He said, Mr. Macqueen should tell all that he could; Churchyard, 1783, which belonged to the poet Burns and is now in our possession, Burns has written at the commencement of the above song, " By Mr. Coffey."-ED.
The Scotch regiments in the Dutch service were formed out of some independent companies sent over either in the reign of Elizabeth or James VI. The officers were all Scotch, who were obliged to take oaths to our Government, and to qualify in presence of our ambassador at the Hague.-"Pennant's Second Tour." Part I.-ED.
distinguishing what he himself knew, what was traditional, and what conjectural.*
We sent our horses round a point of land, that we might shun some very bad road, and resolved to go forward by sea. It was seven o'clock when we got into our boat. We had many showers, and it soon grew pretty dark. Dr. Johnson sat silent and patient. Once he said, as he looked on the black coast of Sky,-black, as being composed of rocks seen in the dusk,-"This is very solemn." Our boatmen were rude singers, and seemed so like wild Indians, that a very little imagination was necessary to give one an impression of being upon an American river. We landed at Strolimus, from whence we got a guide to walk before us, for two miles, to Corrichatachin. Not being able to procure a horse for our baggage, I took one portmanteau before me, and Joseph another. We had but a single star to light us on our way. It was about eleven when we arrived. We were most hospitably received by the master and mistress, who were just going to bed, but, with unaffected ready kindness, made a good fire, and at twelve o'clock at night had supper on the table.
James Macdonald, of Knockow, Kingsburgh's brother, whom we had seen at Kingsburgh, was there. He showed me a bond granted by the late Sir James Macdonald, to old Kingsburgh, the preamble of which does so much honour to the feelings of that much-lamented gentleman, that I thought it worth transcribing. It was as follows:
"I, Sir James Macdonald, of Macdonald, Baronet, now, after arriving at my perfect age, from the friendship I bear to Alexander Macdonald of Kingsburgh, and in return for the long and faithful services done and performed by him to my deceased
* Such a history would have been extremely interesting and valuable. All that Mr. Macqueen seems to have collected he communicated to Pennant, and the principal portion is a short "Dissertation on the Government of the People in the Western Isles," written in 1774. Mr. Macqueen, or more correctly Dr. Macqueen, for he had received the degree of D.D., though he did not use it in Skye, was an eminent member of the Scottish Church, and is honourably mentioned by Dr. Erskine in his "Sketches of Church History." He died suddenly at Rasay, in January, 1785, while on a visit to his cousin the Laird of Rasay. The funeral of the learned and estimable pastor is still remembered. Rasay gave a liberal " entertainment" previous to the "lifting of the body," there was another entertainment at Portree, and a third at Kilmuir, the place of interment. The whole parish of Kilmuir assembled to receive and accompany the remains of their minister from Portree. There was something very striking and solemn in these large Highland funerals; in the appearance of the vast procession winding among the hills or stretching along the shore; and in the strains of the bagpipe, as the "Lament" was slowly and mournfully pealed forth. The misfortune was that they were often carried to excess, and that by their expense they burdened families for years afterwards. Scenes of riot and disorder sometimes occurred, and so late as 1817, at the funeral of a chief, several individuals, on their return from the ghostly revels, perished amidst the snow. The better taste and feeling of modern times has greatly abated this extravagance; but the whole population of a glen is still ready to pour forth to honour piety, or public service, or ancient descent, in its passage to the tomb.-ED.