Slike strani
PDF
ePub

a

Mr. Durham's excellent Commentary on the Galatians ? "_" No, sir," said Dr. Johnson. By this lucky thought my father kept him at bay, and for some time enjoyed his triumph ; but his antagonist soon made a retort, which I forbear to mention.

In the course of their altercation, Whiggism and Presbyterianism, Toryism and Episcopacy, were terribly buffetted. My worthy hereditary friend, Sir John Pringle, never having been mentioned, happily escaped without a bruise.

My father's opinion of Dr. Johnson may be conjectured from the name he afterwards gave him, which was URSA MAJOR. But it is not true, as has been reported that it was in consequence of my saying that he was a constellation of genius and literature. It was a sly abrupt expression to one of his brethren on the bench of the Court of Session, in which Dr. Johnson was then standing; but it was not said in his hearing

* Sir Walter Scott contributed to Mr. Croker, for that gentleman's edition of Bog. well, some traditionary notices of this quarrel. “It ended," he says, “in Johnson's pressing upon the old judge the question, what good Cromwell, of whom he had said something derogatory, had ever done to his country; when, after being much tortured, Lord Auchinleck at last spoke out: “ God, doctor, he gart kings ken they had a lith in their neck"_"He taught kings they had a joint in their neck.” We doubt this anecdote, which seems merely an echo of a saying by Quin, the actor, related by Davies: “On a thirtieth of January, Quin said every king in Europe would rise with a crick in his neck." The following is more characteristic: “ There's nae hope for Jamie, mon,” Lord Auchinleck said to a friend,“Jamie is gaen clean gyte. What do you think, mon? He's done wi' Paoli-he's off wi' the land-louping scoundrel of & Corsican; and whose tail do you think he has pinned himself to now, mon ?" Here the old judge summoned up a sneer of sovereign contempt. “A dominie, mon-an auld dominie; he keeped a schule, and cau'd it an academy." (Croker's Boswell.) Among the topics to be avoided between the old laird and his visitor, Boswell might have included Ossian; for Lord Auchinleck seems to have been at least a partial believer in the authenticity of the Celtic Homer. He writes to Dr. Blair, and October, 1764, with an account of what he considered an intrinsic proof of antiquity. “When (in Ossian) a hero finds death approaching, he calls to prepare his deer's horn; a passage which I did not understand for a good time after Fingal was published, but came then to have it explainea accidentally. You must know that in Badenoch, near the church of Alves, on the highway-side, are a number of tumuli, nobody had ever taken notice of these as artificial till Macpherson of Benchar, a rery sensible man, under an apprehension of their being artificial, caused to cut up two of them, and found human bones in them, and at right angles with them a red-deer's horn above them. These burials plainly have been before Christianity, for the corpse lay in the direction of north and south, not in that of east and west; and as Fingal was published before any of these tumuli were opened (which you will get attested by Benchar and the people he employed in the works), this seems to make strong for the antiquity.” (Highland Society's Report, 1805.) Johnson would have treated this proof with ineffable contempt; but, fortunately, among the questiones vexatæ at Auchinleck, that of Ossian does not appear to have been broached. Lord Auchinleck was elevated to the bench in 1756, and died in 1782. He had a taste for the olden literature of the country, and the Auchinleck Library is famous for its collection of rare and valuable works.-ED).

U

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 7. My father and I went to public worship in our parish church, in which I regretted that Dr. Johnson would not join us; for, though we have there no form of prayer, nor magnificent solemnity, yet, as God is worshipped in spirit and in truth, and the same doctrines preached as in the Church of England, my friend would certainly have shown more liberality had he attended. I doubt not, however, but he employed his time in private to very good purpose. His uni. form and fervent piety was manifested on many occasions during our Tour, which I have not mentioned. - His reason for not joining in Presbyterian worship has been recorded in a former page.

MONDAY, NOVEMBER Notwithstanding the altercation that had passed, my father, who had the dignified courtesy of an old baron, was very civil to Dr. John son, and politely attended him to the post-chaise, which was to convey us to Edinburgh.

Thus they parted.—They are now in another, and a higher, state of existence; and as they were both worthy Christian men, I trust they have met in happiness. But I must observe, in justice to my friend's political principles, and my own, that they have met in a place where there is no room for Whiggism.

We came at night to a good inn at Hamilton.— I recollect no more.

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 9. I wished to have shown Dr. Johnson the Duke of Hamilton's house, commonly called the Palace of Hamilton, which is close by the town.* It is an object which, having been pointed out to me as a splendid edifice from my earliest years, in travelling between Auchinleck and Edinburgh, has still great grandeur in my imagination. My friend consented to stop, and view the outside of it, but could not be persuaded to go into it.

We arrived this night at Edinburgh, after an absence of eightythree days. For five weeks together of the tempestuous season, there had been no account received of us. I cannot express how happy I was on finding myself again at home.

• Hamilton Palace has since been greatly extended and improved. The additions were begun in 1822, and continued for several years at an enormous cost. The picture gallery, library, and principal apartments are on the most magnificent scale, and the structure altogether is one of the most gorgeous in the kingdom, The pictures are numerous and highly valuable, and there is a rich collection of cabinets and works of vertu.-ED.

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 10. Old Mr. Drummond, the bookseller, came to breakfast. Dr. Johnson and he had not met for ten years. There was respect on his side, and kindness on Dr. Johnson’s.* Soon afterwards, Lord Elibank came in, and was much pleased at seeing Dr. Johnson in Scotland. His lordship said, “ Hardly anything seemed to him more improbable." Dr. Johnson had a very high opinion of him. Speaking of him to me, he characterised him thus: “Lord Elibank has read a great deal. It is true, I can find in books all that he has read; but he has a great deal of what is in books, proved by the test of real life.”—Indeed, there have been few men whose conversation discovered more knowledge enlivened by fancy. He published several small pieces of distinguished merit, and has left some in manuscript-in particular, an account of the expedition against Carthagena, in which he served as au officer in the army. His writings deserve to be collected. He was the early patron of Dr. Robertson, the historian, and Mr. Home, the tragic poet; who, when they were ministers of country parishes, lived near his seat. He told me, “I saw these lads had talents, and they were much with me.”—I hope they will pay a grateful tribute to his memory.t

The morning was chiefly taken up by Dr. Johnson's giving him an account of our tour. The subject of difference in political principles was introduced.—JOHNSON: “It is much increased by opposition. There was a violent Whig, with whom I used to contend with great eagerness. After his death I felt my Toryism much abated.”—I suppose he meant Mr. Walmsley, of Lichfield, whose character he has drawn so well in his Life of Edmund Smith.

Mr. Nairne came in, and he and I accompanied Dr. Johnson to Edinburgh Castle, which he owned was “a great place.” But I must mention, as a striking instance of that spirit of contradiction to which he had a strong propensity, when Lord Elibank was some days after talking of it with the natural elation of a Scotchman, or of any man who is proud of a stately fortress in his own country,

* This old friend of Johnson's died December 21st, 1774. He is styled in the newspapers of the day, “ William Drummond, Esq., of Callendar, bookseller in Edinburgh."-Ed.

+ Lord Elibank seems to have been the most assiduous of the Edinburgh literati and public men in conciliating the favour of Johnson. He was also the most successful in his efforts; and we cannot forbear regretting that he did not live to read the result in the complimentary pages of Boswell. His lordship died August 3rd, 1778, aged seventy-six. He was a man of wit, learning, and varied talents; had studied law and served in the army, and was a first-rate conversationalist. It has since been ascertained that Elibank was in correspondence with the family of the Pretender, bui he escaped detection, and afterpards kept his Jacobitism in prudent abeyance.-Ed.

Dr. Johnson affected to despise it, observing that, “it would make a good prison in England.”

Lest it should be supposed that I have suppressed one of his sallies against my country, it may not be improper here to correct a mistaken account that has been circulated, as to his conversation this day. It has been said, that being desired to attend to the noble prospect from the Castle-hill, he replied, “Sir, the noblest prospect that a Scotchman ever sees, is the high road that leads him to London.”—This lively sarcasm was thrown out at a tavern in London, in my presence, many years before.

We had with us to-day at dinner, at my house, the Lady Dowager Colvill, and Lady Anne Erskine, sisters of the Earl of Kelly; the Honourable Archibald Erskine, who has now succeeded to that title ; Lord Elibank; the Reverend Dr. Blair; Mr. Tytler, the acute vindicator of Mary Queen of Scots, and some other friends. *

Fingal being talked of, Dr. Johnson, who used to boast that he had, from the first, resisted both Ossian and the Giants of Patagonia, averred his positive disbelief of its authenticity. Lord Elibank said, “I am sure it is not Macpherson's. Mr. Johnson, I keep company a great deal with you; it is known I do. I may borrow from you better things than I can say myself, and give them as my own; but, if I should, every body will know whose they are.”—The Doctor was not softened by this compliment. He denied merit to Fingal, supposing it to be the production of a man who has had the advantages that the present age affords; and said, “nothing is more easy than to write enough in that style if once you begin.” + One gentleman in company expressing 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

:

* Mr. Tytler was an excellent Scottish antiquary, and did much to illustrate the history, poetry, and music of his native country. He died in 1792, aged eighty-five. His son inherited his taste and talents, and was a Scottish Judge under the title of Lord Woodhouselee. He died in 1813, aged sixty-six. Lord Woodhouselee had a son, who augmented the literary honours of the family--the late Patrick Fraser Tytler, Esq., author of the “History of Scotland."-ED.

+ I desire not to be understood as agreeing entirely with the opinions of Dr. John. son, which I relate without any remark. The many imitations, however, of “ "Fingal" that have been published confirm this observation in a considerable degree.-BosweLL.

66

6

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 epic 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 public 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 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 now to have become very uninteresting to the public. That “ Fingal” is not, from beginning to end, a translation from the Gaelic, 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 deathbed, 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

« PrejšnjaNaprej »