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of the old feudal, or rather, patriarchal system of the Highlands, and it completed the topography of Pennant, by adding views of society and manners to the details of the antiquary and naturalist. His brief notices of some of the solitary scenes through which they journeyed—the mountains and green pastoral valleys on the main-land-or the sounds and bays, and boating excursions along the rocky coasts-or the princely reception that awaited the travellers at the island courts of Rasay and Dunve . gan-possess all the interest and novelty of romantic narrative. These short picturesque passages, with the reflections suggested at Inchkenneth and Iona, are stamped with true poetic feeling, and show how clearly and vividly the light of imagination burned in Johnson to the last. The petty cavils and uncouth prejudices which mar the early part of his “ Journey,” melt and disappear in these Highland solitudes, which he regarded as the chosen retreats of ancient piety, loyalty, and hospitality. Nor was the company he met unworthy of the scene. Johnson's genius was not dramatic; but his description of Flora Macdonald, of young Coll, of the veteran Sir Allan Maclean and his daughters, of Macleod, and of the joyous, overflowing household of Rasay, forms a gallery of distinct and happy portraits. Such views of insular life, so near home, were new to the English people; and so much were they interested in the history and character of Coll, that the death of the young islander was felt as a personal and private grief throughout the kingdom.
Boswell's Journal is, of course, pitched in a lower key. How far he was justified in relating all he saw and heard in the course of the Tour, is a question not likely to be very nicely weighed by those who have derived so much genuine pleasure from his revelations. We judge the case differently from the parties he visited, many of whom were dragged into unwelcome and unenviable notoriety. Johnson perused most of the Journal in manuscript ; his vanity was flattered, but there is no reason to believe that he ever suspected the work would be published in
its original shape. Boswell was afterwards sensible that he had told too much ; and he endeavoured, though with very indifferent success, to be more guarded as he advanced with his “Magnum Opus.” He certainly improved in style and general correctness as a writer; but it is marvellous that he should have escaped the usually potent effects of Highland wrath, in consequence of some of his disclosures. If the rough and haughty laird of Lochbuy could have foreseen how he was to be repreresented by his visitor, he would assuredly have thrust him into the dungeon of his old castle, though it should have cost him a second trial and fine; and the chief of the Macdonalds might have been tempted to “ sequestrate” him, like another Lady Grange, to Heskir or St. Kilda. The veriest domestic
could not have acted worse than he did on some occasions; but for ail such offences, one excuse may be made—it was Boswell's way; he was unconscious of the wrong he inflicted; he was every day exhibiting his own sores and buffets; and though a wiser man would have left unsaid much that he has written, a wiser man would not have made so entertaining a book.
Notwithstanding the novelties of their journey, Johnson said they had gone too late to the Hebrides to see a people of peculiar appearance and a system of antiquated life: “ the Highlanders were fast losing their distinction, and hastening to mingle with the general community.” The country was in a state of transı tion, confusion, and discontent. The old military system was broken up, chief and clan were disunited, and emigration was in full progress. Every where there seemed to be, as in the poet's dream
A lurid light, a trampling throng
Sense of intolerable wrong." The last gleams of romance in Highland life had been extinguished at Culloden. The chief no longer boasted his coshir or retinue, or gave great banquets in his strong tower while the senachie recited his ancestral glories and exploits, or sallied forth
to levy war or black-mail. Lochiel's lantern, the moon, shone in vain at Michaelmas for a creagh or foray. Instead of the fiery cross to summon the clan, the bailiff now went round to dun and distress for rent! The law was paramount, heritable jurisdiction was abolished, and feuds were transferred from the clan and claymore to the Sheriff Court or the Parliament House in Edinburgh. Rent had formerly been a subordinate consideration. The value of the soil was in “ man and steel, the soldier and his sword;" and with these the Highland chief, like the Cretan warrior, ploughed, and sowed, and reaped. Up to the seventeenth century, the history of the Western Islands is little else than a record of wars and tumults-of revolts against the Scottish crown, or of sanguinary feuds between the Macdonalds, the Macleans, and Macleods. The long Norwegian sway in the Hebrides had not induced piratical habits among the people. There were no native Vikings or buccaneers. The Celtic blood preponderated, and determined the institutions, the speech, and customs of the islanders. Some of their clan feuds were of the most barbarous and revolting character. At one time, we find the Macleods assaulted by the Macdonalds when peacefully assembled in church : the building was suddenly surrounded and set on fire, and the worshippers perished in the flames. On another occcasion, the Macleods chased some two hundred of the Macdonalds into a cave by the sea-side in the island of Eig, and, piling up huge fires at the mouth of the cave, suffocated the miserable clansmen, whose bones still remain to attest the deed. This atrocity is not without a parallel in modern history: a French officer commanding in Algeria, in the nineteenth century, had the incredible audacity and wickedness to perpetrate the same enormity while waging war with the natives. Long-protracted local hostilities desolated the islands. At one time, the Macleods were compelled, in the agony of hunger, to eat dogs and other unclean animals—their whole produce having been wasted and destroyed. Some
glimpses of chivalrous enterprise are interposed amidst these outrages and sufferings. In the reign of Elizabeth, we find the Chief of Dunvegan-the famed “ Rorie More," and the Chief of the Macdonalds, leading each five hundred men to the shores of Ulster to assist Red Hugh O'Donell in his contest with the English Crown. And picturesque the sight must have been, as the chief, in his twelve-oared galley, with a fleet of boats behind, struck out from his island fastness by the black rocks, and the rowers chanted the jorram, or boat-song, with which they solaced their toils and fatigues. The unbounded hospitality of Rorie More made Dunvegan famous in song and tale. The heroic old chief was knighted by King James VI., and was a man of invincible courage and address, while his son and suc. cessor, John More (who died in 1649), is said to have taken so much pains to civilize the country, that he acquired the appellation of “ Lot in Sodom !" His grandson, John Breck Macleod, was the last of the island chiefs who kept up the ancient feudal retinue—the bard, piper, harper, and jester. After his death (which took place in 1693), we find a gradual approximation to the customs and manners of the south, the chiefs acquiring new wants and luxuries, and the clan becoming of less value than the land. The affair of the Forty-five was the primary cause of the pecuniary burdens which long encumbered and ultimately overwhelmed the Macleod and many other Highland properties.
The system of agriculture then pursued in the Hebrides was of the most wretched description. The undrained land was perpetually subject to mildew or frost, and little winter food being provided for the herds of black cattle that crowded every hill and strath, whenever a severe season came the cattle died in
Even the straw that might have helped to maintain them was wasted and destroyed, in consequence of the people preparing their corn by means of fire instead of thrashing and kiln-drying it. The higher hills contained tracts of fine Alpine pasturage, but they were generally inaccessible to the cattle, and
only became of value when sheep-husbandry was extensively introduced. Under such a system, high rents were ruinous-even moderate rents could hardly have been paid. Yet, after the era of the Forty-five, when the last remains of feudal power and homage were lost, most of the chiefs and other proprietors adopted a higher scale of rents, and pressed the new system with prompt and inconsiderate rigour. The tacksmen, or large tenants, were deprived of their peculiar privilege of sub-letting part of their lands, as the proprietor found he could obtain a greater amount of rent and secure more authority as a landlord when the people held directly under himself. The tacksmen had thus to descend to the condition of ordinary farmers. They were mostly men of gentle blood-cadets of the chief's family. Some had held commissions in the
army, and all were hospitable and profuse, their houses filled with servants, visitors, and dependents. The new management and high rents took them by surprise. They were indignant at the treatment they received, and, selling off their stock, in disgust or despair, they emigrated to America. In the twenty years from 1772 to 1792, sixteen vessels with emigrants sailed from the western shores of Inverness-shire and Ross-shire, containing about 6,400 persons, who carried with them, in specie, at least £38,400. A desperate effort was made by the tacksmen on the estate of Lord Macdonald, whom Johnson and Boswell accuse so broadly of parsimony, meanness, and extortion. They bound themselves by a solemn oath, copies of which are still extant, not to offer for any farm that might become vacant, believing that they would thus repress competition and continue low rents. The combination failed of its object, but it appeared so formidable in the eyes the “English-bred chieftain," that he retreated precipitately from Skye and never afterwards returned. Lord Macdonald, however, was popular with the small tenants, and had no difficulty, in 1777, in raising a regiment in the Highlands and Isles. The chiefs, it must be admitted, were, in some instances, sorely