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A row along the coast of Sky.
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. M'Queen should tell all that he could; 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 shewed 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:--
*1, 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 father, and to myself during my minority, when he was one of my Tutors and Curators; being resolved, now that the said Alexander Macdonald
Good fellowship carried to excess.
is advanced in years, to contribute my endeavours for making his old age placid and comfortable,' — therefore he grants him an annuity of fifty pounds sterling.
Dr. Johnson went to bed soon. When one bowl of punch was finished, I rose, and was near the door, in my way up stairs to bed; but Corrichatachin said, it was the first time Col had been in his house, and he should have his bowl ; -and would not I join in drinking it? The heartiness of my honest landlord, and the desire of doing social honour to our very obliging conductor, induced me to sit down again. Col's bowl was finished; and by that time we were well warmed. A third bowl was soon made, and that too was finished. We were cordial, and merry to a high degree; but of what passed I have no recollection, with any accuracy. I remember calling Corrichatachin by the familiar appellation of Corri, which his friends do. A fourth bowl was made, by which time Col, and young M‘Kinnon, Corrichatachin's son, slipped away to bed. I continued a little with Corri and Knockow; but at last I left them. It was near five in the morning when I got to bed.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 26. I awaked at noon, with a severe head-ach. I was much vexed that I should have been guilty of such a riot, and afraid of a reproof from Dr. Johnson. I thought it very inconsistent with that conduct which I ought to maintain, while the companion of the Rambler. About one he came into my room, and accosted me, ‘What, drunk yet?' His tone of voice was not that of severe upbraiding; so I was relieved a little. “Sir, (said I,) they kept me up.' He answered, “No, you kept them up, you drunken dog :'-This he said with good-humoured English pleasantry. Soon afterwards, Corrichatachin, Col, and other friends assembled round my bed. Corri had a brandy-bottle and glass with him, and insisted I should take a dram. “Ay, said Dr. Johnson, fill him drunk again. Do it in the morning, that we may laugh at him all day. It is a poor thing for a fellow to get drunk at night,
Sunday morning penitence.
and sculk to bed, and let his friends have no sport.' Finding him thus jocular, I became quite easy; and when I offered to get up, he very good naturedly said, You need be in no such hurry now?.' I took my host's advice, and drank some brandy, which I found an effectual cure for my head-ach. When I rose, I went into Dr. Johnson's room, and taking up Mrs. M‘Kinnon's Prayer-book, I opened it at the twentieth Sunday after Trinity, in the epistle for which I read, ' And be not drunk with wine, wherein there is excesso.' Some would have taken this as a divine interposition.
Mrs. M‘Kinnon told us at dinner, that old Kingsburgh, her father, was examined at Mugstot, by General Campbell, as to the particulars of the dress of the person who had come to his house in woman's clothes along with Miss Flora M‘Donald ; as the General had received intelligence of that disguise. The particulars were taken down in writing, that it might be seen how far they agreed with the dress of the Irish girl who went with Miss Flora from the Long Island. Kingsburgh, she said, had but one song, which he always sung when he was merry over a glass. She dictated the words to me, which are foolish enough:
My ingenuously relating this occasional instance of intemperance has I find been made the subject both of serious criticism and ludicrous banter. With the banterers I shall not trouble myself, but I wonder that those who pretend to the appellation of serious criticks should not have had sagacity enough to perceive that here, as in every other part of the present work, my principal object was to delineate Dr. Johnson's manners and character. In justice to him I would not omit an anecdote, which, though in some degree to my own disadvantage, exhibits in so strong a light the indulgence and good humour with which he could treat those excesses in his friends, of which he highly disapproved.
In some other instances, the criticks have been equally wrong as to the true motive of my recording particulars, the objections to which I saw as clearly as they. But it would be an endless task for an authour to point out upon every occasion the precise object he has in view. Contenting himself with the approbation of readers of discernment and taste, he ought not to complain that some are found who cannot or will not understand him. BOSWELL. • In the original, 'wherein is excess.'
• Green 206
Old Kingsburgh's Jacobite song.
"Green sleeves' and pudding pies,
‘May our affairs abroad succeed,
“To all our injured friends in need,
Green sleeves,' &c.
While the examination was going on, the present Talisker, who was there as one of M‘Leod's militia, could not resist the pleasantry of asking Kingsburgh, in allusion to his only song, ‘Had she green sleeves?' Kingsburgh gave him no answer. Lady Margaret M‘Donald was very angry at Talisker for joking on such a serious occasion, as Kingsburgh was really in danger of his life. Mrs. M‘Kinnon added that Lady Margaret was quite adored in Sky. That when she travelled through the island, the people ran in crowds before her, and took the stones off the road, lest her horse should stumble and she be hurt”. Her husband, Sir Alexander, is also remembered with great regard. We were told that every week a hogshead of claret was drunk at his table,
This was another day of wind and rain; but good cheer and good society helped to beguile the time. I felt myself comfortable enough in the afternoon. I then thought that my last night's riot was no more than such a social excess as may happen without much moral blame; and recollected that some physicians maintained, that a fever produced by it was, upon the whole, good for health : so different are our reflections on the same subject, at different periods; and
See Chappell’s Popular Music of the Olden Time, i. 231.
Johnson's popularity in Sky.
such the excuses with which we palliate what we know to
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 27. Mr. Donald MʻLeod, our original guide, who had parted from us at Dunvegan, joined us again to-day. The weather was still so bad that we could not travel. I found a closet here, with a good many books, beside those that were lying about. Dr. Johnson told me, he found a library in his room at Talisker; and observed, that it was one of the remarkable things of Sky, that there were so many books in it.
Though we had here great abundance of provisions, it is remarkable that Corrichatachin has literally no garden: not even a turnip, a carrot, or a cabbage. After dinner, we talked of the crooked spade used in Sky, already described, and they maintained that it was better than the usual gardenspade, and that there was an art in tossing it, by which those who were accustomed to it could work very easily with it.
Nay, (said Dr. Johnson,) it may be useful in land where there are many stones to raise ; but it certainly is not a good instrument for digging good land. A man may toss it, to be sure; but he will toss a light spade much better : its weight makes it an incumbrance. A man may dig any land with it; but he has no occasion for such a weight in digging good land. You may take a field piece to shoot sparrows; but all the sparrows you can bring home will not be worth the charge.' He was quite social and easy amongst them; and, though he drank no fermented liquor, toasted Highland beauties with great readiness. His conviviality engaged them so much, that they seemed eager to shew their attention to him, and vied with each other in crying out, with a strong Celtick pronunciation, ‘Toctor Shonson, Toctor Shonson, your health!'
This evening one of our married ladies, a lively pretty little woman, good humouredly sat down upon Dr. Johnson's knee, and, being encouraged by some of the company, put her hands round his neck, and kissed him. “Do it again, (said he,) and let us see who will tire first.' He kept her on