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The traditions of Iona.
of M.Quarrie, had as good an appearance as the royal grave. stones; if they were royal, we doubted.
My easiness to give credit to what I heard in the course of our Tour was too great. Dr. Johnson's peculiar accuracy of investigation detected much traditional fiction, and many gross mistakes. It is not to be wondered at, that he was provoked by people carelessly telling him, with the utmost readiness and confidence, what he found, on questioning them a little more, was erroneous'. Of this there were innumerable instances.
I left him and Sir Allan at breakfast in our barn, and stole back again to the cathedral, to indulge in solitude and devout meditation'. While contemplating the venerable ruins, I reflected with much satisfaction, that the solemn scenes of piety never lose their sanctity and influence, though the cares and follies of life may prevent us from visiting them, or may even make us fancy that their effects are only as yesterday, when it is past®,' and never again to be perceived. I hoped, that, ever after having been in this holy place, I should maintain an exemplary conduct. One has a strange propensity to fix upon some point of time from whence a better course of life may begin*.
" He that surveys it [the church-yard) attended by an insular antiquary may be told where the kings of many nations are buried, and if he loves to soothe his imagination with the thoughts that naturally rise in places where the great and the powerful lie mingled with the dust, let him listen in submissive silence; for if he asks any questions his delight is at an end.' Johnson's Works, ix. 148.
• On quitting the island Johnson wrote: “We now left those illustrious ruins, by which Mr. Boswell was much affected, nor would I willingly be thought to have looked upon them without some emotion. Ib. p. 150.
3 Psalm xc. 4.
• Boswell wrote on Nov. 9, 1767 :— I am always for fixing some period for my perfection as far as possible. Let it be when my account of Corsica is published; I shall then have a character which I must support. Letters ojf Boswell, p. 122. Five weeks later he wrote :-I have been as wild as ever;' and then comes a passage which the Editor has thought it need ul to suppress. Ib. p. 128.
Boswell supports feudal authority.
Being desirous to visit the opposite shore of the island, where Saint Columba is said to have landed, I procured a horse from one M‘Ginnis', who ran along as my guide. The M'Ginnises are said to be a branch of the clan of M‘Lean. Sir Allan had been told that this man had refused to send him some rum, at which the knight was in great indignation. • You rạscal! (said he,) don't you know that I can hang you, if I please?' Not adverting to the Chieftain's power over his clan, I imagined that Sir Allan had known of some capital crime that the fellow had committed, which he could discover, and so get him condemned; and said, “How so?' 'Why, (said Sir Allan,) are they not all my people?' Sensible of my inadvertency, and most willing to contribute what I could towards the continuation of feudal authority, . Very true,' said I. Sir Allan went on: Refuse to send rum to me, you rascal! Don't you know that, if I order you to go and cut a man's throat, you are to do it?' “Yes, an't please your honour! and my own too, and hang myself too.' The poor fellow denied that he had refused to send the rum. His making these professions was not merely a pretence in presence of his Chief; for after he and I were out of Sir Allan's hearing, he told me, ‘Had he sent his dog for the rum, I would have given it: I would cut my bones for him.' It was very remarkable to find such an attachment to a Chief, though he had then no connection with the island, and had not been there for fourteen years.
Sir Allan, by way
of upbraiding the fellow, said, “I believe you are a Campbell.'
The place which I went to see is about two miles from the village. They call it Portawherry, from the wherry in which Columba came; though, when they shew the length of his vessel, as marked on the beach by two heaps of stones, they say, 'Here is the length of the Currach,' using the Erse word.
Icolmkill is a fertile island. The inhabitants export some cattle and grain ; and I was told, they import nothing but
1 Boswell here speaks as an Englishman. He should have written *a M Ginnis.' See ante, d. 154, note 2.
Return to Mull.
iron and salt. They are industrious, and make their own woollen and linen cloth ; and they brew a good deal of beer, which we did not find in any of the other islands'.
We set sail again about mid-day, and in the evening landed on Mull, near the house of the Reverend Mr. Neal M‘Leod, who having been informed of our coming, by a message from Sir Allan, came out to meet us. We were this night very agreeably entertained at his house. Dr. Johnson observed to me, that he was the cleanest-headed man that had met with in the Western Islands. He seemed to be well acquainted with Dr. Johnson's writings, and courteously said, “I have been often obliged to you, though I never had the pleasure of seeing you before.'
He told us, he had lived for some time in St. Kilda, under the tuition of the minister or catechist there, and had there first read Horace and Virgil. The scenes which they describe must have been a strong contrast to the dreary waste around him.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 21. This morning the subject of politicks was introduced. JOHNSON. “Pulteney was as paltry a fellow as could be?.
1 The fruitfulness of lona is now its whole prosperity. The inhabitants are remarkably gross, and remarkably neglected; I know not if they are visited by any minister. The island, which was once the metropolis of learning and piety, has now no school for education, nor temple for worship, only two inhabitants that can speak English, and not one that can write or read.' Johnson's Works, ix. 149. Scott, who visited it in 1810, writes :-- There are many monuments of singular curiosity, forming a strange contrast to the squalid and dejected poverty of the present inhabitants. Lockhart's Scott, ed. 1839, iii. 285. In 1814, on a second visit, he writes :— Iona, the last time I saw it, seemed to me to contain the most wretched people I had anywhere
But either they have got better since I was here, or my eyes, familiarized with the wretchedness of Zetland and the Harris, are less shocked with that of Iona.' He found a schoolmaster there. 16.
Johnson's Jacobite friend, Dr. King (ante, i. 324), says of Pulteney, on his being made Earl of Bath :- He deserted the cause of his coun V.--25
Pulteney, Pitt, Walpole, Wilkes.
He was a Whig, who pretended to be honest; and you know it is ridiculous for a Whig to pretend to be honest. He cannot hold it out'.' He called Mr. Pitt a meteor; Sir Robert Walpole a fixed star'. He said, “It is wonderful to think that all the force of government was required to prevent Wilkes from being chosen the chief magistrate of London", though the liverymen knew he would rob their shops,-knew he would debauch their daughters'.'
try; he betrayed his friends and adherents; he ruined his character, and from a most glorious eminence sunk down to a degree of contempt. The first time Sir Robert (who was now Earl of Orford) met him in the House of Lords, he threw out this reproach :-“ My Lord Bath, you and I are now two as insignificant men as any in England.” In which he spoke the truth of my Lord Bath, but not of himself. For my Lord Orford was consulted by the ministers to the last day of his life.' King's Anec. p. 43.
See ante, i. 499, and iii. 371. ; Sir Robert Walpole detested war.
This made Dr. Johnson say of him, “ He was the best minister this country ever had, as, if we would have let him (he speaks of his own violent faction), he would have kept the country in perpetual peace. » Seward's Biographiana, p. 554. See ante, i. 152.
• See ante, iii. Appendix C.
? I think it incumbent on me to make some observation on this strong satirical sally on my classical companion, Mr. Wilkes. Reporting it lately from memory, in his presence, I expressed it thus :— They knew he would rob their shops, if he durst; they knew he would debauch their daughters, if he could ;' which, according to the French phrase, may be said renchérir on Dr. Johnson ; but on looking into my Journal, I found it as above, and would by no means make any addition. Mr. Wilkes received both readings with a good humour that I cannot enough admire. Indeed both he and I (as, with respect to myself, the reader has more than once had occasion to observe in the course of this Journal,) are too fond of a bon mot, not to relish it, though we should be ourselves the object of it.
Let me add, in justice to the gentleman here mentioned, that at a subsequent period, he was elected chief magistrate of London (in 1774), and discharged the duties of that high office with great honour to himself, and advantage to the city. Some years before Dr. Johnson died, I was fortunate enough to bring him and Mr. Wilkes together; the consequence of which was, that they were ever afterwards
BOSWELL. Oct. 21.1
English and Jewish history.
BOSWELL. «The History of England is so strange, that, if it were not so well vouched as it is, it would hardly be credible.' JOHNSON. 'Sir, if it were told as shortly, and with as little preparation for introducing the different events, as the History of the Jewish Kings, it would be equally liable to objections of improbability.' Mr. M‘Leod was much pleased with the justice and novelty of the thought. Dr. Johnson illustrated what he had said, as follows: ‘Take, as an instance, Charles the First's concessions to his parliament, which were greater and greater, in proportion as the parliament grew more insolent, and less deserving of trust. Had these concessions been related nakedly, without any detail of the circumstances which generally led to them, they would not have been believed.'
Sir Allan M‘Lean bragged, that Scotland had the advantage of England, by having more water. JOHNSON. “Sir, we would not have your water, to take the vile bogs which produce it. You have too much! A man who is drowned has more water than either of us;'—and then he laughed. (But this was surely robust sophistry: for the people of taste in England, who have seen Scotland, own that its variety of rivers and lakes makes it naturally more beautiful than England, in that respect.) Pursuing his victory over Sir Allan, he proceeded: “Your country consists of two things, stone and water. There is, indeed, a little earth above the stone in some places, but a very little; and the stone is always appearing. It is like a man in rags; the naked skin is still peeping out.'
on easy and not unfriendly terms. The particulars I shall have great pleasure in relating at large in my Life of Dr. Johnson. BOSWELL. In the copy of Boswell's Letter to the People of Scotland in the British Museum is entered in Boswell's own hand
Comes jucundus in via pro vehiculo est. To John Wilkes, Esq.: as pleasant a companion as ever lived. From the author.
—will my Wilkes retreat, And see, once seen before, that ancient seat, etc.' See ante, iii. 74, 208; iv. 117, 259, note 2.