Friday, 2Oth August 1773: St Andrews, Aberbrothick (Arbroath), Montrose
Dr Shaw, the professor of divinity, breakfasted with us. I took out my Ogden On Prayer, and read some of it to the company. Dr Johnson praised him. 'Abernethy,' said he, 'allows only of a physical effect of prayer upon the mind, which may be produced many ways, as well as by prayer; for instance, by meditation. Ogden goes farther. In truth, we have the consent of all nations for the efficacy of prayer, whether offered up by individuals, or by assemblies; and Revelation has told us, it will be effectual.' I said, 'Leechman seemed to incline to Abernethy's doctrine.' Dr Watson observed, that Leechman meant to shew, that, even admitting no effect to be produced by prayer, respecting the Deity, it was useful to our own minds. He had given only a part of his system: Dr Johnson thought he should have given the whole.
Dr Johnson enforced the strict observance of Sunday. 'It should be different,' he observed, 'from another day. People may walk, but not throw stones at birds. There may be relaxation, but there should be no levity.'
We went and saw Colonel Nairne's garden and grotto. Here was a fine old plane tree. Unluckily the colonel said, there was but this and another large tree in the county. This assertion was an excellent cue for Dr Johnson, who laughed enormously, calling to me to hear it. He had expatiated to me on the nakedness of that part of Scotland which he had seen. His Journey has been violently abused, for what he has said upon this subject. But let it be considered, that, when Dr Johnson talks of trees, he means trees of good size, such as he was accustomed to see in England; and of these there are certainly very few upon the EASTERN COAST of Scotland. Besides, he said, that he meant to give only a map of the road; and let any traveller observe how many trees, which deserve the name, he can see from the road from Berwick to Aberdeen. Had Dr Johnson said, 'there are NO trees' upon this line, he would have said what is colloquially true; because, by no trees, in common speech, we mean few. When he is particular in counting, he may be attacked. I know not how Colonel Nairne came to say there were but TWO large trees in the county of Fife. I did not perceive that he smiled. There are certainly not a great many; but I could have shewn him more than two at Balmuto, from whence my ancestors came, and which now belongs to a branch of my family.
The grotto was ingeniously constructed. In the front of it were petrified stocks of fir, plane, and some other tree. Dr Johnson said, 'Scotland has no right to boast of this grotto: it is owing to personal merit. I never denied personal merit to many of you.' Professor Shaw said to me, as we walked, 'This is a wonderful man: he is master of every subject he handles.' Dr Watson allowed him a very strong understanding, but wondered at his total inattention to established manners, as he came from London.
I have not preserved, in my Journal, any of the conversation which passed between Dr Johnson and Professor Shaw; but I recollect Dr Johnson said to me afterwards, 'I took much to Shaw.'
We left St Andrews about noon, and some miles from it observing, at Leuchars, a church with an old tower, we stopped to look at it. The manse, as the parsonage-house is called in Scotland, was close by. I waited on the minister, mentioned our names, and begged he would tell us what he knew about it. He was a very civil old man; but could only inform us, that it was supposed to have stood eight hundred years. He told us, there was a colony of Danes in his parish; that they had landed at a remote period of time, and still remained a distinct people. Dr Johnson shrewdly inquired whether they had brought women with them. We were not satisfied as to this colony.
We saw, this day, Dundee and Aberbrothick, the last of which Dr Johnson has celebrated in his Journey. Upon the road we talked of the Roman Catholick faith. He mentioned (I think) Tillotson's argument against transubstantiation; 'That we are as sure we see bread and wine only, as that we read in the Bible the text on which that false doctrine is founded. We have only the evidence of our senses for both. If,' he added, 'God had never spoken figuratively, we might hold that he speaks literally, when he says, "This is my body".' BOSWELL. 'But what do you say, sir, to the ancient and continued tradition of the Church upon this point?' JOHNSON. 'Tradition, sir, has no place, where the Scriptures are plain; and tradition cannot persuade a man into a belief of transubstantiation. Able men, indeed, have said they believed it.'
This is an awful subject. I did not then press Dr Johnson upon it; nor shall I now enter upon a disquisition concerning the import of those words uttered by our Saviour,[Footnote: "Then Jesus said unto them, verily, verily. I say unto you, except ye eat the flesh of the son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you." See St John's Gospel, chap. vi. 5 3, and following verses.] which had such an effect upon many disciples, that they 'went back, and walked no more with him'. The Catechism and solemn office for Communion, in the Church of England, maintain a mysterious belief in more than a mere commemoration of the death of Christ, by partaking of the elements of bread and wine.
Dr Johnson put me in mind, that, at St Andrews, I had defended my profession very well, when the question had again been started, whether a lawyer might honestly engage with the first side that offers him a fee. 'Sir,' said I, 'it was with your arguments against Sir William Forbes: but it was much that I could wield the arms of Goliah.'
He said, our judges had not gone deep in the question concerning literary property. I mentioned Lord Monboddo's opinion, that if a man could get a work by heart, he might print it, as by such an act the mind is exercised. JOHNSON. 'No, sir; a man's repeating it no more makes it his property, than a man may sell a cow which he drives home.' I said, printing an abridgement of a work was allowed, which was only cutting the horns and tail off the cow. JOHNSON. 'No, sir; 'tis making the cow have a calf.'
About eleven at night we arrived at Montrose. We found but a sorry inn, where I myself saw another waiter put a lump of sugar with his fingers into Dr Johnson's lemonade, for which he called him 'Rascal!' It put me in great glee that our landlord was an Englishman. I rallied the Doctor upon this, and he grew quiet. Both Sir John Hawkins's and Dr Burney's History of Musick had then been advertised. I asked if this was not unlucky: would not they hurt one another? JOHNSON. 'No, sir. They will do good to one another. Some will buy the one, some the other, and compare them; and so a talk is made about a thing, and the books are sold.'
He was angry at me for proposing to carry lemons with us to Sky, that he might be sure to have his lemonade. 'Sir,' said he, 'I do not wish to be thought that feeble man who cannot do without any thing. Sir, it is very bad manners to carry provisions to any man's house, as if he could not entertain you. To an inferior, it is oppressive; to a superior, it is insolent.'
Having taken the liberty, this evening, to remark to Dr Johnson, that he very often sat quite silent for a long time, even when in company with only a single friend, which I myself had sometimes sadly experienced, he smiled and said, 'It is true, sir. Tom Tyers' (for so he familiarly called our ingenious friend, who, since his death, has paid a biographical tribute to his memory) 'Tom Tyers described me the best. He once said to me, "Sir, you are like a ghost: you never speak till you are spoken to" [Footnote: This description of Dr Johnson, appears to have been borrowed from Tom Jones, Book XI. chap, ii. "The other, who like a ghost, only wanted to be spoke to, readily answered.' &c.
Saturday, 21st August 1773: Montrose, Monboddo, Aberdeen
Neither the Rev. Mr Nisbet, the established minister, nor the Rev. Mr Spooner, the episcopal minister, were in town. Before breakfast, we went and saw the town-hall, where is a good dancing-room, and other rooms for tea-drinking. The appearance of the town from it is very well; but many of the houses are built with their ends to the street, which looks awkward. When we came down from it, I met Mr Gleg, a merchant here. He went with us to see the English chapel. It is situated on a pretty dry spot, and there is a fine walk to it. It is really an elegant building, both within and without. The organ is adorned with green and gold. Dr Johnson gave a shilling extraordinary to the clerk, saying, 'He belongs to an honest church.' I put him in mind, that episcopals were but DISSENTERS here; they were only TOLERATED. 'Sir,' said he, 'we are here, as Christians in Turkey.' He afterwards went into an apothecary's shop, and ordered some medicine for himself, and wrote the prescription in technical characters. The boy took him for a physician.
I doubted much which road to take, whether to go by the coast, or by Lawrence Kirk and Monboddo. I knew Lord Monboddo and Dr Johnson did not love each other: yet I was unwilling not to visit his lordship; and was also curious to see them together. [Footnote: There were several points of similarity between them: learning, clearness of head, precision of speech, and a love of research on many subjects which people in general do not investigate. Foote paid Lord Monboddo the compliment of saying, that he was 'an Elzevir edition of Johnson'.
It has been shrewdly observed that Foote must have meant a diminutive, or POCKET edition.] I mentioned my doubts to Dr Johnson, who said, he would go two miles out of his way to see Lord Monboddo. I therefore sent Joseph forward, with the following note.
Montrose, 21 August.
My dear Lord,
Thus far I am come with Mr Samuel Johnson. We must be at Aberdeen to-night. I know you do not admire him so much as I do; but I cannot be in this country without making you a bow at your old place, as I do not know if I may again have an opportunity of seeing Monboddo. Besides, Mr Johnson says, he would go two miles out of his way to see Lord Monboddo. I have sent forward my servant, that we may know if your lordship be at home. I am ever, my dear lord,
Most sincerely yours,
As we travelled onwards from Montrose, we had the Grampion hills in our view, and some good land around us, but void of trees and hedges. Dr Johnson has said ludicrously, in his Journey, that the HEDGES were of STONE; for, instead of the verdant THORN to refresh the eye, we found the bare WALL or DIKE intersecting the prospect. He observed, that it was wonderful to see a country so divested, so denuded of trees.
We stopped at Lawrence Kirk, where our great grammarian, Ruddiman, was once schoolmaster. We respectfully remembered that excellent man and eminent scholar, by whose labours a knowledge of the Latin language will be preserved in Scotland, if it shall be preserved at all. Lord Gardenston, one of our judges, collected money to raise a monument to him at this place, which I hope will be well executed. I know my father gave five guineas towards it. Lord Gardenston is the proprietor of Lawrence Kirk, and has encouraged the building of a manufacturing village, of which he is exceedingly fond, and has written a pamphlet upon it, as if he had founded Thebes, in which, however there are many useful precepts strongly expressed. The village seemed to be irregularly built, some of the houses being of clay, some of brick, and some of brick and stone. Dr Johnson observed, they thatched well here.
I was a little acquainted with Mr Forbes, the minister of the parish. I sent to inform him that a gentleman desired to see him. He returned for answer, 'that he would not come to a stranger'. I then gave my name, and he came. I remonstrated to him for not coming to a stranger; and, by presenting him to Dr Johnson, proved to him what a stranger might sometimes be. His Bible inculcates 'be not forgetful to entertain strangers', and mentions the same motive. He defended himself by saying, he had once come to a stranger who sent for him; and he found him 'a little worth person!'
Dr Johnson insisted on stopping at the inn, as I told him that Lord Gardenston had furnished it with a collection of books, that travellers might have entertainment for the mind, as well as the body. He praised the design, but wished there had been more books, and those better chosen.
About a mile from Monboddo, where you turn off the road, Joseph was waiting to tell us my lord expected us to dinner. We drove over a wild moor. It rained, and the scene was somewhat dreary. Dr Johnson repeated, with solemn emphasis, Macbeth's speech on meeting the witches. As we travelled on, he told me, 'Sir, you got into our club by doing what a man can do. [Footnote: This, I find, is considered as obscure. I suppose Dr Johnson meant, that I assiduously and earnestly recommended myself to some of the members, as in a canvass for an election into Parliament.] Several of the members wished to keep you out. Burke told me, he doubted if you were fit for it: but, now you are in, none of them are sorry. Burke says, that you have so much good humour naturally, it is scarce a virtue.' BOSWELL. 'They were afraid of you, sir, as it was you who proposed me.' JOHNSON. 'Sir, they knew, that if they refused you, they'd probably never have got in another. I'd have kept them all out. Beauclerk was very earnest for you.' BOSWELL. 'Beauclerk has a keenness of mind which is very uncommon.' JOHNSON. 'Yes, sir; and every thing comes from him so easily. It appears to me that I labour, when I say a good thing.' BOSWELL. 'You are loud, sir; but it is not an effort of mind.'
Monboddo is a wretched place, wild and naked, with a poor old house; though, if I recollect right, there are two turrets which mark an old baron's residence. Lord Monboddo received us at his gate most courteously; pointed to the Douglas arms upon his house, and told us that his great-grandmother was of that family, 'In such houses,' said he, 'our ancestors lived, who were better men than we.' 'No, no, my lord,' said Dr Johnson. 'We are as strong as they, and a great deal wiser.' This was an assault upon one of Lord Monboddo's capital dogmas, and I was afraid there would have been a violent altercation in the very close, before we got into the house. But his lordship is distinguished not only for 'ancient metaphysicks', but for ancient politesse, la vieille cour, and he made no reply.
His lordship was drest in a rustick suit, and wore a little round hat; he told us, we now saw him as Farmer Burnett, and we should have his family dinner, a farmer's dinner. He said, 'I should not have forgiven Mr Boswell, had he not brought you here, Dr Johnson.' He produced a very long stalk of corn, as a specimen of his crop, and said, 'You see here the loetas segetes.' He added, that Virgil seemed to be as enthusiastick a farmer as he, and was certainly a practical one. JOHNSON. 'It does not always follow, my lord, that a man who has written a good poem on an art, has practised it. Philip Miller told me, that in Philips's "Cyder", a poem, all the precepts were just, and indeed better than in books written for the purpose of instructing; yet Philips had never made cyder.'
I started the subject of emigration. JOHNSON. 'To a man of mere animal life, you can urge no argument against going to America, but that it will be some time before he will get the earth to produce. But a man of any intellectual enjoyment will not easily go and immerse himself and his posterity for ages in barbarism.'
He and my lord spoke highly of Homer. JOHNSON. 'He had all the learning of his age. The shield of Achilles shews a nation in war, a nation in peace; harvest sport, nay stealing.' [Footnote: My note of this is much too short. Brevis esse laboro, obscurus fio. Yet as I have resolved that THE VERY Journal WHICH DR JOHNSON READ, shall be presented to the publick, I will not expand the text in any considerable degree, though I may occasionally supply a word to complete the sense, as I fill up the blanks of abbreviation in the writing; neither of which can be said to change the genuine Journal. One of the best criticks of our age conjectures that the imperfect passage above has probably been as follows: 'In his book we have an accurate display of a nation in war, and a nation in peace; the peasant is delineated as truly as the general; nay, even harvest-sport, and the modes of ancient theft are described.'] MONBODDO. 'Ay, and what we' (looking to me)?'would call a parliament-house scene; a cause pleaded.' JOHNSON. 'That is part of the life of a nation in peace. And there are in Homer such characters of heroes, and combinations of qualities of heroes, that the united powers of mankind ever since have not produced any but what are to be found there.' MONBODDO. 'Yet no character is described.' JOHNSON. 'No; they all develope themselves. Agamemnon is always a gentleman-like character. That the ancients held so, is plain from this; that Euripides, in his Hecuba, makes him the person to interpose.' [Footnote: Dr Johnson modestly said, he had not read Homer so much as he wished he had done. But this conversation shews how well he was acquainted with the Moeonian bard; and he has shewn it still more in his criticism upon Pope's Homer, in his Life of that poet. My excellent friend, Mr Langton, told me, he was once present at a dispute between Dr Johnson and Mr Burke, on the comparative merits of Homer and Virgil, which was carried on with extraordinary abilities on both sides. Dr Johnson maintained the superiority of Homer.] MONBODDO. 'The history of manners is the most valuable. I never set a high value on any other history.' JOHNSON. 'Nor I; and therefore I esteem biography, as giving us what comes near to ourselves, what we can turn to use.' BOSWELL. 'But in the course of general history, we find manners. In wars, we see the dispositions of people, their degrees of humanity, and other particulars.' JOHNSON. 'Yes; but then you must take all the facts to get this; and it is but a little you get.' MONBODDO. 'And it is that little which makes history valuable.' Bravo! thought I; they agree like two brothers. MONBODDO. 'I am sorry, Dr Johnson, you were not longer at Edinburgh, to receive the homage of our men of learning.' JOHNSON. 'My lord, I received great respect and great kindness.' BOSWELL. 'He goes back to Edinburgh after our tour.' We talked of the decrease of learning in Scotland, and the Muses' Welcome. JOHNSON. 'Learning is much decreased in England, in my remembrance.' MONBODDO. 'You, sir, have lived to see its decrease in England, I its extinction in Scotland.' However, I brought him to confess that the High School of Edinburgh did well. JOHNSON. 'Learning has decreased in England, because learning will not do so much for a man as formerly. There are other ways of getting preferment. Few bishops are now made for their learning. To be a bishop, a man must be learned in a learned age, factious in a factious age; but always of eminence. Warburton is an exception; though his learning alone did not raise him. He was first an antagonist to Pope, and helped Theobald to publish his Shakspeare; but, seeing Pope the rising man, when Crousaz attacked his Essay on Man, for some faults which it has, and some which it has not, Warburton defended it in the Review of that time. This brought him acquainted with Pope, and he gained his friendship. Pope introduced him to Allen, Allen married him to his niece: so, by Allen's interest and his own, he was made a bishop. But then his learning was the sine qua non: he knew how to make the most of it; but I do not find by any dishonest means.' MONBODDO. 'He is a great man.' JOHNSON. 'Yes; he has great knowledge, great power of mind. Hardly any man brings greater variety of learning to bear upon his point.' MONBODDO. 'He is one of the greatest lights of your church.' JOHNSON. 'Why, we are not so sure of his being very friendly to us. He blazes, if you will, but that is not always the steadiest light. Lowth is another bishop who has risen by his learning.'
Dr Johnson examined young Arthur, Lord Monboddo's son, in Latin. He answered very well; upon which he said, with complacency, 'Get you gone! When King James comes back, [Footnote: I find, some doubt has been entertained concerning Dr Johnson's meaning here. It is to be supposed that he meant, 'when a king shall again be entertained in Scotland'.] you shall be in the "Muses' Welcome"!' My lord and Dr Johnson disputed a little, whether the savage or the London shopkeeper had the best existence; his lordship, as usual, preferring the savage. My lord was extremely hospitable, and I saw both Dr Johnson and him liking each other better every hour.
Dr Johnson having retired for a short time, his lordship spoke of his conversation as I could have wished. Dr Johnson had said, 'I have done greater feats with my knife than this;' though he had eaten a very hearty dinner. My lord, who affects or believes he follows an abstemious system, seemed struck with Dr Johnson's manner of living. I had a particular satisfaction in being under the roof of Monboddo, my lord being my father's old friend, and having been always very good to me. We were cordial together. He asked Dr Johnson and me to stay all night. When I said we must be at Aberdeen, he replied, 'Well, I am like the Romans: I shall say to you, "Happy to come--happy to depart!"' He thanked Dr Johnson for his visit. JOHNSON. 'I little thought, when I had the honour to meet your lordship in London, that I should see you at Monboddo.' After dinner, as the ladies were going away, Dr Johnson would stand up. He insisted that politeness was of great consequence in society. 'It is,' said he, 'fictitious benevolence. It supplies the place of it amongst those who see each other only in publick, or but little. Depend upon it, the want of it never fails to produce something disagreeable to one or other. I have always applied to good breeding, what Addison in his Cato says of honour:
Honour's a sacred tie; the law of Kings;
The noble mind's distinguishing perfection,
That aids and strengthens Virtue where it meets her.
And imitates her actions where she is not.
When he took up his large oak stick, he said, 'My lord, that's Homerick;' thus pleasantly alluding to his lordship's favourite writer.
Gory, my lord's black servant, was sent as our guide, to conduct us to the high road. The circumstance of each of them having a black servant was another point of similarity between Johnson and Monboddo. I observed how curious it was to see an African in the north of Scotland, with little or no difference of manners from those of the natives. Dr Johnson laughed to see Gory and Joseph riding together most cordially. 'Those two fellows,' said he, 'one from Africa, the other from Bohemia, seem quite at home.' He was much pleased with Lord Monboddo to-day. He said, he would have pardoned him for a few paradoxes, when he found he had so much that was good: but that, from his appearance in London, he thought him all paradox; which would not do. He observed, that his lordship had talked no paradoxes to-day. 'And as to the savage and the London shopkeeper," said he, 'I don't know but I might have taken the side of the savage equally, had any body else taken the side of the shopkeeper.' He had said to my lord, in opposition to the value of the savage's courage, that it was owing to his limited power of thinking, and repeated Pope's verses, in which 'Macedonia's madman' is introduced, and the conclusion is, "Yet ne'er looks forward farther than his nose." I objected to the last phrase, as being low. JOHNSON. 'Sir, it is intended to be low: it is satire. The expression is debased, to debase the character.'
When Gory was about to part from us, Dr Johnson called to him, 'Mr Gory, give me leave to ask you a question! Are you baptized?' Gory told him he was, and confirmed by the Bishop of Durham. He then gave him a shilling.
We had tedious driving this afternoon, and were somewhat drowsy. Last night I was afraid Dr Johnson was beginning to faint in his resolution; for he said, 'If we must ride much, we shall not go; and there's an end on't.' To-day, when he talked of Sky with spirit, I said, 'Why, sir, you seemed to me to despond yesterday. You are a delicate Londoner; you are a maccaroni; you can't ride.' JOHNSON. 'Sir, I shall ride better than you. I was only afraid I should not find a horse able to carry me.' I hoped then there would be no fear of getting through our wild tour.
We came to Aberdeen at half an hour past eleven. The New Inn, we were told, was full. This was comfortless. The waiter, however, asked if one of our names was Boswell, and brought me a letter left at the inn: it was from Mr Thrale, enclosing one to Dr Johnson. Finding who I was, we were told they would contrive to lodge us by putting us for a night into a room with two beds. The waiter said to me in the broad strong Aberdeenshire dialect, 'I thought I knew you, by your likeness to your father.' My father puts up at the New Inn, when on his circuit. Little was said to-night. I was to sleep in a little press-bed in Dr Johnson's room. I had it wheeled out into the dining-room, and there I lay very well.
Sunday, 22nd August 1773: Aberdeen
I sent a message to Professor Thomas Gordon, who came and breakfasted with us. He had secured seats for us at the English chapel. We found a respectable congregation, and an admirable organ, well played by Mr Tait.
We walked down to the shore. Dr Johnson laughed to hear that Cromwell's soldiers taught the Aberdeen people to make shoes and stockings, and to plant cabbages. He asked, if weaving the plaids was ever a domestick art in the Highlands, like spinning or knitting. They could not inform him here. But he conjectured probably, that where people lived so remote from each other, it was likely to be a domestick art; as we see it was among the ancients, from Penelope. I was sensible to-day, to an extraordinary degree, of Dr Johnson's excellent English pronunciation. I cannot account for its striking me more now than any other day: but it was as if new to me; and I listened to every sentence which he spoke, as to a musical composition. Professor Gordon gave him an account of the plan of education in his college. Dr Johnson said, it was similar to that at Oxford. Waller the poet's great grandson was studying here. Dr Johnson wondered that a man should send his son so far off, when there were so many good schools in England. He said, 'At a great school there is all the splendour and illumination of many minds; the radiance of all is concentrated in each, or at least reflected upon each. But we must own that neither a dull boy, nor an idle boy, will do so well at a great school as at a private one. For at a great school there are always boys enough to do well easily, who are sufficient to keep up the credit of the school; and after whipping being tried to no purpose, the dull or idle boys are left at the end of a class, having the appearance of going through the course, but learning nothing at all. Such boys may do good at a private school, where constant attention is paid to them, and they are watched. So that the question of publick or private education is not properly a general one; but whether one or the other is best for MY SON.'
We were told the present Mr Waller was a plain country gentleman; and his son would be such another. I observed, a family could not expect a poet but in a hundred generations. 'Nay,' said Dr Johnson, 'not one family in a hundred can expect a poet in a hundred generations.' He then repeated Dryden's celebrated lines, "Three poets in three distant ages born, &c." and a part of a Latin translation of it done at Oxford: he did not then say by whom.
He received a card, from Sir Alexander Gordon, who had been his acquaintance twenty years ago in London, and who, 'if forgiven for not answering a line from him', would come in the afternoon. Dr Johnson rejoiced to hear of him, and begged he would come and dine with us. I was much pleased to see the kindness with which Dr Johnson received his old friend Sir Alexander; a gentleman of good family, Lismore, but who had not the estate. The King's College here made him Professor of Medicine, which affords him a decent subsistence. He told us that the value of the stockings exported from Aberdeen was, in peace, a hundred thousand pounds; and amounted, in time of war, to one hundred and seventy thousand pounds. Dr Johnson asked, what made the difference? Here we had a proof of the comparative sagacity of the two professors. Sir Alexander answered, 'Because there is more occasion for them in war.' Professor Thomas Gordon answered, 'Because the Germans, who are our great rivals in the manufacture of stockings, are otherwise employed in time of war.' JOHNSON. 'Sir, you have given a very good solution.'
At dinner, Dr Johnson ate several plate-fulls of Scotch broth, with barley and peas in it, and seemed very fond of the dish. I said, 'You never ate it before.' JOHNSON. 'No, sir; but I don't care how soon I eat it again.' My cousin, Miss Dallas, formerly of Inverness, was married to Mr Riddoch, one of the ministers of the English chapel here. He was ill, and confined to his room; but she sent us a kind invitation to tea, which we all accepted. She was the same lively, sensible, cheerful woman, as ever. Dr Johnson here threw out some jokes against Scotland. He said, 'You go first to Aberdeen; then to Enbru (the Scottish pronunciation of Edinburgh); then to Newcastle, to be polished by the colliers; then to York; then to London.' And he laid hold of a little girl, Stuart Dallas, niece to Mrs Riddoch, and, representing himself as a giant, said, he would take her with him! telling her, in a hollow voice, that he lived in a cave, and had a bed in the rock, and she should have a bed cut opposite to it!
He thus treated the point, as to prescription of murder in Scotland. 'A jury in England would make allowance for deficiencies of evidence, on account of lapse of time: but a general rule that a crime should not be punished, or tried for the purpose of punishment, after twenty years, is bad. It is cant to talk of the King's advocate delaying a prosecution from malice. How unlikely is it the King's advocate should have malice against persons who commit murder, or should even know them at all. If the son of the murdered man should kill the murderer who got off merely by prescription, I would help him to make his escape; though, were I upon his jury, I would not acquit him. I would not advise him to commit such an act. On the contrary, I would bid him submit to the determination of society, because a man is bound to submit to the inconveniences of it, as he enjoys the good: but the young man, though politically wrong, would not be morally wrong. He would have to say, "Here I am amongst barbarians, who not only refuse to do justice, but encourage the greatest of all crimes. I am therefore in a state of nature: for, so far as there is now law, it is a state of nature: and consequently, upon the eternal and immutable law of justice, which requires that he who sheds man's blood should have his blood shed, I will stab the murderer of my father."' We went to our inn, and sat quietly. Dr Johnson borrowed, at Mr Riddoch's, a volume of Massilon's Discourses on the Psalms: but I found he read little in it. Ogden too he sometimes took up, and glanced at; but threw it down again. I then entered upon religious conversation. Never did I see him in a better frame: calm, gentle, wise, holy. I said, 'Would not the same objection hold against the Trinity as against transubstantiation?' 'Yes,' said he, 'if you take three and one in the same sense. If you do, to be sure you cannot believe it: but the three persons in the Godhead are Three in one sense, and One in another. We cannot tell how; and that is the mystery!'
I spoke of the satisfaction of Christ. He said his notion was, that it did not atone for the sins of the world; but, by satisfying divine justice, by shewing that no less than the Son of God suffered for sin, it shewed to men and innumerable created beings, the heinousness of it, and therefore rendered it unnecessary for divine vengeance to be exercised against sinners, as it otherwise must have been; that in this way it might operate even in favour of those who had never heard of it: as to those who did hear of it, the effect it should produce would be repentance and piety, by impressing upon the mind a just notion of sin: that original sin was the propensity to evil, which no doubt was occasioned by the fall. He presented this solemn subject in a new light to me, [Footnote: My worthy, intelligent, and candid friend, Dr Kippis, informs me, that several divines have thus explained the mediation of our Saviour. What Dr Johnson now delivered, was but a temporary opinion; for he afterwards was fully convinced of the propitiatory sacrifice, as I shall shew at large in my future work, The life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.] and rendered much more rational and clear the doctrine of what our Saviour has done for us, as it removed the notion of imputed righteousness in co-operating; whereas by this view, Christ has done all already that he had to do, or is ever to do, for mankind, by making his great satisfaction; the consequences of which will affect each individual according to the particular conduct of each. I would illustrate this by saying, that Christ's satisfaction resembles a sun placed to shew light to men, so that it depends upon themselves whether they will walk the right way or not, which they could not have done without that sun, 'the sun of righteousness'. There is, however, more in it than merely giving light--'a light to lighten the Gentiles': for we are told, there is 'healing under his wings'. Dr Johnson said to me, 'Richard Baxter commends a treatise by Grotius, De Satisfactione Christi. I have never read it: but I intend to read it; and you may read it.' I remarked, upon the principle now laid down, we might explain the difficult and seemingly hard text, 'They that believe shall be saved; and they that believe not shall be damned.' They that believe shall have such an impression made upon their minds, as will make them act so that they may be accepted by God.
We talked of one of our friends taking ill, for a length of time, a hasty expression of Dr Johnson's to him, on his attempting to prosecute a subject that had a reference to religion, beyond the bounds within which the Doctor thought such topicks should be confined in a mixed company. JOHNSON. 'What is to become of society, if a friendship of twenty years is to be broken off for such a cause?' As Bacon says,
Who then to frail mortality shall trust,
But limns the water, or but writes in dust.
I said, he should write expressly in support of Christianity; for that, although a reverence for it shines through his works in several places, that is not enough. 'You know,' said I, 'what Grotius has done, and what Addison has done. You should do also.' He replied, 'I hope I shall.'
Monday, 23rd August 1773: Aberdeen
Principal Campbell, Sir Alexander Gordon, Professor Gordon, and Professor Ross, visited us in the morning, as did Dr Gerard, who had come six miles from the country on purpose. We went and saw the Marischal College, [Footnote: Dr Beattie was so kindly entertained in England, that he had not yet returned home.] and at one o'clock we waited on the magistrates in the town hall, as they had invited us in order to present Dr Johnson with the freedom of the town, which Provost Jopp did with a very good grace. Dr Johnson was much pleased with this mark of attention, and received it very politely. There was a pretty numerous company assembled. It was striking to hear all of them drinking? 'Dr Johnson! Dr Johnson!' in the town-hall of Aberdeen, and then to see him with his burgess-ticket, or diploma, in his hat, which he wore as he walked along the street, according to the usual custom. It gave me great satisfaction to observe the regard, and indeed fondness too, which every body here had for my father.
While Sir Alexander Gordon conducted Dr Johnson to old Aberdeen, Professor Gordon and I called on Mr Riddoch, whom I found to be a grave worthy clergyman. He observed, that, whatever might be said of Dr Johnson while he was alive, he would, after he was dead, be looked upon by the world with regard and astonishment, on account of his Dictionary.
Professor Gordon and I walked over to the Old College, which Dr Johnson had seen by this time. I stepped into the chapel, and looked at the tomb of the founder, Archbishop Elphinston, of whom I shall have occasion to write in my History of James IV of Scotland, the patron of my family.
We dined at Sir Alexander Gordon's. The Provost, Professor Ross, Professor Dunbar, Professor Thomas Gordon, were there. After dinner came in Dr Gerard, Professor Leslie, Professor Macleod. We had little or no conversation in the morning; now we were but barren. The professors seemed afraid to speak.
Dr Gerard told us that an eminent printer was very intimate with Warburton. JOHNSON. 'Why, sir, he has printed some of his works, and perhaps bought the property of some of them. The intimacy is such as one of the professors here may have with one of the carpenters who is repairing the college.' 'But,' said Gerard, 'I saw a letter from him to this printer, in which he says, that the one half of the clergy of the Church of Scotland are fanaticks, and the other half infidels.' JOHNSON. 'Warburton has accustomed himself to write letters just as he speaks, without thinking any more of what he throws out. When I read Warburton first, and observed his force, and his contempt of mankind, I thought he had driven the world before him; but I soon found that was not the case; for Warburton, by extending his abuse, rendered it ineffectual.'
He told me, when we were by ourselves, that he thought it very wrong in the printer, to shew Warburton's letter, as it was raising a body of enemies against him. He thought it foolish in Warburton to write so to the printer; and added, 'Sir, the worst way of being intimate, is by scribbling.' He called Warburton's Doctrine of Grace a poor performance, and so he said was Wesley's Answer. 'Warburton,' he observed, 'had laid himself very open. In particular, he was weak enough to say, that, in some disorders of the imagination, people had spoken with tongues, had spoken languages which they never knew before; a thing as absurd as to say, that, in some disorders of the imagination, people had been known to fly.'
I talked of the difference of genius, to try if I could engage Gerard in a disquisition with Dr Johnson; but I did not succeed. I mentioned, as a curious fact, that Locke had written verses. JOHNSON. 'I know of none, sir, but a kind of exercise prefixed to Dr Sydenham's Works, in which he has some conceits about the dropsy, in which water and burning are united; and how Dr Sydenham removed fire by drawing off water, contrary to the usual practice, which is to extinguish fire by bringing water upon it. I am not sure that there is a word of all this; but it is such kind of talk.'
We spoke of Fingal. Dr Johnson said calmly, 'If the poems were really translated, they were certainly first written down. Let Mr Macpherson deposite the manuscript in one of the colleges at Aberdeen, where there are people who can judge; and, if the professors certify the authenticity, then there will be an end of the controversy. If he does not take this obvious and easy method, he gives the best reason to doubt; considering too, how much is against it a priori.'
We sauntered after dinner in Sir Alexander's garden, and saw his little grotto, which is hung with pieces of poetry written in a fair hand. It was agreeable to observe the contentment and kindness of this quiet, benevolent man. Professor Macleod was brother to Macleod of Talisker, and brother-in-law to the Laird of Col. He gave me a letter to young Col. I was weary of this day, and began to think wishfully of being again in motion. I was uneasy to think myself too fastidious, whilst I fancied Dr Johnson quite satisfied. But he owned to me that he was fatigued and teased by Sir Alexander's doing too much to entertain him. I said, it was all kindness. JOHNSON. 'True, sir: but sensation is sensation.' BOSWELL. 'It is so: we feel pain equally from the surgeon's probe, as from the sword of the foe.'
We visited two booksellers' shops, and could not find Arthur Johnston's Poems. We went and sat near an hour at Mr Riddoch's. He could not tell distinctly how much education at the college here costs, which disgusted Dr Johnson. I had pledged myself that we should go to the inn, and not stay supper. They pressed us, but he was resolute. I saw Mr Riddoch did not please him. He said to me, afterwards, 'Sir, he has no vigour in his talk.' But my friend should have considered that he himself was not in good humour; so that it was not easy to talk to his satisfaction. We sat contentedly at our inn. He then became merry, and observed how little we had either heard or said at Aberdeen: that the Aberdonians had not started a single mawkin (the Scottish word for hare) for us to pursue.
|To Section 3|