Tuesday, 31st August 1773: Fort Augustus, Anoch
The governour has a very good garden. We looked at it, and at the rest of the fort, which is but small, and may be commanded from a variety of hills around. We also looked at the galley or sloop belonging to the fort, which sails upon the Loch, and brings what is wanted for the garrison. Captains Urie and Darippe, of the 15th regiment of foot, breakfasted with us. They had served in America, and entertained Dr Johnson much with an account of the Indians. He said, he could make a very pretty book out of them, were he to stay there. Governour Trapaud was much struck with Dr Johnson. 'I like to hear him,' said he; 'it is so majestick. I should be glad to hear him speak in your court.' He pressed us to stay dinner; but I considered that we had a rude road before us, which we could more easily encounter in the morning, and that it was hard to say when we might get up, were we to sit down to good entertainment, in good company: I therefore begged the governour would excuse us. Here too, I had another very pleasing proof how much my father is regarded. The governour expressed the highest respect for him, and bade me tell him, that, if he would come that way on the northern circuit, he would do him all the honours of the garrison.
Between twelve and one we set out, and travelled eleven miles, through a wild country, till we came to a house in Glenmorison, called Anoch, kept by a M'Queen. [Footnote: A M'Queen is a Highland mode of expression. An Englishman would say ONE M'Queen. But where there are clans or tribes of men, distinguished by patronymick surnames, the individuals of each are considered as if they were of different species, at least as much as nations are distinguished; so that a M'QUEEN, a M'DONALD, a M'LEAN, is said, as we say a Frenchman, an Italian, a Spaniard.] Our landlord was a sensible fellow: he had learnt his grammar, and Dr Johnson justly observed, that 'a man is the better for that as long as he lives.' There were some books here: a Treatise against Drunkenness, translated from the French; a volume of the Spectator; a volume of Prideaux's Connection, and Cyrus's Travels. M'Queen said he had more volumes; and his pride seemed to be much piqued that we were surprised at his having books.
Near to this place we had passed a party of soldiers, under a serjeant's command, at work upon the road. We gave them two shillings to drink. They came to our inn, and made merry in the barn. We went and paid them a visit, Dr Johnson saying, 'Come, let's go and give 'em another shilling a-piece.' We did so; and he was saluted 'My Lord' by all of them. He is really generous, loves influence, and has the way of gaining it. He said, 'I am quite feudal, sir.' Here I agree with him. I said, I regretted I was not the head of a clan; however, though not possessed of such an hereditary advantage, I would always endeavour to make my tenants follow me. I could not be a PATRIARCHAL chief, but I would be a FEUDAL chief.
The poor soldiers got too much liquor. Some of them fought, and left blood upon the spot, and cursed whisky next morning. The house here was built of thick turfs, and thatched with thinner turfs and heath. It had three rooms in length, and a little room which projected. Where we sat, the side-walls were WAINSCOTTED, as Dr Johnson said, with wicker, very neatly plaited. Our landlord had made the whole with his own hands.
After dinner, M'Queen sat by us a while, and talked with us. He said, all the Laird of Glenmorison's people would bleed for him, if they were well used; but that seventy men had gone out of the Glen to America. That he himself intended to go next year; for that the rent of his farm, which twenty years ago was only five pounds, was now raised to twenty pounds. That he could pay ten pounds, and live; but no more. Dr Johnson said, he wished M'Queen Laird of Glenmorison, and the laird to go to America. M'Queen very generously answered, he should be sorry for it; for the laird could not shift for himself in America as he could do.
I talked of the officers whom we had left to day; how much service they had seen, and how little they got for it, even of fame. JOHNSON. 'Sir, a soldier gets as little as any man can get.' BOSWELL. 'Goldsmith has acquired more fame than all the officers last war, who were not Generals.' JOHNSON. 'Why, sir, you will find ten thousand fit to do what they did, before you find one who does what Goldsmith has done. You must consider, that a thing is valued according to its rarity. A pebble that paves the street is in itself more useful than the diamond upon a lady's finger.' I wish our friend Goldsmith had heard this.
I yesterday expressed my wonder that John Hay, one of our guides, who had been pressed aboard a man of war, did not choose to continue in it longer than nine months, after which time he got off. JOHNSON. 'Why, sir, no man will be a sailor, who has contrivance enough to get himself into a jail; for, being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned.'
We had tea in the afternoon, and our landlord's daughter, a modest civil girl, very neatly drest, made it for us. She told us, she had been a year at Inverness, and learnt reading and writing, sewing, knotting, working lace, and pastry. Dr Johnson made her a present of a book which he had bought at Inverness. [Footnote: This book has given rise to much inquiry, which has ended in ludicrous surprise. Several ladies, wishing to learn the kind of reading which the great and good Dr Johnson esteemed most fit for a young woman, desired to know what book he had selected for this Highland nymph. They never adverted,' said he, 'that I had no CHOICE in the matter. I have said that I presented her with a book which I HAPPENED to have about me.' And what was this book? My readers, prepare your features for merriment. It was Cocker's Arithmetick! Wherever this was mentioned, there was a loud laugh, at which Dr Johnson, when present used sometimes to be a little angry. One day, when we were dining at General Oglethorpe's, where we had many a valuable day, I ventured to interrogate him, 'But, sir, is it not somewhat singular that you should HAPPEN to have Cocker's Arithmetick about you on your journey? What made you buy such a book at Inverness?' He gave me a very sufficient answer. 'Why, sir, if you are to have but one book with you upon a Journey, let it be a book of science. When you have read through a book of entertainment, you know it, and it can do no more for you; but a book of science is inexhaustible.']
The room had some deals laid across the joists, as a kind of ceiling. There were two beds in the room, and a woman's gown was hung on a rope to make a curtain of separation between them. Joseph had sheets, which my wife had sent with us, laid on them. We had much hesitation, whether to undress, or lie down with our clothes on. I said at last. 'I'll plunge in! There will be less harbour for vermin about me, when I am stripped!' Dr Johnson said, he was like one hesitating whether to go into the cold bath. At last he resolved too. I observed, he might serve a campaign. JOHNSON. 'I could do all that can be done by patience: whether I should have strength enough, I know not.' He was
in excellent humour. To see the Rambler as I saw him tonight, was really an amusement. I yesterday told him, I was thinking of writing a poetical letter to him. On his Return from Scotland, in the stile of Swift's humorous epistle in the character of Mary Gulliver to her husband, Captain Lemuel Gulliver, on his return to England from the country of the Houyhnhums:
At early morn I to the market haste,
Studious in ev'ry thing to please thy taste.
A curious FOWL and SPARAGRASS I chose;
(For I remember you were fond of those:)
Three shillings cost the first, the last sev'n groats;
Sullen you turn from both, and call for OATS.
He laughed, and asked in whose name I would write it. I said, in Mrs Thrale's. He was angry. 'Sir, if you have any sense of decency or delicacy, you won't do that!' BOSWELL. 'Then let it be in Cole's, the landlord of the Mitre tavern; where we have so often sat together.' JOHNSON. 'Ay, that may do.'
After we had offered up our private devotions, and had chatted a little from our beds, Dr Johnson said, 'God bless us both, for Jesus Christ's sake! Good night!' I pronounced 'Amen.' He fell asleep immediately. I was not so fortunate for a long time. I fancied myself bit by innumerable vermin under the clothes; and that a spider was travelling from the wainscot towards my mouth. At last I fell into insensibility.
Wednesday, 1st September 1773: Anoch, Glenelg
I awaked very early. I began to imagine that the landlord, being about to emigrate, might murder us to get our money, and lay it upon the soldiers in the barn. Such groundless fears will arise in the mind, before it has resumed its vigour after sleep! Dr Johnson had had the same kind of ideas; for he told me afterwards, that he considered so many soldiers, having seen us, would be witnesses, should any harm be done, and that circumstance, I suppose, 'he considered as a security. When I got up, I found him sound asleep in his miserable stye, as I may call it, with a coloured handkerchief tied round his head. With difficulty could I awaken him. It reminded me of Henry the Fourth's fine soliloquy on sleep; for there was here as 'uneasy a pallet' as the poet's imagination could possibly conceive.
A red coat of the 15th regiment, whether officer, or only serjeant, I could not be sure, came to the house, in his way to the mountains to shoot deer, which it seems the Laird of Glenmorison does not hinder any body to do. Few, indeed, can do them harm. We had him to breakfast with us. We got away about eight. M'Queen walked some miles to give us a convoy. He had, in 1745, joined the Highland army at Fort Augustus, and continued in it till after the battle of Culloden. As he narrated the particulars of that ill-advised, but brave attempt, I could not refrain from tears. There is a certain association of ideas in my mind upon that subject, by which I am strongly affected. The very Highland names, or the sound of a bagpipe; will stir my blood, and fill me with a mixture of melancholy and respect for courage; with pity for an unfortunate and superstitious regard for antiquity, and thoughtless inclination for war; in short, with a crowd of sensations with which sober rationality has nothing to do.
We passed through Glensheal, with prodigious mountains on each side. We saw where the battle was fought in the year 1719; Dr Johnson owned he was now in a scene of as wild nature as he could see; but he corrected me sometimes in my inaccurate observations. 'There,' said I, 'is a mountain like a cone.' JOHNSON. 'No, sir. It would be called so in a book; and when a man comes to look at it, he sees it is not so. It is indeed pointed at the top; but one side of it is larger than the other.' Another mountain I called immense. JOHNSON. 'No; it is no more than a considerable protuberance.'
We came to a rich green valley, comparatively speaking, and stopped a while to let our horses rest and eat grass. [Footnote: Dr Johnson, in his Journey, thus beautifully describes his situation here: 'I sat down on a bank, such as a writer of romance might have delighted to feign. I had, indeed, no trees to whisper over my head; but a clear rivulet streamed at my feet. The day was calm, the air soft, and all was rudeness, silence, and solitude. Before me, and on either side, were high hills, which, by hindering the eye from ranging, forced the mind to find entertainment for itself. Whether I spent the hour well, I know not: for here I first conceived the thought of this narration.' The Critical Reviewers, with a spirit and expression worthy of the subject, say, 'We congratulate the publick on the event with which this quotation concludes, and are fully persuaded that the hour in which the entertaining traveller conceived this narrative will be considered, by every reader of taste, as a fortunate event in the annals of literature. Were it suitable to the talk in which we are at present engaged, to indulge ourselves in a poetical flight, we would invoke the winds of the Caledonian mountains to blow for ever, with their softest breezes, on the bank where our author reclined, and request of Flora, that it might be perpetually adorned with the gayest and most fragrant productions of the year.'] We soon afterwards came to Auchnasheal, a kind of rural village, a number of cottages being built together, as we saw all along in the Highlands. We passed many miles this day without seeing a house, but only little summer-huts, called shielings. Evan Campbell, servant to Mr Murchison, factor to the Laird of Macleod in Glenelg, ran along with us to-day. He was a very obliging fellow. At Auchnasheal, we sat down on a green turf-seat at the end of a house; they brought us out two wooden dishes of milk, which we tasted. One of them was frothed like a syllabub. I saw a woman preparing it with such a stick as is used for chocolate, and in the same manner. We had a considerable circle about us, men, women and children, all M'Craas, Lord Seaforth's people. Not one of them could speak English. I observed to Dr Johnson, it was much the same as being with a tribe of Indians. JOHNSON. 'Yes, sir; but not so terrifying.' I gave all who chose it, snuff and tobacco. Governour Trapaud had made us buy a quantity at Fort Augustus, and put them up in small parcels. I also gave each person a bit of wheat bread, which they had never tasted before. I then gave a penny apiece to each child. I told Dr Johnson of this; upon which he called to Joseph and our guides, for change for a shilling, and declared that he would distribute among the children. Upon this being announced in Erse, there was a great stir; not only did some children come running down from neighbouring huts, but I observed one black-haired man, who had been with us all along, had gone off, and returned, bringing a very young child. My fellow traveller then ordered the children to be drawn up in a row; and he dealt about his copper, and made them and their parents all happy. The poor M'Craas, whatever may be their present state, were of considerable estimation in the year 1715, when there was a line in a song.
And aw the brave M'Craas are coming.
[Footnote: The M'Craas, or Macraes, were since that time brought into the king's army, by the late Lord Seaforth. When they lay in Edinburgh castle in 1778, and were ordered to embark for Jersey, they with a number of other men in the regiment, for different reasons, but especially an apprehension that they were to be sold to the East-India Company, though enlisted not to be sent out of Great-Britain without their own consent, made a determined mutiny and encamped upon the lofty mountain, Arthur's Seat, where they remained three days and three nights; bidding defiance to all the force in Scotland. At last they came down, and embarked peaceably, having obtained formal articles of capitulation, signed by Sir Adolphus Oughton, commander in chief, General Skene, deputy commander, the Duke of Buccleugh, and the Earl of Dunmore, which quieted them. Since the secession of the Commons of Rome to the Mons Sacer, a more spirited exertion has not been made. I gave great attention to it from first to last, and have drawn up a particular account of it. Those brave fellows have since served their country effectually at Jersey, and also in the East Indies, to which, alter being better informed, they voluntarily agreed to go.]
There was great diversity in the faces of the circle around us: Some were as black and wild in their appearance as any American savages whatever. One woman was as comely almost as the figure of Sappho, as we see it painted. We asked the old woman, the mistress of the house where we had the milk, (which by the bye, Dr Johnson told me, for I did not observe it myself, was built not of turf, but of stone,) what we should pay. She said, what we pleased. One of our guides asked her, in Erse, if a shilling was enough. She said, 'Yes.' But some of the men bade her ask more. This vexed me; because it shewed a desire to impose upon strangers, as they knew that even a shilling was high payment. The woman, however, honestly persisted in her price; so I gave her half a crown. Thus we had one good scene of life uncommon to us. The people were very much pleased, gave us many blessings, and said they had not had such a day since the old Laird of Macleod's time.
Dr Johnson was much refreshed by this repast. He was pleased when I told him he would make a good chief. He said, 'Were I a chief, I would dress my servants better than myself, and knock a fellow down if he looked saucy to a Macdonald in rags: but I would not treat men as brutes. I would let them know why all of my clan were to have attention paid to them. I would tell my upper servants why, and make them tell the others.'
We rode on well, till we came to the high mountain called the Rattakin, by which time both Dr Johnson and the horses were a good deal fatigued. It is a terrible steep climb, notwithstanding the road is formed slanting along it; however, we made it out. On the top of it we met Captain M'Leod of Balmenoch (a Dutch officer who had come from Sky) riding with his sword slung across him. He asked, 'Is this Mr Boswell?' which was a proof that we were expected. Going down the hill on the other side was no easy task. As Dr Johnson was a great weight, the two guides agreed that he should ride the horses alternately. Hay's were the two best, and the Doctor would not ride but upon one or other of them, a black or a brown. But, as Hay complained much after ascending the Rattakin, the Doctor was prevailed with to mount one of Vass's greys. As he rode upon it down hill, it did not go well; and he grumbled. I walked on a little before, but was excessively entertained with the method taken to keep him in good humour. Hay led the horse's head, talking to Dr Johnson as much as he could; and (having heard him, in the forenoon, express a pastoral pleasure on seeing the goats browzing) just when the Doctor was uttering his displeasure, the fellow cried, with a very Highland accent, 'See such pretty goats!' Then he whistled, WHU! and made them jump. Little did he conceive what Doctor Johnson was. Here now was a common ignorant Highland clown imagining that he could divert, as one does a child, DR SAMUEL JOHNSON! The ludicrousness, absurdity, and extraordinary contrast between what the fellow fancied, and the reality, was truly comick. It grew dusky; and we had a very tedious ride for what was called five miles; but I am sure would measure ten. We had no conversation. I was riding forward to the inn at Glenelg, on the shore opposite to Sky, that I might take proper measures, before Dr Johnson, who was now advancing in dreary silence, Hay leading his horse, should arrive. Vass also walked by the side of his horse, and Joseph followed behind: as therefore he was thus attended, and seemed to be in deep meditation, I thought there could be no harm in leaving him for a little while. He called me back with a tremendous shout, and was really in a passion with me for leaving him. I told him my intentions, but he was not satisfied, and said, 'Do you know, I should as soon have thought of picking a pocket, as doing so.' BOSWELL. 'I am diverted with you, sir.' JOHNSON. 'Sir, I could never be diverted with incivility. Doing such a thing, makes one lose confidence in him who has done it, as one cannot tell what he may do next.' His extraordinary warmth confounded me so much, that I justified myself but lamely to him; yet my intentions were not improper. I wished to get on, to see how we were to be lodged, and how we were to get a boat; all which I thought I could best settle myself, without his having any trouble. To apply his great mind to minute particulars, is wrong: it is like taking an immense balance, such as is kept on quays for weighing cargoes of ships, to weigh a guinea. I knew I had neat little scales, which would do better; and that his attention to every thing which falls in his way, and his uncommon desire to be always in the right, would make him weigh, if he knew of the particulars: it was right therefore for me to weigh them, and let him have them only in effect. I however continued to ride by him, finding he wished I should do so.
As we passed the barracks at Bernea, I looked at them wishfully, as soldiers have always every thing in the best order: but there was only a serjeant and a few men there. We came on to the inn at Glenelg. There was no provender for our horses: so they were sent to grass, with a man to watch them. A maid shewed us up stairs into a room damp and dirty, with bare walls, a variety of bad smells, a coarse black greasy fir table, and forms of the same kind; and out of a wretched bed started a fellow from his sleep, like Edgar in King Lear, 'Poor Tom's a-cold'. [Footnote: It is amusing to observe the different images which this being presented to Dr Johnson and me. The Doctor, in his Journey, compares him to a Cyclops.]
This inn was furnished with not a single article that we could either eat or drink; but Mr Murchison, factor to the Laird of Macleod in Glenelg, sent us a bottle of rum and some sugar, with a polite message, to acquaint us, that he was very sorry that he did not hear of us till we had passed his house, otherwise he should have insisted on our sleeping there that night; and that, if he were not obliged to set out for Inverness early next morning, he would have waited upon us. Such extraordinary attention from this gentleman, to entire strangers, deserves the most honourable commemoration.
Our bad accommodation here made me uneasy, and almost fretful. Dr Johnson was calm. I said, he was so from vanity. JOHNSON. 'No, sir, it is from philosophy.' It pleased me to see that the Rambler could practise so well his own lessons.
I resumed the subject of my leaving him on the road, and endeavoured to defend it better. He was still violent upon that head, and said, 'Sir, had you gone on, I was thinking that I should have returned with you to Edinburgh, and then have parted from you, and never spoken to you more.'
I sent for fresh hay, with which we made beds for ourselves, each in a room, equally miserable. Like Wolfe, we had a 'choice of difficulties'. Dr Johnson made things easier by comparison. At M'Queen's, last night, he observed, that few were so well lodged in a ship. To-night he said, we were better than if we had been upon the hill. He lay down buttoned up in his great coat. I had my sheets spread on the hay, and my clothes and great coat laid over me, by way of blankets.
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