Sunday, 12th September 1773: Raasay, Portree, Kingsburgh
It was a beautiful day, and although we did not approve of travelling on Sunday, we resolved to set out, as we were in an island from whence one must take occasion as it serves. Macleod and Talisker sailed in a boat of Rasay's for Sconser, to take the shortest way to Dunvegan. M'Cruslick went with them to Sconser, from whence he was to go to Slate, and so to the main land. We were resolved to pay a visit at Kingsburgh, and see the celebrated Miss Flora Macdonald, who is married to the present Mr Macdonald of Kingsburgh; so took that road, though not so near. All the family, but Lady Rasay, walked down to the shore to see us depart. Rasay himself went with us in a large boat, with eight oars, built in his island; as did Mr Malcolm M'Cleod, Mr Donald M'Queen, Dr Macleod, and some others. We had a most pleasant sail between Rasay and Sky; and passed by a cave, where Martin says fowls were caught by lighting fire in the mouth of it. Malcolm remembers this. But it is not now practised, as few fowls come into it.
We spoke of death. Dr Johnson on this subject observed, that the boastings of some men, as to dying easily, were idle talk, proceeding from partial views. I mentioned Hawthornden's Cypress Grove, where it is said that the world is a mere show; and that it is unreasonable for a man to wish to continue in the show-room, after he has seen it. Let him go cheerfully out, and give place to other spectators. JOHNSON. 'Yes, sir, if he is sure he is to be well, after he goes out of it. But if he is to grow blind after he goes out of the show-room, and never to see any thing again; or if he does not know whither he is to go next, a man will not go cheerfully out of a show-room. No wise man will be contented to die, if he thinks he is to go into a state of punishment. Nay, no wise man will be contented to die, if he thinks he is to fall into annihilation: for however unhappy any man's existence may be, he yet would rather have it, than not exist at all. No; there is no rational principle by which a man can die contented, but a trust in the mercy of God, through the merits of Jesus Christ.' This short sermon, delivered with an earnest tone, in a boat upon the sea, which was perfectly calm, on a day appropriated to religious worship, while every one listened with an air of satisfaction, had a most pleasing effect upon my mind.
Pursuing the same train of serious reflection, he added, that it seemed certain that happiness could not be found in this life, because so many had tried to find it, in such a variety of ways, and had not found it.
We reached the harbour of Portree, in Sky, which is a large and good one. There was lying in it a vessel to carry off the emigrants, called the Nestor. It made a short settlement of the differences between a chief and his clan.
We approached her, and she hoisted her colours. Dr Johnson and Mr M'Queen remained in the boat: Rasay and I, and the rest went on board of her. She was a very pretty vessel, and, as we were told, the largest in Clyde. Mr Harrison, the captain shewed her to us. The cabin was commodious, and even elegant. There was a little library, finely bound. Portree has its name from King James the Fifth having landed there in his tour through the Western Isles, Ree in Erse being King, as Re is in Italian; so it is Port-Royal. There was here a tolerable inn. On our landing, I had the pleasure of finding a letter from home; and there were also letters to Dr Johnson and me, from Lord Elibank, which had been sent after us from Edinburgh. His lordship's letter to me was as follows:
I flew to Edinburgh the moment I heard of Mr Johnson's arrival; but so defective was my intelligence, that I came too late. It is but justice to believe, that I could never forgive myself, nor deserve to be forgiven by others, if I was to foil in any mark of respect to that very great genius.--I hold him in the highest veneration: for that very reason I was resolved to take no share in the merit, perhaps guilt, of inticing him to honour this country with a visit.--I could not persuade myself there was any thing in Scotland worthy to have a Summer of Samuel Johnson bestowed on it; but since he has done us that compliment, for heaven's sake inform me of your motions. I will attend them most religiously; and though I should regret to let Mr Johnson go a mile out of his way on my account, old as I am, I shall be glad to go five hundred miles to enjoy a day of his company. Have the charity to send a council-post [Footnote: A term in Scotland for a special messenger, such as was formerly sent with dispatches by the lords of the council.] with intelligence; the post does not suit us in the country. At any rate write to me. I will attend you in the north, when I shall know where to find you.
I am, My dear Boswell,
The letter to Dr Johnson was in these words:
I was to have kissed your hands at Edinburgh, the moment I heard of you; but you were gone.
I hope my friend Boswell will inform me of your motions. It will be cruel to deprive me an instant of the honour of attending you. As I value you more than any King in Christendom, I will perform that duty with infinitely greater alacrity than any courtier. I can contribute but little to your entertainment; but, my sincere esteem for you gives me some tide to the opportunity of expressing it.
I dare say you are by this time sensible that things are pretty much the same, as when Buchanan complained of being born solo et seculo inerudito. Let me hear of you, and be persuaded that none of your admirers is more sincerely devoted to you, than,
Dr Johnson, on the following Tuesday, answered for both of us, thus:
On the rugged shore of Skie, I had the honour of your lordship's letter, and can with great truth declare, that no place is so gloomy but that it would be cheered by such a testimony of regard, from a mind so well qualified to estimate characters, and to deal out approbation in its due proportions. If I have more than my share, it is your lordship's fault; for I have always reverenced your judgment too much, to exalt myself in your presence by any false pretensions.
Mr Boswell and I are at present at the disposal of the winds, and therefore cannot fix the time at which we shall have the honour of seeing your lordship. But we should either of us think ourselves injured by the supposition that we would miss your lordship's conversation, when we could enjoy it; for I have often declared that I never met you without going away a wiser man.
I am, my Lord,
At Portree, Mr Donald M'Queen went to church and officiated in Erse, and then came to dinner. Dr Johnson and I resolved that we should treat the company, so I played the landlord, or master of the feast, having previously ordered Joseph to pay the bill.
Sir James Macdonald intended to have built a village here, which would have done great good. A village is like a heart to a country. It produces a perpetual circulation, and gives the people an opportunity to make profit of many little articles, which would otherwise be in a good measure lost. We had here a dinner, et praeterea nihil. Dr Johnson did not talk. When we were about to depart, we found that Rasay had been before-hand with us, and that all was paid: I would fain have contested this matter with him, but seeing him resolved, I declined it. We parted with cordial embraces from him and worthy Malcolm. In the evening Dr Johnson and I remounted our horses, accompanied by Mr M'Queen and Dr Macleod. It rained very hard. We rode what they call six miles, upon Rasay's lands in Sky, to Dr Macleod's house. On the road Dr Johnson appeared to be somewhat out of spirits. When I talked of our meeting Lord Elibank, he said, 'I cannot be with him much. I long to be again in civilized life; but can stay but for a short while' (he meant at Edinburgh). He said, 'Let us go to Dunvegan to-morrow.' 'Yes,' said I, 'if it is not a deluge.' 'At any rate,' he replied. This shewed a kind of fretful impatience; nor was it to be wondered at, considering our disagreeable ride. I feared he would give up Mull and Icolmkill, for he said something of his apprehensions of being detained by bad weather in going to Mull and Iona. However I hoped well. We had a dish of tea at Dr Macleod's, who had a pretty good house, where was his brother, a half-pay officer. His lady was a polite, agreeable woman. Dr Johnson said, he was glad to see that he was so well married, for he had an esteem for physicians. The doctor accompanied us to Kingsburgh, which is called a mile farther; but the computation of Sky has no connection whatever with real distance.
I was highly pleased to see Dr Johnson safely arrived at Kingsburgh, and received by the hospitable Mr Macdonald, who, with a most respectful attention, supported him into the house. Kingsburgh was completely the figure of a gallant highlander, exhibiting 'the graceful mien and manly looks', which our popular Scotch song has justly attributed to that character. He had his tartan plaid thrown about him, a large blue bonnet with a knot of black ribband like a cockade, a brown short coat of a kind of duffil, a tartan waistoat with gold buttons and gold button-holes, a bluish philibeg, and tartan hose. He had jet black hair tied behind, and was a large stately man, with a steady sensible countenance.
There was a comfortable parlour with a good fire, and a dram went round. By and by supper was served, at which there appeared the lady of the house, the celebrated Miss Flora Macdonald. She is a little woman, of a genteel appearance, and uncommonly mild and well bred. To see Dr Samuel Johnson, the great champion of the English Tories, salute Miss Flora Macdonald in the isle of Sky, was a striking sight; for though somewhat congenial in their notions, it was very improbable they should meet here.
Miss Flora Macdonald (for so I shall call her) told me, she heard upon the main land, as she was returning home about a fortnight before, that Mr Boswell was coming to Sky, and one Mr Johnson, a young English buck, with him. He was highly entertained with this fancy. Giving an account of the afternoon which we passed at Anock, he said, 'I, being a BUCK, had miss in to make tea.' He was rather quiescent tonight, and went early to bed. I was in a cordial humour, and promoted a cheerful glass. The punch was excellent. Honest Mr M'Queen observed that I was in high glee, 'my governour being gone to bed'. Yet in reality my heart was grieved, when I recollected that Kingsburgh was embarrassed in his affairs, and intended to go to America. However, nothing but what was good was present, and I pleased myself in thinking that so spirited a man should be well every where. I slept in the same room with Dr Johnson. Each had a neat bed, with tartan curtains, in an upper chamber.
Monday, 13th September 1773: Kingsburgh, Dunvegan
The room where we lay was a celebrated one. Dr Johnson's bed was the very bed in which the grandson of the unfortunate King James the Second [Footnote: I do not call him the Prince of Wales, or the Prince, because I am quite satisfied that the right which the House of Stuart had to the throne is extinguished. I do not call him the Pretender, because it appears to me as an insult to one who is still alive, and, I suppose, thinks very differently. It may be a parliamentary expression; but it is not a gentlemanly expression. I KNOW, and I exult in having it in my power to tell, that the ONLY PERSON in the world who is intitled to be offended at this delicacy, thinks and feels as I do; and has liberality of mind and generosity of sentiment enough to approve of my tenderness for what even HAS BEEN Blood Royal. That he is A PRINCE by COURTESY, cannot be denied; because his mother was the daughter of Sobiesky, king of Poland. I shall, therefore, ON THAT ACCOUNT ALONE, distinguish him by the name of PRINCE CHARLES EDWARD.] lay, on one of the nights after the failure of his rash attempt in 1745-6, while he was eluding the pursuit of the emissaries of government, which had offered thirty thousand pounds as a reward for apprehending him. To see Dr Samuel Johnson lying in that bed, in the isle of Sky, in the house of Miss Flora Macdonald, struck me with such a group of ideas as it is not easy for words to describe, as they passed through the mind. He smiled and said, 'I have had no ambitious thoughts in it.' [Footnote: This perhaps, was said in allusion to some lines ascribed to Pope, on his lying, at John Duke of Argyle's, at Adderbury, in the same bed in which Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, had slept.
With no poetick ardour fir'd,
I press the bed where Wilmot lay.
That here he liv'd; or here expir'd. Begets no numbers, grave or gay.]
The room was decorated with a great variety of maps and prints. Among others, was Hogarth's print of Wilkes grinning, with the cap of liberty on a pole by him. That too was a curious circumstance in the scene this morning; such a contrast was Wilkes to the above group. It reminded me of Sir William Chambers's Account of Oriental Gardening, in which we are told all odd, strange, ugly, and even terrible objects, are introduced, for the sake of variety; a wild extravagance of taste which is so well ridiculed in the celebrated Epistle to him. The following lines of that poem immediately occurred to me;
Here too, O king of vengeance! in thy
Tremendous Wilkes shall rattle his gold chain.
Dr Johnson had caught cold a day or two ago, and the rain yesterday having made it worse, he was become very deaf. At breakfast he said, he would have given a good deal rather than not have lain in that bed. I owned he was the lucky man; and observed, that without doubt it had been contrived between Mrs Macdonald and him. She seemed to acquiesce; adding, 'You know young BUCKS are always favourites of the ladies.' He spoke of Prince Charles being here, and asked Mrs Macdonald, 'WHO was with him? We were told, madam, in England, there was one Miss Flora Macdonald with him.' She said, 'they were very right'; and perceiving Dr Johnson's curiosity, though he had delicacy enough not to question her, very obligingly entertained him with a recital of the particulars which she herself knew of that escape, which does so much honour to the humanity, fidelity, and generosity, of the Highlanders. Dr Johnson listened to her with placid attention, and said, 'All this should be written down.'
From what she told us, and from what I was told by others personally concerned, and from a paper of information which Rasay was so good as to send me, at my desire, I have compiled the following abstract, which, as it contains some curious anecdotes, will, I imagine not be uninteresting to my readers, and even, perhaps, be of some use to future historians.
Prince Charles Edward, after the battle of Culloden, was conveyed to what is called the Long Island, where he lay for some time concealed. But intelligence having been obtained where he was, and a number of troops having come in quest of him, it became absolutely necessary for him to quit that country without delay. Miss Flora Macdonald, then a young lady, animated by what she thought the sacred principle of loyalty, offered, with the magnanimity of a heroine, to accompany him in an open boat to Sky, though the coast they were to quit was guarded by ships. He dressed himself in women's clothes, and passed as her supposed maid, by the name of Betty Bourke, an Irish girl. They got off undiscovered, though several shots were fired to bring them to, and landed at Mugstot, the seat of Sir Alexander Macdonald. Sir Alexander was then at Fort Augustus, with the Duke of Cumberland; but his lady was at home. Prince Charles took his post upon a hill near the house. Flora Macdonald, waited on Lady Margaret, and acquainted her of the enterprise in which she was engaged. Her ladyship, whose active benevolence was ever seconded by superior talents, shewed a perfect presence of mind, and readiness of invention, and at once settled that Prince Charles should be conducted to old Rasay, who was himself concealed with some select friends. The plan was instantly communicated to Kingsburgh, who was dispatched to the hill to inform the Wanderer, and carry him refreshments. When Kingsburgh approached, he started up, and advanced, holding a large knotted stick, and in appearance ready to knock him down, till he said, 'I am Macdonald of Kingsburgh, come to serve your highness.' The Wanderer answered, 'It is well,' and was satisfied with the plan.
Flora Macdonald, dined with Lady Margaret, at whose table there sat an officer of the army, stationed here with a party of soldiers, to watch for Prince Charles in case of his flying to the isle of Sky. She afterwards often laughed in good humour with this gentleman, on her having so well deceived him.
After dinner, Flora Macdonald, on horseback, and her supposed maid, and Kingsburgh, with a servant carrying some linen, all on foot, proceeded towards that gentleman's house. Upon the road was a small rivulet which they were obliged to cross. The Wanderer, forgetting his assumed sex, that his clothes might not be wet, held them up a great deal too high. Kingsburgh mentioned this to him, observing, it might make a discovery. He said he would be more careful for the future. He was as good as his word; for the next brook they crossed, he did not hold up his clothes at all, but let them float upon the water. He was very awkward in his female dress. His size was so large, and his strides so great, that some women whom they met reported that they had seen a very big woman, who looked like a man in woman's clothes, and that perhaps it was (as they expressed themselves) the PRINCE, after whom so much search was making.
At Kingsburgh he met with a most cordial reception; seemed gay at supper, and after it indulged himself in a cheerful glass with his worthy host. As he had not had his clothes off for a long time, the comfort of a good bed was highly relished by him, and he slept soundly till next day at one o'clock.
The mistress of Corrichatachin told me, that in the forenoon she went into her father's room, who was also in bed, and suggested to him her apprehensions that a party of the military might come up, and that his guest had better not remain here too long. Her father said, 'Let the poor man repose himself after his fatigues; and as for me, I care not, though they take off this old grey head ten or eleven years sooner than I should die in the course of nature.' He then wrapped himself in the bed-clothes, and again fell fast asleep.
On the afternoon of that day, the Wanderer, still in the same dress, set out for Portree, with Flora Macdonald and a man servant. His shoes being very bad, Kingsburgh provided him with a new pair, and taking up the old ones, said, 'I will faithfully keep them till you are safely settled at St James's. I will then introduce myself by shaking them at you, to put you in mind of your night's entertainment and protection under my roof.' He smiled, and said, 'Be as good as your word!' Kingsburgh kept the shoes as long as he lived. After his death, a zealous Jacobite gentleman gave twenty guineas for them. Old Mrs Macdonald, after her guest had left the house, took the sheets in which he had lain, folded them carefully, and charged her daughter that they should be kept unwashed, and that, when she died, her body should be wrapped in them as a winding sheet. Her will was religiously observed.
Mr Donald M'Donald, called Donald Roy, had been sent express to the present Rasay, then the young laird, who was at that time at his sister's house, about three miles from Portree, attending his brother, Dr Macleod, who was recovering of a wound he had received at the battle of Culloden. Mr M'Donald communicated to young Rasay the plan of conveying the Wanderer to where old Rasay was; but was told that old Rasay had fled to Knoidart, a part of Glengary's estate. There was then a dilemma what should be done. Donald Roy proposed that he should conduct the Wanderer to the main land; but young Rasay thought it too dangerous at that time, and said it would be better to conceal him in the island of Rasay, till old Rasay could be informed where he was, and give his advice what was best. But the difficulty was, how to get him to Rasay. They could not trust a Portree crew, and all the Rasay boats had been destroyed, or carried off by the military except two belonging to Malcolm M'Leod, which he had concealed somewhere.
Dr Macleod being informed of this difficulty, said he would risk his life once more for Prince Charles; and it having occurred, that there was a little boat upon a fresh water lake in the neighbourhood, young Rasay and Dr Macleod, with the help of some women, brought it to the sea, by extraordinary exertion, across a Highland mile of land, one half of which was bog, and the other a steep precipice.
These gallant brothers, with the assistance of one little boy, rowed the small boat to Rasay, where they were to endeavour to find Captain M'Leod, as Malcolm was then called, and get one of his good boats, with which they might return to Portree, and receive the Wanderer; or, in case of not finding him, they were to make the small boat serve, though the danger was considerable.
Fortunately, on their first landing, they found their cousin Malcolm, who, with the utmost alacrity, got ready one of his boats, with two strong men. John M'Kenzie, and Donald M'Friar. Malcolm, being the oldest man, and most cautious, said, that as young Rasay had not hitherto appeared in the unfortunate business, he ought not to run any risk; but that Dr Macleod and himself, who were already publickly engaged, should go on this expedition. Young Rasay answered, with an oath, that he would go, at the risk of his life and fortune. 'In God's name then,' said Malcolm, 'let us proceed.' The two boatmen, however, now stopped short, till they should be informed of their destination; and M'Kenzie declared he would not move an oar till he knew where they were going. Upon which they were both sworn to secrecy; and the business being imparted to them, they were eager to put off to sea without loss of time. The boat soon landed about half a mile from the inn at Portree.
All this was negotiated before the Wanderer got forward to Portree. Malcolm M'Leod, and M'Friar, were dispatched to look for him. In a short time he appeared, and went into the publick house. Here Donald Roy, whom he had seen at Mugstot, received him, and informed him of what had been concerted. He wanted silver for a guinea, but the landlord had only thirteen shillings. He was going to accept of this for his guinea; but Donald Roy very judiciously observed, that it would discover him to be some great man; so he desisted. He slipped out of the house, leaving his fair protectress, whom he never again saw; and Malcolm Macleod was presented to him by Donald Roy, as a captain in his army. Young Rasay and Dr Macleod had waited, in impatient anxiety, in the boat. When he came, their names were announced to him. He would not permit the usual ceremonies of respect, but saluted them as his equals.
Donald Roy staid in Sky, to be in readiness to get intelligence, and give an alarm in case the troops should discover the retreat to Rasay; and Prince Charles was then conveyed in a boat to that island in the night. He slept a little upon the passage, and they landed about day-break. There was some difficulty in accommodating him with a lodging, as almost all the houses in the island had been burnt by soldiery. They repaired to a little hut, which some shepherds had lately built, and having prepared it as well as they could, and made a bed of heath for the stranger, they kindled a fire, and partook of some provisions which had been sent with him from Kingsburgh. It was observed, that he would not taste wheat-bread, or brandy, while oat-bread and whisky lasted; 'for these,' said he, 'are my own country's bread and drink'. This was very engaging to the Highlanders.
Young Rasay being the only person of the company that durst appear with safety, he went in quest of something fresh for them to eat; but though he was amidst his own cows, sheep, and goats, he could not venture to take any of them for fear of a discovery, but was obliged to supply himself by stealth. He therefore caught a kid, and brought it to the hut in his plaid, and it was killed and drest, and furnished them a meal which they relished much. The distressed Wanderer, whose health was now a good deal impaired by hunger, fatigue, and watching, slept a long time, but seemed to be frequently disturbed. Malcolm told me he would start from broken slumbers, and speak to himself in different languages, French, Italian, and English. I must however acknowledge, that it is highly probable that my worthy friend Malcolm did not know precisely the difference between French and Italian. One of his expressions in English was, 'O God! Poor Scotland!'
While they were in the hut, M'Kenzie and M'Friar, the two boatmen, were placed as sentinels upon different eminences; and one day an incident happened, which must not be omitted. There was a man wandering about the island, selling tobacco. Nobody knew him, and he was suspected to be a spy. M'Kenzie came running to the hut, and told that this suspected person was approaching. Upon which the three gentlemen, young Rasay, Dr Macleod, and Malcom, held a council of war upon him, and were unanimously of opinion that he should instantly be put to death. Prince Charles, at once assuming a grave and even severe countenance, said, 'God forbid that we should take away a man's life, who may be innocent, while we can preserve our own.' The gentlemen however persisted in their resolution, while he as strenuously continued to take the merciful side. John M'Kenzie, who sat watching at the door of the hut, and overheard the debate, said in Erse, 'Well, well; he must be shot. You are the king, but we are the parliament, and will do what we choose.' Prince Charles, seeing the gentlemen smile, asked what the man had said, and being told it in English, he observed that he was a clever fellow, and, notwithstanding the perilous situation in which he was, laughed loud and heartily. Luckily the unknown person did not perceive that there were people in the hut, at least did not come to it, but walked on past it, unknowing of his risk. It was afterwards found out that he was one of the Highland army, who was himself in danger. Had he come to them, they were resolved to dispatch him; for, as Malcolm said to me, 'We could not keep him with us, and we durst not let him go. In such a situation, I would have shot my brother, if I had not been sure of him.' John M'Kenzie was at Rasay's house, when we were there.[Footnote: This old Scottish Member of Parliament, I am Informed, is still living (1785).] About eighteen years before, he hurt one of his legs when dancing, and being obliged to have it cut off, he now was going about with a wooden leg. The story of his being a Member of Parliament is not yet forgotten. I took him out a little way from the house, gave him a shilling to drink Rasay's health, and led him into a detail of the particulars which I have just related. With less foundation, some writers have traced the idea of a parliament, and of the British constitution, in rude and early times. I was curious to know if he had really heard, or understood, any thing of that subject, which, had he been a greater man, would probably have been eagerly maintained. 'Why, John,' said I, 'did you think the king should be controuled by a parliament?' He answered, 'I thought, sir, there were many voices against one.'
The conversation then turning on the times, the Wanderer said, that to be sure, the life he had led of late was a very hard one; but he would rather live in the way he now did, for ten years, than fall into the hands of his enemies. The gentlemen asked him, what he thought his enemies would do with him, should he have the misfortune to fall into their hands. He said, he did not believe they would dare to take his life publickly, but he dreaded being privately destroyed by poison or assassination. He was very particular in his inquiries about the wound which Dr Macleod had received at the battle of Culloden, from a ball which entered at one shoulder, and went cross to the other. The doctor happened still to have on the coat which he wore on that occasion. He mentioned, that he himself had his horse shot under him at Culloden; that the ball hit the horse about two inches from his knee, and made him so unruly that he was obliged to change him for another. He threw out some reflections on the conduct of the disastrous affair at Culloden, saying, however, that perhaps it was rash in him to do so. I am now convinced that his suspicions were groundless; for I have had a good deal of conversation upon the subject with my very worthy and ingenious friend, Mr Andrew Lumisden, who was under secretary to Prince Charles, and afterwards principal secretary to his father at Rome, who, he assured me, was perfectly satisfied both of the abilities and honour of the generals who commanded the highland army on that occasion. Mr Lumisden has written an account of the three battles in 1745-6, at once accurate and classical. Talking of the different Highland corps, the gentlemen who were present wished to have his opinion which were the best soldiers. He said, he did not like comparisons among those corps: they were all best.
He told his conductors, he did not think it advisable to remain long in any one place; and that he expected a French ship to come for him to Lochbroom, among the Mackenzies. It then was proposed to carry him in one of Malcolm's boats to Lochbroom, though the distance was fifteen leagues coastwise. But he thought this would be too dangerous, and desired that at any rate, they might first endeavour to obtain intelligence. Upon which young Rasay wrote to his friend, Mr M'Kenzie of Applecross, but received an answer, that there was no appearance of any French ship.
It was therefore resolved that they should return to Sky, which they did, and landed in Strath, where they reposed in a cow-house belonging to Mr Niccolson of Scorbreck. The sea was very rough, and the boat took in a good deal of water. The Wanderer asked if there was danger, as he was not used to such a vessel. Upon being told there was not, he sung an Erse song with much vivacity. He had by this time acquired a good deal of the Erse language.
Young Rasay was now dispatched to where Donald Roy was, that they might get all the intelligence they could; and the Wanderer, with much earnestness, charged Dr Macleod to have a boat ready, at a certain place about seven miles off, as he said he intended it should carry him upon a matter of great consequence; and gave the doctor a case, containing a silver spoon, knife, and fork, saying, 'keep you that till I see you', which the doctor understood to be two days from that time. But all these orders were only blinds; for he had another plan in his head, but wisely thought it safest to trust his secrets to no more persons than was absolutely necessary. Having then desired Malcolm to walk with him a little way from the house, he soon opened his mind, saying, 'I deliver myself to you. Conduct me to the Laird of M'Kinnon's country.' Malcolm objected that it was very dangerous, as so many parties of soldiers were in motion. He answered. 'There is nothing now to be done without danger.' He then said, that Malcolm must be the master, and he the servant; so he took the bag, in which his linen was put up, and carried it on his shoulder; and observing that his waistcoat, which was of scarlet tartan, with a gold twist button, was finer than Malcolm's, which was of a plain ordinary tartan, he put on Malcolm's waistcoat, and gave him his; remarking at the same time, that it did not look well that the servant should be better dressed than the master.
Malcolm, though an excellent walker, found himself excelled by Prince Charles, who told him, he should not much mind the parties that were looking for him, were he once but a musquet shot from them; but that he was somewhat afraid of the highlanders who were against him. He was well used to walking in Italy, in pursuit of game; and he was even now so keen a sportsman, that, having observed some partridges, he was going to take a shot; but Malcolm cautioned him against it, observing that the firing might be heard by the tenders who were hovering upon the coast.
As they proceeded through the mountains, taking many a circuit to avoid any houses, Malcolm, to try his resolution, asked him what they should do, should they fall in with a party of soldiers: he answered. 'Fight to be sure!' Having asked Malcolm if he should be known in his present dress, and Malcolm having replied he would, he said, 'Then I'll blacken my face with powder.' 'That,' said Malcolm, 'would discover you at once.'
'Then,' said he, 'I must be put in the greatest dishabille possible.' So he pulled off his wig, tied a handkerchief round his head, and put his night-cap over it, tore the ruffles from his shirt, took the buckles out of his shoes, and made Malcolm fasten them with strings; but still Malcolm thought he would be known. 'I have so odd a face,' said he, 'that no man ever saw me but he would know me again.'
He seemed unwilling to give credit to the horrid narrative of men being massacred in cold blood, after victory had declared for the army commanded by the Duke of Cumberland. He could not allow himself to think that a general could be so barbarous.
When they came within two miles of M'Kinnon's house, Malcolm asked if he chose to see the laird. 'No,' said he, 'by no means. I know M'Kinnon to be as good and as honest a man as any in the world, but he is not fit for my purpose at present. You must conduct me to some other house; but let it be a gentleman's house.' Malcolm then determined that they should go to the house of his brother-in-law, Mr John M'Kinnon, and from thence be conveyed to the main land of Scotland, and claim the assistance of Macdonald of Scothouse. The Wanderer at first objected to this, because Scothouse was cousin to a person of whom he had suspicions. But he acquiesced in Malcolm's opinion.
When they were near Mr John M'Kinnon's house, they met a man of the name of Ross, who had been a private soldier in the Highland army. He fixed his eyes steadily on the Wanderer in his disguise, and having at once recognized him, he clapped his hands, and exclaimed, 'Alas! is this the case?' Finding that there was now a discovery, Malcolm asked, 'What's to be done?' 'Swear him to secrecy,' answered Prince Charles. Upon which Malcolm drew his dirk, and on the naked blade, made him take a solemn oath, that he would say nothing of his having seen the Wanderer, till his escape should be made publick.
Malcolm's sister, whose house they reached pretty early in the morning, asked him who the person was that was along with him. He said it was one Lewis Caw, from Crieff, who being a fugitive like himself, for the same reason, he had engaged him as his servant, but that he had fallen sick. 'Poor man!' said she, 'I pity him. At the same time my heart warms to a man of his appearance.' Her husband was gone a little way from home; but was expected every minute to return. She set down to her brother a plentiful Highland breakfast. Prince Charles acted the servant very well, sitting at a respectful distance, with his bonnet off. Malcolm then said to him, 'Mr Caw, you have as much need of this as I have; there is enough for us both: you had better draw nearer and share with me.' Upon which he rose, made a profound bow, sat down at table with his supposed master, and eat very heartily. After this there came in an old woman, who, after the mode of ancient hospitality, brought warm water, and washed Malcolm's feet. He desired her to wash the feet of the poor man who attended him. She at first seemed averse to this, from pride, as thinking him beneath her, and in the periphrastick language of the highlanders and the Irish, said warmly, 'Though I wash your father's son's feet, why should I wash his father's son's feet?' She was however persuaded to do it.
They then went to bed, and slept for some time; and when Malcolm awaked, he was told that Mr John M'Kinnon, his brother-in-law, was in sight. He sprang out to talk to him before he shoulld see Prince Charles. After saluting him, Malcolm, pointing to the sea, said, 'What, John, if the prince should be prisoner on board one of those tenders?' 'God forbid!' replied John. 'What if we had him here?' said Malcolm. 'I wish we had,' answered John; 'we should take care of him.' 'Well, John,' said Malcolm, 'he is in your house.' John, in a transport of joy, wanted to run directly in, and pay his obeisance; but Malcolm stopped him, saying, 'Now is your time to behave well, and do nothing that can discover him.' John composed himself, and having sent away all his servants upon different errands, he was introduced into the presence of his guest, and was then desired to go and get ready a boat lying near his house, which, though but a small leaky one, they resolved to take, rather than go to the Laird of M'Kinnon. John M'Kinnon, however, thought otherwise; and upon his return told them, that his chief and Lady M'Kinnon were coming in the laird's boat. Prince Charles said to his trusty Malcolm. 'I am sorry for this, but must make the best of it.' M'Kinnon then walked up from the shore, and did homage to the Wanderer. His lady waited in a cave, to which they all repaired, and were entertained with cold meat and wine. Mr Malcolm M'Leod being now superseded by the Laird of M'Kinnon, desired leave to return, which was granted him, and Prince Charles wrote a short note, which he subscribed 'James Thompson', informing his friends that he had got away from Sky, and thanking them for their kindness; and he desired this might be speedily conveyed to young Rasay and Dr Macleod, that they might not wait longer in expectation of seeing him again. He bade a cordial adieu to Malcolm, and insisted on his accepting of a silver stock-buckle, and ten guineas from his purse, though, as Malcolm told me, it did not appear to contain above forty. Malcolm at first begged to be excused, saying, that he had a few guineas at his service; but Prince Charles answered, 'You will have need of money. I shall get enough when I come upon the main land.'
The Laird of M'Kinnon then conveyed him to the opposite coast of Knoidart. Old Rasay, to whom intelligence had been sent, was crossing at the same time to Sky; but as they did not know of each other, and each had apprehensions, the two boats kept aloof.
These are the particulars which I have collected concerning the extraordinary concealment and escapes of Prince Charles, in the Hebrides. He was often in imminent danger. The troops traced him from the Long Island, across Sky, to Portree, but there lost him.
Here I stop, having received no farther authentic information of his fatigues and perils before he escaped to France. Kings and subjects may both take a lesson of moderation from the melancholy fate of the House of Stuart; that kings may not suffer degradation and exile, and subjects may not be harrassed by the evils of a disputed succession.
Let me close the scene on that unfortunate House with the elegant and pathetick reflections of Voltaire, in his Histoire Generale. 'Que les hommes prives,' says that brilliant writer, speaking of Prince Charles, 'qui se croyent malheureux, jettent les yeux sur ce prince et ses ancetres.'
In another place he thus sums up the sad story of the family in general:
II n'y a aucun exemple dans l'histoire d'une maison si longtems infortunee. Le premier des Rois d'Ecosse, qui eut le nom de Jacques, apres avoir ete dix-huit ans prisonnier en Angleterre, mourut assassine, avec sa femme, par la main de ses sujets. Jacques II, son fils, fut tue a vingt-neuf ans en combattant centre les Anglois. Jacques III, mis en prison par son peuple, fut tue ensuite par les revoltes, dans une battaille. Jacques IV perit dans un combat qu'il perdit. Marie Stuart, sa petite fille, chassee, de son trone, fugitive en Angleterre, ayant langui dix-huit ans en prison, se vit condamnee a mort par des juges Anglais, et eut la tete tranchee. Charles I, petit fils de Marie, Roi d'Ecosse et d'Angleterre, vendu par les Ecossois, et juge a mort par les Anglais, mourut sur un echauffaut dans la place publique. Jacques, son fils, septieme du nom, et deuxieme en Angleterre, fut chasse de ses trois royaumes; et pour comble de malheur on contesta a son fils sa naissance; le fils ne tenta de remonter sur le trone de ces peres, que pour faire perir ses amis par des bourreaux; et nous avons vu le Prince Charles Edouard, reunuissant en vain les vertus de ses peres, et le courage du Roy Jean Sobieski, son ayeul maternel, executer les exploits et essuyer les malheurs les plus incroyables. Si quelque chose justifie ceux qui croyent une fatalite a laquelle rien ne peut se soustraire, c'est cette suite continuelle de malheurs qui a persecute la maison de Stuart, pendant plus de trois-cent annees.
The gallant Malcolm was apprehended in about ten days after they separated, put aboard a ship and carried prisoner to London. He said, the prisoners in general were very ill treated in their passage; but there were soldiers on board who lived well, and sometimes invited him to share with them: that he had the good fortune not to be thrown into jail, but was confined in the house of a messenger, of the name of Dick. To his astonishment, only one witness could be found against him, though he had been so openly engaged; and therefore, for want of sufficient evidence, he was set at liberty. He added, that he thought himself in such danger, that he would gladly have compounded for banishment. Yet, he said, he should never be so ready for death as he then was. There is philosophical truth in this. A man will meet death much more firmly at one time than another. The enthusiasm even of a mistaken principle warms the mind, and sets it above the fear of death; which in our cooler moments, if we really think of it, cannot but be terrible, or at least very awful.
Miss Flora Macdonald being then also in London, under the protection of Lady Primrose, that lady provided a post-chaise to convey her to Scotland, and desired she might choose any friend she pleased to accompany her. She chose Malcolm. 'So,' said he, with a triumphant air, 'I went to London to be hanged, and returned in a post-chaise with Miss Flora Macdonald.'
Mr Macleod of Muiravenside, whom we saw at Rasay, assured us that Prince Charles was in London in 1759, and that there was then a plan in agitation for restoring his family. Dr Johnson could scarcely credit this story, and said, there could be no probable plan at that time. Such an attempt could not have succeeded, unless the King of Prussia had stopped the army in Germany; for both the army and the fleet would, even without orders, have fought for the King, to whom they had engaged themselves.
Having related so many particulars concerning the grandson of the unfortunate King James the Second; having given due praise to fidelity and generous attachment, which, however erroneous the judgement may be, are honourable for the heart; I must do the highlanders the justice to attest, that I found every where amongst them a high opinion of the virtues of the King now upon the throne, and an honest disposition to be faithful subjects to his majesty, whose family had possessed the sovereignty of this country so long, that a change, even for the abdicated family, would now hurt the best feelings of all his subjects.
The abstract point of right would involve us in a discussion of remote and perplexed questions; and after all, we should have no clear principle of decision. That establishment, which, from political necessity, took place in 1688, by a breach in the succession of our kings, and which, whatever benefits may have accrued from it, certainly gave a shock to our monarchy, the able and constitutional Blackstone, wisely rests on the solid footing of authority: 'Our ancestors having most indisputably a competent jurisdiction to decide this great and important question, and having, in fact decided it, it is now become our duty, at this distance of time, to acquiesce in their determination.'
Mr Paley, the present Archdeacon of Carlisle, in his Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy, having, with much clearness of argument, shewn the duty of submission to civil government to be founded neither on an indefeasible jus divinum, nor on COMPACT, but on EXPEDIANCY, lays down this rational position:
Irregularity in the first foundation of a state, or subsequent violence, fraud, or injustice, in getting possession of the supreme power, are not sufficient reasons for resistance, after the government is once peaceably settled. No subject of the British Empire conceives himself engaged to vindicate the justice of the Norman claim or conquest, or apprehends that his duty in any manner depends upon that controversy. So likewise, if the house of Lancaster, or even the posterity of Cromwell, had been at this day seated upon the throne of England, we should have been as little concerned to enquire how the founder of the family came there.
In conformity with this doctrine, I myself, though fully persuaded that the House of Stuart had originally no right to the crown of Scotland; for that Baliol, and not Bruce, was the lawful heir; should yet have thought it very culpable to have rebelled, on that account, against Charles the First, or even a prince of that house much nearer the time, in order to assert the claim of the posterity of Baliol.
However convinced I am of the justice of that principle, which holds allegiance and protection to be reciprocal, I do however acknowledge, that I am not satisfied with the cold sentiment which would confine the exertions of the subject within the strict line of duty. I would have every breast animated with the FERVOUR of loyalty; with that generous attachment which delights in doing somewhat more than is required, and makes 'service perfect freedom'. And, therefore, as our most gracious Sovereign, on his accession to the throne, gloried in being born a Briton; so, in my more private sphere, Ego me nunc denique natum gratulor. I am happy that a disputed succession no longer distracts our minds; and that a monarchy, established by law, is now so sanctioned by time, that we can fully indulge those feelings of loyalty which I am ambitious to excite. They are feelings which have ever actuated the inhabitants of the Highlands and the Hebrides. The plant of loyalty is there in full vigour, and the Brunswick graft now flourishes like a native shoot. To that spirited race of people I may with propriety apply the elegant lines of a modern poet, on the 'facile temper of the beauteous sex':
Like birds new-caught, who flutter for a
And struggle with captivity in vain;
But by-and-by they rest, they smooth their plumes.
And to NEW MASTERS sing their former notes.
Surely such notes are much better than the querulous growlings of suspicious Whigs and discontented Republicans.
Kingsburgh conducted us in his boat, across one of the lochs, as they call them, or arms of the sea, which flow in upon all the coasts of Sky, to a mile beyond a place called Grishinish. Our horses had been sent round by land to meet us. By this sail we saved eight miles of bad riding. Dr Johnson said, 'When we take into the computation what we have saved, and what we have gained, by this agreeable sail, it is a great deal.' He observed, 'it is very disagreeable riding in Sky. The way is so narrow, one only at a time can travel, so it is quite unsocial; and you cannot indulge in meditation by yourself, because you must be always attending to the steps which your horse takes.' This was a just and clear description of its inconveniencies.
The topick of emigration being again introduced, Dr Johnson said, that 'a rapacious chief would make a wilderness of his estate'. Mr Donald M'Queen told us, that the oppression, which then made so much noise, was owing to landlords listening to bad advice in the letting of their lands; that interested and designed people flattered them with golden dreams of much higher rents than could reasonably be paid; and that some of the gentlemen tacksmen, or upper tenants, were themselves in part the occasion of the mischief, by over-rating the farms of others. That many of the tacksmen, rather than comply with exorbitant demands, had gone off to America, and impoverished the country, by draining it of its wealth; and that their places were filled by a number of poor people, who had lived under them, properly speaking, as servants, paid by a certain proportion of the produce of the lands, though called sub-tenants. I observed, that if the men of substance were once banished from a Highland estate, it might probably be greatly reduced in its value; for one bad year might ruin a set of poor tenants, and men of any property would not settle in such a country, unless from the temptation of getting land extremely cheap; for an inhabitant of any good county in Britain, had better go to America than to the Highlands or the Hebrides. Here, therefore was a consideration that ought to induce a chief to act a more liberal part, from a mere motive of interest, independent of the lofty and honourable principle of keeping a clan together, to be in readiness to serve his king. I added, that I could not help thinking a little arbitrary power in the sovereign, to control the bad policy and greediness of the chiefs, might sometimes be of service. In France a chief would not be permitted to force a number of the king's subjects out of the country. Dr Johnson concurred with me, observing, that 'were an oppressive chieftain a subject of the French king, he would probably be admonished by a LETTER'.
During our sail, Dr Johnson asked about the use of the dirk, with which he imagined the highlanders cut their meat. He was told, they had a knife and fork besides, to eat with. He asked, how did the women do? and was answered, some of them had a knife and fork too; but in general the men, when they had cut their meat, handed their knives and forks to the women, and they themselves eat with their fingers. The old tutor of Macdonald always eat fish with his fingers, alledging that a knife and fork gave it a bad taste. I took the liberty to observe to Dr Johnson, that he did so. 'Yes,' said he; 'but it is because I am short-sighted, and afraid of bones, for which reason I am not fond of eating many kinds of fish, because I must use my fingers.'
Dr M'Pherson's Dissertations on Scottish Antiquities, which he had looked at when at Corrichatachin, being mentioned, he remarked, that 'you might read half an hour, and ask yourself what you had been reading: there were so many words to so little matter, that there was no getting through the book'. As soon as we reached the shore, we took leave of Kingsburgh, and mounted our horses. We passed through a wild moor, in many places so soft that we were obliged to walk, which was very fatiguing to Dr Johnson. Once he had advanced on horseback to a very bad step. There was a steep declivity on his left, to which he was so near, that there was not room for him to dismount in the usual way. He tried to alight on the other side, as if he had been a 'young buck' indeed, but in the attempt he fell at his length upon the ground; from which, however, he got up immediately without being hurt. During this dreary ride, we were sometimes relieved by a view of branches of the sea, that universal medium of connection amongst mankind. A guide, who had been sent with us from Kingsburgh, explored the way (much in the same manner as, I suppose, is pursued in the wilds of America) by observing certain marks known only to the inhabitants. We arrived at Dunvegan late in the afternoon. The great size of the castle, which is partly old and partly new, and is built upon a rock close to the sea, while the land around it presents nothing but wild, moorish, hilly, and craggy appearances, gave a rude magnificence to the scene. Having dismounted, we ascended a flight of steps, which was made by the late Macleod, for the accomodation of persons coming to him by land, there formerly being, for security, no other access to the castle but from the sea; so that visitors who came by the land were under the necessity of getting into a boat, and sailed round to the only place where it could be approached. We were introduced into a stately dining-room, and received by Lady Macleod, mother of the laird, who, with his friend Talisker, having been detained on the road, did not arrive till some time after us.
We found the lady of the house a very polite and sensible woman, who had lived for some time in London, and had there been in Dr Johnson's company. After we had dined, we repaired to the drawing-room, where some of the young ladies of the family, with their mother, were at tea. This room had formerly been the bed-chamber of Sir Roderick Macleod, one of the old lairds; and he chose it, because, behind it, there was a considerable cascade, the sound of which disposed him to sleep. Above his bed was this inscription: SIR RORIE M'LEOD OF DUNVEGAN, KNIGHT. GOD SEND GOOD REST! Rorie is the contraction of Roderick. He was called Rorie More, that is, great Rorie, not from his size, but from his spirit. Our entertainment here was in so elegant a style, and reminded my fellow-traveller so much of England, that he became quite joyous. He laughed, and said, 'Boswell, we came in at the wrong end of this island.' 'Sir,' said I, 'it was best to keep this for the last.' He answered, 'I would have it both first and last.'
Tuesday, 14th September 1773: Dunvegan
Dr Johnson said in the morning, 'Is not this a fine lady?' There was not a word now of his 'impatience to be in civilized life'; though indeed I should beg pardon--he found it here. We had slept well, and lain long. After breakfast we surveyed the castle, and the garden. Mr Bethune, the parish minister, Magnus M'Leod, of Claggan, brother to Talisker, and M'Leod, of Bay, two substantial gentlemen of the clan, dined with us. We had admirable venison, generous wine; in a word, all that a good table has. This was really the hall of a chief. Lady M'Leod had been much obliged to my father, who had settled by arbitration, a variety of perplexed claims between her and her relation, the Laird of Brodie, which she now repaid by particular attention to me. M'Leod started the subject of making women do penance in the church for fornication. JOHNSON. 'It is right, sir. Infamy is attached to the crime, by universal opinion, as soon as it is known. I would not be the man who would discover it, if I alone knew it, for a woman may reform; nor would I commend a parson who divulges a woman's first offence; but being once divulged, it ought to be infamous. Consider, of what importance to society the chastity of women is. Upon that all the property in the world depends. We hang a thief for stealing a sheep; but the unchastity of a woman transfers sheep, and farm and all, from the right owner. I have much more reverence for a common prostitute than for a woman who conceals her guilt. The prostitute is known. She cannot deceive: she cannot bring a strumpet into the arms of an honest man, without his knowledge.' BOSWELL. 'There is, however, a great difference between the licentiousness of a single woman, and that of a married woman.' JOHNSON. 'Yes, sir; there is a great difference between stealing a shilling, and stealing a thousand pounds; between simply taking a man's purse, and murdering him first, and then taking it. But when one begins to be vicious, it is easy to go on. Where single women are licentious, you rarely find faithful married women.' BOSWELL. 'And yet we are told that in some nations in India, the distinction is strictly observed.' JOHNSON. 'Nay, don't give us India. That puts me in mind of Montesquieu, who is really a fellow of genius too in many respects; whenever he wants to support a strange opinion, he quotes you the practice of Japan or of some other distant country, of which he knows nothing. To support polygamy, he tells you of the island of Formosa, where there are ten women born for one man. He had but to suppose another island, where there are ten men born for one woman, and so make a marriage between them.' [Footnote: What my friend treated as so wild a supposition, has actually happened in the western islands of Scotland, if we may believe Martin, who tells it of the islands of Col and Tyr-yi, and says that it is proved by the parish registers.]
At supper, Lady Macleod mentioned Dr Cadogan's book on the gout. JOHNSON. 'It is a good book in general, but a foolish one in particulars. It is good in general, as recommending temperance and exercise, and cheerfulness. In that respect it is only Dr Cheyne's book told in a new way; and there should come out such a book every thirty years, dressed in the mode of the times. It is foolish, in maintaining that the gout is not hereditary, and that one fit of it, when gone, is like a fever when gone.' Lady Macleod objected that the author does not practice what he teaches. [Footnote: This was a general reflection against Dr Cadogan, when his very popular book was first published. It was said, that whatever precepts he might give to others, he himself indulged freely in the bottle. But I have since had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with him, and, if his own testimony may be believed (and I have never heard it impeached), his course of life, has been conformable to his doctrine.] JOHNSON. 'I cannot help that, madam. That does not make his book the worse. People are influenced more by what a man says, if his practice is suitable to it, because they are blockheads. The more intellectual people are, the readier will they attend to what a man tells them. If it is just, they will follow it, be his practice what it will. No man practises so well as he writes. I have, all my life long, been lying till noon; yet I tell all young men, and tell them with great sincerity, that nobody who does not rise early will ever do any good. Only consider! You read a book; you are convinced by it; you do not know the authour. Suppose you afterwards know him, and find that he does not practice what he teaches; are you to give up your former conviction At this rate you would be kept in a state of equilibrium, when reading every book, till you knew how the authour practised.' 'But,' said Lady M'Leod, 'you would think better of Dr Cadogan, if he acted according to his principles.' JOHNSON. 'Why, madam, to be sure, a man who acts in the face of light, is worse than a man who does not know so much; yet I think no man should be the worse thought of for publishing good principles. There is something noble in publishing truth, though it condemns one's self.' I expressed some surprize at Cadogan's recommending good humour, as if it were quite in our power to attain it. JOHNSON. 'Why, sir, a man grows better humoured as he grows older. He improves by experience. When young, he thinks himself of great consequence, and every thing of importance. As he advances in life, he learns to think himself of no consequence, and little things of little importance; and so he becomes more patient, and better pleased. All good humour and complaisance are acquired. Naturally a child seizes directly what it sees, and thinks of pleasing itself only. By degrees, it is taught to please others, and to prefer others; and that this will ultimately produce the greatest happiness. If a man is not convinced of that, he never will practice it. Common language speaks the truth as to this: we say, a person is well BRED.
As it is said, that all material motion is primarily in a right line, and is never per circuitum, never in another form, unless by some particular cause; so it may be said intellectual motion is.' Lady M'Leod asked, if no man was naturally good. JOHNSON. 'No, madam, no more than a wolf.' BOSWELL. 'Nor no woman, sir?' JOHNSON. 'No, sir.' Lady M'Leod started at this, saying, in a low voice, 'This is worse than Swift.'
M'Leod of Ulinish had come in the afternoon. We were a jovial company at supper. The laird, surrounded by so many of his clan, was to me a pleasing sight. They listened with wonder and pleasure, while Dr Johnson harangued. I am vexed that I cannot take down his full train of eloquence.
Wednesday, 15th September 1773: Dunvegan
The gentlemen of the clan went away early in the morning to the harbour of Lochbradale, to take leave of some of their friends who were going to America. It was a very wet day. We looked at Rorie More's horn, which is a large cow's horn, with the mouth of it ornamented with silver curiously carved. It holds rather more than a bottle and a half. Every laird of M'Leod, it is said, must, as a proof of his manhood, drink it off full of claret, without laying it down. From Rorie More many of the branches of the family are descended; in particular, the Talisker branch; so that his name is much talked of. We also saw his bow, which hardly any man now can bend, and his glaymore, which was wielded with both hands, and is of a prodigious size. We saw here some old pieces of iron armour, immensely heavy. The broadsword now used, though called the glaymore (i.e. the great sword), is much smaller than that used in Rorie More's time. There is hardly a target now to be found in the Highlands. After the disarming act, they made them serve as covers to their butter-milk barrels; a kind of change, like beating spears into pruning-hooks. Sir George Mackenzie's Works (the folio edition) happened to lie in a window in the dining room. I asked Dr Johnson to look at the Characteres Advocatorum. He allowed him power of mind, and that he understood very well what he tells; but said, that there was too much declamation, and that the Latin was not correct. He found fault with approprinquabant, in the character of Gilmour. I tried him with the opposition between gloria and palma, in the comparison between Gilmour and Nisbet, which Lord Hailes, in his Catalogue of the Lords of Session, thinks difficult to be understood. The words are, penes ittum gloria, penes hunc palma. In a short Account of the Kirk of Scotland, which I published some years ago, I applied these words to the two contending parties, and explained them thus: 'The popular party has most eloquence; Dr Robertson's party most influence.' I was very desirous to hear Dr Johnson's explication. JOHNSON. 'I see no difficulty. Gilmour was admired for his parts; Nisbet carried his cause by the skill in law. Palma is victory.' I observed, that the character of Nicholson, in this book resembled that of Burke: for it is said, in one place, in omnes lusos & jocos se saepe resolvebat; [Footnote: He often indulged himself in every species of pleasantry and wit.] and, in another, sed accipitris more e conspectu aliquando astantium sublimi se protrahens volatu, in praedam miro impetu descendebat. [Footnote: But like the hawk, having soared with a lofty flight to a height which the eye could not reach, he was want to swoop upon his quarry with wonderful rapidity.] JOHNSON. 'No, sir; I never heard Burke make a good joke in my life.' BOSWELL. 'But, sir, you will allow he is a hawk.' Dr Johnson, thinking that I meant this of his joking, said, 'No, sir, he is not the hawk there. He is the beetle in the mire.' I still adhered to my metaphor. 'But he SOARS as the hawk.' JOHNSON. 'Yes, sir; but he catches nothing.' M'Leod asked, what is the particular excellence of Burke's eloquence? JOHNSON. 'Copiousness and fertility of allusion; a power of diversifying his matter, by placing it in various relations. Burke has great information, and great command of language; though, in my opinion, it has not in every respect the highest elegance.' BOSWELL. 'Do you think, sir, that Burke has read Cicero much?' JOHNSON. 'I don't believe it, sir. Burke has great knowledge, great fluency of words, and great promptness of ideas, so that he can speak with great illustration on any subject that comes before him. He is neither like Cicero, nor like Demosthenes, nor like any one else, but speaks as well as he can.'
In the 65th page of the first volume of Sir George Mackenzie, Dr Johnson pointed out a paragraph beginning with 'Aristotle', and told me there was an error in the text, which he bade me try to discover. I was lucky enough to hit it at once. As the passage is printed, it is said that the devil answers EVEN in ENGINES. I corrected it to--EVER in AENIGMAS. 'Sir,' said he, 'you are a good critick. This would have been a great thing to do in the text of an ancient authour.'
Thursday, 16th September 1773: Dunvegan
Last night much care was taken of Dr Johnson, who was still distressed by his cold. He had hitherto most strangely slept without a night-cap. Miss M'Leod made him a large flannel one, and he was prevailed with to drink a little brandy when he was going to bed. He has great virtue, in not drinking wine or any fermented liquor, because, as he acknowledged to us, he could not do it in moderation. Lady M'Leod would hardly believe him, and said, 'I am sure, sir, you would not carry it too far.' JOHNSON. 'Nay, madam, it carried me. I took the opportunity of a long illness to leave it off. It was then prescribed to me not to drink wine; and having broken off the habit, I have never returned to it.'
In the argument on Tuesday night, about natural goodness, Dr Johnson denied that any child was better than another, but by difference of instruction; though, in consequence of greater attention being paid to instruction by one child than another, and of a variety of imperceptible causes, such as instruction being counteracted by servants, a notion was conceived, that of two children, equally well educated, one was naturally much worse than another. He owned, this morning, that one might have a greater aptitude to learn than another, and that we inherit dispositions from our parents. 'I inherited,' said he, 'a vile melancholy from my father, which has made me mad all my life, at least not sober.' Lady M'Leod wondered he should tell this. 'Madam,' said I, 'he knows that with that madness he is superior to other men.'
I have often been astonished with what exactness and perspicuity he will explain the process of any art. He this morning explained to us all the operation of coining, and, at night, all the operation of brewing, so very clearly, that Mr M'Queen said, when he heard the first, he thought he had been bred in the Mint; when he heard the second, that he had been bred a brewer.
I was elated by the thought of having been able to entice such a man to this remote part of the world. A ludicrous, yet just image presented itself to my mind, which I expressed to the company. I compared myself to a dog who has got hold of a large piece of meat, and runs away with it to a corner, where he may devour it in peace, without any fear of others taking it from him. 'In London, Reynolds, Beauclerk, and all of them, are contending who shall enjoy Dr Johnson's conversation. We are feasting upon it, undisturbed, at Dunvegan.'
It was still a storm of wind and rain. Dr Johnson however walked out with M'Leod, and saw Rorie More's cascade in full perfection. Colonel M'Leod, instead of being all life and gaiety, as I have seen him, was at present grave, and somewhat depressed by his anxious concern about M'Leod's affairs, and by finding some gentlemen of the clan by no means disposed to act a generous or affectionate part to their chief in his distress, but bargaining with him as with a stranger. However, he was agreeable and polite, and Dr Johnson said, he was a very pleasing man. My fellow-traveller and I talked of going to Sweden; and, while we were settling our plan, I expressed a pleasure in the prospect of seeing the king. JOHNSON. 'I doubt, sir, if he would speak to us.' Colonel M'Leod said, 'I am sure Mr Boswell would speak to HIM.' But, seeing me a little disconcerted by his remark, he politely added, 'and with great propriety'. Here let me offer a short defence of that propensity in my disposition, to which this gentleman alluded. It has procured me much happiness. I hope it does not deserve so hard a name as either forwardness or impudence. If I know myself, it is nothing more than an eagerness to share the society of men distinguished either by their rank or their talents, and a diligence to attain what I desire. If a man is praised for seeking knowledge, though mountains and seas are in his way, may he not be pardoned, whose ardour, in the pursuit of the same object, leads him to encounter difficulties as great, though of a different kind?
After the ladies were gone from table, we talked of the highlanders not having sheets; and this led us to consider the advantage of wearing linen. JOHNSON. 'All animal substances are less cleanly than vegetables. Wool, of which flannel is made, is an animal substance; flannel therefore is not so cleanly as linen. I remember I used to think tar dirty; but when I knew it to be only a preparation of the juice of the pine, I thought so no longer. It is not disagreeable to have the gum that oozes from a plumb-tree upon your fingers, because it is vegetable, but if you have any candle-grease, any tallow upon your fingers, you are uneasy till you rub it off. I have often thought, that, if I kept a seraglio, the ladies should all wear linen gowns, or cotton--I mean stuffs made of vegetable substances. I would have no silk; you cannot tell when it is clean: it will be very nasty before it is perceived to be so. Linen detects its own dirtiness.'
To hear the grave Dr Samuel Johnson, 'that majestick teacher of moral and religious wisdom', while sitting solemn in an arm-chair in the Isle of Sky, talk, ex cathedra, of his keeping a seraglio, and acknowledge that the supposition had OFTEN been in his thoughts, struck me so forcibly with ludicrous contrast, that I could not but laugh immoderately. He was too proud to submit, even for a moment, to be the object of ridicule, and instantly retaliated with such keen sarcastick wit, and such a variety of degrading images, of every one of which I was the object, that, though I can bear such attacks as well as most men, I yet found myself so much the sport of all the company, that I would gladly expunge from my mind every trace of this severe retort.
Talking of our friend Langton's house in Lincolnshire, he said, 'the old house of the family was burnt. A temporary building was erected in its room; and to this day they have been always adding as the family increased. It is like a shirt made for a man when he was a child, and enlarged always as he grows older.'
We talked to-night of Luther's allowing the Landgrave of Hesse two wives, and that it was with the consent of the wife to whom he was first married. JOHNSON. 'There was no harm in this, so far as she was only concerned, because volenti non fit injuria. But it was an offence against the general order of society, and against the law of the Gospel, by which one man and one woman are to be united. No man can have two wives, but by preventing somebody else from having one.'
Friday, 17th September 1773: Dunvegan
After dinner yesterday, we had a conversation upon cunning. M'Leod said that he was not afraid of cunning people; but would let them play their tricks about him like monkeys. 'But,' said I, 'they scratch'; and Mr M'Queen added, 'they'll invent new tricks, as soon as you find out what they do.' JOHNSON. 'Cunning has effect from the credulity of others, rather than from the abilities of those who are cunning. It requires no extraordinary talents to lie and deceive.' This led us to consider whether it did not require great abilities to be very wicked. JOHNSON. 'It requires great abilities to have the POWER of being very wicked; but not to BE very wicked. A man who has the power, which great abilities procure him, may use it well or ill; and it requires more abilities to use it well, than to use it ill. Wickedness is always easier than virtue; for it takes the short cut to every thing. It is much easier to steal a hundred pounds, than to get it by labour, or any other way. Consider only what act of wickedness requires great abilities to commit it, when once the person who is to do it has the power; for THERE is the distinction. It requires great abilities to conquer an army, but none to massacre it after it is conquered.'
The weather this day was rather better than any that we had since we came to Dunvegan. Mr M'Queen had often mentioned a curious piece of antiquity near this which he called a temple of the goddess Anaitis. Having often talked of going to see it, he and I set out after breakfast, attended by his servant, a fellow quite like a savage. I must observe here, that in Sky there seems to be much idleness; for men and boys follow you, as colts follow passengers upon a road. The usual figure of a Sky boy, is a lown with bare legs and feet, a dirty kilt, ragged coat and waistcoat, a bare head, and a stick in his hand, which, I suppose, is partly to help the lazy rogue to walk, partly to serve as a kind of a defensive weapon. We walked what is called two miles, but is probably four, from the castle, till we came to the sacred place. The country around is a black dreary moor on all sides, except to the sea-coast, towards which there is a view through a valley, and the farm of Bay shews some good land. The place itself is green ground, being well drained, by means of a deep glen on each side, in both of which there runs a rivulet with a good quantity of water, forming several cascades, which make a considerable appearance and sound. The first thing we came to was an earthen mound, or dyke, extending from the one precipice to the other. A little farther on, was a strong stone-wall, not high, but very thick, extending in the same manner. On the outside of it were the ruins of two houses, one on each side of the entry or gate to it. The wall is built all along of uncemented stones, but of so large a size as to make a very firm and durable rampart. It has been built all about the consecrated ground, except where the precipice is deep enough to form an enclosure of itself. The sacred spot contains more than two acres. There are within it the ruins of many houses, none of them large, a cairn, and many graves marked by clusters of stones. Mr M'Queen insisted that the ruin of a small building, standing east and west, was actually the temple of the goddess Anaitis, where her statue was kept, and from whence processions were made to wash it in one of the brooks. There is, it must be owned, a hollow road visible for a good way from the entrance; but Mr M'Queen, with the keen eye of an antiquary, traced it much farther than I could perceive it. There is not above a foot and a half in height of the walls now remaining; and the whole extent of the building was never, I imagine, greater than an ordinary Highland house. Mr M'Queen has collected a great deal of learning on the subject of the temple of Anaitis; and I had endeavoured, in my journal, to state such particulars as might give some idea of it, and of the surrounding scenery; but from the great difficulty of describing visible objects, I found my account so unsatisfactory, that my readers would probably have exclaimed
And write about it, Goddess, and about it; and therefore I have omitted it. When we got home, and were again at table with Dr Johnson, we first talked of portraits. He agreed in thinking them valuable in families. I wished to know which he preferred, fine portraits, or those of which the merit was resemblance. JOHNSON. 'Sir, their chief excellence is being like.' BOSWELL. 'Are you of that opinion as to the portraits of ancestors, whom one has never seen?' JOHNSON. 'It then becomes of more consequence that they should be like; and I would have them in the dress of the times, which makes a piece of history. One should like to see how Rorie More looked. Truth, sir, is of the greatest value in these things.' Mr M'Queen observed, that if you think it of no consequence whether portraits are like, if they are but well painted, you may be indifferent whether a piece of history is true or not, if well told.
Dr Johnson said at breakfast to day, 'that it was but of late that historians bestowed pains and attention in consulting records, to attain to accuracy. Bacon, in writing his History of Henry VII, does not seem to have consulted any, but to have just taken what he found in other histories, and blended it with what he learnt by tradition.' He agreed with me that there should be a chronicle kept in every considerable family, to preserve the characters and transactions of successive generations.
After dinner I started the subject of the temple of Anaitis. Mr M'Queen had laid stress on the name given to the place by the country people, Ainnit; and added, 'I knew not what to make of this piece of antiquity, till I met with the Anaitidis delubrum in Lydia, mentioned by Pausanias and the elder Pliny.' Dr Johnson, with his usual acuteness, examined Mr M'Queen as to the meaning of the word Ainnit, in Erse; and it proved to be a WATER-PLACE, or a place near water, 'which,' said Mr M'Queen, 'agrees with all the descriptions of the temples of that goddess, which were situated near rivers, that there might be water to wash the statue'. JOHNSON. 'Nay, sir, the argument from the name is gone. The name is exhausted by what we see. We have no occasion to go to a distance for what we can pick up under our feet. Had it been an accidental name, the similarity between it and Anaitis might have had something in it; but it turns out to be a mere physiological name.' Macleod said, Mr M'Queen's knowledge of etymology had destroyed his conjecture. JOHNSON. 'You have one possibility for you, and all possibilities against you. It is possible it may be the temple of Anaitis. But it is also possible that it may be a fortification; or it may be a place of Christian worship, as the first Christians often chose remote and wild places, to make an impression on the mind; or, if it was a heathen temple, it may have been built near a river, for the purpose of lustration; and there is such a multitude of divinities, to whom it may have been dedicated, that the chance of its being a temple of Anaitis is hardly any thing. It is like throwing a grain of sand upon the sea-shore today, and thinking you may find it tomorrow. No, sir, this temple, like many an ill-built edifice, tumbles down before it is roofed in.' In his triumph over the reverend antiquarian, he indulged himself in a conceit; for, some vestige of the ALTAR of the goddess being much insisted on in support of the hypothesis, he said, 'Mr M'Queen is fighting pro aris et focis.'
It was wonderful how well time passed in a remote castle, and in dreary weather. After supper, we talked of Pennant. It was objected that he was superficial. Dr Johnson defended him warmly. He said, 'Pennant has greater variety of inquiry than almost any man, and has told us more than perhaps one in ten thousand could have done, in the time that he took. He has not said what he was to tell; so you cannot find fault with him, for what he has not told. If a man comes to look for fishes, you cannot blame him if he does not attend to fowls.' 'But,' said Colonel M'Leod, 'he mentions the unreasonable rise of rents in the Highlands, and says, "the gentlemen are for emptying the bag, without filling it"; for that is the phrase he uses. Why does he not tell how to fill it?' JOHNSON. 'Sir, there is no end of negative criticism. He tells what he observes, and as much as he chooses. If he tells what is not true, you may find fault with him; but, though he tells that the land is not well cultivated, he is not obliged to tell how it may be well cultivated. If I tell that many of the highlanders go bare-footed, I am not obliged to tell how they may get shoes. Pennant tells a fact. He need go no farther, except he pleases. He exhausts nothing; and no subject whatever has yet been exhausted. But Pennant has surely told a great deal. Here is a man six feet high, and you are angry because he is not seven.' Notwithstanding this eloquent Oratio pro Pennantio, which they who have read this gentleman's TOURS, and recollect the Savage and the Shopkeeper at Monboddo will probably impute to the spirit of contradiction. I still think that he had better have given more attention to fewer things, than have thrown together such a number of imperfect accounts.
Saturday, 18th September 1773: Dunvegan
Before breakfast, Dr Johnson came up to my room, to forbid me to mention that this was his birthday; but I told him I had done it already; at which he was displeased; I suppose from wishing to have nothing particular done on his account. Lady M'Leod and I got into a warm dispute. She wanted to build a house upon a farm which she has taken, about five miles from the castle, and to make gardens and other ornaments there; all of which I approved of; but insisted that the seat of the family should always be upon the rock of Dunvegan. JOHNSON. 'Ay, in time we'll build all round this rock. You may make a very good house at the farm; but it must not be such as to tempt the Laird of M'Leod to go thither to reside. Most of the great families of England have a secondary residence, which is called a jointure-house: let the new house be of that kind.' The lady insisted that the rock was very inconvenient; that there was no place near it where a good garden could be made; that it must always be the rude place; that it was a Herculean labour to make a dinner here. I was vexed to find the alloy of modern refinement in a lady who had so much old family spirit. 'Madam,' said I, 'if once you quit this rock, there is no knowing where you may settle. You move five miles first, then to St Andrews, as the late laird did; then to Edinburgh; and so on till you end at Hampstead, or in France. No, no; keep to the rock: it is the very jewel of the estate. It looks as if it had been let down from heaven by the four corners, to be the residence of a chief. Have all the comforts and conveniencies of life upon it, but never leave Rorie More's cascade.' 'But,' said she, 'is it not enough if we keep it? Must we never have more convenience than Rorie More had? He had his beef brought to dinner in one basket, and his bread in another. Why not as well be Rorie More all over, as live upon his rock? And should not we tire, in looking perpetually on this rock? It is very well for you, who have a fine place, and every thing easy, to talk thus, and think of chaining honest folks to a rock. You would not live upon it yourself.' 'Yes, madam,' said I, 'I would live upon it, were I Laird of M'Leod, and should be unhappy if I were not upon it.' JOHNSON (with a strong voice, and most determined manner). 'Madam, rather than quit the old rock, Boswell would live in the pit; he would make his bed in the dungeon.' I felt a degree of elation, at finding my resolute feudal enthusiasm thus confirmed by such a sanction. The lady was puzzled a little. She still returned to her pretty farm--rich ground, fine garden. 'Madam,' said Dr Johnson, 'were they in Asia, I would not leave the rock.' My opinion on this subject is still the same. An ancient family residence ought to be a primary object; and though the situation of Dunvegan be such that little can be done here in gardening, or pleasure-ground, yet, in addition to the veneration acquired by the lapse of time, it has many circumstances of natural grandeur, suited to the seat of a Highland chief: it has the sea, islands, rocks, hills, a noble cascade; and when the family is again in opulence, something may be done by art.
Mr Donald M'Queen went away today, in order to preach at Bracadale next day. We were so comfortably situated at Dunvegan, that Dr Johnson could hardly be moved from it. I proposed to him that we should leave it on Monday. 'No, sir,' said he, 'I will not go before Wednesday. I will have some more of this good.' However, as the weather was at this season so bad, and so very uncertain, and we had a great deal to do yet, Mr M'Queen and I prevailed with him to agree to set out on Monday, if the day should be good. Mr M'Queen though it was inconvenient for him to be absent from his harvest, engaged to wait on Monday at Ulinish for us. When he was going away, Dr Johnson said, 'I shall ever retain a great regard for you'; then asked him if he had the Rambler. Mr M'Queen said, 'No; but my brother has it' JOHNSON. 'Have you the Idler?' M'QUEEN. 'No, sir.' JOHNSON. 'Then I will order one for you at Edinburgh, which you will keep in remembrance of me.' Mr M'Queen was much pleased with this. He expressed to me, in the strongest terms, his admiration of Dr Johnson's wonderful knowledge, and every other quality for which he is distinguished. I asked Mr M'Queen, if he was satisfied with being a minister in Sky. He said he was; but he owned that his forefathers having been so long there, and his having been born there, made a chief ingredient in forming his contentment. I should have mentioned, that on our left hand, between Portree and Dr Macleod's house, Mr M'Queen told me there had been a college of the Knights Templars; that tradition said so; and that there was a ruin remaining of their church, which had been burnt: but I confess Dr Johnson has weakened my belief in remote tradition. In the dispute about Anaitis, Mr M'Queen said, Asia Minor was peopled by Scythians, and, as they were the ancestors of the Celts, the same religion might be in Asia Minor and Sky. JOHNSON. 'Alas! sir, what can a nation that has not letters tell of its original? I have always difficulty to be patient when I hear authors gravely quoted, as giving accounts of savage nations, which accounts they had from the savages themselves. What can the M'Craas tell about themselves a thousand years ago? There is no tracing the connection of ancient nations, but by language; and therefore I am always sorry when any language is lost, because languages are the pedigree of nations. If you find the same language in distant countries, you may be sure that the inhabitants of each have been the same people; that is to say, if you find the languages a good deal the same; for a word here and there being the same, will not do. Thus Butler, in his Hudibras, remembering that Penguin, in the Straits of Magellan, signifies a bird with a white head, and that the same word has, in Wales, the signification of a white-headed wench (PEN head, and GUIN white), by way of ridicule, concludes that the people of those Straits are Welch.'
A young gentleman of the name of M'Lean, nephew to the Laird of the Isle of Muck, came this morning; and, just as we sat down to dinner, came the Laird of the Isle of Muck himself, his lady, sister to Talisker, two other ladies their relations, and a daughter of the late M'Leod of Hamer, who wrote a treatise on the second sight, under the designation of Theophilus Insulanus. It was somewhat droll to hear this laird called by his title. Muck would have founded ill; so he was called Isle of Muck, which went off with great readiness. The name, as now written, is unseemly, but is not so bad in the original Erse, which is MOUACH, signifying the Sows' Island. Buchanan calls it Insula Porcorum. It is so called from its form. Some call it Isle of MONK. The laird insists that this is the proper name. It was formerly church-land belonging to Icolmkill, and a hermit lived in it. It is two miles long, and about three quarters of a mile broad. The laird said, he had seven score of souls upon it. Last year he had eighty persons inoculated, mostly children, but some of them eighteen years of age. He agreed with the surgeon to come and do it, at half a crown a head. It is very fertile in corn, of which they export some; and its coasts abound in fish. A taylor comes there six times in a year. They get a good blacksmith from the Isle of Egg.
Sunday, 19th September 1773: Dunvegan
It was rather worse weather than any that we had yet. At breakfast Dr Johnson said, 'Some cunning men choose fools for their wives, thinking to manage them, but they always fail. There is a spaniel fool and a mule fool. The spaniel fool may be made to do by beating. The mule fool will neither do by words or blows; and the spaniel fool often turns mule at last: and suppose a fool to be made do pretty well, you must have the continual trouble of making her do. Depend upon it, no woman is the worse for sense and knowledge.' Whether afterwards he meant merely to say a polite thing, or to give his opinion, I could not be sure; but he added, 'Men know that women are an over-match for them, and therefore they choose the weakest or most ignorant. If they did not think so, they never could be afraid of women knowing as much as themselves.' In justice to the sex, I think it but candid to acknowledge, that, in a subsequent conversation, he told me that he was serious in what he had said.
He came to my room this morning before breakfast, to read my Journal, which he has done all along. He often before said, 'I take great delight in reading it.' Today he said, 'You improve: it grows better and better.' I observed, there was a danger of my getting a habit of writing in a slovenly manner. 'Sir,' said he, 'it is not written in a slovenly manner. It might be printed, were the subject fit for printing.' [Footnote: As I have faithfully recorded so many minute particulars, I hope I shall be pardoned for inserting so flattering an encomium on what is now offered to the publick.] While Mr Beaton preached to us in the dining-room, Dr Johnson sat in his own room, where I saw lying before him a volume of Lord Bacon's works, the Decay of Christian Piety, Monboddo's Origin of Language, and Sterne's Sermons. He asked me today, how it happened that we were so little together: I told him, my Journal took up much time. Yet, on reflection, it appeared strange to me, that although I will run from one end of London to another, to pass an hour with him, I should omit to seize any spare time to be in his company, when I am settled in the same house with him. But my Journal is really a task of much time and labour, and he forbids me to contract it.
I omitted to mention, in its place, that Dr Johnson told Mr M'Queen that he had found the belief of the second sight universal in Sky, except among the clergy, who seemed determined against it. I took the liberty to observe to Mr M'Queen, that the clergy were actuated by a kind of vanity. 'The world,' say they,'takes us to be credulous men in a remote corner. We'll shew them that we are more enlightened than they think.' The worthy man said, that his disbelief of it was from his not finding sufficient evidence; but I could perceive that he was prejudiced against it.
After dinner to-day, we talked of the extraordinary fact of Lady Grange's being sent to St Kilda, and confined there for several years, without any means of relief. [Footnote: The true story of this lady, which happened In this century, is as frightfully romantick as if it had been the fiction of a gloomy fancy. She was the wife of one of the Lords of Session in Scotland, a man of the very first blood of his country. For some mysterious reasons, which have never been discovered, she was seized and carried off in the dark, she knew not by whom, and by nightly journies was conveyed to the Highland shores, from whence she was transported by sea to the remote rock of St Kilda, where she remained, amongst its few wild inhabitants, a forlorn prisoner, but had a constant supply of provisions, and a woman to wait on her. No inquiry was made after her, till she at last found means to convey a letter to a confidential friend, by the daughter of a Catechist who concealed it in a clue of yarn. Information being thus obtained at Edinburgh, a ship was sent to bring her off; but intelligence of this being received, she was conveyed to M'Leod's island of Herries, where she died.
In Carstares's State Papers, we find an authentick narrative of Connor, a Catholick priest, who turned Protestant, being seized by some of Lord Seaforth's people, and detained prisoner in the island of Herries several years: he was fed with bread and water, and lodged in a house where he was exposed to the rains and cold. Sir James Ogilvy writes (June 18, 1667) that the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Advocate, and himself, were to meet next day, to take effectual methods to have this redressed. Connor was then still detained. This shews what private oppression might in the last century be practised in the Hebrides.
In the same collection, the Earl of Argyle gives a picturesque account of an embassy from 'the great M'Neil of Barra', as that insular chief used to be denominated. 'I received a letter yesterday from M'Neil of Barra, who lives very far off, sent by a gentleman in all formality, offering his service, which had made you laugh to see his entry. His style of his letter runs as if he were of another kingdom'.] Dr Johnson said, if M'Leod would let it be known that he had such a place for naughty ladies, he might make it a very profitable island. We had, in the course of our tour, heard of St Kilda poetry. Dr Johnson observed, 'it must be very poor, because they have very few images.' BOSWELL. 'There may be a poetical genius shewn in combining these, and in making poetry of them.' JOHNSON. 'Sir, a man cannot make fire but in proportion as he has fuel. He cannot coin guineas but in proportion as he has gold.' At tea he talked of his intending to go to Italy in 1775. M'Leod said, he would like Paris better. JOHNSON. 'No, sir; there are none of the French literati now alive, to visit whom I would cross a sea. I can find in Buffon's book all that he can say.'[Footnote: I doubt the justice of my fellow-traveller's remark concerning the French literati, many of whom, I am told, have considerable merit in conversation, as well as in their writings. That of Monsieur de Buffon, in particular, I am well assured is highly instructive and entertaining.]
After supper he said, 'I am sorry that prize-fighting is gone out; every art should be preserved, and the art of defence is surely important. It is absurd that our soldiers should have swords, and not be taught the use of them. Prize-fighting made people accustomed not to be alarmed at seeing their own blood, or feeling a little pain from a wound. I think the heavy glaymore was an ill-contrived weapon. A man could only strike once with it. It employed both his hands, and he must of course be soon fatigued with wielding it; so that if his antagonist could only keep playing a while, he was sure of him. I would fight with a dirk against Rorie More's sword. I could ward off a blow with a dirk, and then run in upon my enemy. When within that heavy sword, I have him; he is quite helpless, and I could stab him at my leisure, like a calf. It is thought by sensible military men, that the English do not enough avail themselves of their superior strength of body against the French; for that must always have a great advantage in pushing with bayonets. I have heard an officer say, that if women could be made to stand, they would do as well as men in a mere interchange of bullets from a distance: but, if a body of men should come close up to them, then to be sure they must be overcome; now (said he), in the same manner the weaker-bodied French must be overcome by our strong soldiers.'
The subject of duelling was introduced. JOHNSON. 'There is no case in England where one or other of the combatants MUST die: if you have overcome your adversary by disarming him, that is sufficient, though you should not kill him; your honour, or the honour of your family, is restored, as much as it can be by a duel. It is cowardly to force your antagonist to renew the combat, when you know that you have the advantage of him by superior skill. You might just as well go and cut his throat while he is asleep in his bed. When a duel begins, it is supposed there may be an equality; because it is not always skill that prevails. It depends much on presence of mind; nay on accidents. The wind may be in a man's face. He may fall. Many such things may decide the superiority. A man is sufficiently punished, by being called out, and subjected to the risk that is in a duel.' But on my suggesting that the injured person is equally subjected to risk, he fairly owned he could not explain the rationality of duelling.
Monday, 20th September 1773: Dunvegan
When I awaked, the storm was higher still. It abated about nine, and the sun shone; but it rained again very soon, and it was not a day for travelling. At breakfast, Dr Johnson told us, 'there was once a pretty good tavern in Catharine Street in the Strand, where very good company met in an evening, and each man called for his own half pint of wine, or gill, if he pleased: they were frugal men, and nobody paid but for what he himself drank. The house furnished no supper; but a woman attended with mutton-pies, which any body might purchase. I was introduced to this company by Cumming the Quaker, and used to go there sometimes when I drank wine. In the last age, when my mother lived in London, there were two sets of people, those who gave the wall, and those who took it; the peaceable and the quarrelsome. When I returned to Lichfield, after having been in London, my mother asked me, whether I was one of those who gave the wall, or those who took it. Now, it is fixed that every man keeps to the right; or, if one is taking the wall, another yields it, and it is never a dispute.' He was very severe on a lady, whose name was mentioned. He said, he would have sent her to St Kilda. That she was as bad as negative badness could be, and stood in the way of what was good: that insipid beauty would not go a great way; and that such a woman might be cut out of a cabbage, if there was a skilful artificer.
M'Leod was too late in coming to breakfast. Dr Johnson said, laziness was worse than the toothache. BOSWELL. 'I cannot agree with you, sir; a bason of cold water, or a horse whip, will cure laziness.' JOHNSON. 'No, sir; it will only put off the fit; it will not cure the disease. I have been trying to cure my laziness all my life, and could not do it.' BOSWELL. 'But if a man does in a shorter time what might be the labour of a life, there is nothing to be said against him.' JOHNSON (perceiving at once that I alluded to him and his Dictionary). 'Suppose that flattery to be true, the consequence would be, that the world would have no right to censure a man; but that will not justify him to himself.'
After breakfast, he said to me, 'A Highland chief should now endeavour to do every thing to raise his rents, by means of the industry of his people. Formerly, it was right for him to have his house full of idle fellows; they were his defenders, his servants, his dependants, his friends. Now they may be better employed. The system of things is now so much altered, that the family cannot have influence but by riches, because it has no longer the power of ancient feudal times. An individual of a family may have it; but it cannot now belong to a family, unless you could have a perpetuity of men with the same views. M'Leod has four times the land that the Duke of Bedford has. I think, with his spirit, he may in time make himself the greatest man in the king's dominions; for land may always be improved to a certain degree. I would never have any man sell land, to throw money into the funds, as is often done, or to try any other species of trade. Depend upon it, this rage of trade will destroy itself. You and I shall not see it; but the time will come when there will be an end of it. Trade is like gaming. If a whole company are gamesters, play must cease; for there is nothing to be won. When all nations are traders, there is nothing to be gained by trade, and it will stop first where it is brought to the greatest perfection. Then the proprietors of land only will be the great men.' I observed, it was hard that M'Leod should find ingratitude in so many of his people. JOHNSON. 'Sir, gratitude is a fruit of great cultivation; you do not find it among gross people.' I doubt of this. Nature seems to have implanted gratitude in all living creatures. The lion, mentioned by Aulus Gellius, had it. [Footnote: Aul. Gellius, Lib. v. c. xiv.] It appears to me that culture, which brings luxury and selfishness with it, has a tendency rather to weaken than promote this affection.
Dr Johnson said this morning, when talking of our setting out, that he was in the state in which Lord Bacon represents kings. He desired the end, but did not like the means. He wished much to get home, but was unwilling to travel in Sky. 'You are like kings too in this, sir,' said I, 'that you must act under the direction of others.'
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