Samuel Johnson was one of England's greatest literary figures: a poet, essayist, biographer, lexicographer and often considered the finest critic of English literature. Between the middle of August and the beginning of November 1773, Johnson and his great friend James Boswell, the Scottish lawyer and author, undertook a grand tour of north-east and north-west Scotland plus a number of the islands of the Inner Hebrides. In doing so they were inspired by the writings of the author Martin Martin whose book A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland had been published in 1703.
Johnson and Boswell both published accounts of their tour. Boswell's The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides with Samuel Johnson, LL.D. was not published until 1786 as a precursor to his classic biography of the life of Johnson, but was written with he benefit of copious notes taken at the time. Johnson's account was published in 1775, only two years after the journey, but largely from memory.
Both books can be read on Undiscovered Scotland. Although the two authors took dramatically different approaches to writing, organising and presenting their work, each is divided here into "matching" sections: so that a given section below can be compared directly with the section of the same name in our presentation of Boswell's Book.
Like other eBooks whose texts are reproduced on Undiscovered Scotland, A Journey to the Western Isles of Scotland, by Samuel Johnson is long out of copyright. What sets the Undiscovered Scotland version apart is the cross linking between the text of the book and features elsewhere on the site, allowing the reader to explore beyond the text itself, finding out more about the places and people mentioned. The text is faithful to the original, but we have changed, and made greater use of, subheadings, which also use the modern names of some of the places referred to by Johnson by names no longer in use.
The one location we've not been able to tie down on a modern map is "Anoch", mentioned by both Johnson and Boswell: and neither does it appear on the 1855 OS map. Boswell describes this as 11 miles beyond Fort Augustus which, following the line of the old military road, would place it near to the junction between the modern A87 and A887 roads. Perhaps it has disappeared as a result of clearance like many Highland settlements: or perhaps there is a link with the nearby Ceannacroc Bridge and Lodge?
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