« PreviousContinue »
It was a delightful day. Loch Ness, and the road upon the side of it, shaded with birch trees, and the lulls above it, pleased us much. The scene was as sequestered and agreeably wild as could be desired, and for a time engrossed all our attention.
To see Dr. Johnson in any new situation is always an interesting object to me; and, as I saw him now for the first time on horseback, jaunting about at his ease in quest of pleasure and novelty, the very different occupations of his former laborious life, his admirable productions, his " London," his "Rambler," &c., &c., immediately presented themselves to my mind, and the contrast made a strong impression on my imagination.
When we had advanced a good way by the side of Loch Ness, I perceived a little hut, with an old-looking woman at the door of it. I thought here might be a scene that would amuse Dr. Johnson; so I mentioned it to him. "Let's go in," said he. We dismounted, and we and our guides entered the hut. It was a wretched little hovel of earth only, I think, and for a window had only a small hole, which was stopped with a piece of turf, that was taken out occasionally, to let in light. In the middle of the room or space which we entered was a fire of peat, the smoke going out at a hole in the roof. She had a pot upon it, with goat's flesh, boiling. There was at one end under the same roof, but divided by a kind of partition made of wattles, a pen or fold in which we saw a good many kids.
Dr. Johnson was curious to know where she slept. I asked one of the guides, who questioned her in Erse. She answered with a tone of emotion, saying (as he told us), she was afraid we wanted to go to bed to her. This coquetry, or whatever it may be called, of so wretched a being, was truly ludicrous. Dr. Johnson and I afterwards were merry upon it. I said, it was he who alarmed the poor woman's virtue. "No, Sir," said he, "she'll say, 'There came a wicked young fellow, a wild dog, who, I believe, would have ravished me, had there not been with him a grave old gentleman, who repressed him: but when he gets out
poor Scottish specimens; but Johnson had not yet seen Stonehenge—to erect which there must surely have been some ar' and vast power.— Oroicr.
of the sight of his tutor, I'll warrant you he'll spare no woman he meets, young or old' "—" No, Sir," I replied, "she'll sa.j, ' There war, n terrible ruffian who would have forced me, had it not been for a civil decent young man, who, I take it, was an angel sent from heaven to protect me.'"
Dr. Johnson would not hurt her delicacy by insisting on "seeing her bed-chamber," like Archer in the Beaux Stratagem. But my curiosity was more ardent; I lighted a piece of paper, and went into the place where the bed was. There was a little partition of wicker, rather more neatly done than that for the fold, and close by the wall was a kind of bedstead of wood, with heath upon it by way of bed; at the foot of which I saw some sort of blankets or covering rolled up in a heap. The woman's name was Fraser; so was her husband's. He was a man of eighty. Mr. Fraser, of Balnain, allows him to live in this hut, and keep sixty goats, for taking care of his woods, where he then was. They had five children, the eldest only thirteen. Two were gone to Inverness to buy meal; the rest were looking after the goats. This contented family had four stacks of barley, twenty-four sheaves in each. They had a few fowls. We were informed that they lived all the spring without meal, upon milk and curds and whey alone. What they get for their goats, kids, and fowls, maintains them during the rest of the year.
She asked us to sit down and take a dram. I saw one chair. She said she was as happy as any woman in Scotland. She could hardly speak any English except a few detached words. Dr. Johnson was pleased at seeing, for the first time, such a state of human life. She asked for snuff. It is her luxury, and she uses a great deal. We had none; but gave her sixpence apiece. She then brought out her whisky bottle. I tasted it; as did Joseph and our guides: so I gave her sixpence more. She sent us away with many prayers in Erse.
We dined at a public house called the General's Hut,* from General Wade, who was lodged there when he com
1 It is very odd, that when these roads were made, there was no care taken for Inns. The King's House and the General's hut, are miserable places; but the project and plans were purely military.—ll'aHtr Scott.
manded in the north. Near it is the meanest parish kirk I ever saw. It is a shame it should bo on a high road. After dinner we passed through a good deal of mountainous country. I had known Mr. Trapaud, the deputy-governor of Fort-Augustus, twelve years ago. at a circuit at Inverness, where my father was judge. I sent forward one of our guides, and Joseph, with a card to him, that he might know Dr. Johnson and I were coming up, leaving it to him to invite us or not. It was dark when we arrived. The inn was wretched. Government ought to build one, or give the resident governor an additional salary; as in the present state of things, he must necessarily be put to a great expense in entertaining travellers. Joseph announced to us, when we alighted, that the governor waited for us at the gate of the fort. We walked to it. He met us, and with much civility conducted us to his house. It was comfortable to find ourselves in a well-built little square, and a neatly furnished house, in good company, and with a good supper before us ; in short, with all the conveniences of civilised life, in the midst of rude mountains. Mrs. Trapaud, and the governor's daughter, and her husband, Capt. Newmarsh, were all most obliging and polite. The governor had excellent animal spirits, the conversation of a soldier, and somewhat of a Frenchman, to which his extraction entitles him. He is brother to General Cyrus Trapaud. We passed a very agreeable evening.
Tuesday, Aug. 31.—The governor has a very good garden. We looked at it, and at the rest of the fort, which is but small, and may be commanded from a variety of hills around. We also looked at the galley or sloop belonging to the fort, which sails upon the Loch, and brings what is wanted for the garrison. Captains Urie and Darippe, of the 15th regiment of foot, breakfasted with us. They had served in America, and entertained Dr. Johnson much with an account of the Indians. He said he could make a very pretty book out of them, were he to stay there. Governor Trapaud was much struck with Dr. Johnson. "I hke to hear him," said he, "it is so majestic. I should be glad to hear him speak in your court." He pressed us to stay dinner; but I considered that we had a rude road before us. which we could more easilv encounter in the morning, and that it was hard to say when we might get up, were we to sit down to good entertainment, in good company: I therefore begged the governor would excuse us. Here, too, I had another very pleasing proof how much my father is regarded. The governor expressed the highest respect for him, and bade me tell him that, if he would come that way on the northern circuit, he would do him all the honours of the garrison.
Between twelve and one we set out, and travelled eleven miles, through a wild country, till we came to a house in Glenmorison, called Anoch, kept by a M'Queen.1 Our landlord was a sensible fellow : he had learnt his grammar, and Dr. Johnson justly observed, that" a man is the better for that as long as he lives." There were some books here: a Treatise against Drunkenness, translated from the French; a volume of the Spectator; a volume of Prideaux's Connexion, and -Cyrus's Travels. M'Queen said he had more volumes; and his pride seemed to be much piqueJ that we were surprised at his having books.
Near to this place we had passed a party of soldiers, under a sergeant's command, at work upon the road. We gave them two shillings to drink. They came to our inn, and made merry in the barn. We went and paid them a visit, Dr. Johnson saying, "Come, let's go and give 'em another shilling apiece." We did so; and he was saluted "My lord" by all of them. He is really generous. loves influence, and has the way of gaining it. He said, " I am quite feudal, Sir." Here I agree with him. I said, I regretted I was not the head of a clan: however, though not possessed of such an hereditary advantage, I would always endeavour to make my tenants follow me. I could not be a patriarchal chief, but I would be a feudal chief.
The poor soldiers got too much liquor. Some of them fought, and left blood upon the spot, and cursed whisky
1 A M'Queen is a Highland mode of expression. An Englishman would say one M'Queen. But where there are clans or tribes of men, distinguished by patronymic surnames, the individuals of each are considered as if they were of different species, at least as much as nations are distinguished; so that a M'Queen, a M'DoDakl, a M'Lean, is said, in we say a Frenchman, an Italian, a Spaniard.
next morning. The house here was built of thick turfs, and thatched with thinner turfs and heath. It had three rooms in length, and a little room which projected. Where we sat. the side-walls were wainscoted, as Dr. Johnson said, with wicker, very neatly plaited. Our landlord had made the whole with his own hands.
Alter dinner, M'Queen sat by us a while, and talked with us. He said, all the Laird of Glenmorison's, people would bleed for him, if they were well used; but that seventy men had gone out of the glen to America. That he himself intended to go next year; for that the rent of his farm, which twenty years ago was only five pounds, was now raised to twenty pounds. That he could pay ten pounds, and live, but no more. Dr. Johnson said, he wished M'Queen laird of Glenmorison, and the laird to go to America. M'Queen very generously answered, he should be sorry for it, for the laird could not shift for himself in America as he could do.
I talked of the officers whom we had left to-day; how much service they had seen, and how little they got for it, even of fame. Johnson. "Sir, a soldier gets as little as any man can get." Boswell. "Goldsmith has acquired more fame than all the officers of the last war, who were not generals." Johnson. "Why, Sir, you will find ten thousand fit to do what they did, before you find one who does what Goldsmith has done. You must consider, that a thing is valued according to its rarity. A pebble that paves the street is in itself more useful than the diamond upon a lady's finger." I wish our friend Goldsmith had heard this.
I yesterday expressed my wonder that John Hay, one ot" our guides, who had been pressed aboard a man of war, did not choose to continue in it longer than nine months. after which time he got off. Johnson. "Why. Sir, no man will be a sailor who has contrivance enough to get himself into a jail; for being in a ship is being in a jail with the chance of being drowned."
We had tea in the afternoon, and our landlord's daughter, a modest, civil girl, very neatly dressed, made it for us. She told us she had been a year at Inverness, and learnt reading and writing, sewing, knotting, working lace, and