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attracts iron? why an egg produces a chicken by heat? why a tree grows upwards, when the natural tendency of all things is downwards? Sir, it depends upon the degree of evidence that you have." Young Mr. M'Kinnon mentioned one M'Kenzie, who is still alive, who had often fainted in his presence, and when he recovered, mentioned visions which had been presented to him. He told Mr. M'Kinnon, that at such a place he should meet a funeral, and that such and such people would be the bearers, naming four; and three weeks afterwards he saw what M'Kenzie had predicted. The naming the very spot in a country where a funeral comes a long way, and the very people as bearers, when there are so many out of whom a choice may be made; seems extraordinary. 'We should have sent for M'Kenzie, had we not been informed that he could speak no English. Besides, the facts were not related with sufficient accuracy.
Mrs. M'Kinnon, who is a daughter of old Kingsburgh (a Macdonald), told us that her father was one day riding in Sky, and some women, who were at work in a field on the side of the road, said to him, they had heard two taiscks (that is, two voices of persons about to die), and what was remarkable, one of them was an English taisck, which they never heard before. When he returned, he at that very place met two funerals, and one of them was that of a woman who had come from the main land, and could speak only English. This, she remarked, made a great impression upon her father.
How all the people here were lodged, I know not. It was partly done by separating man and wife, and putting a number of men in one room, and of women in another.
Wednesday, Sept. 8.—When I waked, the rain was much heavier than yesterday; but the wind had abated. By breakfast, the day was better, and in a little while it was calm and clear. I felt my spirits much elated. The propriety of the expression, " the sunshine of the breast," ' now
1 Gray's Ode on the Prospect of Eton College. No poet has, in proportion to the quantity of his works, furnished so many expressions which, by their felicity, have become proverbial, as Gray. He has written little, but his lines are in every mouth, and fall from every pen. —Croker.
struck me with peculiar force; for the brilliant rays penetrated into my very soul. We were all in better humour than before. Mrs. M'Kinnon, with unaffected hospitality and politeness, expressed her happiness in having such company in her house, and appeared to understand and relish Dr. Johnson's conversation; as indeed all the company seemed to do. When I knew she was old Kingsburgh's daughter, I did not wonder at the good appearance which she made.
She talked as if her husband and family would emigrate, rather than be oppressed by their landlord; and said, "how agreeable would it be, if these gentlemen should come in upon us when we are in America." Somebody observed, that Sir Alexander Macdonald was always frightened at sea. Johnson. "He is frightened at sea; and his tenants are frightened when he comes to land."
We resolved to set out directly after breakfast. We had about two miles to ride to the sea side, and there we expected to get one of the boats belonging to the fleet of bountyl herring-busses then on the coast, or at least a good country fishing boat. But while we were preparing to set out, there arrived a man with the following card2 from The Kev. Mr. Donald M'Queen:—
"Mr. M'Queen's compliments to Mr. Bos well, and begs leave to acquaint him that, fearing the want of a proper boat, as much as the rain of yesterday, might have caused a stop, he is now at Skianwden with Macgillichallum's 2 carriage, to convey him and Dr. Johnson to Rasay, where they will meet with a most hearty welcome, and where Macleod, being on a visit, now attends their motions.
This card was most agreeable; it was a prologue to that hospitable and truly polite reception which we found at
1 Fishing under the encouragement of a bounty.—Croker.
5 What is now called a note, was, at the period at which Mr. Boswell wrote, frequently called a card, and indeed were often written on the backs of playing cards.—Croker.
2 The Highland expression for Laird of Rasay.
Meaning " the son of the youth, Colin,''—the ancestor of this branch haTingbeen, no doubt, in his day designated as " young Colin Macleod." —Croker.
Basay. In a little while arrived Mr. Donald M'Queen himself; a decent minister, an elderly man with his own' black hair, courteous, and rather slow of speech, but candid, sensible, and well informed, nay learned. Along with him came, as our pilot, a gentleman whom I had a great desire to see, Mr. Malcolm Macleod, one of the Rasay family, celebrated in the year 1745-6. He was now sixty-two years of age, hale, and well proportioned,—with a manly countenance, tanned by the weather, yet having a ruddiness in his cheeks, over a great part of which his rough beard extended. His eye was quick and lively, yet his look was not fierce, but he appeared at once firm and good humoured. He wore a pair of brogues; tartan hose which came ul> only near to his knees, and left them bare; a purple camblet kilt;2 a black waistcoat; a short green cloth coat bound with gold cord; a yellowish bushy wig; a large blue bonnet with a gold thread button. I never saw a figure that gave a more perfect representation of a Highland gentleman. I wished much to have a picture of him just as he was. I found him frank and polite, in the true sense of the word.
The good family at Corrichatachin said they hoped to see us on our return. We rode down to the shore; but Malcolm walked with graceful agility.
We got into Rasay's carriage, which was a good strong open boat made in Norway. The wind had now risen pretty high, and was against us; but we had four stout rowers, particularly a Macleod, a robust, black-haired fellow, half naked, and bare-headed, something between a wild Indian and an English tar. Dr. Johnson sat high on the stern like a magnificent Triton. Malcolm sung an Erse song, the chorus of which was "Hatyin foam foam eri," with words of his own. The tune resembled " Out the muir amang the heather." The boatmen and Mr. M'Queen chorused, and all went well. At length Malcolm himself
1 Wigs were still generally worn. We can hardly reconcile ourselves to " a yellowish, bushy wig" as part of the costume of •' a perfect Highland gentleman.''—Croker.
2 To evade the law against the tartan dress, the Highlanders used to dye their variegated plaids and kilts into blue, green, or any single colour.— Waller Scott.
took an oar, and rowed vigorously. We sailed along the .coast of Scalpa, a rugged island, about four miles in length. Dr. Johnson proposed that he and I should buy it, and found a good school, and an episcopal church (Malcolml said he would come to it), and have a printing-press, where he would print all the Erse that could be found.
Here I was strongly struck with our long projected scheme of visiting the Hebrides being realized. I called to him, " We are contending with seas ;" which I think were the words of one of his letters to me. "Not much," said he; and though the wind made the sea lash considerably upon us, he was not discomposed. After we were out of the shelter of Scalpa, and in the sound between it and Kasay, which extended about a league, the wind made the sea very rough. I did not like it. Johnson. "This now is the Atlantic. If I should tell, at a tea-table in London, that 'I have crossed the Atlantic in an open boat, how they'd shudder, and what a fool they'd think me to expose myself to such danger!" He then repeated Horace's Ode2—
"Otium divos rogat in patenti
In the confusion and hurry of this boisterous sail, Dr. Johnson's spurs, of which Joseph had charge, were carried overboard into the sea, and lost. This was the first misfortune that had befallen us. Dr. Johnson was a little angry at first, observing that " there was something wild in letting a pair of spurs be carried into the sea out of a boat;" but then he remarked "that, as Janes the naturalist had said upon losing his pocket-book, it was rather an inconvenience than a loss." He told us he now recollected that he dreamt the night before, that he put his staff into a river, and chanced to let it go, and it was carried down the stream and lost. "So now you see," said he, "that I have lost my spurs; and this story is better than many of those which we have concerning second sight and dreams." Mr.
1 The Highlanders were all well inclined to the episcopalian form, proviso that the right king was prayed for. I suppose Malcolm meant to say, "I will come to your church because you are honest folk," viz, Jacobites.—Walter Scott.
5 Carm. ii. 26.
M'Queen said he did not believe the second sight; that he never met with any well-attested instances; and if ho should, he should impute them to chance; because all who pretend to that quality often fail in their predictions, though they take a great scope, and sometimes interpret literally, sometimes figuratively, so as to suit the events. He told us that, since he came to be minister of the parish where he now is, the belief of witchcraft, or charms, was very common, insomuch that he had many prosecutions before his session (the parochial ecclesiastical court) against women, for having by these means carried off the milk from people's cows. He disregarded them; and there is not now the least vestige of that superstition. He preached against it; and in order to give a strong proof to the people that there was nothing in it, he said from the pulpit, that every woman in the parish was welcome to take the milk from his cows, provided she did not touch them.1
Dr. Johnson asked him as to Fingal. He said he could repeat some passages in the original; that he heard his grandfather had a copy of it; but that he could not affirm that Ossian composed all that poem as it is now published. This came pretty much to what Dr. Johnson had maintained ;a though he goes farther, and contends that it is no better than such an epic poem as he could make from the song of Robin Hood; that is to say, that, except a few passages, there is nothing truly ancient but the names and some vague traditions. Mr. M'Queen alleged that Homer was made up of detached fragments. Dr. Johnson denied this; observing, that it had been one work originally, and that you could not put a book of the Iliad out of its place; and, he believed the same might be said of the Odyssey.
The approach to Rasay was very pleasing. We saw before us a beautiful bay, well defended by a rocky coast; a good family mansion; a fine verdure about it, with a con
1 Such spells are still believed in. A lady of property in Mull, a friend of mine, had a few years since much difficulty in rescuing from the superstitious fury of the people, an old woman, who used a charm to injure her neighbour's cattle. It is now in my possession, and consists of feathers, parings of nails, hair, and such like trash, wrapt in a lump of clay.— Walter Scott.
J This seems the common sense of this once furious controversy.— Walter Scott.