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understand the construction of boats. I suggested that he might go to a dock-yard and work, as Peter the Great .did. Johnson. "Nay, Sir, he need not work. Peter the Great had not the sense to see that the mere mechanical work may be done by any body, and that there is the same art in constructing a vessel, whether the boards are well or ill wrought. Sir Christopher Wren might as well have served his time to a bricklayer, and first, indeed, to a brickmaker."
There is a beautiful little island in the Loch of Dunvegan, called Isa. Macleod said, he would give it to Dr. Johnson, on condition of his residing on it three months in the year; nay, one month. Dr. Johnson was highly amused with the fancy. I have seen him please himself with little things, even with mere ideas like the present. He talked a great deal of this island; how he would build a house there— how he would fortify it—how he would have cannon—how he would plant—how he would sally out, and take the Isle of Muck; and then he laughed with uncommon glee, and could hardly leave off. I have seen him do so at a small matter that struck him, and was a sport to no one else. Mr. Langton told me, that one night he did so while the company were all grave about him ;—only Garrick, in his significant smart manner, darting his eyes around, exclaimed, " Very jocose, to be sure!" Macleod encouraged the fancy of Dr. Johnson's becoming owner of an island; told him, that it was the practice in this country to name every man by his lands; and begged leave to drink to him in that mode: "Island Isa, you health!" Ulinish, Talisker, Mr. M'Queen, and I, all joined in our different manners, while Dr. Johnson bowed to each, with much good humour.
We had good weather and a fine sail this day. The shore was varied with hills, and rocks, and corn-fields, and bushes, which are here dignified with the name of natural wood. We landed near the house of Ferneley, a farm possessed by another gentleman of the name of Macleod, who, expecting our arrival, was waiting on the shore, with a horse for Dr. Johnson. The rest of us walked. At dinner, I expressed to Macleod the joy which I had in seeing him on such cordial terms with his clan. "Government," said he, "has deprived us of our ancient power; but it cannot deprive us of our domestic satisfactions. I would rather drink punch in one of their houses (meaning the houses of his people), than be enabled, by their hardships, to have claret in my own." This should be the sentiment of every chieftain. All that he can get by raising his rents is mere luxury in his own house. Is it not better to share the profits of his estate, to a certain degree, with his kinsmen, and thus have both social intercourse aud patriarchal influence?
We had a very good ride, for about three miles, to Talisker, where Colonel Macleod introduced us to his lady. We found here Mr. Donald M'Lean, the young Laird of Col (nephew to Talisker), to whom I delivered the letter with which I had been favoured by his uncle, Professor Macleod, at Aberdeen. He was a little lively young man. We found he had been a good deal in England, studying farming, and was resolved to improve the value of his father's lauds, without oppressing his tenants, or losing the ancient Highland fashions.
Talisker is a better place than one commonly finds in Sky. It is situated in a rich bottom. Before it is a wide expanse of sea, on each hand of which are immense rocks; and, at some distance in the sea, there are three columnal rocks rising to sharp points. The billows break with prodigious force and noise on the coast of Talisker. There are here a good many well-grown trees. Talisker is an extensive farm. The possessor of it has, for several generations, been the next heir to Macleod, as there has been but one son always in that family. The court before the house is most injudiciously paved with the round bluish-grey pebbles which are found upon the sea-shore; so that you walk as if upon cannon balls driven into the ground.
After supper, I talked of the assiduity of the Scottish clergy, in visiting and privately instructing their parishioners, and observed how much in this they excelled the English clergy. Dr. Johnson would not let this pass. He tried to turn it off, by saying, " There are different ways of instructing. Our clergy pray and preach." Macleod and I pressed the subject, upon which he grew warm, and broke forth: "I do not believe your people are better instructed. If they are, it is the blind leading the blind; for your clergy are not instructed themselves." Thinking lie had gone a little too far, he checked himself, aud added, "When I talk of the ignorance of your clergy, I talk of them as a body: I do not mean that there are not individuals who are learned (looking at Mr. M'Queen). I suppose there are such among the clergy in Muscovy. The clergy of England have produced the most valuable books in support of religion, both in theory and practice. What have your clergy done, since you sunk into presbyterianism? Can you name one book of any value, on a religious subject, written by them?" We were silent. "I'll help you. Forbes wrote very well; but I believe he wrote before episcopacy was quite extinguished." And then pausing a little, he said, "Yes, you have Wishart Against Repentance." l BosWell. "But, Sir, we are not contending for the superior learning of our clergy, but for their superior assiduity." He bore us down again, with thundering against their ignorance, and said to me, " I see you have not been well taught; for you have not charity." He had been in some measure forced into this warmth, by the exulting air which I assumed; for, when he began, he said, " Since you mil drive the nail!" He again thought of good Mr. M'Queen, and, taking him by the hand, said, " Sir, I did not mean any disrespect to you."
Here I must observe, that he conquered by deserting his ground, and not meeting the argument as I had put it. The assiduity of the Scottish clergy is certainly greater than that of the English. His taking up the topic of their not having so much learning, was, though ingenious, yet a fallacy. It was as if there should be a dispute whether a man's hair is well dressed, and Dr. Johnson should say, "Sir, his hair cannot be well dressed; for he has a dirty shirt. No man who has not clean linen has his hair well dressed." When some days afterwards he read this pas
1 This was a dexterous mode of description, for the purpose of his argument; for what he alluded to was, a sermon published by the learned Dr. William Wishart, formerly principal of the college at Edinburgh, to warn men against confiding in a death-bed repentance, of the inefficacy of which he entertained notions very different from those of Dr. Johnson.
sage, he said, " No, Sir; I did not say that a man's Lair could not be well dressed because he has not clean linen, but because he is bald."
He used one argument against the Scottish clergy being learned, which I doubt was not good. "As we believe a man dead till we know that he is alive; so we believe men ignorant till we know that they are learned." Now our maxim in law is, to presume a man alive, till we know he is dead. However, indeed, it may be answered, that we must first know he has lived; and that we have never known the learning of the Scottish clergy. Mr. M'Queen, though he was of opinion that Dr. Johnson had deserted the point really in dispute, was much pleased with what he said, and owned to me, he thought it very just; and Mrs. Macleod was so much captivated by his eloquence, that she told me, "I was a good advocate for a bad cause."
Friday, Sept. 24.—This was a good day. Dr. Johnson told us, at breakfast, that he rode harder at a fox chase than any body.1 "The English," said he, " are the only nation who ride hard a-hunting. A Frenchman goes out upon a managed horse, and capers in the field, and no more thinks of leaping a hedge than of mounting a breach. Lord Powerscourt * laid a wager, in France, that he would ride a great many miles in a certain short time. The French academicians set to work, and calculated that, from the resistance of the air, it was impossible. His lordship, however, performed it."
Our money being nearly exhausted, we sent a bill for thirty pounds, drawn on Sir William Forbes and Co., to Lochbraccadale, but our messenger found it very difficult to procure cash for it; at length, however, he got us value from the master of a vessel which was to carry away some emigrants. There is a great scarcity of specie in Sky.'
1 Mrs. Piozzi says that " he certainly rode on Mr. Thrale's old hunter with a good firmness, and though he would follow the hounds fifty miles on end sometimes, would never own himself either tired or amused."— [See Anecdotes, Johnsoniana, p. 84.]
2 Edward Wingfield, second Viscount of the last creatinn, born in 1729. succeeded his brother in 1762, and died in 1764. He was called the French Lord Powerscourt.—Croker.
8 This scarcity of cash still exists on the islands, in several of which five shilling notes are necessarily issued to have some circulating meMr. M'Queen said he had the utmost difficulty to pay his servants' wages, or to pay for any little thing which he has to buy. The rents are paid in bills, which the drovers give. The people consume a vast deal of snuff and tobacco, for which they must pay ready money; and pedlars, who come about selling goods, as there is not a shop in the island, carry away the cash. If there were encouragement given to fisheries and manufactories, there might be a circulation of money introduced. I got one and twenty shillings in silver at Portree, which was thought a wonderful store.
Talisker, Mr. M'Queen, and I, walked out, and looked at no less than fifteen different waterfalls, near the house, in the space of about a quarter of a mile. We also saw Cuchillin's well, said to have been the favourite spring of that ancient hero. I drank of it. The water is admirable. On the shore are many stones full of crystallizations in the heart.
Though our obliging friend, Mr. M'Lean, was but the young laird, he had the title of Col constantly given him. After dinner he and I walked to the top of Prieshwell, a very high rocky hill, from whence there is a view of Barra —the Long Island'—Bernera—the Loch of Dunvegan— part of Rum—part of Basay—and a vast deal of the Isle of Sky. Col, though he had come into Sky with an intention to be at Dunvegan, and pass a considerable time in the island, most politely resolved first to conduct us to Mull, and then to return to Sky. This was a very fortunate circumstance; for he planned an expedition for us of more variety than merely going to Mull. He proposed we should see the islands of Egg, Muck, Col, and Tyr-yi. In all these islands he could show us every thing worth seeing; and in Mull he said he should be as if at home, his father having lands there, and he at a farm.
Dr. Johnson did not talk much to-day, but seemed intent in listening to the schemes of future excursion, planned by Col. Dr. Birch, however, being mentioned, he
dinm. If you insist on having change, you must purchase something at a shop.—Walter Scott.
'A series of islands: the two Uists, Benbecula, and some others, are called by the general name of Long Island.—Croker.