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who was there as one of Macleod's militia,1 could not resist the pleasantry of asking Kingsburgh, in allusion to his only song, " Had she green sleeves?" Kingsburgh gave him no answer. Lady Margaret Macdonald was very angry at Talisker for joking on such a serious occasion, as Kingsburgh was really in danger of his life. Mrs. M'Kinnon added, that Lady Margaret was quite adored in Sky. That when she travelled through the island, the people ran in crowds before her, and took the stones off the road, lest her horse should stumble and she be hurt.3 Her husband, Sir Alexander, is also remembered with great regard. We were told that every week a hogshead of claret was drunk at his table.
This was another day of wind and rain; but good cheer and good society helped to beguile the time. I felt myself comfortable enough in the afternoon. I then thought that my last night's riot was no more than such a social excess as may happen without much moral blame; and recollected that some physicians maintained, that a fever produced by it was, upon the whole, good for health: so different are our reflections on the same subject, at different periods; and such the excuses with which we palliate what we know to be wrong.
Monday, Sept. 27.—Mr. Donald Macleod our original guide, who had parted from us at Dunvegan, joined us again to-day. The weather was still so bad that we could not travel. I found a closet here, with a good many books, besides those that were lying about. Dr. Johnson told me, he found a library in his room at Talisker; and observed, that it was one of the remarkable things of Sky, that there were so many books in it.
Though we had here great abundance of provisions it is remarkable that Corrichatachin has literally no garden: not even a turnip, a carrot, or a cabbage. After dinner, we talked of the crooked spade used in Sky, already described, and they maintained that it was better than the usual garden-spade, and that there was an art in tossing it, by which those who were accustomed to it could work very easily with it. "Nay," said Dr. Johnson, "it may be useful in land where there are many stones to raise; but it is not a good instrument for digging good land. A man may toss it, to be sure; but he will toss a light spade much better: its weight makes it an incumbrance. A man may dig any land with it; but he has no occasion for such a weight in digging good land. You may take a field-piece to shoot sparrows; but all the sparrows you can bring home will not be worth the charge." He was quite social and easy amongst them; and though he drank no fermented liquor, toasted Highland beauties with great readiness. His conviviality engaged them so much, that they seemed eager to show their attention to him, and vied with each other in crying out, with a strong Celtic pronunciation, "Toctor Shonson, Toctor Shonson, your health!"
1 Macleod and Macdonald, after some hesitation, which the Jacobites called treachery, took part with the Hanoverian monarch, and arrayed their clans on that side.—Croker.
2 This was used as a compliment by Johnson to Lady Margaret Macdonald, whom he met in London at dinner at Allan ifamsay's, April S 1779. Life, vol. iii. (April 8, 1779).—Editor.
This evening one of our married ladies, a lively pretty little woman, good humouredly sat down upon Dr. Johnson's knee, and, being encouraged by some of the company, put her arms round his neck and kissed him. "Do it again," said he, "and let us see who will tire first." He kept her on his knee some time, while he and she drank tea. He was now like a luck indeed. All the company were much entertained to find him so easy and pleasant. To me it was highly comic, to see the grave philosopher—the Rambler—toving with a Highland beauty! But what could he do? He must have been surly and weak too, had he not behaved as he did. He would have been laughed at, and not more respected, though less loved.
He read to-night, to himself, as he sat in company, a great deal of my Journal, and said to me, "The more I read of this, I think the more highly of you." The gentlemen sat a long time at their punch, after he and I had retired to our chambers. The manner in which they were attended struck me as singular. The bell being broken, a smart lad lay on a table in the corner of the room, ready to spring up and bring the kettle whenever it was wanted. They continued drinking, and singing Erse songs, till near five in the morning, when they all came into my room, where some of them had beds. Unluckily for me, they found a bottle of punch in a corner, which they drank; and Corrichatachin went for another, which they also drank. They made many apologies for disturbing me. I told them, that, having been kept awake by their mirth, I had once thoughts of getting up and joining them again. Honest Corrichatachin said, "To have had you done so, I would have given a cow."
Tuesday, Sept. 28.—The weather was worse than yesterday. I felt as if imprisoned. Dr. Johnson said it was irksome to be detained thus: yet he seemed to have less uneasiness, or more patience, than I had. What made our situation worse here was, that we had no rooms that we could command; for the good people had no notion that a man could have any occasion but for a mere sleeping place; so, during the day, the bed-chambers were common to all the house. Servants eat in Dr. Johnson's, and mine was a kind of general rendezvous of all under the roof, children and dogs not excepted. As the gentlemen occupied the parlour, the ladies had no place to sit in, during the day, but Dr. Johnson's room. I had always some quiet time for writing in it, before he was up; and, by degrees, I accustomed the ladies to let me sit in it after breakfast, at my Journal, without minding me.
Dr. Johnson was this morning for going to see as many islands as we could, not recollecting the uncertainty of the season, which might detain us in one place for many weeks. He said to me, "I have more the spirit of adventure than you." For my part, I was anxious to get to Mull, from whence we might almost any day reach the main land.
Dr. Johnson mentioned, that the few ancient Irish gentlemen yet remaining have the highest pride of family; that Mr. Sandford, a friend of his, whose mother was Irish, told him, that O'Hara (who was true Irish, both by father and mother) and he, and Mr. Ponsonby, son to the Earl of Besborough, the greatest man of the three, but of an English family, went to see one of those ancient Irish, and that he distinguished them thus: "O'Hara, you are welcome! Mr. Sandford, your mother's son is welcome! Mr. Ponsonby, you may sit down!"
He talked both of threshing and thatching. He said it was very difficult to determine how to agree with a thresher. "If you pay him by the day's wages, he will thresh no more than he pleases: though, to be sure, the negligence of a thresher is more easily detected than that of most labourers, because he must always make a sound while he works. If you pay him by the piece, by the quantity of grain which he produces, he will thresh only while the grain comes freely, and though he leaves a good deal in the ear, it is not worth while to thresh the straw over again; nor can you fix him to do it sufficiently, because it is so difficult to prove how much less a man threshes than he ought to do. Here then is a dilemma: but, for my part, I would engage him by the day; I would rather trust his idleness than his fraud." He said, a roof thatched with Lincolnshire reeds would last seventy years, as he was informed when in that county; and that he told this in London to a great thatcher, who said, he believed it might be true. Such are the pains that Dr. Johnson takes to get the best information on every subject.
He proceeded: "It is difficult for a farmer in England to find day-labourers, because the lowest manufacturers can always get more than a day-labourer. It is of no consequence how high the wages of manufacturers are; but it would be of very bad consequence to raise the wages of those who procure the immediate necessaries of life, for that would raise the price of provisions. Here then is a problem for politicians. It is not reasonable that the most useful body of men should be the worst paid; yet it does not appear how it can be ordered otherwise. It were to be wished, that a mode for its being otherwise were found out. In the mean time, it is better to give temporary assistance by charitable contributions to poor labourers, at times when provisions are high, than to raise their wages; because, if wages are once raised, they will never get down again."
Happily the weather cleared up between one and two o'clock, and we got ready to depart; but our kind host and hostess would not let us go without taking a snatch, as they called it; which was in truth a very good dinner. While the punch went round, Dr. Johnson kept a close whispering conference with Mrs. M'Kinnon, which, however, was loud enough to let us bear that the subject of it was the particulars of Prince Charles's escape.1 The company were entertained and pleased to observe it. Upon that subject, there was something congenial between the soul of Dr. Samuel Johnson and that of an Isle of Sky farmer's wife. It is curious to see people, how far soever removed from each other in the general system of their Uves, come close together on a particular point which is common to each. We were merry with Corrichatachin, on Dr. Johnson's whispering with his wife. She, perceiving this, humorously cried, " I am in love with him. What is it to live and not to love?" Upon her saying something, which I did not hear, or cannot recollect, he seized her hand eagerly, and kissed it.
As we were going, the Scottish phrase of " honest man!" which is an expression of kindness and regard, was again and again applied by the company to Dr. Johnson. I was also treated with much civility; and I must take some merit from my assiduous attention to him, and from my contriving that he shall be easy wherever he goes, that he shall not be asked twice to eat or drink anything (which always disgusts him), that he shall be provided with water at his meals, and many such little things, which, if not attended to, would fret him. I also may be allowed to claim some merit in leading the conversation: I do not mean leading, as in an orchestra, by playing the first fiddle; but leading as one does in examining a witness—starting topics, and making him pursue them. He appears to me like a great mill, into which a subject is thrown to be ground. It requires, indeed, fertiie minds to furnish materials for this mill. I regret whenever I see it unemployed; but sometimes I feel myself quite barren, and having nothing to throw in. I know not if this mill be a good figure; though Pope makes his mind a mill for turning verses.
We set out about four. Young Corrichatachin went with us. We had a fine evening, and arrived in good time at
1 It must be remembered that Mrs. M'Kinnon was old Kingsburffh's daughter, and was in the house when the Pretender was there in woman's clothes. Ascanius relates an anecdote of her being alarmed (she was then very young) with the masculine maimers and bold strides of the "muckle woman" in the hall.—Croker.