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Ostig,1 the residence of Mr. Martin M'Pherson, minister of Slate. It is a pretty good house, built by his father, upon a farm near the church. We were received here with much kindness by Mr. and Mrs. M'Pherson, and his sister, Miss M'Pherson, who pleased Dr. Johnson much by singing Erse songs, and playing on the guitar. He afterwards sent her a present of his "Rasselas." In his bed-chamber was a press stored with books, Greek, Latin, French, and English, most of which had belonged to the father of our host, the learned Dr. M'Pherson; who, though his "Dissertations" have been mentioned in a former page as unsatisfactory, was a man of distinguished talents. Dr. Johnson looked at a Latin paraphrase of the Song of Moses, written by him, and published in the " Scots Magazine" for 1747, and said, " It does him honour; he has a great deal of Latin, and good Latin." Dr. M'Pherson published also in the same Magazine, June, 1739, an original Latin ode, which he wrxrte from the Isle of Barra, where he was minister for some years. It is very poetical, and exhibits a striking
1 From Ostig Johnson wrote to Macleod the following pleasing letter, with which Mr. Croker enriched his first and subsequent editions. Mr. Cruker tells us that he was indebted (1831) for the letter to the present Macleud, the son of the Laird who entertained Johnson. It was inserted in the text, but is now transferred to the notes.—Editor.
JOHNSON TO MACLEOD.
"Ostig, 28th Sept., 1773.
"We are now on the margin of the sea, waiting for a boat and a wind. Boswell grows impatient; but the kind treatment which I find wherever I go, makes me leave, with some heaviness of heart, an island which I am nut very likely to see again. Having now gone as far as horses can carry us. we thankfully return them. My steed will, I hope, be received with kindness 5—he has borne mo, heavy as I am, over ground both rough and steep, with great fidelity; and for the use of him, as for your other favours, I hope you will believe me thankful, and willing, at whatever distance we may be placed, to show my sense of your kindness, by any offices of friendship that may fall within my power. "Lady Macleod and the young ladies have, by their hospitality and politeness, made an impression on my mind, which will not easily be effaced. Be pleased to tell them, that I remember them with great tenderness, and great respect.—I am, Sir, your most obliged and most humble servant, "Sam. Johnson."
"P.S.—We passed two days at Talisker very happily, both by the pleasantness uf the place and elegance of our reception."
proof how much all things depend upon comparison: for Barra, it seems, appeared to him so much worse than Sky, his natale solum, that he languished for its " blessed mountains," and thought himself buried alive amongst barbarians where he was. My readers will probably not be displeased to have a specimen of this ode:—
"Hei mihi! quantos patior dolorcs,
"Ingemo, indignor, crucior, quod inter
After wishing for wings to fly over to his dear country, which was in his view, from what he calls Thule, as being the most western isle of Scotland, except St. Kilda; after describing the pleasures of society, and the miseries of solitude; he at last, with becoming propriety, has recourse to the only sure relief of thinking men,—Sursum corda,—the hope of a better world, and disposes his mind to resignation:
"Interim, fiat tua, rex, voluntas:
Krigor sursum quoties subit spes
Certa migrandi Sob/mam supernara
He concludes in a noble strain of orthodox piety:
"Vita turn demum vocitanda vita est.
Wednesday, Sept. 29.—After a very good sleep, I rose more refreshed than I had been for some nights. We were now at but a little distance from the shore, and saw the sea from our windows, which made our voyage seem nearer. Mr. M'Pherson's manners and address pleased us much. He appeared to be a man of such intelligence and taste as to be sensible of the extraordinary powers of his illustrious guest. He said to me, "Dr. Johnson is an honour to mankind, and, if the expression may be used, is an honour to religion."
Col, who had gone yesterday to pay a visit at Camuscross, joined us this morning at breakfast. Some other gentlemen also came to enjoy the entertainment of Dr. Johnson's conversation. The day was windy and rainy, so that we had just seized a happy interval for our journey last night. We had good entertainment here, better accommodation than at Corrichatachin, and time enough to ourselves. The hours slipped along imperceptibly. We talked of Shenstone. Dr. Johnson said, he was a good layer-out of land, but would not allow him to approach excellence as a poet. He said, he believed he had tried to read all his "Love Pastorals," but did not get through them. I repeated the stanza,1
"She gazed as I slowly withdrew;
My path I could hardly discern;
I thought that she bade me return."
He said, " That seems to be pretty." I observed that Shenstone, from his short maxims in prose, appeared to have some power of thinking; but Dr. Johnson would not allow him that merit. He agreed, however, with Shenstone, that it was wrong in the brother of one of his correspondents to burn his letters; "for," said he, "Shenstone was a man whose correspondence was an honour." He was this afternoon full of critical severity, and dealt about his censures on all sides. He said, Hammond's "Love Elegies" were poor things. He spoke contemptuously of our lively and elegant, though too licentious lyric bard, Hanbury Williams, and said, " he had no fame, but from boys who drank with him."
While he was in this mood, I was unfortunate enough, simply perhaps, but I could not help thinking undeservedly, to come within "the whiff and wind of his fell sword." I asked him, if he had ever been accustomed to wear a nightcap. He said, "No." I asked, if it was best not to wear
1 Works, Tol. i. p. 184. London, 1773.
one. Johnson. "Sir, I Lad this custom by chance, and perhaps no man shall ever know whether it is best to sleep with or without a night-cap." Soon afterwards he was laughing at some deficiency in the Highlands, and said, "One might as well go without shoes and stockings." Thinking to have a little hit at his own deficiency, I ventured to add, " or without a night-cap, Sir." But I had better have been silent, for he retorted directly, " I do not see the connection there (laughing). Nobody before was ever foolish enough to ask whether it was best to wear a night-cap or not. This comes of being a little wrongheaded." He carried the company along with him and yet the truth is, that if he had always worn a night-cap, as is the common practice, and found the Highlanders did not wear one, he would have wondered at their barbarity; so that my hit was fair enough.
Thursday, Sept. 30.—There was as great a storm of wind and rain as I have almost ever seen, which necessarily confined us to the house; but we were fully compensated by Dr. Johnson's conversation. He said, he did not grudge Burke's being the first man in the House of Commons, for he was the first man every where; but he grudged that a fellow who makes no figure in company, and has a mind as narrow as the neck of a vinegar cruet, should make a figure in the House of Commons, merely by having the knowledge of a few forms, and being furnished with a little occasional information.1 He told us, the first time he saw Dr. Young was at the house of Mr. Richardson, the author of "Clarissa." He was sent for, that the doctor might read to him his " Conjectures on Original Composition," which he did, and Dr. Johnson made his remarks; and he was surprised to find Young receive as novelties, what he thought very common maxims. He said, he believed Young was not a great scholar, nor had studied regularly the art of writing; that there were very fine things in his " Night Thoughts," though you could not find twenty lines together without some extravagance. He repeated two passages from his "Love of Fame,"—the characters of Brunetta and Stella,
1 He did not mention the name of any particular person: but those who are conversant with the political world will probably recollect more persons than one to whom this observation may be applied.
which he praised highly.1 He said Young pressed him much to come to Welwyn. He always intended it, but never went. He was sorry when Young died. The cause of quarrel between Young and his son, he told us, was, that his son insisted Young should turn away a clergyman's widow, who lived with him, and who, haying acquired great influence over the father, was saucy to the son. Dr. Johnson said, she could not conceal her resentment at him, for saying to Young, that " an old man should not resign himself to the management of any body." I asked him if there was any improper connection between them. "No, Sir, no more than between two statues. He was past fourscore, and she a very coarse woman. She read to him, and, I suppose, made his coffee, and frothed his chocolate, and did such things as an old man wishes to have done for him." Dr. Doddridge being mentioned, he observed, "he was author of one of the finest epigrams in the English language. It is in Orton's Life of him. The subject is his family motto, 'Bum vivimus vivamiis,' which, in its primary signification, is, to be sure, not very suitable to a Christian divine; but he paraphrased it thus:
'Live while you live, the Epicure would say,
I asked if it was not strange that government should permit so many infidel writings to pass without censure. Johnson. "Sir, it is mighty foolish. It is for want of knowing their own power. The present family on the throne came to the crown against the will of nine tenths of the
1 "Brunetta's wise in actions great and rare—
"See Stella; her eyes shine as bright
As if her tongue was never in the right;