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him; for which the composition is fixed at five shillings. I suppose, Ulva is the only place where this custom remains.'
Talking of the sale of an estate of an ancient family, which was said to have been purchased much under its value by the confidential lawyer of that family, and it being mentioned that the sale would probably be set aside by a suit in equity, Dr. Johnson said, " I am very willing that this sale should be set aside, but I doubt much whether this suit will be successful; for the argument for avoiding the sale is founded on vague and indeterminate principles,—as that the price was too low, and that there was a great degree of confidence placed by the seller in the person who became the purchaser. Now, how low should a price be? or what degree of confidence should there be to make a bargain be set aside? a bargain, which is a wager of skill between man and man. If, indeed, any fraud can be proved, that will do."
When Dr. Johnson and I were by ourselves at night, I observed of our host, "aspectum generosum habet;" "et generosum animum," he added. For fear of being overheard in the small Highland houses, I often talked to him in such Latin as I could speak, and with as much of the English accent as I could assume, so as not to be understood, in case our conversation should be too loud for the space.
We had each an elegant bed in the same room; and here it was that a circumstance occurred, as to which he has been strangely misunderstood. Prom his description of his chamber, it has erroneously been supposed, that his hed being too short for him, his feet, during the night, were in the mire; whereas he has only said, that when he undressed, he felt his feet in the mire: that is, the clay floor of the room, which he stood upon before he went into bed, was wet, in consequence of the windows being broken, which let in the rain.
Sunday, Oct. 17.—Being informed that there was nothing worthy of observation in Ulva, we took boat, and proceeded to Inchkeuneth, where we were introduced by our friend Col to Sir Allan M'Lean, the chief of his clan, and
1 This custom still continues in Ulva. — Walter Scott.
to two young ladies, his daughters. Inchkenneth is a pretty little island, a mile long, and about half a mile broad, all good land.1
As we walked up from the shore, Dr. Johnson's heart was cheered by the sight of a road marked with cartwheels, as on the main land; a thing which we had not seen for a long time. It gave us a pleasure similar to that which a traveller feels, when, whilst wandering on what he fears is a desert island, he perceives the print of human feet.
Military men acquire excellent habits of having all conveniences about them. Sir Allan M'Lean, who had been long in the army, and had now a lease of the island, had formed a commodious habitation, though it consisted but of a few small buildings, only one story high. He had, in his little apartments, more things than I could enumerate in a page or two.
Among other agreeable circumstances, it was not the least, to find here a parcel of the " Caledonian Mercury," published since we left Edinburgh; which I read with that pleasure which every man feels who has been for some time secluded from the animated scenes of the busy world.
1 Inchkonneth is a most beautiful little islet, of the most verdant green, while all the neighbouring shore of Greban, as well as the large islands of Col in say and LTlva, are as black as heath and moss can make them. But Ulva has a good anchorage, and Inchkenneth is surrounded by shoals. It is now uninhabited. The ruins of the huts, in which Dr. Johnson was received by Sir Allan M'Lean, were still to be seen, and some tatters of the paper hangings were to be seen on the walls. Sir George Onesiphorus Paul [a Gloucestershire Baronet] was at Inchkenneth with the same party of which I was a member. He seemed to me to suspect many of the Highland tales which he heard, but he showed most incredulity on the subject of Johnson's having been entertained in the wretched huts of which we saw the ruins. He took me aside, and conjured me to tell him the truth of ihe matter. "This Sir Allan," said he, " was he a regular baronet, or was his title such a traditional one'as you find in Ireland?" I assured my excellent acquaintance that, " for my own part, I would have paid more respect to a knight of Kerry, or knight of Glynn: yet Sir Allan M'Lean was a regular baronet by patent;" and, having given him this information, I took the liberty of asking him, in return, whether he would not in conscience prefer the worst cell in the jail of Gloucester (which he had been very active in overlooking while the building was going on) to those exposed hovels where Johnson had been entertained by rank and beauty. He looked round the little islet, and allowed Sir Allan had some advantage in exercising ground; but in other respects he thought the compulsory tenants of Gloucester had greatly the advantage. Such was his opinion of a place, concerning which Johnson has recorded that "it wanted little which palaces could afford."—Walter Scott.
Dr. Johnson found books here. He bade me buy Bishop Gastrell's "Christian Institutes," ' which was lying in the room. He said, " I do not like to read any thing on a Sunday, but what is theological; not that I would scrupulously refuse to look at any thing which a friend should show me in a newspaper; but in general, I would read only what is theological. I read just now some of ' Drummond's Travels,'l before I perceived what books were here. I then took up 'Derham's Physico-Theology.'"
Every particular concerning this island having been so well described by Dr. Johnson, it would be superfluous in me to present the public with the observations that I made upon it in my Journal.
I was quite easy with Sir Allan almost instantaneously. He knew the great intimacy there had been between my father and his predecessor, Sir Hector, and was himself of a very frank disposition. After dinner, Sir Allan said he had got Dr. Campbell about a hundred subscribers to his "Britannia Elucidata" (a work since published under the title of "A Political Survey of Great Britain"), of whom he believed twenty were dead, the publication having been so long delayed. Johnson. "Sir, I imagine the delay of publication is owing to this;—that, after publication, there will be no more subscribers, and few will send the additional guinea to get their books: in which they will be wrong; for there will be a great deal of instruction in the work. I think highly of Campbell. In the first place, he has very good parts. In the second place, he has very extensive reading, not, perhaps, what is properly called learning, but history, politics, and, in short, that popular knowledge which makes a man veiy useful. In the third place, he has learned much by what is called the vox viva. He talks with a great many people."
1 Dr. T. Gastrell, Bishop of Chester, 1714; died 1725.— Wright.
2 Alexander Drummond s Travels through different cities of Germany, Italy, Greece, and several parts of Asia, as far as the banks of the Euphrates. Folio. Lond., 1754.—Editor.
Speaking of this gentleman, at Kasay, he told us, that he one day called on him, and they talked of "Tull's Husbandry." Dr. Campbell said something. Dr. Johnson began to dispute it. "Come," said Dr. Campbell, "we do not want to get the better of one another; we want to increase each other's ideas." Dr. Johnson took it in good part, and the conversation then went on coolly and instructively. His candour in relating this anecdote does him much credit, and his conduct on that occasion proves how easily he could be persuaded to talk from a better motive than "for victory."
. Dr. Johnson here showed so much of the spirit of a Highlander, that he won Sir Allan's heart: indeed, he has shown it during the whole of our tour. One night, in Col, he strutted about the room with a broad sword and target, and made a formidable appearance: and, another night, I took the liberty to put a large blue bonnet on his head. His age, his size, and his bushy gray wig, with this covering on it, presented the image of a venerable Senachi: and however unfavourable to the Lowland Scots, he seemed much pleased to assume the appearance of an ancient Caledonian. We only regretted that he could not be prevailed with to partake of the social glass. One of his arguments against drinking appears to me not convincing. He urged, that, "in proportion as drinking makes a man different from what he is before he has diunk, it is bad; because it has so far affected his reason." But may it not be answered, that a man may be altered by it for the better; that his spirits may be exhilarated, without his reason being affected? On the general subject of drinking, however, I do not mean positively to take the other side. I am dubius non improbus.
In the evening, Sir Allan informed us that it was the custom of the house to have prayers every Sunday; and Miss M'Leau read the evening service, in which we all joined. I then read Ogden's second and ninth Sermons on Prayer, which, with their other distinguished excellence, have the merit of being short. Dr. Johnson said, that it was the most agreeable Sunday he had ever passed; and it made such an impression on his mind, that he afterwards wrote the following ode upon Inchkenneth:—
INSULA SANCTI KENNETHL
Parva quidem regio, sed religione priorum
Nota, Caledonias panditur inter aquas;
Dicitur, et vanos dedocuisse deos.
Scire locum volui quid daret ille novi.
Leniades magnis nobilitatus avis;
Quas Amor undarum fingeret esse deas:
Accola Danubii qualia ssevus habet;
Sive libros poscant otia, sive lyram.
Spes hominum ac curas cum procul esse jubet.
Cessarunt; pietas hie quoque cura fuit:
Legitimas faciunt pectora pura preces.
Hie secura quies, hie et honestus amor.1
1 The sentiments of these lines are very beautiful, but many of the expressions are awkward: of this Johnson himself was so well aware, that although he did not send these verses to Boswell till Jan., 1775, he, even after that long pause, was still so little satisfied with them, that he made a great many amendments and additions, as will appear from the following copy of these verses, as printed from his Works. The variations are marked in italics.
INSULA KENNETHI, INTER HEBRIDAS.
Parva quidem regio, sed religione priorum
Clara Caledonias panditur inter aquas.
Dicitur, et vanos dedocuisse deos.
Scire locus volui quid daret iste novi.
Leniades, magnis nobilitatus avis.
Quas Amor undarum crederet esse deas.