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spectfully mentioned by Dr. Johnson, is the only return which the uncertainty of human events has permitted us to make to this deserving young man.
Sir Allan, who obligingly undertook to accompany us to Icolmkill, had a strong good boat, with four stout rowers. We coasted along Mull till we reached Gribon, where is what is called Mackinnon's cave, compared with which that at Ulinish is inconsiderable. It is in a rock of great height, close to the sea. Upon the left of its entrance there is a cascade, almost perpendicular from the top to the bottom of the rock. There is a tradition that it was conducted thither artificially, to supply the inhabitants of the cave with water. Dr. Johnson gave no credit to this tradition. As, on the one hand, his faith in the Christian religion is firmly founded upon good grounds: so, on the other, he is incredulous when there is no sufficient reason for belief; being in this respect just the reverse of modern infidels, who, however nice and scrupulous in weighing the evidences of religion, are yet often so ready to believe the most absurd and improbable tales of another nature, that Lord Hailes well observed, a good essay might be written Sur la Cridulite des Incredules.
The height of this cave I cannot tell with any tolerable exactness; but it seemed to be very lofty, and to be a pretty regular arch. We penetrated by candle-light, a great way; by our measurement, no less than four hundred and eighty-five feet. Tradition says, that a piper and twelve men once advanced into this cave, nobody can tell how far,1 and never returned. At the distance to which we proceeded the air was quite pure ; for the candle burned freely, without the least appearance of the flame growing globular; but as we had only one, we thought it dangerous to venture farther, lest, should it have been extinguished,
1 There is little room for supposing that any person ever went farther into M'Kinnon's cave than any man may now go. Johnson's admiration of it seems exaggerated. A great number of the M'Kinnons, escaping from some powerful enemy, hid themselves in this cave till they could get over to the isle of Sky. It concealed themselves and their birlings, or boats; and they show M'Kinnon's harbour, M'Kinnon's dining-lablc, and other localities. M'Kinnon's candlestick was a fine piece of spar, destroyed by some traveller in the frantic rage for appropriation, with which tourists are sometimes animated.— Waller Scott.
we should have had no means of ascertaining whether we could remain without danger. Dr. Johnson said, this was the greatest natural curiosity he had ever seen.
We saw the island of Staffa, at no very great distance, but could not land upon it, the surge was so high on its rocky coast.
Sir Allan, anxious for the honour of Mull, was still talking of its woods, and pointing them out to Dr. Johnson, as appearing at a distance on the skirts of that island, as we sailed along. Johnson. "Sir, I saw at Tobermorie what they called a wood, which I unluckily took for heath. If you show me what I shall take for furze, it will be something."
In the afternoon we went ashore on the coast of Mull, and partook of a cold repast, which we carried with us. We hoped to have procured some rum or brandy for our boatmen and servants, from a public-house near where we landed ; but unfortunately a funeral a few days before had exhausted all their store. Mr. Campbell, however, one of the Duke of Argyle's tacksmen, who lived in the neighbourhood, on receiving a message from Sir Allan, sent us a liberal supply.
We continued to coast along Mull, and passed by Nuns' Island, which, it is said, belonged to the nuns of Icolmkill, and from which, we were told, the stone for the buildings there was taken. As we sailed along by moonlight, in a sea somewhat rough, and often between black and gloomy rocks, Dr. Johnson said, "If this be not roving among the Hebrides, nothing is." The repetition of words which he had so often previously used made a strong impression on my imagination; and, by a natural course of thinking, led me to consider how our present adventures would appear to me at a future period.
I have often experienced, that scenes through which a man has passed improve by lying in the memory; they grow mellow: Acti labores sunt jucundi. This may be owing to comparing them with present listless ease. Even harsh scenes acquire a softness by length of time;l and
1 I have lately observed that this thought has been elegantly expressed by Cowley:—
"Things which offend when present, and affright,
some are like very loud sounds, which do not please, or at least do not please so much, till you are removed to a certain distance. They may be compared to strong coarse pictures, which will not bear to be viewed near. Even pleasing scenes improve by time, and seem more exquisite in recollection, than when they were present; if they have not faded to dimness in the memory. Perhaps, there is so much evil in every human enjoyment, when present,—so much dross mixed with it, that it requires to be refined by time; and yet I do not see why time should not melt away the good and the evil in equal proportions;—why the shade should decay, and the light remain in preservation.
After a tedious sail, which, by our following various turnings of the coast of Mull, was extended to about forty miles, it gave us no small pleasure to perceive a light in the village at Icolmkill, in which almost all the inhabitants of the island live, close to where the ancient building stood. As we approached the shore, the tower of the cathedral, just discernible in the air, was a picturesque object.
When we had landed upon the sacred ldace, which, as long as I can remember, I had thought on with veneration, Dr. Johnson and I cordially embraced. We had long talked of visiting Icolmkill; and, from the lateness of the season, were at times very doubtful whether we should be able to effect our purpose. To have seen it, even alone, would have given me great satisfaction; but the venerable scene was rendered much more pleasing by the company of my great and pious friend, who was no less affected by it than I was; and who has described the impressions it should make on the mind, with such strength of thought, and energy of language, that I shall quote his words, as conveying my own sensations much more forcibly than I am capable of doing:—
"We were now treading that illustrious island, which was once the luminary of the Caledonian regions, whence savage clans and roving barbarians derived the benefits of knowledge, and the blessings of religion. To abstract the mind from all local emotion would be impossible if it were endeavoured, and would be foolish if it were possible. Whatever withdraws us from the Dower of our senses, whatever makes the past, the distant, or the future, predominate over the present, advances us in the dignity of thinking beings. Far from me, and from my friends, be such frigid philosophy as may conduct us indifferent and unmoved over any ground which has been dignified by wisdom, bravery, or virtue. That man is little to be envied, whose patriotism would not gain force upon the plain of Marathon, or whose piety would not grow warmer among the ruins of lona!" l
Upon hearing that Sir Allan M'Lean was arrived, the inhabitants, who still consider themselves as the people of M'Lean, to whom the island formerly belonged, though the Duke of Argyle has at present possession of it, ran eagerly to him.
We were accommodated this night in a large barn, the island affording no lodging that we should have liked so well. Some good hay was strewed at one end of it, to form a bed for us, upon which we lay with our clothes on; and we were furnished with blankets from the village. Each of us had a portmanteau for a pillow. When I awaked in the morning, and looked around me, I could not help smiling at the idea of the chief of the M'Leans, the great English moralist, and myself, lying thus extended in such a situation.
Wednesday, Oct. 20.—Early in the morning we surveyed the remains of antiquity at this place, accompanied by an illiterate fellow, as cicerone, who called himself a descendant of a cousin of Saint Columba, the founder of the religious establishment here. As I knew that many persons had already examined them, and as I saw Dr. Johnson inspecting and measuring several of the ruins of which he has since given so full an account, my mind was quiescent; and I resolved to stroll among them at my ease, to take no trouble to investigate minutely, and only receive the general impression of solemn antiquity, and the particular ideas of such objects as should of themselves strike my attention.
1 Had our tour produced nothing else but this sublime passage (Journey, p. 346, first edit.), the world must have acknowledged that it was not made in vain. The present respectable President of the Koyal Society [Sir Joseph Banks] was so much struck on reading it, that he clasped his hands together and remained for some tune in an attitude of silent admiration.
We walked from the monastery of nuns to the great church or cathedral, as they call it, along an old broken causeway. They told us that this had been a street, and that there were good houses built on each side. Dr. Johnson doubted if it was any thing more than a paved road for the nuns. The convent of monks, the great church, Oran's chapel, and four other chapels, are still to be discerned. But I must own that Icolmkill did not answer my expectations ; for they were high, from what I had read of it, and still more from what I had heard and thought of it, from my earliest years. Dr. Johnson said it came up to his expectations, because he had taken his impression from an account of it subjoined to Sacheverel's " History of the Isle of Man," ' where it is said, there is not much to be seen here. We were both disappointed, when we were shown what are called the monuments of the kings of Scotland, Ireland, and Denmark, and of a king of France. There are only some grave-stones flat on the earth, and we could see no inscriptions. How far short was this of marble monuments, like those in Westminster Abbey, which I had imagined here! The grave-stones of Sir Allan M'Lean's family, and of that of M'Quarrie, had as good an appearance as the royal grave-stones, if they were royal; we doubted.
My easiness to give credit to what I heard in the course of our Tour was too great. Dr. Johnson's peculiar accuracy of investigation detected much traditional fiction, and many gross mistakes. It is not to be wondered at that he was provoked by people carelessly telling him with the utmost readiness and confidence, what he found, on questioning them a little more, was erroneous. Of this there were innumerable instances.
I left him and Sir Allan at breakfast in our barn, and stole back again to the cathedral, to indulge in solitude and devout meditation. While contemplating the venerable ruins, I reflected with much satisfaction, that the solemn scenes of piety never lose their sanctity and influence, though the cares and follies of life may prevent us from visiting them, or may even make us fancy that their effects
1 Account of the Isle of Man, by William Sacheverel. 8vo. Lond.,. 1702.—Editor.