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fore, I suppress what would, I dare say, make an interesting scene in this dramatic sketch, this account of the transit of Johnson over the Caledonian hemisphere.1
Yet I think I may, without impropriety, mention one circumstance, as an instance of my father's address. Dr. Johnson challenged him, as he did us all at Talisker, to point out any theological works of merit written by presbyterian ministers in Scotland. My father, whose studies did not lie much in that way, owned to me afterwards, that he was somewhat at a loss how to answer, but that luckily he recollected having read in catalogues the title of Durham on the Galatians; upon which he boldly said, "Pray, Sir, have you read Mr. Durham's excellent commentary on the Galatians?" "No, Sir," said Dr. Johnson. By this lucky thought my father kept him at bay, and for some time enjoyed his triumph ;' but his antagonist soon made a retort, which I forbear to mention.
1 OM Lord Auchinleck was an able lawyer, a good scholar, after the manner of Scotland, and highly valued his own advantages as a man of good estate and ancient family; and, moreover, he was a strict presbyterian and Whig of the old Scottish cast. This did not prevent his being a terribly proud aristocrat; and great was the contempt he entertained and expressed for his son James, tor the nature of his friendships and the character of the personages of whom he was engoue one after another. "There's nae hope for Jamie, mon," he said to a friend. "Jamie is gaen clean gyte.—What do you think, mon? He's done wi'Paoli—he^ off wi' the land-louping scoundrel of a Corsican; and whose tail do you think he has pinned himself to now, mon?" Here the old judge summoned up a sneer of most sovereign contempt. "A dominie, mon—an. auld dominie; he keeped a schule, and cau'd it an acaadamy." Probably if this had been reported to Johnson, he would have felt it more galling, for he never much liked to think of that period of his life; it would have aggravated his dislike of Lord Auchinleck's Whiggery and presbyterianism. These the old lord carried to such an unusual height, that once, when a countryman came in to state some justice business, and being required to make his oath, declined to do so before his lordship, because he was not a covenanted magistrate—" Is that a' your objection, mon?" said the judge; "come your ways in here, and we'll baith of us tak the solemn league and covenant together.''' The oath was accordingly agreed and sworn to by both, and I dare say it was the last time it ever received such homage. It may be surmised how far Lord Auchinleck, such as he is here described, was likely to suit a high Tory and episcopalian like Johnson. As they approached Auchinleck, Boswell conjured Johnson by all the ties of regard, and in requital of the services he had rendered him upon his tour, that he would spare two subjects in tenderness to his father's prejudices; the first related to Sir John Pringle, president of the Koyal Society, about whom there was then some dispute current: the second concerned the general question of Whig and Tory. Sir John Pringle, as Boswell says, escaped, but the controversy between Tory and Covenanter raged with great fury, and ended in Johnson's pressing upon the old judge the question, what good Cromwell, of whuni he had said something derogatory, had ever done to his country; when, after being much tortured. Lord Auchinleck at last spoke out, "God, doctor! he gart kings ken that they had a lith in their neck''—he taught kings they had a joint in their necks. Jamie then set to mediating between his father and the philosopher, and availing himself of the judge's sense of hospitality, which was punctilious, reduced the debate to more order.—Walter Scott.
In the course of their altercation, Whiggism and presbyterianism, Toryism, and episcopacy, were terribly buffeted. My worthy hereditary friend Sir John Pringle, never having been mentioned, happily escaped without a bruise.
My father's opinion of Dr. Johnson may be conjectured from the name he afterwards gave him, which was Ursa Major. But it is not true, as has been reported, that it was in consequence of my saying that he was a constellation of genius and literature. It was a sly abrupt expression to one of his brethren on the bench of the court of .session, in which Dr. Johnson was then standing; but it was not said in his hearing.
Sunday, Nov. 7.—My father and I went to public worship in our parish church, in which I regretted that Dr. Johnson would not join us; for, though we have there no form of prayer, nor magnificent solemnity, yet, as God is worshipped in spirit and in truth, and the same doctrines preached as in the church of England, my friend would certainly have shown more liberality had he attended. I doubt not, however, but he employed his time in private to very good purpose. His uniform and fervent piety was manifested on many occasions during our tour, which I have not mentioned. His reason for not joining in presbyterian worship has been recorded in a former page.1
ilonday, Nov. 8.—Notwithstanding the altercation that
1 All parties seem to have been in a happy state of ignorance; for it turns out that there is no such book as Durham on the Galatians, though there is on the Revelations, a work, however, of which Johnson perhaps never had heard, for it was first printed in Amsterdam, and afterwards in Edinburgh, 16S0. and never, as it seems, reprinted.— Croker.
2 Sec ante, page 94.
had passed, my father, who had the dignified courtesy of an old baron, was very civil to Dr. Johnson, and politely attended him to the post-chaise which was to convey us to Edinburgh.
Thus they parted. They are now in another, and a higher state of existence:l and as they were both worthy christian men, I trust they have met in happiness. But I must observe, in justice to my friend's political principles, and my own, that they have met in a place where there is no room for Whiggism.
We came at night to a good inn at Hamilton. 1 recollect no more.
Tuesday, Nov. 9.—I wished to have shown Dr. Johnson the Duke of Hamilton's house, commonly called the palace of Hamilton, which is close by the town. It is an object which, having been pointed out to me as a splendid edifice, from my earliest years, in travelling between Auchinleck and Edinburgh, has still great grandeur in my imagination. My friend consented to stop, and view the outside of it, but could not be persuaded to go into it.
We arrived this night at Edinburgh, after an absence of eighty-three days. For five weeks together, of the tempestuous season, there had been no account received of us. I cannot express how happy I was on finding myself again at home.
Wednesday, Nov. 10.—Old Mr. Drummond, the bookseller, came to breakfast. Dr. Johnson and he had not met for ten years. There was respect on his side, and kindness on Dr. Johnson's. Soon afterwards Lord Elibank came in, and was much pleased at seeing Dr. Johnson in Scotland. His lordship said, "hardly any thing seemed to him more improbable." Dr. Johnson had a very high opinion of him. Speaking of him to me, he characterized him thus: "Lord Elibank has read a great deal. It is true, I can find in books all that he has read; but he has a great deal of what is in books, proved by the test of real life." Indeed, there have been few men whose conversation discovered more knowledge enlivened by fancy.2 He
1 Lord Auchinleck died 30th Aug., 1782.
2 Lord Klibank made a happy retort on Dr. Johnson's definition of oats, as the food of horses in England and of men in Scotland: "Yes," published several small pieces of distinguished merit; and has left some in manuscript, in particular an account of the expedition against Carthagena, in which he served as an officer in the army. His writings deserve to be collected. He was the early patron of Dr. Robertson, the historian, and Mr. Home, the tragic poet; who, when they wero ministers of country parishes, lived near his seat. He told me, "I saw these lads had talents, and they were much with me." I hope they will pay a grateful tribute to his memory.
The morning was chiefly taken up by Dr. Johnson's giving him an account of our Tour. The subject of difference in political principles was introduced. Johnson. "It is much increased by opposition. There was a violent Whig, with whom I used to contend with great eagerness. After his death I felt my Toryism much abated." I suppose he meant Mr. Walmesley of Lichfield, whose character he has drawn so well in his "Life of Edmund Smith."
Mr. Nairne came in, and he and I accompanied Dr. Johnson to Edinburgh castle, which he owned was "a great place." But I must mention, as a striking instance of that spirit of contradiction to which he had a strong propensity, when Lord Elibank was some days after talking of it with the natural elation of a Scotchman, or of any man who is proud of a stately fortress in his own country, Dr. Johnson affected to despise it, observing, that "it would make a good prison in England."
Lest it should be supposed that I have suppressed one of his sallies against my country, it may not be improper here to correct a mistaken account that has been circulated, as to his conversation this day. It has been said, that being desired to attend to the noble prospect from the Castlehill, he replied, " Sir. the noblest prospect that a Scotchman ever sees is the high road that leads him to London." This lively sarcasm was thrown out at a tavern in London, in my presence, many years before.
We had with us to-day at dinner, at my house, the Lady
said he; "and where else will vou see such horses and such men ?"— Walter Scott.
Dowager Colvill,' and Lady Anne Erskine,' sisters to the Earl of Kelly; the Hon. Archibald Erskine, who has now succeeded to that title;3 Lord Elibank, the Kev. Dr. Blair, Mr. Tytler,4 the acute vindicator of Mary, Queen of Scots, and some other friends.
Fingal being talked of, Dr. Johnson, who used to boast that he had, from the first, resisted both Ossian and the giants of Patagonia,3 averred his positive disbelief of its authenticity. Lord Elibank said, "I am sure it is not M'Pherson's. Mr. Johnson, I keep company a great deal with you; it is known I do. I may borrow from you better things than I can say myself, and give them as my own; but if I should, every body will know whose they are." The doctor was not softened by this compliment. He denied merit to Fingal, supposing it to be the production of a man who has had the advantages that the present age affords; and said, " nothing is more easy than to write enough in that style if once you begin." 6 One gentleman7
1 Lady Elizabeth Erskine, daughter of the fifth Earl of Kellie, widow of Mr. Walter Macfarlane, and wife, by a second marriage, of the fourth Lord Colville: she died in 1794.— Croker,
2 Lady Anne, born in 1735; died in 1802, unmarried.—Croker.
3 As seventh earl: born in 1736; he died in 1797, unmarried.— Croker.
1 William Tytler, born Oct. 12, 1711, died Sept. 12, 1792, published in 1759, in one volume, a skilful vindication of Queen Mary, under the title of An Enquiry, historical and critical, into the evidence against Mary, Queen of Scots. Johnson reviewed this book in the October number of the Gentleman's Magazine for the year 1760. A fourth edition of the Enquiry, with considerable additions, was published in 2 vols. 8vo., Lond. 1790. William Tytler was the father of Alexander Eraser Tytler, Lord Woodhouselee, the biographer of Henry Home, Lord Kames, and the author also of several historical works, born 1747, died 1813—and grandfather of Patrick Fraser Tytler, born Aug. 30, 1791, died Dec. 24, 1849. author of the best history of Scotland yet published, and of other historical works of great merit.—Editor.
5 The story told in Commodore Byron's Voyage of his having fallen in with a gigantic tribe of natives, on the coast of Patagonia.—Croker.
6 I desire not to be understood as agreeing entirely with the opinions of Dr. Johnson, which I relate without any remark. The many imitations, however, of Fingal, that have been published, confirm this observation in a considerable degree.
7 In the third edition the Tytler incident is given as above : but in the first, it is somewhat differently stated. "Young Mr. Tytler stepped briskly forward and said, ' Fingal is certainly genuine ; for I have heard