« PreviousContinue »
I expected Mr. Kenneth M'Aulay, the minister of Calder, who published the History of St. Kilda, a book which Dr. Johnson liked, would have met us here, as I had written to him from Aberdeen. But I received a letter from him, telling me that he could not leave home, as he was to administer the sacrament the following Sunday, and earnestly requesting to see us at his manse. "We'll go," said Dr. Johnson; which we accordingly did. Mrs. M'Aulay received us, and told us her husband was in the church distributing tokens.* We arrived between twelve and one o'clock, and it was near three before he came to us.
Dr. Johnson thanked him for his book, and said "it was a very pretty piece of topography." M'Aulay did not seem much to mind the compliment. From his conversation, Dr. Johnson was persuaded that he had not written the book which goes under his name. I myself always suspected so; and I have been told it was written by the learned Dr. John M'Pherson of Sky, from the materials collected by M'Aulay. Dr. Johnson said privately to me, "There is a combination in it of which M'Aulay is not capable." However, he was exceedingly hospitable; and, as he obligingly promised us a route for our Tour through the Western Isles, we agreed to stay with him all night.
After dinner, we walked to the old castle of Calder, (pronounced Cawder) the Thane of Cawdor's seat. I was sorry that my friend, this "prosperous gentleman,"
* In Scotland, there is a great deal of preparation before administering the sacrament. The minister of the parish examines the people as to their fitness, and to those of whom he approves gives little pieces of tin, stamped with the name of the parish, as tokens, which they must produce before receiving it. This is a species of priestly power and sometimes may be abused. I remember a lawsuit brought by a person against his parish minister, for refusing him admission to that sacred ordinance.
was not there. The old tower must be of great antiquity. There is a draw bridge,-what has been a moat,—and an ancient court. There is a hawthorntree, which rises like a wooden pillar through the rooms of the castle; for, by a strange conceit, the walls have been built round it. The thickness of the walls, the small slaunting windows, and a great iron door at the entrance on the second story as you ascend the stairs, all indicate the rude times in which this castle was erected. There were here some large venerable trees.
I was afraid of a quarrel between Dr. Johnson and Mr. M'Aulay, who talked slightingly of the lower English clergy. The Doctor gave him a frowning look, and said, "This is a day of novelties: I have seen old trees in Scotland, and I have heard the English clergy treated with disrespect."
I dreaded that a whole evening at Caldermanse would be heavy; however, Mr. Grant, an intelligent and well-bred minister in the neighbourhood, was there, and assisted us by his conversation. Dr. Johnson, talking of hereditary occupations in the Highlands, said, "There is no harm in such a custom as this; but it is wrong to enforce it, and oblige a man to be a taylor or This custom, a smith, because his father was one." however, is not peculiar to our Highlands: it is well known that in India a similar practice prevails.
Mr. M'Aulay began a rhapsody against creeds and confessions. Dr. Johnson shewed, that "what he called imposition, was only a voluntary declaration of agreement in certain articles of faith, which a church has a right to require, just as any other society can insist on certain rules being observed by its members. Nobody is compelled to be of the church, as nobody is compelled to enter into a society."-This was a very clear
and just view of the subject: but, M'Aulay could not be driven out of his track. Dr. Johnson said, "Sir, you are a bigot to laxness."
Mr. M'Aulay and I laid the map of Scotland before us; and he pointed out a rout for us from Inverness, by Fort Augustus, to Glenelg, Sky, Mull, Icólmkill, Lorn, and Inveraray, which I wrote down. As my father was to begin the northern circuit about the 18th of September, it was necessary for us either to make our tour with great expedition, so as to get to Auchinleck before he set out, or to protract it, so as not to be there till his return, which would be about the 10th of October. By M'Aulay's calculation, we were not to land in the Lorn till the 20th of September. I thought that the interruptions by bad days, or by occasional excursions, might make it ten days later; and I thought too, that we might perhaps go to Benbecula, and visit Clanranald, which would take a week of itself.
Dr. Johnson went up with Mr. Grant to the library, which consisted of a tolerable collection; but the Doctor thought it rather a lady's library, with some Latin books in it by chance, than the library of a clergyman. It had only two of the Latin fathers, and one of the Greek fathers in Latin. I doubted whether Dr. Johnson would be present at a Presbyterian prayer. I told Mr. M'Aulay so, and said that the Doctor might sit in the library while we were at family worship. Mr. M'Aulay said, he would omit it, rather than give Dr. Johnson offence: but I would by no means agree that an excess of politeness, even to so great a man, should prevent what I esteem as one of the best pious regulations. I know nothing more beneficial, more comfortable, more agreeable, than that the little societies of each family should regularly assemble, and unite in
praise and prayer to our heavenly Father, from whom we daily receive so much good, and may hope for more in a higher state of existence. I mentioned to Dr. Johnson the over-delicate scrupulosity of our host. He said, he had no objection to hear the prayer. This was a pleasing surprise to me; for he refused to go and hear Principal Robertson preach. "I will hear him, (said he,) if he will get up into a tree and preach; but I will not give a sanction, by my presence, to a Presbyterian assembly."
Mr. Grant having prayed, Dr. Johnson said, his prayer was a very good one; but objected to his not having introduced the Lord's Prayer. He told us, that an Italian of some note in London said once to him, "We have in our service a prayer called the Pater noster, which is a very fine composition. I wonder who is the author of it.”—A singular instance of ignorance in a man of some literature and general inquiry!
Saturday, 28th August.
Dr. Johnson had brought a Sallust with him in his pocket from Edinburgh. He gave it last night to Mr. M'Aulay's son, a smart young lad about eleven years old. Dr. Johnson had given an account of the education at Oxford, in all its gradations. The advantage of being a servitor to a youth of little fortune struck Mrs. M'Aulay much. I observed it aloud. Dr. Johnson very handsomely and kindly said, that, if they would send their boy to him, when he was ready for the university, he would get him made a servitor, and perhaps would do more for him. He could not pro
mise to do more; but would undertake for the servitorship.*
I should have mentioned that Mr. White, a Welchman, who has been many years factor (i. e. steward) on the estate of Calder, drank tea with us last night, upon getting a note from Mr. M'Aulay, and asked us to his house. We had not time to accept of his invitation. He gave us a letter of introduction to Mr. Ferne, master of stores at Fort George. He shewed it to me. It recommended "two celebrated gentlemen; no less than Dr. Johnson, author of his Dictionary,—and Mr. Boswell, known at Edinburgh by the name of Paoli." —He said, he hoped I had no objection to what he had written; if I had, he would alter it. I thought it was a pity to check his effusions, and acquiesced; taking care, however, to seal the letter, that it might not appear that I had read it.
A conversation took place, about saying grace at breakfast (as we do in Scotland) as well as at dinner and supper; in which Dr. Johnson said. "It is enough. if we have stated seasons of prayer; no matter when. A man may as well pray when he mounts his horse, or a woman when she milks her cow, (which Mr. Grant told us is done in the Highlands,) as at meals; and custom is to be followed."+
We proceeded to Fort George. When we came into the square, I sent a soldier with the letter to Mr.
* Dr. Johnson did not neglect what he had undertaken. By his interest with the Rev. Dr. Adams, master of Pembroke College, Oxford, where he was educated for some time, he obtained a servitorship for young M'Aulay. But it seems he had other views; and I believe went abroad.
† He could not bear to have it thought, that, in any instance whatever, the Scots are more pious than the English. I think grace as proper at breakfast as at any other meal. It is the pleasantest meal we have. Dr. Johnson has allowed the peculiar merit of breakfast in Scotland.