« PreviousContinue »
Dr. Johnson said, the inscription should have been in Latin, as every thing intended to be universal and permanent, should be.
This being a beautiful day, my spirits were cheered by the mere effect of climate. I had felt a return of spleen during my stay at Armidale, and had it not been that I had Dr. Johnson to contemplate, I should have sunk into dejection; but his firmness supported me. I looked at him, as a man whose head is turning giddy at sea looks at a rock, or any fixed object. I wondered at his tranquillity. He said, “ Sir, when a man retires into an island, he is to turn his thoughts entirely on another world. He has done with this.”—Boswell. “ It appears to me, sir, to be very difficult to unite a due attention to this world, and that which is to come; for, if we engage eagerly in the affairs of life, we are apt to be totally forgetful of a future state ; and, on the other hand, a steady contemplation of the awful concerns of eternity renders all objects here so insignificant, as to make us indifferent and negligent about them.”-Johnson.“ Sir, Dr. Cheyne has laid down a rule to himself on this subject, which should be imprinted on every mind: 'To neglect nothing to secure my eternal peace, more than if I had been certified I should die within the day: nor * to mind any thing that my secular obligations and duties
haps I ought to rejoice, on your account, that you had not the pain of such a spec. tacle. I have been now a week in Rome, and wish I could continue to give you the same good accounts of my recovery as I did in my last : but I must own that, for three days past, I have been in a very weak and miserable state, which however seems to give no uneasiness to my physician. My stomach has been greatly out of order, without any visible cause; and the palpitation does not decrease. I am told that my stomach will soon recover its tone, and that the palpitation must cease in time. So I am willing to believe ; and with this hope support the little remains of spirits which I can be supposed to have, on the forty-seventh day of such an illness. Do not imagine I have relapsed ;-I only recover slower than I expected. If my letter is shorter than usual, the cause of it is a dose of physick, which has weakened me so much to-day, that I am not able to write a long letter. I will make up for it next post, and remain always Your most sincerely affectionate son,
J. MACDONALD." He grew gradually worse ; and on the night before his death he wrote as follows, from Frescati: “ MY DEAR MOTHER,
“ THOUGH I did not mean to deceive you in my last letter from Rome, yet certainly you would have very little reason to conclude of the very great and constant danger I have gone through ever since that time. My life, which is still almost entirely desperate, did not at that time appear to me so, otherwise I should have represented, in its true colours, a fact which acquires very little horror by that means, and comes with redoubled force by deception. There is no circumstance of danger and pain of which I have not had the experience, for a continued series of above a fortnight; during which time I have settled my affairs, after my death, with as much distinctness as the hurry and nature of the thing could admit of. In case of the worst, the Abbé Grant will be my executor in this part of the world, and Mr. Mackenzie in Scotland, where my object has been to make you and my younger brother as independent of the eldest as possible.”
demanded of me, less than if I had been ensured to live fifty years more.”
I must here observe, that though Dr. Johnson appeared now to be philosophically calm, yet did not shine forth as in companies, where I have listened to him with admiration. The vigour of his mind, was, however, sufficiently manifested, by his discovering no symptoms of feeble relaxation in the dull, ‘weary, fat, and unprofitable’ state in which we now were placed.
I am inclined to think that it was on this day he composed the following Ode upon the Isle of Sky, which a few days afterwards he shewed me at Rasay:
Ponti profundis clausa recessibus,
His cura, credo, sedibus exulat;
Non ira, non mæror quietis
At non cavata rupe latescere,
Humana virtus non sibi sufficit,
Exæstuantis pectoris impetum,
After supper, Dr. Johnson told us, that Isaac Hawkins Browne drank freely for thirty years, and that he wrote his poem De Animi Immortalitate, in some of the last of these years.--I listened to this with the eagerness of one, who, conscious of being himself fond of wine, is glad to hear that a man of so much genius and good thinking as Browne, had the same propensity.
Monday, 6th September.
We set out, accompanied by Mr. Donald M‘Leod (late of Canna) as our guide. We rode for some time along the district of Slate, near the shore. The houses in general are made of turf covered with grass. The country seemed well peopled. We came into the dis. trict of Strath, and passed along a wild moorish tract of land till we arrived at the shore. There we found good verdure, and some curious whin-rocks, or collections of stones like the ruins of the foundations of old buildings. We saw also three Cairns of considerable size. About a mile beyond Broadfoot, is Corrichata. chin, a farm of Sir Alexander Macdonald's, possessed by Mr. M.Kinnon, * who received us with a hearty welcome, as did his wife, who was what we call in Scotland a lady-like woman. Mr. Pennant, in the course of his tour to the Hebrides, passed two nights at this gentleman's house. On its being mentioned, that a present had here been made to him of a curious specimen of Highland antiquity, Dr. Johnson said, “Sir, it was more than he deserved: the dog is a whig.”
* VARIOUS READINGS. Line 2. In the manuscript, Dr. Johnson, instead of rupibus obsita, had writ, ten imbribus uvida, and uviila nubibus, but struck them both out.
Lines 15 & 16. Instead of these two lines, he had written, but afterwards struck out, the following:
Parare posse, utcunque jactet
We here enjoyed the comfort of a table plentifully furnished, the satisfaction of which was heightened by a numerous and cheerful company; and we for the first time had a specimen of the joyous social manners of the inhabitants of the Highlands. They talked in their own ancient language, with fluent vivacity, and sung many
That my readers may have my narrative in the style of the country through which I am travelling, it is proper to inform them, that the chief of a clan is denominated by his surname alone, as MʻLeod, M.Kinnon, M'Intosh. To prefix Mr. to it would be a degradation from the M‘Leod, &c. My old friend, the Laird of M‘Farlane, the great antiquary, took it highly amiss, when General Wade called him Mr. M‘Farlane. Dr. Johnson said, he could not bring himself to use this mode of address; it seemed to him to be too familiar, as it is the way in which, in all other places, intimates or inferiors are addressed. When the chiefs have titles they are denominated by them, as Sir James Grant, Sir Allan M-Lean. The other Highland gentlemen, of landed property, are denominated by their estates, as Rasay, Boisdale; and the wives of all of them have the title of ladies. The tacksmen, or principal tenants, are named by their farms, as Kingsburgh, Cor. richatachin; and their wives are called the mistress of Kingsburgh, the mistress of Corrichiatachin. -Having given this explanation, I am at liberty to use that mode of speech which generally prevails in the Highlands, and the Hebrides.
Erse songs with such spirit, that though Dr. Johnson was treated with the greatest respect and attention, there were moments in which he seemed to be forgotten. For myself, though but a Lowlander, having picked up a few words of the language, I presumed to mingle in their mirth, and joined in the chorusses with as much glee as any of the company. Dr. Johnson, being fatigued with his journey, retired early to his chamber, where he composed the following Ode, addressed to Mrs. Thrale.
Permeo terras, ubi nuda rupes
Pervagor gentes, hominum ferorum
Inter erroris salebrosa longi,
Thralia dulcis ?
Seu viri curas pia nupta mulcet,
Sit memor nostri, fideique merces,
Scriptum in Skiá, Sept. 6, 1773.