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Dr. Johnson, on the following Tuesday, answered for both of us, thus:
“ MY LORD, “ON the rugged shore of Skie, I had the honour of your lordship’s letter, and can with great truth declare, that no place is so gloomy but that it would be cheered by such a testimony of regard, from a mind so well qualified to estimate characters, and to deal out approbation in its due proportions. If I have more than my share, it is your lordship's fault; for I have always reverenced your judgement too much, to exalt myself in your presence by any false pretensions.
“Mr. Boswell and I are at present at the disposal of the winds, and therefore cannot fix the time at which we shall have the honour of seeing your lordship. But we should either of us think ourselves injured by the supposition that we would miss your lordship’s conversation, when we could enjoy it; for I have often declared that I never met you without going away a wiser
“I am, my Lord,
“ And most humble servant, “ Skie, Sept. 14, 1773. SAM. JOHNSON."
At Portree, Mr. Donald MʻQueen, went to church and officiated in Erse, and then came to dinner. Dr. Johnson and I resolved that we should treat the company ; so I played the landlord, or master of the feast, having previously ordered Joseph to pay the bill.
Sir James Macdonald intended to have built a vil. lage here, which would have done great good. A vilkage is like a heart to a country. It produces a perpetual circulation, and gives the people an opportunity to make profit of many little articles, which would otherwise be in a good measure lost. We had here a dinner, et præterea nihil. Dr. Johnson did not talk. When we were about to depart, we found that Rasay had been before-hand with us, and that all was paid : I would fain have contested this matter with him, but seeing him resolved, I declined it. We parted with cordial embraces from him and worthy Malcolm. In the even-ing Dr. Johnson and I remounted our horses, accompanied by Mr. M'Queen and Dr. 'Macleod. It rained very hard. We rode what they call six miles, upon Rasay's lands in Sky, to Dr. Macleod's house. On the road Dr. Johnson appeared to be somewhat out of spirits. When I talked of our meeting Lord Elibank, he said, “I cannot be with him much. I long to be again in civilized life; but can stay but a short while ;"> (he meant to Edinburgh). He said, “let us go to Dunvegan to-morrow.”-“Yes, (said I,) if it is not a deluge.”—" At any rate,” he replied.—This shewed a kind of fretful impatience; nor was it to be wondered at, considering our disagreeable ride. I feared he would give up Mull and Icolmkill, for he said something of his apprehensions of being detained by bad weather in going to Mull and Iona. However I hoped well. We had a dish of tea at Dr. Macleod's, who had a pretty good house, where was his brother, a half-pay officer. His lady was a polite, agreeable woman. Dr. Johnson said, he was glad to see that he was so well married, for he had an esteem for physicians. The doctor accompanied us to Kingsburgh, which is called a mile farther; but the computation of Sky has no connection whatever with the real distance.
I was highly pleased to see Dr. Johnson safely arrived at Kingsburgh, and received by the hospitable Mr. Macdonald, who, with a most respectful attention, supported him into the house. Kingsburgh was completely the figure of a gallant Highlander,-exhibiting “the graceful mien and manly looks,” which our popular Scotch song has justly attributed to that character. He had his Tartan plaid thrown about him, a large blue bonnet with a knot of black ribband like a cockade, a brown short coat of a kind of duffil, a Tartan waistcoat with gold buttons and gold button-holes, a bluish philibeg, and Tartan hose. He had jet black hair tied be. hind, and was a large stately man, with a steady sensible countenance.
There was a comfortable parlour with a good fire, and a dram went round. By and by supper was served, at which there appeared the lady of the house, the celebrated Miss Flora Macdonald. She is a little woman, of a genteel appearance, and uncommonly mild and well-bred. To see Dr. Samuel Johnson, the great champion of the English Tories, salute Miss Flora Macdonald in the isle of Sky, was a striking sight; for though somewhat congenial in their notions, it was very improbable they should meet here.
Miss Flora Macdonald (for so I shall call her) told me, she heard upon the main land, as she was returning home about a fortnight before, that Mr. Boswell was coming to Sky, and one Mr. Johnson, a young English buck, with him. He was highly entertained with this fancy. Giving an account of the afternoon which we past at Anock, he said, “ I, being a buck, had miss in to make tea.”—He was rather quiescent to-night, and went early to bed. I was in a cordial humour, and promoted a cheerful glass. The punch was excellent. Honest Mr. MʻQueen observed that I was in high glee, “my governour being gone to bed.” Yet in reality my heart was grieved, when I recollected that Kingsburgh was embarrassed in his affairs, and intended to go to Ameri. ca. However, nothing but what was good was present, and I pleased myself in thinking that so spirited a man would be well every where. I slept in the same room with Dr. Johnson. Each had a neat bed, with Tartan curtains, in an upper chamber.
Monday, 13th September.
The room where we lay was a celebrated one. Dr. Johnson's bed was the very bed in which the grandson of the unfortunate King James the Second* lay, on one of the nights after the failure of his rash attempt in 1745-6, while he was eluding the pursuit of the emissaries of government, which had offered thirty thousand pounds as a reward for apprehending him. To see Dr. Samuel Johnson lying in that bed, in the isle of Sky, in the house of Miss Flora Macdonald, struck me with such a group of ideas as it is not easy for words to describe, as they passed through the mind. He smiled and
I do not call him the Prince of Wales, or the Prince, because I am quite satisfied that the right which the House of Stuart had to the throne is extinguished. I do not call him the Pretender, because it appears to me as an insult to one who is still alive, and, I suppose, thinks very differently. It may be a parliamentary expression ; but it is not a gentlemanly expression. I know, and I exult in having it in my power to tell, that THE ONLY PERSON in the world who is entitled to be offended at this delicacy, “thinks and feels as I do ;" and has liberality of mind and generosity of sentiment encugh, to approve of my tenderness for what even has been Blood-Royal. That he is a prince by courtesy, cannot be denied ; because his mother was the daughter of Sobiesky, king of Poland. I shall, therefore, on that account alone, distinguish him by the name of Prince Charles Edward.
said, “ I have had no ambitious thoughts in it.*The room was decorated with a great variety of maps and prints. Among others, was Hogarth's print of Wilkes grinning, with the cap of liberty on a pole by him. That too was a curious circumstance in the scene this morning; such a contrast was Wilkes to the above group. It reminded me of Sir William Chambers's Account of Oriental Gardening, in which we are told all odd, strange, ugly, and even terrible objects, are introduced, for the sake of variety: a wild extravagance of taste which is so well ridiculed in the celebrated Epistle to him. The following lines of that poem immediately occurred to me;
“ Here too, O king of vengeance! in thy fane,
Upon the table in our room I found in the morning a slip of paper, on which Dr. Johnson had written with his pencil these words :
“ Quantum cedat virtutibus aurum.”+
What he meant by writing them I could not tell.I He had caught cold a day or two ago, and the rain yester
* This, perhaps, was said in allusion to some lines ascribed to Pope, on his lying, at John Duke of Argyle's, at Adderbury, in the same bed in which Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, had slept:
• With no poetick ardour fir'd,
“ I press the bed where Wilmot lay : “ That here he liv'd, or here expir'd,
Begets no numbers, grave or gay."
With virtue weigh’d, what worthless trash is gold! Since the first edition of this book, an ingenious friend has observed to me, that Dr. Johnson had probably been thinking on the reward which was offered by government for the apprehension of the grandson of King James II, and that he meant by these words to express his admiration of the Highlanders, whose fidelity and attachment had resisted the golden temptation that had been held out to them.