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The Countess of Eglintoune.

[Nov. 1.

irritate my old Scottish' enthusiasm, was very jocular on the homely accommodation of King Bob,' and roared and laughed till the ruins echoed.

Lady Eglintoune, though she was now in her eighty-fifth year, and had lived in the retirement of the country for almost half a century, was still a very agreeable woman. She was of the noble house of Kennedy, and had all the elevation which the consciousness of such birth inspires. Her figure was majestick, her manners high-bred, her reading extensive, and her conversation elegant. She had been the admiration of the gay circles of life, and the patroness of poets'. Dr. Johnson was delighted with his reception here. Her principles in church and state were congenial with his. She knew all his merit, and had heard much of him from her son, Earl Alexander', who loved to cultivate the acquaintance of men of talents, in every department.

All who knew his lordship, will allow that his understanding and accomplishments were of no ordinary rate. From the gay habits which he had early acquired, he spent too much of his time with men, and in pursuits far beneath such a mind as his. He afterwards became sensible of it, and turned his thoughts to objects of importance; but was cut off in the prime of his life. I cannot speak, but with emotions of the most affectionate regret, of one, in whose company many of my early days were passed, and to whose kindness I was much indebted.

Often must I have occasion to upbraid myself, that soon after our return to the main land, I allowed indolence to prevail over me so much, as to shrink from the labour of

English built in Wales would supply materials.' Johnson's Works, ix. 152.

'See ante, p. 44, note 5.


Johnson described her as 'a lady who for many years gave the laws of elegance to Scotland.' Piozzi Letters, i. 200. Allan Ramsay dedicated to her his Gentle Shepherd, and W. Hamilton, of Bangour, wrote to her verses on the presentation of Ramsay's poem. Hamilton's Poems, p. 23.


See ante, ii. 75, and iii. 214.


Nov. 2.]

Lord Auchinleck.


continuing my journal with the same minuteness as before; sheltering myself in the thought, that we had done with the Hebrides; and not considering, that Dr. Johnson's Memorabilia were likely to be more valuable when we were restored to a more polished society. Much has thus been irrecoverably lost.

In the course of our conversation this day, it came out, that Lady Eglintoune was married the year before Dr. Johnson was born; upon which she graciously said to him, that she might have been his mother; and that she now adopted him; and when we were going away, she embraced him, saying, 'My dear son, farewell'!' My friend was much pleased with this day's entertainment, and owned that I had done well to force him out.


We were now in a country not only 'of saddles and bridles',' but of post-chaises; and having ordered one from Kilmarnock, we got to Auchinleck' before dinner.

My father was not quite a year and a half older than Dr. Johnson; but his conscientious discharge of his laborious duty as a judge in Scotland, where the law proceedings are almost all in writing,―a severe complaint which ended in his death, and the loss of my mother, a woman of almost unexampled piety and goodness,-had before this time in some degree affected his spirits', and rendered him less disposed to exert his faculties: for he had originally a very strong mind,

'She called Boswell the boy: "yes, Madam," said I, "we will send him to school." He is already," said she, "in a good school;" and expressed her hope of his improvement. At last night came, and I was sorry to leave her.' Piozzi Letters, i. 200. See ante, iii. 416.

'See ante, pp. 362, 413.

Burns, who was in his fifteenth year, was at this time living at Ayr, about twelve miles away. When later on he moved to Mauchline, he and Boswell became much nearer neighbours.

He had, however, married again. Ante, ii. 161, note 1. It is curious that Boswell in this narrative does not mention his stepmother.



Three dangerous topicks.

[Nov. 2.

and cheerful temper. He assured me, he never had felt one moment of what is called low spirits, or uneasiness, without a real cause. He had a great many good stories, which he told uncommonly well, and he was remarkable for 'humour, incolumi gravitate',' as Lord Monboddo used to characterise it. His age, his office, and his character, had long given him an acknowledged claim to great attention, in whatever company he was; and he could ill brook any diminution of it. He was as sanguine a Whig and Presbyterian, as Dr. Johnson was a Tory and Church of England man; and as he had not much leisure to be informed of Dr. Johnson's great merits by reading his works, he had a partial and unfavourable notion of him, founded on his supposed political tenets; which were so discordant to his own, that instead of speaking of him with that respect to which he was entitled, he used to call him 'a Facobite fellow.' Knowing all this, I should not have ventured to bring them together, had not my father, out of kindness to me, desired me to invite Dr. Johnson to his house.

I was very anxious that all should be well; and begged of my friend to avoid three topicks, as to which they differed very widely; Whiggism, Presbyterianism, and — Sir John Pringle'. He said courteously, 'I shall certainly not talk on subjects which I am told are disagreeable to a gentleman under whose roof I am; especially, I shall not do so to your father.'

Our first day went off very smoothly. It rained, and we could not get out; but my father shewed Dr. Johnson his library, which in curious editions of the Greek and Roman classicks, is, I suppose, not excelled by any private collection in Great Britain. My father had studied at Leyden, and been

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Incolumi gravitate jocum tentavit.'

'Though rude his mirth, yet laboured to maintain

The solemn grandeur of the tragic scene.'

FRANCIS. Horace, Ars Poet. 1. 221.

'See ante, iii. 74, and v. 110.

Nov. 3.] The Highlands and the Highlanders.


very intimate with the Gronovii, and other learned men there. He was a sound scholar, and, in particular, had collated manuscripts and different editions of Anacreon, and others of the Greek Lyrick poets, with great care; so that my friend and he had much matter for conversation, without touching on the fatal topicks of difference.

Dr. Johnson found here Baxter's Anacreon', which he told me he had long enquired for in vain, and began to suspect there was no such book. Baxter was the keen antagonist of Barnes'. His life is in the Biographia Britannica'. My father has written many notes on this book, and Dr. Johnson and I talked of having it reprinted.


It rained all day, and gave Dr. Johnson an impression of that incommodiousness of climate in the west, of which he has taken notice in his Journey: but, being well accommodated, and furnished with variety of books, he was not dissatisfied.

Some gentlemen of the neighbourhood came to visit my father; but there was little conversation. One of them asked Dr. Johnson how he liked the Highlands. The question seemed to irritate him, for he answered, 'How, Sir, can you ask me what obliges me to speak unfavourably of a country where I have been hospitably entertained? Who

'See ante, iv. 188, 278.

'Johnson (Works, vii. 425) says of Addison's dedication of the opera of Rosamond to the Duchess of Marlborough, that 'it was an instance of servile absurdity, to be exceeded only by Joshua Barnes's dedication of a Greek Anacreon to the Duke.' For Barnes see ante, iii. 322, and iv. 23.

' William Baxter, the editor of Anacreon, was the nephew of Richard Baxter, the nonconformist divine.

He says of Auchinleck (Works, ix. 158) that 'like all the western side of Scotland, it is incommoded by very frequent rain.' 'In all September we had, according to Boswell's register, only one day and a half of fair weather; and in October perhaps not more.' Piozzi Letters, i. 182.



Harris a coxcomb.

[Nov. 3.

can like the Highlands'? I like the inhabitants very well'.' The gentleman asked no more questions.

Let me now make up for the present neglect, by again gleaning from the past. At Lord Monboddo's, after the conversation upon the decrease of learning in England, his Lordship mentioned Hermes, by Mr. Harris of Salisbury', as the work of a living authour, for whom he had a great respect. Dr. Johnson said nothing at the time; but when we were in our post-chaise, he told me, he thought Harris ‘a coxcomb.' This he said of him, not as a man, but as an authour; and I give his opinions of men and books, faithfully, whether they agree with my own or not. I do admit, that there always appeared to me something of affectation in Mr. Harris's manner of writing; something of a habit of clothing plain thoughts in analytick and categorical formality. But all his writings are imbued with learning; and all breathe that philanthropy and amiable disposition, which distinguished him as a man'.

''By-the-bye,' wrote Sir Walter Scott, 'I am far from being of the number of those angry Scotsmen who imputed to Johnson's national prejudices all or a great part of the report he has given of our country in his Voyage to the Hebrides. I remember the Highlands ten or twelve years later, and no one can conceive of how much that could have been easily remedied travellers had to complain.' Croker Corres. ii. 34.

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Of these islands it must be confessed, that they have not many allurements but to the mere lover of naked nature. The inhabitants are thin, provisions are scarce, and desolation and penury give little pleasure.' Johnson's Works, ix. 153. In an earlier passage (p. 138), in describing a rough ride in Mull, he says:-'We were now long enough acquainted with hills and heath to have lost the emotion that they once raised, whether pleasing or painful, and had our minds employed only on our own fatigue.'

See ante, ii. 258.

In like manner Wesley said of Rousseau :-'Sure a more consummate coxcomb never saw the sun. . . . He is a cynic all over. So indeed is his brother-infidel, Voltaire; and well-nigh as great a coxcomb. Wesley's Journal, ed. 1830, iii. 386.

This gentleman, though devoted to the study of grammar and dialecticks, was not so absorbed in it as to be without a sense of pleas


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