Page images

more private sphere, Ego me nunc denique natum gratulor. I am happy that a disputed succession no longer distracts our minds, and that a monarchy established by law is now so sanctioned by time, that we can fully indulge those feelings of loyalty which I am ambitious to excite. They are feelings which have ever actuated the inhabitants of the Highlands and the Hebrides. The plant of loyalty is there in full vigour, and the Brunswick graft now flourishes like a native shoot. To that spirited race of people I may with propriety apply the elegant lines of a modern poet, on the "facile temper of the beauteous sex:"

"Like birds new caught, who flutter for a time,
And struggle with captivity in vain ;

But by and by they rest, they smooth their plumes
And to new masters sing their former notes." *

Surely such notes are much better than the querulous growlings of suspicious Whigs and discontented Republicans.

Kingsburgh conducted us in his boat across one of the lochs, as they call them, or arms of the sea, which flow in upon all the coasts of Sky, to a mile beyond a place called Grishinish. Our horses had been sent round by land to meet us. By this sail we saved eight miles of bad riding.† Dr. Johnson said: "When we take into computation what we have saved, and what we have gained, by this agreeable sail, it is a great deal." He observed: "It is very disagreeable riding in Sky. The way is so narrow, one only at a time can travel, so it is quite unsocial; and you cannot indulge in meditation by yourself, because you must be always attending to the steps which your horse takes." This was a just and clear description of its inconveniencies.

The topic of emigration being again introduced, Dr. Johnson said, that "a rapacious chief would make a wilderness of his estate." Mr. Donald Macqueen told us, that the oppression which then made so much noise was owing to landlords listening to bad advice in the letting of their lands, that interested and designing people flattered them with golden dreams of much higher rents than could reasonably be paid, and that some of the gentlemen tacksmen, or upper tenants, were themselves in part the occasion of the mischief, by over-rating the farms of others. That many of the tacksmen, rather than

"Agis," a tragedy, by John Home

+ The distance actually saved by the sail from Kingsburgh to the head of Loch Grishornish is about seventeen miles of riding.--ED.

Pennant states that a large farm in Skye, which in 1750 used to let for 161. per annum, had before 1772 been raised to 501.; and that the whole rental of the island

[ocr errors]

comply with exorbitant demands, had gone off to America and impoverished the country, by draining it of its wealth, and that their places were filled by a number of poor people who had lived under them, properly speaking, as servants, paid by a certain proportion of the produce of the lands, though called sub-tenants. I observed, that if the men of substance were once banished from a Highland estate, it might probably be greatly reduced in its value; for one bad year might ruin a set of poor tenants, and men of any property would not settle in such a country, unless from the temptation of getting land extremely cheap; for an inhabitant of any good county in Britain had better go to America than to the Highlands or Hebrides. Here, therefore, was a consideration that ought to induce a chief to act a more liberal part, from a mere motive of interest, independent of the lofty and honourable principle of keeping a clan together, to be in readiness to serve his king. I added, that I could not help thinking a little arbitrary power in the sovereign, to control the bad policy and greediness of the chiefs, might sometimes be of service. In France, a chief would not be permitted to force a number of the king's subjects out of the country. Dr. Johnson concurred with me, observing, that were an oppressive chieftain a subject of the French king, he would probably be admonished by a letter." [Lettre de cachet.]


During our sail, Dr. Johnson asked about the use of the dirk, with

which in 1750 was only 3,500l., had " by an unnatural force" been doubled or trebled. Even then, however, the greatest rent in Skye was only 801., and the medium rate 301. or 401. The new rents do not appear to have been exorbitant, but the rise was too sudden, and the people unprepared to meet it. The country exhibited the remains of feudalism without its chivalry-a people unused to steady industry, and chiefs without power or riches. Cattle was the principal trade of the island; about 4000 being sold annually, at from 21. to 31. each. About 250 horses were sold. No sheep were kept but for home consumption, or for the wool to make clothes. The population of Skye in 1755 was 11,252; it is now nearly double, and is thus classed:-Proprietors, clergy, schoolmasters, professional men, &c., 77; shopkeepers and tradesmen, 380; farmers or tacksmen of more than thirty arable acres, 41; small tenants of less than thirty, and not less than eight arable acres, 184; crofters of less than eight arable acres, 1,888; cottars with no land and no regular trade, 1,765-total of individuals in Skye, in 1851, 22,532. The rental of the island is now nominally about 24,000l.; but the bulk of the people being small crofters or cottars, the potato-blight cut off their chief means of subsistence, and the arrears of rent are considerable. "Kelp, herring fishing, potatoes, and cattle, the chief sources of employment and subsistence, successively failed or declined, while the population continued to increase."-"Sir John M'Neill's Report." The great bar to the extension of arable cultivation in Skye and the other islands is the wet and stormy climate. The corn-market is now open to the competition of all the world, and the Hebridean farmer, retarded at every stage of his operations by heavy rains and stormy winds, would have no chance as a corn-grower with the genial nations of the south. Still it is believed that, by a judicious expenditure under the Drainage Act, the lands now in the possession of the small tenants might be made capable of producing a third or fourth more than they produce at present, and thus tend to avert those periodical famines which have so often scourged the Hebrides.-ED.


which he imagined the Highlanders cut their meat. He was told, they had a knife and fork besides, to eat with. He asked, how did the women do? and was answered, some of them had a knife and fork too; but in general the men, when they had cut their meat, handed their knives and forks to the women, and they themselves ate with their fingers. The old tutor of Macdonald always ate fish with his fingers, alleging that a knife and fork gave it a bad taste. I took the liberty to observe to Dr. Johnson, that he did so. "Yes," said he, "but it is because I am short-sighted, and afraid of bones, for which reason I am not fond of eating many kinds of fish, because I must use my fingers."

Dr. Macpherson's "Dissertations on Scottish Antiquities," which he had looked at when at Corrichatachin, being mentioned, he remarked, that "you might read half an hour, and ask yourself what you had been reading: there were so many words to so little matter, that there was no getting through the book."

As soon as we reached the shore, we took leave of Kingsburgh, and mounted our horses. We passed through a wild moor, in many places so soft that we were obliged to walk, which was very fatiguing to Dr. Johnson. Once he had advanced on horseback to a very bad step. There was a steep declivity on his left, to which he was so near, that there was not room for him to dismount in the usual way. He tried to alight on the other side, as if he had been a young buck indeed, but in the attempt he fell at his length upon the ground, from which, however, he got up immediately, without being hurt. During this dreary ride, we were sometimes relieved by a view of branches of the sea-that universal medium of connection amongst mankind. A guide, who had been sent with us from Kingsburgh, explored the way (much in the same manner as, I suppose, is pursued in the wilds of America), by observing certain marks, known only to the inhabitants. We arrived at Dunvegan late in the afternoon. The great size of the castle, which is partly old and partly new, and is built upon a rock close to the sea, while the land around it presents nothing but wild, moorish, hilly, and craggy appearances, gave a rude magnificence to the scene.* .* Having dismounted, we ascended

*The old storm-beaten castle of Dunvegan and its wild shore have been rendered classic ground by Johnson and Sir Walter Scott. The first rude tower which constituted the residence of the chief is said to date back as far as the ninth century. A second and higher tower was built by Alasteir Macleod, called Crotach, or the Humpbacked, who died in 1428. Rorie More, who was knighted by James VI., connected the towers by a low range of buildings, and almost every succeeding chief added something to the massive and venerable pile. The late and present Macleod were large contributors, adding comfort and elegance to the strength and picturesqueness which the castle always displayed. Its site was probably determined at first by the

a flight of steps, which was made by the late Macleod, for the accommodation of persons coming to him by land, there formerly being, for security, no other access to the castle but from the sea; so that visitors who came by the land were under the necessity of getting into a boat, and sailed round to the only place where it could be approached. We were introduced into a stately dining-room, and received by Lady Macleod, mother of the laird, who, with his friend Talisker, having been detained on the road, did not arrive till some time after us.

We found the lady of the house a very polite and sensible woman, who had lived for some time in London, and had there been in Dr.

[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors][subsumed][merged small]

Johnson's company. After we had dined, we repaired to the drawing-room, where some of the young ladies of the family, with their mother, were at tea. This room had formerly been the bed-chamber of Sir Roderick Macleod, one of the old lairds; and he chose it because behind it there was a considerable cascade, the sound of which disposed him to sleep. Above his bed was this inscription: "Sir Rorie Macleod of Dunvegan, Knight. GOD send good rest!" Rorie is the contraction of Roderick. He was called Rorie More, that is, great Rorie, not from his size, but from his spirit.-Our entertainment here was in so elegant a style, and reminded my fellow-traveller so harbour in front, and by a fine spring of water which rises on the top of the rock.


much of England, that he became quite joyous. He laughed, and said: "Boswell, we came in at the wrong end of this island."—" Sir,” said I, "it was best to keep this for the last."-He answered, "I would have it both first and last."


Dr. Johnson said in the morning, "Is not this a fine lady ?" There was not a word now of his impatience to be in civilised life;" though indeed I should beg pardon—he found it here. We had slept well, and lain long. After breakfast, we surveyed the castle and the garden. Mr. Bethune, the parish minister, Magnus Macleod, of Claggan, brother to Talisker, and Macleod, of Bay, two substantial gentlemen of the clan, dined with us. We had admirable venison, generous wine-in a word, all that a good table has. This was really the hall of a Chief. Lady Macleod had been much obliged to my father, who had settled by arbitration a variety of perplexed claims between her and her relation, the Laird of Brodie, which she now repaid by particular attention to me.*-Macleod started the subject of making women do penance in the church for fornication.-JOHNSON. "It is right, sir. Infamy is attached to the crime by universal opinion as soon as it is known. I would not be the man who would discover it, if I alone knew it, for a woman may reform; nor would I commend & person who divulges a woman's first offence; but being once divulged, it ought to be infamous. Consider of what importance to society the chastity of women is. Upon that all the property in the world depends. We hang a thief for stealing a sheep; but the unchastity of a woman transfers sheep, and farm, and all, from the right owner. I have much more reverence for a common prostitute than for a woman who conceals her guilt. The prostitute is known; she cannot deceive; she cannot bring a strumpet into the arms of an honest man, without his knowledge."-BOSWELL. "There is, however, a great difference between the licentiousness of a single woman and that of a married woman."-JOHNSON. "Yes, sir; there is a great difference between stealing a shilling and stealing a thousand pounds; between simply taking a man's purse, and murdering him first, and then taking it. But when one begins to be vicious, it is easy to go on. Where single women are licentious, you rarely find faithful married women."-BOSWELL. "And yet we are told that in some nations in India, the distinction is strictly observed.”—JOHNSON. Nay, don't give us India. That puts me in mind of Montesquieu,


*Mrs. Emilia Macleod, widow of John Macleod, of Macleod, was only daughter of Alexander Brodie, of Brodie, Lord Lyon of Scotland. She died at Bath in 1802.-ED.

« PreviousContinue »