Page images

on Prayer.' Dr. Johnson said, “The same arguments which are used against God's hearing prayer will serve against his rewarding good and punishing evil. He has resolved, he has declared, in the former case as in the latter." He had last night looked into Lord Hailes's "Remarks on the History of Scotland." Dr. Robertson and I said it was a pity Lord Hailes did not write greater things. His lordship had not then published his "Annals of Scotland."*-JOHNSON: “I remember I was once on a visit at the house of a lady for whom I had a high respect. There was a good deal of company in the room. When they were gone I said to this lady, 'What foolish talking have we had!' Yes,' said she, 'but while they talked, you said nothing.' I was struck with the reproof. How much better is the man who does anything that is innocent than he who does nothing! Besides, I love anecdotes. I fancy mankind may come, in time, to write all aphoristically, except in narrative; grow weary of preparation, and connexion, and illustration, and all those arts by which a big book is made. If a man is to wait till he weaves anecdotes into a system we may be long in getting them, and get but few in comparison of what we might get."

[ocr errors]

Dr. Robertson said the notions of Eupham Macallan, a fanatic woman, of whom Lord Hailes gives a sketch, were still prevalent among some of the Presbyterians, and therefore it was right in Lord Hailes, a man of known piety, to undeceive them.f

* Lord Hailes was a very voluminous writer, collector and annotator. His various publications, legal, historical, theological and antiquarian, were fifty or sixty in number, and range over a long period, from 1751 to 1790. Some of his professional treatises are esteemed highly valuable; but the best known of his works are his reply to Gibbon, and nis "Annals of Scotland." The former has been in a great measure superseded by the more vigorous and popular "Apology" of Dr. Watson, Bishop of Llandaff; but the "Annals" entitle Lord Hailes to be regarded as the father of authentic Scottish history. "He wrought upon his historical collections," Scott finely remarks, "like Ulysses upon his bark in the island of Calypso, to leave land upon his lonely voyage unanimated by any plaudits, and not expecting any when he should return; the whole object of his enterprise a search after truth, his only reward the mental satisfaction of having discovered it." The learned lord is said to have occasionally exhibited, both at the bar and on the bench, an undue attention to minutiæ; and Boswell's veneration for the judge did not prevent his glancing satirically at this failing. In the "Court of Session Garland,” a rhyming sketch of the Scottish bench about the year 1771, of which Boswell obtains the credit, this couplet appears:

"This cause,' cries Hailes, 'to judge I can't pretend,

For justice, I perceive, wants an e at the end.""

There was a Parliament-house joke that Lord Hailes had on one occasion seriously objected to a law-paper in which the word justice had been thus mis-spelt. In the composition of the "Garland" Boswell is said to have been assisted by Mr. Maclaurin; to use a Johnsonian phrase, there is a combination in it of which Boswell alone was hardly capable.--ED.

+ We have not been able to find any mention of this case in the lists of tracts by Lord Hailes, in the "Scots Magazine," or in the catalogue of the Abbotsford library.

We walked out that Dr. Johnson might see some of the things which we have to show at Edinburgh. We went to the Parliamenthouse, where the Parliament of Scotland sat, and where the ordinary

[graphic][merged small]

Lords of Session hold their courts; and to the New Session-house adjoining to it, where our Court of Fifteen (the fourteen Ordinaries, with the Lord President at their head) sit as a Court of Review. We went to the Advocates' Library, of which Dr. Johnson took a cursory view, and then to what is called the Laigh, or under Parliament-house, where the records of Scotland, which have a universal security by register, are deposited till the great Register Office be finished. I was pleased to behold Dr. Samuel Johnson rolling about in this old magazine of antiquities. There was by this time a pretty numerous circle of us attending upon him. Somebody talked of happy moments for composition; and how a man can write at one time and not at another. Nay," said Dr. Johnson, a man may write at any time, if he will set himself doggedly to it."


[ocr errors]

There is a Eupham Macallan, or Macalzean, well known in Scotch history, who was burned as a witch in 1591. She was a daughter of one of the judges, Lord Cliftonhall. Her case is recorded in Arnot's and Pitcairn's "Criminal Trials." The person referred to may be Mrs. Mitchelson, a woman who prophesied to the Covenanters in 1638, and drew immense crowds to hear her ravings, which even clergymen believed to be of divine origin. Boswell, we suspect, had confounded the reputed witch, whose name is uncommon, with the covenanting prophetess.-ED.

*This word is commonly used to signify sullenly, gloomily; and in that sense alone

I here began to indulge old Scottish sentiments, and to express a warm regret that by our union with England we were no more-our independent kingdom was lost.-JOHNSON: " Sir, never talk of your independency, who could let your queen remain twenty years in captivity, and then be put to death, without even a pretence of justice, without your ever attempting to rescue her; and such a queen, too, as every man of any gallantry of spirit would have sacrificed his life for."-Worthy Mr. JAMES KERR, Keeper of the Records: "Half

[graphic][merged small]

our nation was bribed by English money."-JOHNSON: "Sir, that is no defence; that makes you worse."-Good Mr. BROWN, Keeper of the Advocates' Library: "We had better say nothing about it."— BoswELL: "You would have been glad, however, to have had us last war, sir, to fight your battles."-JOHNSON: "We should have had you for the same price though there had been no Union, as we

it appears in Dr. Johnson's Dictionary. I suppose he meant by it, "with an obstinate resolution, similar to that of a sullen man."-BOSWELL.

No, no, I shall agree to a sepa-
Just as he had said this, 1, to

might have had Swiss or other troops. ration. You have only to go home." divert the subject, showed him the signed assurances of the three successive kings of the Hanover family to maintain the Presbyterian establishment in Scotland. "We'll give you that," said he, "into the bargain."

We next went to the great church of St. Giles, which has lost its original magnificence in the inside, by being divided into four places of Presbyterian worship. "Come," said Dr. Johnson jocularly to Principal Robertson,* "let me

see what was once a church!" We entered that division which was formerly called the "New Church," and of late the "High Church," so well known by the eloquence of Dr. Hugh Blair. It is now very elegantly fitted up, but it was then shamefully dirty. Dr. Johnson said nothing at the time, but when we came to the great door of the Royal Infirmary, where upon a board was this inscription, "Clean your feet!" he turned about slyly and said, "There is no occasion for putting this at the doors of your churches."

We then conducted him down the Post-house stairs, Parliament-close, and made him look up from the Cow-gate to the highest building in Edinburgh (from which he had just descended), being thirteen floors or storeys from the ground upon the back elevation; the front wall being built upon the edge of the hill, and the back wall


I have hitherto called him Dr. William Robertson, to distinguish him from Dr. James Robertson, who is soon to make his appearance. But Principal, from his being the head of our college, is his usual designation, and is shorter; so I shall use it hereafter.-Boswell.

[It is unnecessary to repeat the incidents of a life so uniform and so well known as

rising from the bottom of the hill several storeys before it comes to a level with the front wall. We proceeded to the College, with the Prin

cipal at our head. Dr. Adam Fergusson, whose "Essay on the History of Civil Society" gives him a respectable place in the ranks of literature, was with us.* As the College buildings are indeed very mean, the Principal said to Dr Johnson, that he must give them the same epithet that a Jesuit did when showing a poor college abroad: "Hæ miseriæ nostræ." Dr Johnson was, however, much pleased with the library, and with the conversation of Dr. James Robertson, professor of oriental languages, the librarian. We talked of Kennicot's edition of the Hebrew Bible, and hoped it would be quite faithful.-JOHNSON: "Sir, I know not any crime so great that a man could contrive to commit, as poisoning the sources of eternal truth."



I pointed out to him where there formerly stood an old wall inclosing part of the college, which I remember bulged out in a threatening manner, and of which there was a common tradition similar to that concerning Bacon's study at Oxford, that it would fall upon some very learned man. It had some time before this been taken down, that the street might be widened, and a more convenient wall built. Dr. Johnson, glad of an opportunity to have a pleasant hit at Scottish learning, said, "They were afraid it never would fall."

We showed him the Royal Infirmary, for which, and for every other exertion of generous public spirit in his power, that nobleminded citizen of Edinburgh, George Drummond, will be ever held

that of Robertson. He retained his honours to the age of seventy-one, dying, June 11th, 1793. His friend Dr. Blair attained to the age of eighty-three, and died, December 27th, 1800.-ED.]

* Dr. Adam Fergusson outlived all the members of that brilliant circle of Scottis literati with whom he was connected. "He recovered," says Scott, "from a decided shock of paralysis in the sixtieth year of his life; from which period he became a strict Pythagorean in his diet, eating nothing but vegetables, and drinking only water or milk. He survived till the year 1816, when he died in full possession of his mental faculties at the advanced age of ninety-three."-ED.

« PreviousContinue »