« PreviousContinue »
served he made some geometrical notes in the end of his pocket-book. I read a little of Young's "Six Weeks' Tour through the Southern Counties," and Ovid's " Epistles," which I had bought at Inverness, and which helped to solace many a weary hour.
We were to have gone with Dr. Johnson this morning to see the mine; but were prevented by the storm. While it was raging, he said, "We may be glad we are not damnati ad metalla."
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 8.
Dr. Johnson appeared to-day very weary of our present confined situation. He said, "I want to be on the main-land, and go on with existence. This is a waste of life." *
I shall here insert, without regard to chronology, some of his conversation at different times.
"There was a man some time ago, who was well received for two years among the gentlemen of Northamptonshire, by calling himself my brother. At last he grew so impudent, as by his influence to get tenants turned out of their farms. Allen, the printer, who is of that county, came to me, asking, with much appearance of doubtfulness, if I had a brother; and upon being assured I had none alive, he told me of the imposition, and immediately wrote to the country, and the fellow was dismissed. It pleased me to hear that so much was got by using my name. It is not every name that can carry double-do both for a man's self and his brother (laughing). I should be glad to see the fellow. However, I could have done nothing against him. A man can have no redress for his name being used, or ridiculous stories being told of him in the newspapers, except he can show that he has suffered damage.-Some years ago, a foolish piece was published, said to be written by S. Johnson. Some of my friends wanted me to be very angry about this. I said, it would be in vain; for the answer would be, S. Johnson may be Simon Johnson, or Simeon Johnson, or Solomon Johnson;' and even if the full name, Samuel Johnson, had been used, it might be said: 'It is not you; it is a much cleverer fellow.'
“Beauclerk and I, and Langton, and Lady Sydney Beauclerk, mother to our friend, were one day driving in a coach by Cuper's
* Johnson's detention in Coll had apparently been talked of; for Pennant, in his "Second Tour in Scotland," published in 1774, before Johnson's "Journey" appeared, thus sarcastically alludes to it:-" Separated from Tirey by a small sound is the Isle of Coll, still more celebrated for being the place where Dr. Samuel Johnson had long and woeful experience of oats being the food of man in Scotland, as they are of horses in England." Johnson did not pass this over in his "Journey." He remarks:-" We were at Coll, under the protection of the young laird, without any of the distresses which Mr. Pennant, in a fit of simple credulity, seems to think almost worthy of an elegy by Ossian."-ED.
Gardens, which were then unoccupied.* I, in sport, proposed that Beauclerk, and Langton, and myself should take them; and we amused ourselves with scheming how we should all do our parts. Lady Sydney grew angry, and said, 'An old man should not put such things in young people's heads.' She had no notion of a joke, sir had come late into life; and had a mighty unpliable understanding. 66 'Carte's 'Life of the Duke of Ormond' is considered as a book of authority; but it is ill-written. The matter is diffused in too many words; there is no animation, no compression, no vigour. Two good volumes in duodecimo might be made out of the two in folio."
Talking of our confinement here, I observed, that our discontent and impatience could not be considered as very unreasonable; for that we were just in the state of which Seneca complains so grievously, while in exile in Corsica. “Yes, (said Dr. Johnson,) and he was not further from home than we are." The truth is, he was much nearer.†
There was a good deal of rain to-day, and the wind was still contrary. Corneck attended me, while I amused myself in examining a collection of papers belonging to the family of Col. The first laird was a younger son of the Chieftain Maclean, and got the middle part of Col for his patrimony. Dr. Johnson having given a very particular account of the connection between this family and a branch of the family of Camerons, called M'Lonich, I shall only insert the following document (which I found in Col's cabinet), as a proof of its continuance, even to a late period:
TO THE LAIRD OF COL.
DEAR SIR,-The long-standing tract of firm affectionate friendship 'twixt your worthy predecessors and ours affords us such assurance, as that we may have full relyance on your favour and undoubted friendship, in recommending the bearer, Ewen Cameron, our cousin, son to the deceast Dugall M'Connill of Innermaillie, sometime in Glenpean, to your favour and conduct, who is a man of undoubted honesty and dis
• A place once noted for its fireworks, subsequently for the great resort of the profligate of both sexes, and so called after Boyder Cuper, a gardener in the family of Thomas, Earl of Arundel. Cuper's Gardens were suppressed as a place of public diversion, in 1753. The present Waterloo Bridge-road runs through the very centre of these gardens. (Cunningham's Handbook for London.)-ED.
† Boswell had previously, in his "History of Corsica," quoted the epigrams of Seneca, in which the philosopher complains of the sea-girt rocks and deserts of his place of exile. But the travellers temporarily detained in the Isle of Coll were no "just in the state" of Seneca, who was banished from Rome, and kept in exile about eight years! It was better to be at the mercy of the elements for a day or two in Coll's house than at the mercy of Claudius in Corsica, though the latter did happen to be "much nearer home." The stoic, however, recovered his serenity, "happy in the midst of those things which usually make other people miserable," and he wrote his "Books of Consolation" in Corsica. Seneca's ruined tower at Capo Corso used to be shown to strangers, but a modern structure has eclipsed it in interest and fame-the patrimonial house of Napoleon at Ajaccio.-ED.
cretion, only that he has the misfortune of being alledged to have been accessory to the killing of one of M'Martin's family about fourteen years ago, upon which alledgeance the M'Martins are now so sanguine on revenging, that they are fully resolved for the deprivation of his life; to the preventing of which you are relyed on by us, as the only fit instrument, and a most capable person. Therefore your favour and protection is expected and intreated, during his good behaviour; and failing of which behaviour you'll please to use him as a most insignificant person deserves.
Sir, he had, upon the alledgeance aforesaid, been transported, at Lochiel's desire, to France, to gratify the M'Martins, and upon his return home, about five years ago, married: But now he is so much threatened by the M'Martins, that he is not secure enough to stay where he is, being Ardmurchan, which occasions this trouble to you. Wishing prosperity and happiness to attend still yourself, worthy lady, and good family, we are, in the most affectionate manner,
Your most obliged affectionate, and most humble servants,
DUGALL CAMERON, of Strone.
DUGALL CAMERON, of Barr.
DUGALL CAMERON, of Inveriskvoulline.
Strone, 11th March, 1737.
Ewen Cameron was protected, and his son has now a farm from the Laird of Col, in Mull.
The family of Col was very loyal in the time of the great Montrose, from whom I found two letters in his own hand-writing. The first is as follows:
FOR MY VERY LOVING FRIEND THE LAIRD OF COALL.
SIR,-I must heartily thank you for all your willingness and good affection to his Majesty's service, and particularly the sending alongs of your son, to who I will heave ane particular respect, hopeing also that you will still continue ane goode instrument for the advanceing ther of the King's service, for which, and all your former loyal carriages, be confident you shall find the effects of his Ma.'s favour, as they can be witnessed you by Your very faithful friende,
Strethearne, 20th Jan., 1646.
The other is
FOR THE LAIRD OF COL.
SIR,-Having occasion to write to your fields, I cannot be forgetful of your willingness and good affection to his Majesty's service. I acknowledge to you, and thank you heartily for it, assuring, that in what lies in my power, you shall find the good. Meanwhile, I shall expect that you will continue your loyal endeavours, in wishing those slack people that are about you to appear more obedient than they do, and loyal in their prince's service; whereby I assure you, you shall find me ever Your faithful friend,
Petty, 17th April, 1646.
It is observable that men of the first rank spelt very ill in the last century. In the first of these letters I have preserved the original spelling.-BOSWELL.
I found some uncouth lines on the death of the present laird's father, intituled, "Nature's Elegy upon the Death of Donald Maclean, of Col." They are not worth insertion. I shall only give what is called his Epitaph, which Dr. Johnson said "was not so very bad." "Nature's minion, Virtue's wonder,
Art's corrective here lyes under."
I asked what "Art's corrective" meant.-" Why, sir," said he, "that the laird was so exquisite, that he set art right, when she was wrong."
I found several letters to the late Col, from my father's old companion at Paris, Sir Hector Maclean, one of which was written at the time of settling the colony in Georgia. It dissuades Col from letting people go there, and assures him there will soon be an opportunity of employing them better at home. Hence it appears that emigration from the Highlands, though not in such numbers at a time as of ate, has always been practised. Dr. Johnson observed, that "the lairds, instead of improving their country, diminished their people." There are several districts of sandy desert in Col. There are fortyeight lochs of fresh water; but many of them are very small,―mere pools. About one-half of them, however, have trout and eel. There is a great number of horses in the island, mostly of a small size. Being overstocked, they sell some in Tir-yi, and on the main-land. Their black cattle, which are chiefly rough-haired, are reckoned remarkably good. The climate being very mild in winter, they never put their beasts into any house. The lakes are never frozen so as to bear a man; and snow never lies above a few hours. They have a good many sheep, which they eat mostly themselves, and sell but a few. They have goats in several places. There are no foxes; no serpents, toads, or frogs, nor any venomous creature. They have otters and mice here; but had no rats till lately that an American vessel brought them. There is a rabbit-warren on the north-east of the island, belonging to the Duke of Argyl. Young Col intends to get some hares, of which there are none at present.* There are no black-cock, muirfowl, nor partridges; but there are snipe, wild-duck, wild-geese, and swans, in winter; wild-pigeons, plover, and great number of starlings, of which I shot some, and found them pretty good eating. Woodcocks come hither, though there is not a tree upon the island. There are no rivers in Col, but only some brooks, in which there is a great variety of fish. In the whole isle there are but three hills, and none
Hares were not introduced till about 1820. The island abounds with rabbits, and it still enjoys its exemption from venomous reptiles. The cattle reared in Coll are considered of a superior quality, and about two hundred are annually exported to the south. ED.
of them considerable for a Highland country. The people are very industrious; every man can tan. They get oak, and birch-bark, and lime from the main-land. Some have pits, but they commonly use tubs. I saw brogues very well tanned; and every man can make them. They all make candles of the tallow of their beasts, both moulded and dipped; and they all make oil of the livers of fish. The little fish called cuddies produce a great deal. They sell some oil out of the island, and they use it much for light in their houses, in little iron lamps, most of which they have from England; but of late their own blacksmith makes them. He is a good workman; but he has no employment in shoeing horses, for they all go unshod here, except some of a better kind belonging to young Col, which were now in Mull. There are two carpenters in Col; but most of the inhabitants can do something as boat-carpenters. They can all dye. Heath is used for yellow; and for red, a moss which grows on stones. They make broad-cloth, and tartan, and linen, of their own wool and flax, sufficient for their own use; as also stockings. Their bonnets come from the main-land. Hardware and several small articles are brought annually from Greenock, and sold in the only shop in the island, which is kept near the house, or rather hut, used for public worship, there being no church in the island.* The inhabitants of Col have increased considerably within these thirty years, as appears from the parish-registers. There are but three considerable tacksmen on Col's part of the island; the rest is let to small tenants, some of whom pay so low a rent as four, three, or even two guineas.† The highest is seven pounds, paid by a farmer, whose son goes yearly on foot to Aberdeen for education, and in summer returns, and acts as a schoolmaster in Col. Dr. Johnson said, "There is something noble in a young man's walking two hundred miles and back again every year, for the sake of learning.”‡
This day a number of people came to Col, with complaints of each others' trespasses. Corneck, to prevent their being troublesome, told them that the lawyer from Edinburgh was here, and if they did not
A church has subsequently been erected.-ED.
In 1847, when measures were taken for the relief of the destitute districts in the Highlands, it was found that the population of Coll was 1440; of these 100 tenants paid rent; there were 90 cottars and 50 paupers. Much has been done in the reclamation of waste land. The islanders also prosecute fishing, but on a very limited scale. -ED.
The student alluded to, Mr. Maclean, afterwards became minister of the parish of Small Isles in the Hebrides. Shortly after his return to England, Johnson kindly sent Mr. Maclean a copy of his Dictionary, addressed to him in the author's handwriting. The book is still carefully preserved. Mr. Maclean had two sons, both of whom are ministers in the church of Scotland.-ED.