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agree, he would take them to task. They were alarmed at this; said they had never been used to go to law, and hoped Col would settle matters himself. In the evening Corneck left us.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 9. As, in our present confinement, anything that had even the name of curious was an object of attention, I proposed that Col should show me the great stone mentioned in a former page as having been thrown by a giant to the top of a mountain. Dr. Johnson, who did not like to be left alone, said he would accompany us as far as riding was practicable. We ascended a part of the hill on horseback, and Col and I scrambled up the rest. A servant led our horses, and Dr. Johnson placed himself on the ground, with his back against a large fragment of rock. The wind being high, he let down the cocks of his hat, and tied it with his handkerchief under his chin.
While we were employed in examining the stone, which did not repay our trouble in getting to it, he amused himself with reading “ Gataker on Lots, and on the Christian Watch,” a very learned book of the last age [published in 1616), which had been found in the garret of Col's house, and which he said was a treasure here. When we descried him from above, he had a most eremitical appearance; and on our return, told us he had been so much engaged by Gataker, that he had never missed us. His avidity for variety of books, while we were in Col, was frequently expressed; and he often complained that so few were within his reach. Upon which I observed to him, that it was strange he should complain of want of books, when he could at any time make such good ones.
We next proceeded to the lead-mine. In our way, we came to a strand of some extent, where we were glad to take a gallop, in which my learned friend joined with great alacrity. Dr. Johnson, mounted on a large bay mare without shoes, and followed by a foal, which had some difficulty in keeping up with him, was a singular spectacle.
After examining the mine, we returned through a very uncouth district, full of sand-hills, down which, though apparent precipices, our horses carried us with safety, the sand always gently sliding away from their feet. Vestiges of houses were pointed out to us, which Col, and two others who had joined us, asserted had been overwhelmed with sand blown over them. But, on going close to one of them, Dr. Johnson showed the absurdity of the notion, by remarking, that "it was evidently only a house abandoned, the stones of which had been taken away for other purposes ; for the large stones, which form the lower part of the walls, were still standing higher than the sand. If they were not blown over, it was clear nothing higher than they
could be blown over.” This was quite convincing to me; but it made not the least impression on Col and the others, who were not to be argued out of a Highland tradition.
We did not sit down to dinner till between six and seven. lived plentifully here, and had a true welcome. In such a season, good firing was of no small importance. The peats were excellent, and burned cheerfully. Those at Dunvegan, which were damp, Dr. Johnson called “a sallen fuel.” Here a Scottish phrase was singularly applied to him. One of the company having remarked that he had gone out on a stormy evening, and brought in a supply of peats from the stack, old Mr. Macsweyn said, “ That was main honest!"
Blenheim being occasionally mentioned, he told me he had never seen it: he had not gone formerly, and he would not go now, just as a common spectator, for his money: he would not put it in the power of some man about the Duke of Marlborough to say,
66 Johnson was here; I knew him, but I took no notice of him.” He said he should be very glad to see it, if properly invited, which, in all probability, would never be the case, as it was not worth his while to seek for it. I observed, that he might be easily introduced there by a common friend of ours, nearly related to the duke. He answered, with an uncommon attention to delicacy of feeling, “I doubt whether our friend be on such a footing with the duke as to carry any body there; and I would not give him the uneasiness of seeing that I knew he was not, or even of being himself reminded of it."*
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 10. There was this day the most terrible storm of wind and rain that I ever remember. It made such an awful impression on us all, as to produce, for some time, a kind of dismal quietness in the house. The day was passed without much conversation : only, upon my observing that there must be something bad in a man's mind who does not like to give leases to his tenants, but wishes to keep them in a perpetual wretched dependence on his will, Dr. Johnson said, “ You are right: it is a man's duty to extend comfort and security among as many people as he can. He should not wish to have his tenants mere Ephemera-mere beings of an hour.”—BOSWELL: “But, sir, if they
* Topham Beauclerk, the common friend of Johnson and Boswell, was married to the Duke of Marlborough's sister, after her divorce from Lord Bolingbroke. The duke would not be inclined, as Johnson surmised, to relish an introduction from such a source. Johnson, however, visited Blenheim in the course of his tour to Wales with Mr., Mrs., and Miss Thrale, in the summer of 1774. In his notes of this tour, first published by Mr. Duppa, in 1816, Johnson says, “ We saw Blenheim and Woodstock Park. The park contains 2,500 acres-about four square miles ; it has red deer. Mr. Bryant showed me the library with great civility."—ED.
have leases, is there not some danger that they may grow insolent? I remember you yourself once told me, an English tenant was so independent, that, if provoked, he would throw his rent at his landlord.”—JOHNSON: “Depend upon it, sir, it is the landlord's own fault if it is thrown at him. A man may always keep his tenants in dependence enough, though they have leases. He must be a good tenant, indeed, who will not fall behind in his rent, if his landlord will let him; and, if he does fall behind, his landlord has him at his mercy. Indeed, the poor man is always much at the mercy of the rich, no matter whether landlord or tenant. If the tenant lets his landlord have a little rent before-hand, or has lent him money, then the landlord is in his power. There cannot be a greater man than a tenant who has lent money to his landlord; for he has under subjection the very man to whom he should be subjected.”
MONDAY, OCTOBER 11. We had some days ago engaged the Campbelltown vessel to carry us to Mull, from the harbour where she lay. The morning was fine, and the wind fair and moderate; so we hoped at length to get away.
Mrs. Macsweyn, who officiated as our landlady here, had never been on the main-land. On hearing this, Dr. Johnson said to me, before her, “ That is rather being behind-hand with life. I would at least go and see Glenelg.”—BOSWELL: “ You yourself, sir, have never seen anything but your native island.”—JOHNSON : “But, sir, by seeing London, I have seen as much of life as the world can shew.”BOSWELL: “ You have not seen Pekin.”—JOHNSON: “ What is Pekin? Ten thousand Londoners would drive all the people of Pekin: they would drive them like deer.”
We set out about eleven for the harbour; but, before we reached it, so violent a storm came on, that we were obliged again to take shelter in the house of Captain Maclean, where we dined, and passed the night.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 12. After breakfast, we made a second attempt to get to the harbour; but another storm soon convinced us that it would be in vain. Captain Maclean's house being in some confusion, on account of Mrs. Maclean being expected to lie-in, we resolved to go to Mr. Macsweyn's, where we arrived very wet, fatigued, and hungry. In this situation, we were somewhat disconcerted by being told that we should have no dinner till late in the evening, but should have tea in the meantime. Dr. Johnson opposed this arrangement; but they persisted, and he took the tea very readily. He said to me afterwards, “ You must
consider, sir, a dinner here is a matter of great consequence. It is a thing to be first planned and then executed. I suppose the mutton was brought some miles off, from some place where they knew there was a sheep killed."
Talking of the good people with whom we were, he said, "Life has not got at all forward by a generation in Macsweyn's family; for the son is exactly formed upon the father. What the father says, the son says; and what the father looks, the son looks."
There being little conversation to-night, I must endeavour to recollect what I may have omitted on former occasions. When I boasted at Rasay, of my independency of spirit, and that I could not be bribed he said, "Yes, you may be bribed by flattery." At the Reverend Mr. Maclean's, Dr. Johnson asked him if the people of Col had any superstitions. He said, "No." The cutting peats at the increase of the moon was mentioned as one; but he would not allow it, saying, it was not a superstition, but a whim. Dr. Johnson would not admit the distinction. There were many superstitions, he maintained, not connected with religion; and this was one of them. On Monday we had a dispute at the Captain's, whether sand-hills could be fixed down by art. Dr. Johnson said, "How the devil can you do it?"* but instantly corrected himself, "How can you do it? I never before heard him use a phrase of that nature.
He has particularities which it is impossible to explain. He never
* It is successfully done in the Hebrides, on parts of the English and Welsh coasts. and in Holland, by sowing grasses. Along the western shores of the outer range of the Hebrides, there are large accumulations of shell or calcareous sand, thrown up by the sea and drifted inwards by the wind, which generally blows from the west. This sand-drift did great damage to the more inland portions of the low adjacent grounds, especially in the islands of Harris, North and South Uist, and Barra, until, about thirty years since, a successful mode of treating the evil was practised by Dr. A. Macleod, now of Portree. This consisted in levelling down the steep broken faces of the sandhills (always looking west or seaward), to a more gentle slope, and then covering the slope with turf or sod cut off the leeward or unbroken part of the sand-bank. By this means the indigenous grasses, as sand-bent (arundo arenaria), wheat grass (triticum junceum), bed straw (galium verum), and others, thus transferred in the sod from one portion of their native sand to the other, immediately took root and spread; while the roots left in the ground where the sods were cut soon shot up and covered the spot with its usual verdure. Such, indeed, is the aptitude of the native roots to creep and vegetate, that where the green turf is scarce it is not necessary to cover the slope entirely with sods, but at distances of from twelve to eighteen inches apart. In cases where there are tracts of flat sands utterly devoid of vegetation, and green turf cannot be procured, bent-grass is sown in tufts, as seedling fir-trees are planted, within a yard or so of each other; and this, in a few years, is found sufficient to arrest the drift, and cover the sandy desert with a luxuriant crop of green bent, which is now found to be a good wintering for sheep. The Highlanders call this species of improvement curing the machar-banks"-machar being a Gaelic word, synonymous with links in the Lowlands of Scotland, or downs in England. In Pembrokeshire the sea-sedge (carex arenaria) is sown on the drifting sandy downs, and effectually answers the purpose of binding them and covering the ground with a close vegetable sward.-ED.
wears a night-cap, as I have already mentioned; but he puts a handkerchief on his head in the night. The day that we left Talisker, he bade us ride on. He then turned the head of his horse back towards Talisker, stopped for some time, then wheeled round to the same direction with ours, and then came briskly after us.
He sets open a window in the coldest day or night, and stands before it. It may do with his constitution; but most people, amongst whom I am one, would say, with the frogs in the fable, “ This may be sport to you, but it is death to us." It is in vain to try to find a meaning in every one of his particularities, which, I suppose, are mere habits, contracted
I by chance, of which every man has some that are more or less remarkable. His speaking to himself, or rather repeating, is a common habit with studious men accustomed to deep thinking; and, in consequence of their being thus rapt, they will even laugh by themselves, if the subject which they are musing on is a merry one. Dr. Johnson is often uttering pious ejaculations, when he appears to be talking to himself; for sometimes his voice grows stronger, and parts of the Lord's Prayer are heard. I have sat beside him with more than ordinary reverence on such occasions.*
In our Tour, I observed that he was disgusted whenever he met with coarse manners. He said to me," I know not how it is, but I cannot bear low life; and I find others, who have as good a right as I to be fastidious, bear it better, by having mixed more with different sorts of men. You would think that I have mixed pretty well too."
He read this day a good deal of my Journal, written in a small book with which he had supplied me, and was pleased, for he said, “ I wish thy books were twice as big." He helped me to fill up blanks which I had left in first writing it, when I was not quite sure of what he had said, and he corrected any mistakes that I had made. “They call me a scholar, (said he,) and yet how very little literature is there in my conversation.”-BOSWELL: “That, sir, must be according to your company. You would not give literature to those who cannot taste it. Stay till we meet Lord Elibank.”
We had at last a good dinner, or rather supper, and were very well satisfied with our entertainment.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 13. Col called me up, with intelligence that it was a good day for a passage to Mull; and, just as we rose, a sailor from the vessel arrived
* It is remarkable that Dr. Johnson should have read this account of some of his own peculiar habits without saying anything on the subject, which I hoped he would have done.-Boswell. (The late Mrs. Mackinnon, Corrichatachin, used to relate that Johnson washed his handkerchiefs himself in his bed-room, and hung them over the chairs to dry.--Ed.)