Page images

for us. We got all ready with dispatch. Dr. Johnson was displeased at my bustling, and walking quickly up and down, he said, "It does not hasten us a bit. It is getting on horseback in a ship. All boys do it? and you are longer a boy than others." He himself has no alertness, or whatever it may be called; so he may dislike it, as Oderunt hilarem tristes. [Morose men hate the cheerful.]

Before we reached the harbour, the wind grew high again. However, the small boat was waiting and took us on board We remained for some time in uncertainty what to do: at last it was determined, that, as a good part of the day was over, and it was dangerous to be at sea at night in such a vessel and such weather, we should not sail till the morning tide, when the wind would probably be more gentle. We resolved not to go ashore again, but lie here in readiness. Dr. Johnson and I had each a bed in the cabin. Col sat at the fire in the forecastle, with the captain, and Joseph, and the rest. I eat some dry oatmeal, of which I found a barrel in the cabin. I had not done this since I was a boy. Dr. Johnson owned that he too was fond of it when a boy-a circumstance which I was highly pleased to hear from him, as it gave me an opportunity of observing that, notwithstanding his joke on the article of OATS, he was himself a proof that this kind of food was not peculiar to the people of Scotland.


When Dr. Johnson awaked this morning, he called, "Lanky!" having, I suppose, been thinking of Langton; but corrected himself instantly, and cried "Bozzy!" He has a way of contracting the names of his friends. Goldsmith feels himself so important now as to be displeased at it. I remember one day, when Tom Davies was telling that Dr. Johnson said, "We are all in labour for a name to Goldy's play," Goldsmith cried, "I have often desired him not to call me Goldy.”

Between six and seven we hauled our anchor, and set sail with a fair breeze; and, after a pleasant voyage, we got safely and agreeably into the harbour of Tobermorie before the wind rose, which it always has done, for some days, about noon.

Tobermorie is an excellent harbour. An island lies before it, and it is surrounded by a hilly theatre. The island is too low, otherwise this would be quite a secure port; but, the island not being a sufficient protection, some storms blow very hard here. Not long ago, fifteen vessels were blown from their moorings. There are sometimes sixty or seventy sail here: to-day there were twelve or fourteen vessels. To see such a fleet was the next thing to seeing a town.* The vessels

* There is now a prosperous little town at Tobermory. The population in 1841 was 1,390; in 1851, 1,542.-ED.

were from different places - Clyde, Campbelltown, Newcastle, &c.
One was returning to Lancaster from Hamburgh. After having been
shut up so long in Col, the sight of such an assemblage of moving
habitations, containing such a variety of people, engaged in different
pursuits, gave me much gaiety of spirit. When we had landed, Dr.
Johnson said, "Boswell is now all alive. He is like Antæus; he gets
new vigour whenever he touches the ground." I went to the top of
a hill fronting the harbour, from whence I had a good view of it. We
had here a tolerable inn. Dr. Johnson had owned to me this morning,
that he was out of humour. Indeed, he showed it a good deal in the
ship; for, when I was expressing my joy on the prospect of our
landing in Mull, he said, he had no joy, when he recollected that it
would be five days before he should get to the main-land.
afraid he would now take a sudden resolution to give up seeing
Icolmkill. A dish of tea, and some good bread and butter, did him
service, and his bad humour went off. I told him, that I was diverted
to hear all the people whom he had visited in our Tour say,
man! he's pleased with every thing; he's always content!"-
do they know," said I. He laughed, and said, “You rogue!"

I was


We sent to hire horses to carry us across the island of Mull to the shore opposite to Inchkenneth, the residence of Sir Allan Maclean, uncle to young Col, and Chief of the Macleans, to whose house we intended to go the next day. Our friend Col went to visit his aunt, the wife of Dr. Alexander Maclean, a physician, who lives about a mile from Tobermorie.

Dr. Johnson and I sat by ourselves at the inn, and talked a good deal. I told him, that I had found, in Leandro Alberti's Description of Italy, much of what Addison has given us in his "Remarks.”* He said, "The collection of passages from the Classics has been made by another Italian; it is, however, impossible to detect a man as a plagiary in such a case, because all who set about making such a collection must find the same passages; but, if you find the same applications in another book, then Addison's learning in his "Remarks" tumbles down. It is a tedious book; and if it were not attached to Addison's previous reputation, one would not think much of it. Had he written nothing else, his name would not have lived. Addison does not

*It is still read with pleasure. The style is pure and flowing, the classical quotations and allusions are numerous and happy, and we are now and then charmed by that singularly humane and delicate humour in which Addison excelled all men. Yet this agreeable work, even when considered merely as the history of a literary tour, may justly be censured on account of its faults of omission. Though rich in extracts from the Latin poets it contains scarcely any references to the Latin orators and historians. We must add that it contains little, or rather no information respecting the history and literature of Modern Italy. ("Macaulay's Essays," ed. 1850, p. 698.)-ED.


seem to have gone deep in Italian literature: he shows nothing of it in his subsequent writings. He shows a great deal of French learning. There is, perhaps, more knowledge circulated in the French language than in any other. There is more original knowledge in English."- "But the French," said I, " have the art of accommodating literature."-JOHNSON: "Yes, sir; we have no such book as Moreri's Dictionary."-BOSWELL: "Their Ana are good."—JOHNSON: “A few of them are good; but we have one book of that kind better than any of them-Selden's Table Talk.' As to original literature, the French have a couple of tragic poets who go round the world, Racine and Corneille, and one comic poet, Moliere.”—BoswELL : "They have Fenelon."-JOHNSON: "Why, sir, "Telemachus' is pretty well."-BOSWELL: "And Voltaire, sir."-JOHNSON: "He has not stood his trial yet. And what makes Voltaire chiefly circulate, is collection; such as his 'Universal History.'"-BoSWELL: "What do you say to the Bishop of Meaux ?"-JOHNSON: "Sir, nobody reads him."* He would not allow Massillon and Bordaloue to go round the world. In general, however, he gave the French much praise for their industry.

He asked me whether he had mentioned, in any of the papers of the "Rambler," the description in Virgil of the entrance into Hell, with an application to the press; "for," said he, "I do not much remember them." I told him, "No." Upon which he repeated it :"Vestibulum ante ipsum, primisque in faucibus Orci, Luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae;

Pallentesque habitant Morbi, tristisque Senectus,
Et Metus, et malesuada Fames, et turpis Egestas,
Terribiles visu formæ ; Lethumque, Laborque." +

"Now," said he, "almost all these apply exactly to an author, all these are the concomitants of a printing-house." I proposed to him to dictate an essay on it, and offered to write it. would not do it then, but perhaps would write one at period.

He said, he some future

The Sunday evening that we sat by ourselves at Aberdeen, I asked him several particulars of his life, from his early years, which he readily told me; and I wrote them down before him. This day

* I take leave to enter my strongest protest against this judgment. Bossuet I hold to be one of the first luminaries of religion and literature. If there are who do not read him, it is full time they should begin.-BOSWELL.

+"Just in the gate, and in the jaws of hell,
Revengeful Cares, and sullen Sorrows dwell;
And pale Diseases, and repining Age;

Want, Fear, and Famine's unresisted rage;

Here Toils and Death, and Death's half-brother, Sleep,
Forms terrible to view, their sentry keep."-DRYDEN.

I proceeded in my inquiries, also writing them in his presence. I have them on detached sheets. I shall collect authentic materials for THE LIFE OF SAMUEL JOHNSON, LL.D.; and, if I survive him, I shall be one who will most faithfully do honour to his memory. I have now a vast treasure of his conversation, at different times, since the year 1762, when I first obtained his acquaintance; and, by assiduous inquiry, I can make up for not knowing him sooner.*

A Newcastle ship-master, who happened to be in the house, intruded himself upon us. He was much in liquor, and talked nonsense about his being a man for Wilkes and Liberty, and against the ministry. Dr. Johnson was angry, "that a fellow should come into our company, who was fit for no company." He left us soon.

Col returned from his aunt, and told us, she insisted that we should come to her house that night. He introduced to us Mr. Campbell, the Duke of Argyle's factor in Tyr-yi. He was a genteel, agreeable man. He was going to Inverary, and promised to put letters into the post-office for us. I now found that Dr. Johnson's desire to get on the main-land, arose from his anxiety to have an opportunity of conveying letters to his friends.

After dinner we proceeded to Dr. Maclean's, which was about a mile from our inn. He was not at home, but we were received by his lady and daughter, who entertained us so well, that Dr. Johnson seemed quite happy. When we had supped, he asked me to give him some paper to write letters. I begged he would write short ones, and not expatiate, as we ought to set off early. He was irritated by this, and said, “What must be done, must be done: the thing is past a joke.”—“ Nay, sir,” said I, “write as much as you please; but do not blame me, if we are kept six days before we get to the main-land. You were very impatient in the morning; but no sooner do you find yourself in good quarters, than you forget that you are to move." I got him paper enough, and we parted in good humour.

Let me now recollect whatever particulars I have omitted.—In the morning I said to him, before we landed at Tobermorie, "We shall see Dr. Maclean, who has written the history of the Macleans."+

* It is no small satisfaction to me to reflect, that Dr. Johnson read this, and, after being apprised of my intention, communicated to me, at subsequent periods, many particulars of his life, which probably could not otherwise have been preserved.— BOSWELL.

+ Dr. Maclean in his history thus mentions his own descent: "Lauchlan Maclean, of Grulin, was married to Janet, daughter of John Macleod, of Cantulick, tutor of Macleod, and Isobel, daughter of Sir Kenneth Mackenzie, of Scatwell, by whom he had Hector, married to Catherine, only daughter of Donald Maclean, of Coll." Dr. Hector Maclean lived at the farm of Erray, near Tobermory. He died about 1785, and after his death his widow resided with her nephew, the Laird of Coll, young Coll's brother.-ED.

-JOHNSON: "I have no great patience to stay to hear the history of the Macleans. I would rather hear the history of the Thrales."When on Mull, I said, "Well, sir, this is the fourth of the Hebrides that we have been upon."-JOHNSON: "Nay, we cannot boast of the number we have seen. We thought we should see many more. We thought of sailing about easily from island to island; and so we should, had we come at a better season; but we, being wise men, thought it would be summer all the year, where we were. However, sir, we have seen enough to give us a pretty good notion of the system of insular life."

Let me not forget, that he sometimes amused himself with very slight reading; from which, however, his conversation showed that he contrived to extract some benefit. At Captain Maclean's he read a good deal in "The Charmer," a collection of songs.


We this morning found that we could not proceed, there being a violent storm of wind and rain, and the rivers being impassable. When I expressed my discontent at our confinement, Dr. Johnson said, "Now that I have had an opportunity of writing to the mainland, I am in no such haste." I was amused with his being so easily satisfied; for the truth was, that the gentleman who was to convey our letters, as I was now informed, was not to set out for Inverary for some time; so that it was probable we should be there as soon as he: however, I did not undeceive my friend, but suffered him to enjoy his fancy.

Dr. Johnson asked, in the evening, to see Dr. Maclean's books. He took down Willis de Anima Brutorum, and pored over it a good deal.

Miss Maclean produced some Erse poems by John Maclean, who was a famous bard in Mull, and had died only a few years ago. He could neither read nor write. She read and translated two of them: one, a kind of elegy on Sir John Maclean's being obliged to fly his country in 1715; another a dialogue between two Roman Catholic young ladies, sisters, whether it was better to be a nun or to marry. I could not perceive much poetical imagery in the translation. Yet all of our company who understood Erse, seemed charmed with the original. There may, perhaps, be some choice of expression, and some excellence of arrangement, that cannot be shown in translation.

After we had exhausted the Erse poems, of which Dr. Johnson said nothing, Miss Maclean gave us several tunes on a spinnet, which, though made so long ago, as in 1667, was still very well toned. She sung along with it. Dr. Johnson seemed pleased with the music,

« PreviousContinue »