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We spoke of Fingal. Dr. Johnson said calmly, "If the poems were really translated, they were certainly first written down. Let
Mr. Macpherson deposit the manuscript in one of the colleges at Aberdeen, where there are people who can judge; and, if the professors certify the authenticity, then there will be an end of the controversy If he does not take this obvious and easy method, he gives the best reason to doubt; considering too, how much is against it à priori "*
Extorsit Lachesi cultros, Pestique venenuin
Quis tandem arte novâ domitam mitescere Pestem
Etheriæ quanquam spargunt contagia flammæ,
Has gelidâ exstingui non nisi morte putas?
Te simul et mundum qui manet, ignis erit.
J. LOCKE, A.M., Ex Ede Christi, Oxon
* A large portion of the poems was confessedly written down from oral recitation, and a manuscript in the handwriting of Mr. Macpherson or any of his coadjutors would have been no evidence. It appears, Lowever, that Macpherson did make an attempt to give satisfaction to the public. He left for some months all the originals of his translation open to inspection and examination in Becket the bookseller's shop, and intimated by advertisement in the newspapers that he had done so. No person called to look at them, and his disdain of public censure became still stronger. See letter from Dr. Blair to Henry Mackenzie in Highland Society's Report. ED.
We sauntered after dinner in Sir Alexander's garden, and saw his little grotto, which is hung with pieces of poetry written in a fair hand. It was agreeable to observe the contentment and kindness or this quiet, benevolent man. Professor Macleod was brother to Macleod of Talisker, and brother-in-law to the Laird of Col.* He gave me a letter to young Col. I was weary of this day, and began to think wishfully of being again in motion. I was uneasy to think myself too fastidious, whilst I fancied Dr. Johnson quite satisfied. But he owned to me that he was fatigued and teased by Sir Alexander's doing too much to entertain him. I said it was all kindness.-JOHNSON: “True, sir ; but sensation is sensation.”—BOSWELL: “It is so: we feel pain equally from the surgeon's probe as from the sword of the foe."
We visited two bookseller's shops, and could not find Arthur Johnston's Poems. We went and sat near an hour at Mr. Riddoch's. He could not tell distinctly how much education at the college here costs, which disgusted Dr. Johnson. I had pledged myself that we should go to the inn, and not stay supper. They pressed us, but he was resolute. I saw Mr. Riddoch did not please him. He said to me afterwards, “Sir, he has no vigour in his talk.” But my friend should have considered that he himself was not in good humour; so that it was not easy to talk to his satisfaction. We sat contentedly at our inn. He then became merry, and observed how little we had either heard or said at Aberdeen: that the Aberdonians had not started a single mawkin (the Scottish word for hare) for us to pursue.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 24. We set out about eight in the morning, and breakfasted at Ellon. The landlady said to me, “Is not this the great Doctor that is going about through the country?” I said, “Yes.” “Ay,” said she, heard of him. I made an errand into the room on purpose to see him. There's something great in his appearance : it is a pleasure to have such a man in one's house; a man who does so much good. If I had thought of it, I would have shown him a child of mine, who has had a lump on his throat for some time.” But,” said I," he is not a doctor of physic.” “Is he an oculist?" said the landlord. “No," said I,“ he is only a very learned man.”—LANDLORD: “They say he is the greatest man in England, except Lord Mansfield.” Dr. Johnson was highly entertained with this, and I do think he was pleased, too. He said, “I like the exception; to have called me the greatest man in
* Professor Macleod became successively Sub-Principal and Principal of King's College. He was famous as a caterer for the College, his Highland connexions giving him great influence in the Western Islands. He died September 11th, 1815, aged eightyeight.-ED.
England would have been an unmeaning compliment; but the exception marked that the praise was in earnest, and, in Scotland, the exception must be Lord Mansfield or—Sir John Pringle.”
He told me a good story of Dr. Goldsmith. Graham, who wrote “Telemachus, a Masque,” was sitting one night with him and Dr. Johnson, and was half drunk. He rattled away to Dr. Johnson · You are a clever fellow, to be sure ; but you cannot write an essay like Addison, or verses like the ‘Rape of the Lock.” At last he said,* Doctor, I should be happy to see you at Eton.” · I shall be glad to wait on you,” answered Goldsmith. “No," said Graham, not you I mean, Doctor Minor, 'tis Doctor Major there.” Goldsmith was excessively hurt by this. He afterwards spoke of it himself. Graham,” said he, “is a fellow to make one commit suicide."
We had received a polite invitation to Slains Castle. We arrived there just at three o'clock, as the bell for dinner was ringing. Though, from its being just on the North-east Ocean, no trees will grow here, Lord Errol has done all that can be done. He has cultivated his fields so as to bear rich crops of every kind, and he has made an excellent kitchen-garden, with a hot-house. I had never seen any of the family; but there had been a card of invitation written by the Honourable Charles Boyd, the Earl's brother.† We were conducted into the house, and at the dining-room door were met by that gentleman, whom both of us first took to be Lord Errol; but he soon corrected our mistake. My lord was gone to dine in the neighbourhood, at an entertainment given by Mr. Irvine, of Drum. Lady Errol received us politely, and was very attentive to us during the time of dinner. There was nobody at table but her ladyship, Mr. Boyd, and some of the children, their governor
governess. Mr. Boyd put Dr. Johnson in mind of having dined with him at Cumming, the Quaker's, along with a Mr. Hall and Miss Williams; this was a bond of connexion between them. For me, Mr. Boyd's acquaintance with my father was enough. After dinner Lady Errol favoured us with a sight of her young family, whom she made stand up in a row. There were six daughters and two sons. It was a very pleasing sight.
Dr. Johnson proposed our setting out. Mr. Boyd said he hoped
I am sure I have related this story exactly as Dr. Johnson told it to me; but a friend who has often heard him tell it informs mc that he usually introduced a circumstance which ought not to be omitted. “At last, sir, Graham, having now got to about the pitch of looking at one man and talking to another, said, Doctor, &c.
" What effect (Dr. Johnson used to add) this had on Goldsmith, who was as irascible as a hornet, may be easily conceived.”—Boswell.
+ This is explained by Johnson in a letter to Mrs. Thrale. When he was at the English church in Aberdeen he was espied by Lady Di. Middleton (daughter of the Earl of Stamford, and wife of Mr. Middleton, of Lenton), who mentioned the circumstance to Mr. Boyd, and hence the invitation to visit Slains Castle.-ED.
we would stay all night; his brother would be at home in the eveu: ing, and would be very sorry if he missed us. Mr. Boyd was called out of the room. I was very desirous to stay in so comfortable a house, and I wished to see Lord Errol. Dr. Johnson, however, was right in resolving to go, if we were not asked again, as it is best to err on the safe side in such cases, and to be sure that one is quite welcome. To my great joy, when Mr. Boyd returned, he told Dr. John son that it was Lady Errol who had called him out, and said that she would never let Dr. Johnson into the house again if he went away that night; and that she had ordered the coach to carry us to see a great curiosity on the coast, after which we should see the house. We cheerfully agreed.
Mr. Boyd was engaged in 1745-6, on the same side with many unfortunate mistaken noblemen and gentlemen. He escaped, and lay concealed for a year in the island of Arran, the ancient territory of the Boyds. He then went to France, and was about twenty years on the Continent. He marrjed a French lady, and now lived very comfortably at Aberdeen, and was much at Slains Castle. He entertained us with great civility. He had a pompousness of formal plenitude in his conversation which I did not dislike. Dr Johnson said " there was too much elaboration in his talk.” It gave me pleasure to see him, a steady branch of the family, setting forth all its advantages with much zeal. He told us that Lady Errol was one of the most pious and sensible women in the island; had a good head, and as good a heart. He said she did not use force or fear in educating her children.—Johnson: "Sir, she is wrong; I would rather have the rod to be the general terror to all, to make them learn, than tell a child if you do thus or thus you will be more esteemed than your brothers or sisters. The rod produces an effect which terminates in itself. A child is afraid of being whipped, and gets his task, and there's an end on't; whereas, by exciting emulation, and comparisons of superiority, you lay the foundation of lasting mischief; you make brothers and sisters hate each other."
During Mr. Boyd's stay in Arran, he had found a chest of medical books, left by a surgeon there, and he read them till he acquired some skill in physic, in consequence of which he is often consulted by the poor. There were several here waiting for him as patients. We walked round the house till stopped by a cut made by the influx of the sea. The house is built quite upon the shore; the windows look
upon the main ocean, and the King of Denmark is Lord Errol's nearest neighbour on the north-east.
We got immediately into the coach and drove to Dunbui, a rock near the shore, quite covered with sea-fowls; then to a circular basin
of large extent, surrounded with tremendous rocks. On the quarter next the sea there is a high arch in the rock, which the force of the tempest has driven out. This place is called Buchan's Buller, or the Buller of Buchan, and the country people call it the Pot. Mr. Boyd said it was called so from the French bouloir. It may be more simply traced from " boiler” in our own language. We walked round this monstrous cauldron. In some places the rock is very narrow, and on each side there is a sea deep enough for a man of war to ride in, so that it is somewhat horrid to move along. However, there is earth and grass upon the rock, and a kind of road marked out by the print of feet, so that one makes it out pretty safely, yet it alarmed me to see Dr. Johnson striding irregularly along. He insisted on taking a boat, and sailing into the Pot. We did so. He was stout, and wonderfully alert. The Buchan men all showing their teeth, and speaking with that sharp accent which distinguishes them, was to me a matter of curiosity. He was not sensible of the difference of pronunciation in the South and North of Scotland, which I wondered at.
As the entry into the Buller is so narrow that oars cannot be used as you go in, the method taken is to row very hard when you come near it, and give the boat such a rapidity of motion that it glides in Dr. Johnson observed what an effect this scene would have had, were we entering into an unknown place. There are caves of considerable depth, I think, one on each side. The boatman had never entered either of them far enough to know the size. Mr. Boyd told us that it is customary for the company at Peterhead Well to make parties, and come and dine in one of the caves here.
He told us that, as Slains is at a considerable distance from Aberdeen, Lord Errol, who has a very large family, resolved to have a surgeon of his own. With this view he educated one of his tenant's sons, who is now settled in a very neat house and farm just by, which we saw from the road. By the salary which the Earl allows him, and the practice which he has had, he is in very easy circumstances. He had kept an exact account of all that had been laid out on his education, and he came to his lordship one day, and told him that he had arrived at a much higher situation than ever he expected; that he was now able to pay what his lordship had advanced, and begged he would accept of it. The Earl was pleased with the generous gratitude and genteel offer of the man, but refused it. Mr. Boyd also told us Cum ming, the Quaker, first began to distinguish bimself by writing against Dr. Leechman on Prayer, to prove it unnecessary, as God knows best what should be, and will order it without our asking—the old hackneyed objection.*
• Thomas Cumming, a merchant, distinguished for the part he took in the acquisition