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This being a beautiful day, my spirits were cheered by the mere effect of climate. I had felt a return of spleen during my stay at Armidale, and had it not been that I had Dr. Johnson to contemplate, I should have sunk into dejection; but his firmness supported me. I looked at him, as a man whose head is turning giddy at sea looks at a rock, or any fixed object. I wondered at his tranquillity. He said, " Sir, when a man retires into an island, he is to turn his thoughts entirely to another world. He has done with this." Boswell. "It appears to me, Sir, to be very difficult to unite a due attention to this world, and that which is to come; for, if we engage eagerly in the affairs of life, we are apt to be totally forgetful of a future state; and, on the other hand, a steady contemplation of the awful concerns of eternity renders all objects here so insignificant, as to make us indifferent and negligent about them." Johnson. "Sir, Dr. Cheyne has laid down a rule to himself on this subject, which should be imprinted on every mind: To neglect nothing to secure my eternal peace, more than if I had been certified I should die within the day: nor to mind any thing that my secular obligations and duties demanded of me, less than if I had been insured to live Jiffy years more.'"
I must here observe, that though Dr. Johnson appeared now to be philosophically calm, yet his genins did not shine forth as in companies where I have listened to him with admiration. The vigour of his mind was, however, sufficiently manifested, by his discovering no symptoms of feeble relaxation in the dull " weary, flat and unprofitable" state in which we now were placed.
I am inclined to think that it was on this day he composed the following Ode upon the Isle of Sky, which a few days afterwards he showed me at Rasay:
"Ponti profundis clausa recessibus,
"His cura, credo, sedibus exulat:
"At non cavata rape latescere,
"Humana virtus non sibi sufficit,
"Exaestuantis pectoris impetum,
After supper, Dr. Johnson told us, that Isaac Hawkins Browne drank freely for thirty years, and that he wrote his poem, " De Animi Immortahtate," in some of the last of these years.2 I listened to this with the eagerness of one, who, conscious of being himself fond of wine, is glad to hear that a man of so much genius and good thinking as Browne had the same propensity.
Monday, Sept. 6.—We set out, accompanied hy Mr. Donald M'Leod, late of Canna, as our guide. We rode for some time along the district of Slate, near the shore. The houses in general are made of turf, covered with grass. The country seemed well peopled. We came into the district of Strath, and passed along a wild moorish tract of land till we arrived at the shore. There we found good
1 Various readings,—Line 2. In the manuscript, Dr. Johnson, instead of rupibus obsita, had written imbribus uvida, and uvida nubibus, but struck them both out.
Instead of lines 15 and 16, he had written, but afterwards struck out, the following:
Parare posse, uteunque jactet
* Browne died in 1760, aged fifty-four.—Croker.
verdure, and some curious whin-rocks, or collections of stones, like the ruins of the foundations of old buildings. We saw also three cairns of considerable size.
About a mile beyond Broadfoot' is Corriehatachin, EL farm of Sir Alexander Macdouald's, possessed by Mr. M'Kinnon,' who received us with a hearty welcome, as did his wife, who was what we call in Scotland a lady-like woman. Mr. Pennant in the course of his tour to the Hebrides, passed two nights at this gentleman's house. On its being mentioned that a present had here been made to him of a curious specimen of Highland antiquity, Dr. Johnson said, " Sir, it was more than he deserved; the dog is a Whig."
We here enjoyed the comfort of a table plentifully furnished, the satisfaction of which was heightened by a numerous and cheerful company; and we, for the first time, had a specimen of the joyous social manners of the inhabitants of the Highlands. They talked in their own ancient language, with fluent vivacity, and sung many Erse songs with such spirit, that though Dr. Johnson was treated with the greatest respect and attention, there were moments in which he seemed to be forgotten. For myself, though but a Lowlander, having picked up a few words of the language, I presumed to mingle in their mirth, and joined in -the choruses with as much glee as any of the company. Dr. Johnson, being fatigued with his journey, retired early to his chamber, where he composed the following Ode addressed to Mrs. Thrale:'—
1 Broad ford, says Mr. Macpherson.—Croker.
2 That my readers may have my narrative in the style of the country through which I am travelling, it is proper to inform them, that the chief of a clan is denominated by his surname alone, as M'Leod, M'Kinnon, M'Intosh. To prefix Mr, to it would be a degradation from the M'Leod, &e. My old friend the Laird of M'Farlane, the great antiquary, took it highly amiss, when General Wade called him Mr. M'Farlane. Dr. Johnson said he could not bring himself to use this mode of address; it seemed to him to be too familiar, as it is the way in which, in all other places, intimates or inferiors are addressed. When the chiefs have titles, they are denominated by them, as Sir Jame* Grant, Sir Allan M'Lean. The other Highland gentlemen, of landed property, are denominated by their estates, as Rasay, Boisdale; und the wives of all of them have the title of Ladies. The tacksmen, or principal tenants, are named by their farms, as Kingsburgh, Corrichatachin; and their wives are called the mistress of Kingsburgh, the mistress of Corrichatachin. Having given this explanation, I am at liberty to use that mode of speech which generally prevails in the Highlands and the Hebrides.
"Permeo terras, ubi nuda rupes
"Pcrvagor gentes hominum ferorum,
"Inter erroris salebrosa longi,
"Seu viri curas pia nupta mulcet,
"Sit memor nostri, fideique merces
"Scriptum in Skia, 6th Sept. 1773."
Tuesday, Sept. 7.—Dr. Johnson was much pleased with his entertainment here. There were many good books in the house: Hector Boethins in Latin; Cave's Lives of the Fathers; Baker's Chronicle; Jeremy Collier's Church History; Dr. Johnson's small Dictionary; Craufurd's Officers of State, and several more;—a mezzotinto of Mrs. Brooks
1 About fourteen years since, I landed in Sky, with a party of friends, and bad the curiosity to ask what was the first idea on every one's mind at landing. All answered separately that it was this Ode.—Walter Scott, 1829.
the actress (by some strange chance in Sky '); and also a print of Macdonald of Clanranald, with a Latin inscription about the cruelties after the battle of Culloden, which will never be forgotten.
It was a very wet stormy day; we were therefore obliged to remain here, it being impossible to cross the sea to Kasay.
I employed a part of the forenoon in writing this journal. The rest of it was somewhat dreary, from the gloominess of the weather, and the uncertain state which we were in, as we could not tell but it might clear up every hour. Nothing is more painful to the mind than a state of suspense, especially when it depends upon the weather, concerning which there can be so little calculation. As Dr. Johnson said of our weariness on the Monday at Aberdeen, "Sensation is sensation :" Corrichatachin, which was last night a hospitable house, was, in my mind, changed to-day into a prison. After dinner I read some of Dr. Macpherson's " Dissertations on the Ancient Caledonians." * I was disgusted by the unsatisfactory conjectures as to antiquity, before the days of record. I was happy when tea came. Such, I take it, is the state of those who live in the country. Meals are wished for from the cravings of vacuity of mind, as well as from the desire of eating. I was hurt to find even such a temporary feebleness, and that I was so far from being that robust wise man who is sufficient for his own happiness. I felt a kind of lethargy of indolence. I did not exert myself to get Dr. Johnson to talk, that I might not have the labour of writing down his conversation. He inquired here, if there were any remains of the second sight. Mr. [Martin] Macpherson, minister of Slate, said, he was resolved not to believe it, because it was founded on no principle. Johnson. "There are many things then, which we are sure are true, that you will not believe. What principle is there, why a loadstone
1 Mrs. Brooks's father was a Scotchman of the name of Watson, who lost his property, and fled his country, for the Stuart cause, in 1745. Her portrait would naturally enough be found in such company.— Crater.
'John Macpherson's Critical Dissertations on the Origin, Antiquities, &c., of the Antient Caledonians. London, 1768. 4to.