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punishment. Nay, no wise man will be contented to die, if he thinks he is to fall into annihilation; for, however unhappy any man's existence may be, he yet would rather have it than not exist at all. No; there is no rational principle by which a man can die contented, but a trust in the mercy of God, through the merits of Jesus Christ.”
- This short sermon, delivered with an earnest tone in a boat upon the sea, which was perfectly calm, on a day appropriated to religious worship, while every one listened with an air of satisfaction, had a most pleasing effect upon my
mind. Pursuing the same train of serious reflection, he added, that it seemed certain that happiness could not be found in this life, because so many had tried to find it in such a variety of ways, and had not found it.
We reached the harbour of Portree, in Sky, which is a large and good one. There was lying in it a vessel, to carry off the emigrants, called the Nestor. It made a short settlement of the differences between a chief and his clan :
Nestor componere lites
Inter Peleiden festinat et inter Atriden."* We approached her, and she hoisted her colours. Dr. Johnson and Mr. Macqueen remained in the boat; Rasay and I and the rest went on board of her. She was a very pretty vessel, and, as we were told, the largest in Clyde. Mr. Harrison, the captain, showed her to us. The cabin was commodious, and even elegant. There was a little library, finely bound. Portree has its name from King James V. having landed there in his tour through the Western Isles, Ree, in Erse being king, as Re is in Italian ; so it is Port-royal. There was here a tolerable inn. On our landing, I had the pleasure of finding a letter from home; and there were also letters to Dr. Johnson and me from Lord Elibank, which had been sent after us from Edinburgh. His lordship’s letter to me was as follows:
DEAR BCSWELL, -I flew to Edinburgh the moment I heard of Mr. Johnson's arrival; but so defective was my intelligence that I came too late.
It is but justice to believe that I could never forgive myself, nor deserve to be forgiven by others, if I was to fail in any mark of respect to that very great genius. I hold him in the highest veneration; for that very reason I was resolved to take no share in the merit, perhaps guilt, of enticing him to honour this country with a visit. I could not persuade myself there was anything in Scotland worthy to have a summer of Samuel Johnson bestowed on it; but since he has done us that compliment, for Heaven's sake inform me of your motions. I will attend them most religiously; and though I should regret to let Mr. Johnson go a mile out of his way on my account, old as I am I shall be glad to go five hundred miles to enjoy a day of his company. Have the charity to send a council-post* with intelligence; the post does not suit us in the country. At any rate write to me. I will attend you in the north, when I shall know where to find you. I am, my dear Boswell, your sincerely obedient, humble servant,
* “WLile hoary Nestor, by experience wise,
To reconcile the angry monarchs tries.”—FRANCIS S Horace
ELIBANK. August 21st, 1773.
The letter to Dr. Johnson was in these words :
DEAR SIR, I was to have kissed your hands at Edinburgh the moment I heard of you, but you was gone.
I hope my friend Boswell will inform me of your motions. It will be cruel to deprive me an instant of the honour of attending you. As I value you more than any king in Christendom, I will perform that duty with infinitely greater alacrity than any courtier. I can contribute but little to your entertainment; but my sincere esteem for you gives me some title to the opportunity of expressing it.
I dare say you are by this time sensible that things are pretty much the same as when Buchanan complained of being born solo et seculo inerudito [in an unlearned country and age]. Let me hear of you, and be persuaded that none of your admirers is more sincerely devoted to you than, dear sir, your most obedient and most humble servant,
ELIBANK, Dr. Johnson, on the following Tuesday, answered for both of us,
MY LORD,—On the rugged shore of Skie I had the honour of your lordship’s letter, and can with great truth declare that no place is so gloomy but that it would be cheered by such a testimony of regard from a mind so well qualified to estimate characters, and to deal out approbation in its due proportions. If I have more than my share, it is your lordship’s fault; for I have always reverenced your judgment too much to esalt myself in your presence by any false pretensions.
Mr. Boswell and I are at present at the disposal of the winds, and therefore cannot fix the time at which we shall have the honour of seeing your lordship. But we shonld either of us think onrselves injured the supposition that we would miss your lordship’s conversation when we could enjoy it; for I have often declared that I never met you without going away a wiser man.--I am, my Lord, your lordship’s most obedient and most humble servant, Skie, Sept. 14, 1773.
SAM. JOHNSON. At Portree, Mr. Donald Macqueen went to church and officiated in Erse, and then came to dinner. Dr. Johnson and I resolved that we should treat the company, so I played the landlord, or master of the feast, having previously ordered Joseph to pay the bill.
Sir James Macdonald intended to have built a village here, which would have done great good.t A village is like a heart to a country. It produces a perpetual circulation, and gives the people an opportunity to make profit of many little articles, which would otherwise be in a good measure lost. We had here a dinner, et præterea nihil. Dr. Johnson did not talk. When we were about to depart, we found that Rasay had been before-hand with us, and that all was paid : I would fain have contested this matter with him, but seeing him resolved, I declined it. We parted with cordial embraces from him and worthy Malcolm. In the evening Dr. Johnson and I remounted our horses, accompanied by Mr. Macqueen and Dr. Macleod. It rained very hard. We rode what they call six miles, upon Rasay's lands in Sky, to Dr. Macleod's house. * On the road Dr. Johnson appeared to be somewhat out of spirits. When I talked of our meeting Lord Elibank, he said: “I cannot be with him much. I long to be again in civilised life; but can stay but a short while;” (he meant at Edinburgh.) He said, “ let us go to Dunvegan to-morrow.” “Yes," said I, “if it is not a deluge.” “At any rate," he replied. This showed a kind of fretful impatience; nor was it to be wondered at, considering our disagreeable ride. I feared he would give up Mull and Icolmkill, for he said something of his apprehensions of being detained by bad weather in going to Mull and Iona. However I hoped well. We had a dish of tea at Dr. Macleod's, who had a pretty good house, where was his brother, a half-pay officer. His lady was a polite, agreeable woman. Dr. Johnson said, he was glad to see that he was so well married, for he had an esteem for physicians. The doctor accompanied us to Kingsburgh, which is called a mile farther; but the computation of Sky has no connection whatever with real distance.
a * A term in Scotland for a special messenger, such as was formerly sent with dispatches by the lords of the council.-Boswell.
† There is now a village at Portree containing about three hundred inhabitants, a post-office, to which there is a post three times a week, two banks, and a Court-house in which the Sheriff-substitute of the Skye district of the county holds his Courts.ED
I was highly pleased to see Dr. Johnson safely arrived at Kings. burgh, and received by the hospitable Mr. Macdonald, who, with a most respectful attention, supported him into the house. Kingsburgh was completely the figure of a gallant Highlander,-exhibiting " the graceful mien and manly looks,” which our popular Scotch song
has justly attributed to that character. He had his tartan plaid thrown about him, a large blue bonnet with a knot of black ribband like a cockade, a brown short coat of a kind of duffil, a tartan waistcoat with gold buttons and gold button-holes, a bluish philabeg, and tartan hose. He had jet black hair tied behind, and was a large stately man, with a steady sensible countenance.
There was a comfortable parlour with a good fire, and a dram went round. By and by supper was served, at which there appeared the lady of the house, the celebrated Miss Flora Macdonald. She is a
* The Highland computation here was not so wide of the mark Dr. Macleod's house at Eyre was barely eight miles from Portree.-ED.
was highly entertained with this fancy. Giving an account of the afternoon which we passed, at Anoch, he said, "I, being a buck, had miss in to make tea."-He was rather quiescent to-night, and went early to bed. I was in a cordial humour, and promoted a cheerful glass. The punch was excellent. Honest Mr. Macqueen observed that I was in high glee, "my governor being gone to bed." Yet in reality my heart was grieved, when I recollected that Kingsburgh was embarrassed in his affairs, and intended o go to America. However, nothing but what was good was present, and I pleased myself in thinking that so spirited a man would be well everywhere. I slept in the same room with Dr. Johnson. Each had a neat bed, with tartan curtains, in an upper chamber.*
*The old Kingsburgh mansion, which sheltered Charles Edward in 1746, and afforded entertainment to Pennant and Johnson, has, we regret to say, been removed. The building is entirely gone, but some venerable plane-trees mark the square of a large garden that was attached to the house. One of these grew close to the house, and at the time of our inquiries the respectable tenan to Kingsburgh (Mr. Macleod) was sending part of the timber to a lady in England, to be made into a frame for a picture of Flora Macdonald. This may be considered part of the bright reversion of fame which has waited on the memory of the Celtic heroine.
In 1750 Flora was
married to Allan Macdonald, young Kingsburgh, who then lived at Flodigarry, in Skye. The gallant old Kingsburgh died in 1772, and his son succeeding him in the farm, Flora became the mistress of the house of Kingsburgh. The family seems to have emigrated in the year following Johnson's visit. They went to North Carolina, and Kingsburgh joined the Royal Highland Emigrant Regiment, or 84th, embodied in 1775. This corps was defeated by the Provincial forces in February 1776, and parties of men were dispersed over the colony apprehending the Royalists and disarming the Highlanders
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 13. The room where we lay was a celebrated one. Dr. Johnson's bed was the very bed in which the grandson of the unfortunate King James the Second* lay, on one of the nights after the failure of his rash attempt in 1745-6, while he was eluding the pursuit of the emissaries of government, which had offered thirty thousand pounds as a reward for apprehending him. To see Dr. Samuel Johnson lying in that bed, in the isle of Sky, in the house of Miss Flora Macdonald, struck me with such a group of ideas as it is not easy for words to describe, as they passed through the mind. He smiled, and said, “I have had no ambitious thoughts in it.f The room was decorated with a great variety of maps and prints. Among others was
Among those committed to Halifax gaol was “Kingsburgh Macdonald.” He afterwards served with the regiment in Canada, holding the rank of captain, and at the close of the war returned to Scotland on half-pay. The vessel in which Flora and her husband sailed was attacked by a French privateer, and while Flora, with characteristic spirit, stood on deck, animating the seamen, she was thrown down and had her arm broken. The wanderers, however, arrived in Skye, and never left it. Flora died on the 4th of March, 1790, aged sixty-eight, and was interred in the churchyard of Kilmuir, in a spot set apart for the graves of the Kingsburgh family. Her funeral was attended by about three thousand persons, all of whom were served with refreshments, in the old Highland fashion. Kingsburgh died on the 20th of September, 1795. Flora had seven children, five sons and two daughters; the sons all became officers in the army, and the daughters officers' wives. The last surviving member of this family, Mrs. Major Macleod, died at Stein, in Skye, in 1834, leaving a daughter, Miss Mary Macleod, who resides in the same place. One of the sons (the late Colonel Macdonald, of Exeter) sent a marble slab, suitably inscribed, to be placed near his mother's remains to point out the spot; but it was broken ere it reached Skye, and the whole has since been carried off piecemeal by tourists. Thus the grave of Flora Macdonald remains undistinguished within the rude inclosure that holds the dust of so many of the brave Kingsburgh family.-ED.
* I do not call him “the Prince of Wales," or“ the Prince," because I am quite satisfied that the right which the House of Stuart had to the throne is extinguished. I do not call him “the Pretender," because it appears to me as an insult to one who is still alive, and, I suppose, thinks very differently. It may be a parliamentary expres
I sion, but it is not & gentlemanly expression. I know, and I exult in having it in my power to tell, that the only person in the world who is entitled to be offended at this delicacy thinks and feels as I do, and has liberality of mind and generosity of senti. ment enough to approve of my tenderness for what even has been blood royal. That he is a prince by courtesy cannot be denied, because his mother was the daughter of Sobieski, King of Poland. I shall, therefore, on that account alone, distinguish him by the name “Prince Charles Edward." -Boswell.
+ This, perhaps, was said in allusion to some lines ascribed to Pope, on his lying, at John Duke of Argyle's, at Adderbury, in the same bed in which Wilmot, Earl of Rochester had slept.
“With no poetic ardour fired,
I press the bed where Wilmot lay;
Begets no numbers, grave or gay."-Boswell.