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MONDAY, OCTOBER 4. About eight o'clock we went in the boat to Mr. Simpson's vessel, and took in Dr. Johnson. He was quite well, though he had tasted nothing but a dish of tea since Saturday night. On our expressing some surprise at this, he said that, “When he lodged in the Temple, and had no regular system of life, he had fasted for two days at a time, during which he had gone about visiting, though not at the hours of dinner or supper; that he had drunk tea, but eaten no bread; that this was no intentional fasting, but happened just in the course of a literary life.”
There was a little miserable public-house close upon the shore, to which we should have gone had we landed last night; but this morning Col resolved to take us directly to the house of Captain Lauchlan Maclean, a descendant of his family, who had acquired a fortune in the East Indies, and taken a farm in Col. We had about an English mile to go to it. Col, and Joseph, and some others, ran to some little horses, called here Shelties, that were running wild on a heath, and catched one of them. We had a saddle with us, which was clapped upon it, and a straw halter was put on its head. Dr. Johnson was then mounted, and Joseph very slowly and gravely led the horse. I said to Dr. Johnson, “I wish, sir, the club saw you in this attitude."*
It was a very heavy rain, and I was wet to the skin. Captain Maclean had but a poor temporary house, or rather hut; however, it was a very good haven to us. There was a blazing peat-fire, and Mrs. Maclean, daughter of the minister of the parish, got us tea. I felt still the motion of the sea. Dr. Johnson said, it was not in imagination, but a continuation of motion on the fluids, like that of the sea itself after the storm is over.
There were some books on the board which served as a chimneypiece. Dr. Johnson took up “Burnet’s History of his own Times.” He said, “ The first part of it is one of the most entertaining books in the English language—it is quite dramatic ; while he went about every where, saw every where, and heard every where. By the first part, I mean so far as it appears that Burnet himself was actually engaged in what he has told; and this may be easily distinguished.” Captain Maclean censured Burnet for his high praise of Lauderdale
* This curious exhibition may perhaps remind some of my readers of the ludicrous lines, made, during Sir Robert Walpole's administration, on Mr. George (afterwards Lord) Lyttelton, though the figures of the two personages must be allowed to be very different
“ But who is this astride the pony;
in a dedication, when he shows him in his history to have been so bad a man.— JOHNSON : “I do not myself think that a man should say in a dedication what he could not say in a history. However, allowance should be made ; for there is a great difference. The known style of a dedication is flattery-it professes to flatter. There is the same difference between what a man says in a dedication and what he says in a history, as between a lawyer's pleading a cause and reporting it."
The day passed away pleasantly enough. The wind became fair for Mull in the evening, and Mr. Simpson resolved to sail next morning; but having been thrown into the island of Col, we were unwilling to leave it unexamined, especially as we considered that the Campbelltown vessel would sail for Mull in a day or two; and therefore we determined to stay.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 5. I rose, and wrote my Journal till about nine; and then went to Dr. Johnson, who sat up in bed, and talked and laughed. I said, it was curious to look back ten years, to the time when we first thought of visiting the Hebrides. How distant and improbable the scheme then appeared! Yet here we were actually among them.—“Sir,” said he, “people may come to do anything almost, by talking of it. I really believe I could talk myself into building a house upon island Isa, though I should probably never come back again to see it. I could easily persuade Reynolds to do it; and there would be no great sin in persuading him to do it. Sir, he would reason thus : What will it cost me to be there once in two or three summers? Why, perhaps, five hundred pounds; and what is that, in comparison of having a fine retreat, to which a man can go, or to which he can send a friend ?-He would never find out that he may have this within twenty miles of London. Then I would tell him that he may marry one of the Miss Macleods, a lady of great family. Sir, it is surprising how people will go to a distance for what they may have at home. I knew a lady who came up from Lincolnshire to Knightsbridge with one of her daughters, and gave five guineas a-week for a lodging and a warm bath— that is, mere warm water. That, you know, could not be had in Lincolnshire! She said it was made either too hot or too cold there."
After breakfast, Dr. Johnson and I, and Joseph mounted horses, and Col and the Captain walked with us about a short mile across the island. We paid a visit to the Reverend Mr. Hector Maclean. His parish consists of the islands of Col and Tyr-yi. He was about seventy-seven years of age-a decent ecclesiastic, dressed in a full
suit of black clothes, and a black wig. He appeared like a Dutch pastor, or one of the assembly of divines at Westminster. Dr. Johnson observed to me afterwards, “ That he was a fine old man, and was as well dressed, and had as much dignity in his appearance as the dean of a cathedral.” We were told that he had a valuable library, though but poor accommodation for it, being obliged to keep hi: books in large chests. I was curious to see him and Dr. Johnson together. Neither of them heard very distinctly; so each of them talked in his own way, and at the same time. Mr. Maclean said he had a confutation of Bayle, by Leibnitz.-JOHNSON : “A confutation of Bayle, sir! What part of Bayle do you mean? The greatest part of his writings is not confutable; it is historical and critical.” Mr. Maclean said, “ The irreligious part;" and proceeded to talk of Leibnitz's controversy with Clarke, calling Leibnitz a great man.—JOHNSON : “Why, sir, Leibnitz persisted in affirming that Newton called space sensorium numinis, notwithstanding he was corrected, and desired to observe that Newton's words were, QUASI sensorium numinis. No, sir, Leibnitz was as paltry a fellow as I know. Out of respect to Queen Caroline, who patronised him, Clarke treated him too well."
During the time that Dr. Johnson was thus going on, the old minister was standing with his back to the fire, cresting up erect, pulling down the front of his periwig, and talking what a great man Leibnitz was.
To give an idea of the scene would require a page with two columns; but it ought rather to be represented by two good players. The old gentleman said Clarke was very wicked, for going so much into the Arian system.—“I will not say he was wicked,” said Dr. Johnson; "he might be mistaken.”—MACLEAN: “He was wicked, to shut his eyes against the Scriptures; and worthy men in England have since confuted him to all intents and purposes.”JOHNSON: “I know not who has confuted him to all intents and purposes.”—Here, again, there was a double talking, each continuing to maintain his own argument, without hearing exactly what the other said.
I regretted that Dr. Johnson did not practise the art of accommodating himself to different sorts of people. Had be been softer with this venerable old man, we might have had more conversation ; but his forcible spirit, and impetuosity of manner, may be said to spare neither sex nor age. I have seen even Mrs. Thrale stunned; but I have often maintained, that it is better he should retain his own manner. Pliability of address I conceive to be inconsistent with that majestic power of mind which he possesses, and which produces such noble effects. A lofty oak will not bend like a supple willow.
He told me afterwards he liked firmness in an old man, and was
pleased to see Mr. Maclean so orthodox. "At his age, it is too late for a man to be asking himself questions as to his belief.” *
We rode to the northern part of the island, where we saw the ruins of a church or chapel. We then proceeded to a place called Grissipol, or the rough Pool.
At Grissipol we found a good farm-house, belonging to the Laird of Col, and possessed by Mr. Macsweyn. On the beach here there is a singular variety of curious stones. I picked up one very like a small cucumber. By the by, Dr. Johnson told me, that Gay's line in the "Beggar's Opera"-" As men should serve a cucumber," &c., has no waggish meaning with reference to men † flinging away cucumbers as too cooling, which some have thought; for it has been a common saying of physicians in England, that a cucumber should be well
* Or, as Johnson more emphatically expresses it in his "Journey:" "A man who has settled his opinions does not love to have the tranquillity of his conviction disturbed; and at seventy-seven it is time to be in earnest." The old minister died in 1780.-ED + Mrs. Peachum's " Lament" for Polly's marriage
"And when she's drest, with care and cost, all tempting, fine, and gay,
As men should serve a cucumber, she flings herself away."
There seems no obscurity in the passage.-ED.
sliced, and dressed with pepper and vinegar, and then thrown out, as good for nothing.-Mr. Macsweyn's predecessors had been in Sky from a very remote period, upon the estate belonging to Macleod ; probably before Macleod had it. The name is certainly Norwegian, from Sueno, King of Norway. The present Mr. Macsweyn left Sky upon the late Macleod's raising his rents. He then got this farm from Col.
He appeared to be near fourscore; but looked as fresh, and was as strong as a man of fifty. His son Hugh looked older; and, as Dr. Johnson observed, had more the manners of an old man than he. I had often heard of such instances, but never saw one before. Mrs. Macsweyn was a decent old gentlewoman. She was dressed in tartan, and could speak nothing but Erse. She said she taught Sir James Macdonald Erse, and would teach me soon. I could now sing a verse of the song Hatyin foam'eri, made in honour of Allan, the famous Captain of Clanranald, who fell at Sheriffmuir; whose servant, who lay on the field watching his master's dead body, being asked next day who that was, answered, “ He was a man yesterday.”.
• This striking reply is also ascribed to a domestic of the young Earl of Strathmore, who fell at Sheriffmuir. (See Scott's “ Tales of a Grandfather.") The death of Allan Muidartach, or Allan of Muidart, paralysed the Highland ranks, but they were roused by Glengarry springing forward and shouting in Gaelio, "Revenge to-day, and mourning to-morrow!" Another touch of chivalry in this ill-managed battle was the exclamation of an old Highlander on witnessing the indecision of his general, “Oh for one hour of Dundee !" Allan of Muidart was a gallant soldier, and sustained the dignity of a chief with great liberality and magnificence. He is said to have been trained to arms in the wars of the Continent, and to have been severely wounded on a battle-field in Italy, on which occasion he was carefully nursed and attended by a “ lady of the land." The Gaelic song in honour of Allan of Muidart, or Moidart, Captain of Clanranald, was a Jacobite ditty, connected with the rising in 1715. It is still a favourite in the West Highlands. Boswell boasts that he had learned a verse of the song; but we suspect it was only the chorous, which, though of the customary length of four lines, consists of but four words frequently repeated. It is as follows :
“ Tha tigh'n fodham, fodham, fodham, Tha tigh'n fodham, fodham, fodham, Tha tigh'n fodham, fodham, fodham,
Tha tigb'n fodham éiridh." Literally, “I am thinking of rising”-i. e., taking up arms for the Chevalier. The following crude version will give some idea of the original, though it may appear but what Andrew Fairservice calls “nipperty-tipperty poetry nonsense.”
Come pledge the health we proudly name,
The health of hero bright-
Tha tigh'n, &c.
My heart would glow to hear
Tha tigh'n, &c.