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Haddo was with us this afternoon, along with Dr. Watson. We looked at St. Salvador's College. The rooms for students seemed very commodious, and Dr. Johnson said, the chapel was the neatest place of worship he had seen. The key of the library could not be found, for it seems Professor Hill, who was out of town, had taken it with him. Dr. Johnson told a joke he had heard of a monastery abroad, where the key of the library could never be found.
It was somewhat dispiriting, to see this ancient archiepiscopal city now sadly deserted. We saw in one of its streets a remarkable proof of liberal toleration; a nonjuring clergyman, strutting about in his canonicals, with a jolly countenance and a round belly, like a well-fed monk.
We observed two occupations united in the same person, who had hung out two signposts. Upon one was "James Hood, White Iron Smith" (i.e. tin-plate worker). Upon another, "The Art of Fencing Taught, by James Hood." Upon this last were painted some trees, and two men fencing, one of whom had hit the other in the eye, to show his great dexterity; so that the art was well taught. Johnson. "Were I studying here, I should go and take a lesson. I remember Hope,1 in his book on this art, says, 'the Scotch are very good fencers.'"
We returned to the inn, where we had been entertained at dinner, and drank tea in company with some of the professors, of whose civilities I beg leave to add my humble and very grateful acknowledgment to the honourable testimony of Dr. Johnson, in his "Journey."
We talked of composition, which was a favourite topic of Dr. Watson, who first distinguished himself by lectures on rhetoric. Johnson. "I advised Chambers, and would advise every young man beginning to compose, to do it as fast as he can, to get a habit of having his mind to start promptly; it is so much more difficult to improve in speed than in accuracy." Watson. "I own I am for much attention to accuracy in composing, lest one should get bad habits of doing it in a slovenly manner." Johnson.
1 Sir William Hope, of the Hopetoune family, published, in 1692. a work entitled The Complete Fencing Muster.--it'right.
""Why, Sir, you are confounding doing inaccurately with the necessity of doing inaccurately. A man knows when his composition is inaccurate, and when he thinks fit he'll correct it. But, if a man is accustomed to compose slowlv, and with difficulty, upon all occasions, there is danger that he may not compose at all, as we do not like to do that which is not done easily; and, at any rate, more time is consumed in a small matter than ought to be." Watson. "Dr. Hugh Blair has taken a week to compose a sermon." Johnson. "Then, Sir, that is for want of the habit of composing quickly, which I am insisting one should acquire." Watson. "Blair was not composing all the week, but only such hours as he found himself disposed for composition." Johnson. "Nay, Sir, unless you tell me the time he took, you tell me nothing. If I say I took a week to walk a mile, and have had the gout five days, and been ill otherwise another day, I have taken but one day. I myself have composed about forty sermons. I have begun a sermon after dinner, and sent it off by the post that night. I wrote forty-eight of the printed octavo pages of the "Life of Savage" at a sitting; but then I sat up all night. I have also written six sheets in a day of translation from the French."' Boswell. "We have all observed how one man dresses himself slowly, and another fast." Johnson. "Yes, Sir; it is wonderful how much time some people will consume in dressing ; taking up a thing and looking at it, and laying it down, and taking it up again, Every one should get the habit of doing it quickly. I would say to a young divine, Here is your text; let me see how soon you can make a sermon. Then I'd say, Let me see how much better you can make it. Thus I should see both his powers and his judgment."
We all went to Dr. Watson's to supper. Miss Sharp, great grandchild of Archbishop Sharp/ was there, as was
1 Perhaps, the Lobo is not meant at all. During certain years of early lite, which Boswell leaves nearly a blank, Dr. Johnson may have translated many French trifles for the booksellers, as to which in after days he might choose to be silent.—Lockhart.
a It is very singular that Dr. Johnson, with all his episcopal partiality, should have visited Archbishop Sharp's monument and been in company Mr. Craig, the ingenious architect of the new town of Edinburgh, and nephew of Thomson, to whom Dr. Johnson has since done so much justice in his "Lives of the Poets."
We talked of memory, and its various modes. Johnson. "Memory will play strange tricks. One sometimes loses a single word. I once lost fugaces in the Ode 'Posthume, Posthume.'" I mentioned to him, that a worthy gentleman of my acquaintance actually forgot his own name." Johnson. "Sir, that was a morbid oblivion."
Friday, Aug. 20.—Dr. Shaw, the professor of divinity, breakfasted with us. I took out my " Ogden on Prayer," and read some of it to the company. Dr. Johnson praised him. "Abernethy," ' said he, "allows only of a physical effect of prayer upon the mind, which may be produced many ways as well as by prayer; for instance, by meditation. Ogden goes farther. In truth, we have the consent of all nations for the efficacy of prayer, whether offered up by individuals or by assemblies; and Revelation has told us it will be effectual." I said, "Leechman2 seemed to incline to Abernethy's doctrine." Dr. Watson observed, that Leechman meant to show that, even admitting no effect to be produced by prayer, respecting the Deity, it was useful to our own minds. He had given only a part of his system: Dr. Johnson thought he should have given the whole.
Dr. Johnson enforced the strict observance of Sunday. "It should be different (he observed) from another day. People may walk, but not throw stones at birds. There may be relaxation, but there should be no levity."
with his descendant, without making any observation on his character and melancholy death, or on the general subject of Scottish episcopacy. Walter Scott.
1 John Abernethy, an eminent divine of the Irish Presbyterian Church, was born at Coleraine, October 19, 1680, and died in Dublin, December, 1740. lie published several volumes of Sermons, which once enjoyed a great reputation, but are now forgotten.—Editor.
'William Leechman, son of a Lanarkshire farmer, was born in the year 1705: became Principal of the University of Glasgow. His sermons, among which will be found the discourse on prayer, alluded to in the text, were published together with an account of his Life in 2 vols. 8vo., London. 1789. He was an intimate friend of Francis Hutcheson, the founder, as he is regarded by many authorities, of the Scottish school of Philosophy, and wrote the interesting Life of that philosopher, which is prefixed to his system of Moral Philosophy, posthumously published in 2 vols. 4to., 1755. Leechman died in 1785.—Editor.
We went and saw Colonel Nairne's garden and grotto. Here was a fine old plane tree. Unluckily the colonel said there was but this and another large tree in the county. This assertion was an excellent cue for Dr. Johnson, who laughed enormously, calling to me to hear it. He had expatiated to me on "the nakedness of that part of Scotland which he had seen.1 His "Journey" has been violently abused for what he has said upon this subject. But let it be considered that, when Dr. Johnson talks of trees, he means trees of good size, such as he was accustomed to see in England; and of these there are certainly very few upon the eastern coast of Scotland. Besides, he said, that he meant to give only a map of the road; and let any traveller observe how many trees, which deserve the name, he can see from the road from Berwick to Aberdeen. Had Dr. Johnson said, "there are no trees" upon this line, he would have said what is colloquially true; because, by no trees, in common speech, we mean few. When he is particular in counting, he may be attacked. I know not how Colonel Nairne came to say there were but two large trees in the county of Fife. I did not perceive that he smiled. There are certainly not a great many; but I could have shown him more than two at Balmuto, from whence my ancestors came, and which now belongs to a branch of my family.
The grotto was ingeniously constructed. In the front of it were petrified stocks of fir, plane, and some other trees. Dr. Johnson said, " Scotland has no right to boast of this grotto; it is owing to personal merit. I never denied personal merit to many of you." Professor Shaw said to me, as we walked, " This is a wonderful man; he is master of
1 Johnson has been unjustly abused for dwelling on the bareness of Fife. There are good trees in many parts of that county, but the east coast, along which lay Johnson's route, is certainly destitute of wood, excepting young plantations. The other tree mentioned by Colonel Kairne is probably the Prior Letham plane, measuring in circumference at the surface nearly twenty feet, and at the setting on of the branches. nineteen feet. This giant of the forest stands in a cold exposed situation apart from every other tree.— Walter Scott.
uvery subject he handles." Dr. Watson allowed him a very strong understanding, but wondered at his total inattention to established manners, as he came from London.
I have not preserved, in my Journal, any of the conversation which passed between Dr. Johnson and Professor Shaw; but I recollect Dr. Johnson said to me afterwards, "I took much to Shaw."
We left St. Andrew's about noon, and some miles from it, observing, at Leuchars, a church with an old tower, we stopped to look at it. The manse, as the parsonage-house is called in Scotland, was close by. I waited on the minister, mentioned our names, and begged he would tell us what he knew about it. He was a very civil old man ; but could only inform us, that it was supposed to have stood eight hundred years. He told us there was a colony of Danes in his parish; that they had landed at a remote period of time, and still remained a distinct people. Dr. Johnson shrewdly inquired, whether they had brought women with them. We were not satisfied as to this colony.1
We saw, this day, Dundee and Aberbrothick, the last of which Dr. Johnson has celebrated in his "Journey." * Upon the road we talked of the Roman Catholic faith. He mentioned (I think) Tillotson's argument against transubstautiation:—" That we are as sure we see bread and wine only, as that we read in the Bible the text on which that false doctrine is founded. We have only the evidence of our senses for both."—" If," he added, "God had never spoken figuratively, we might hold that he speaks literally, when he says, 'This is my body.'" Boswell. "But what do you say, Sir, to the ancient and continued tradition of the Church upon this point?" Johnson. "Tradition, Sir, has no place where the Scriptures are plain; and tradition
1 The colony of Leuchars is a vain imagination concerning a certain fleet of Danes wrecked on Sheughy Dikes.—Walter Scott.
The fishing people on that coast have, however, all the appearance of being a different race from the inland population, and their dialect has many peculiarities.—Lockliart.
* "I should scarcely have regretted my journey, had it afforded nothing more than the sight of Aberbrothick.''—Journey, p. 20, First Edition.