« PreviousContinue »
At three the drum beat for dinner. I, for a little while, fancied myself a military man, and it pleased me. We went to Sir Eyre Coote's, at the governor's house, and found him a most gentlemanlike man. His lady is a very agreeable woman, with an uncommonly mild and sweet tone of voice. There was a pretty large company ; Mr. Ferne, Major Brewse, and several officers. Sir Eyre had come from the East Indies by land, through the deserts of Arabia. He told us the Arabs could live five days without victuals, and subsist for three weeks on nothing else but the blood of their camels, who could lose so much of it as would suffice for that time, without being exhausted. He highly praised the virtue of the Arabs, their fidelity if they undertook to conduct any person, and said they would sacrifice their lives rather than let him be robbed. Dr. Johnson, who is always for maintaining the superiority of civilised over uncivilised men, said, “Why, sir, I can see no superior virtue in this. A sergeant and twelve men, who are my guard, will die rather than that I shall be robbed.” Colonel Pennington, of the 37th Regiment, took up the argument with a good deal of spirit and ingenuity.-PENNINGTON: “But the soldiers are compelled to this by fear of punishment.”—JOANSON: “Well, sir, the Arabs are compelled by the fear of infamy."PENNINGTON : “The soldiers have the same fear of infamy, and the fear of punishment besides ; so have less virtue, because they act less voluntarily.” Lady Coote observed very well that it ought to be known if there was not among the Arabs some punishment for not being faithful on such occasions.
We talked of the stage. I observed that we had not now such a company of actors as in the last age, Wilks, Booth, &c. &c.--JOHNSON: “You think so because there is one who excels all the rest so much :
: you compare them with Garrick, and see the deficiency. Garrick's great distinction is his universality; he can represent all modes of life but that of an easy, fine-bred gentleman.”—PENNINGTON: “He should give over playing young parts."-JOHNSON: “He does not take them now; but he does not leave off those which he has been used to play, because he does them better than anyone else can do them. If you had generations of actors, if they swarmed like bees, the young ones might drive off the old. Mrs. Cibber, I think, got more reputation than she deserved, as she had a great
and him, in the library at the Queen's Palace, in the course of which this contest was considered. I have been at great pains to get that conversation as perfectly preserved as possible. It may, perhaps, at some future time, be given to the public.-BOSWELL. [The conversation is fully reported by Boswell in his “Life of Johnson,” February, 1767. -ED.)
sameness, though her expression was undoubtedly very fine. Mrs. Clive was the best player I ever saw. Mrs. Pritchard was a very good one, but she had something affected in her manner: I imagine she had some player of the former age in her eye which occasioned it." *
Colonel Pennington said, Garrick sometimes failed in emphasis ; as for instance, in Hamlet,
“ I will speak daggers to her, but use none." instead of
"I will speak daggers to her, but use none.' We had a dinner of two complete courses, variety of wines, and the regimental band of music playing in the square before the windows after it. I enjoyed this day much. We were quite easy and cheerful. Dr. Johnson said, “I shall always remember this fort with gratitude.” I could not help being struck with some admiration at finding upon this barren sandy point, such buildings, such a dinner, such company: it was like enchantment. Dr. Johnson, on the other hand, said to me more rationally, that it did not strike him as anything extraordinary, because he knew there was a large sum of money expended in building a fort; here was a regiment. If there had been less than what we found it would have surprised him. He looked coolly and deliberately through all the gradations : my warm imagination jumped from the barren sands to the splendid dinner and brilliant company; to borrow the expression of an absurd poet,
« Without ands or ifs
I leapt from off the sands upon the cliffs." The whole scene gave me a strong impression of the power and excellence of human art.
We left the fort between six and seven o'clock; Sir Eyre Coote, Colonel Pennington, and several more accompanied us down stairs and saw us into our chaise. There could not be greater attention paid to any visitors. Sir Eyre spoke of the hardships which Dr. Johnson had before him.-BOSWELL: Considering what he has said of us, we must make him feel something rough in Scotland.” Sir Eyre said to him, “You must change your name, sir."-BOSWELL: "Ay, to Dr. Macgregor."+
* Much agreeable gossip about all these theatrical personages-who enjoy a sort of classic renown in the annals of the English stage—will be found in Colley Cibber's “ Apology'' for his Life (1739), in Davies's “ Life of Garrick” (1780), and in “ Horace Walpole's Letters.” Pope committed an egregious blunder in deposing Theobald to make the vivacious Colley Cibber hero of the “Dunciad."-ED.
+ The “wicked clan Gregor” was denounced and proscribed by statute; and the lieges were charged not to harbour any of the name, or assist them with meat, drink, or
We got safely to Inverness, and put up at Mackenzie's inn. Mr. Keith, the collector of excise here, my old acquaintance at Ayr, who had seen us at the fort, visited us in the evening, and engaged us to dine with him next day, promising to breakfast with us and take us to the English chapel ; so that we were at once commodiously arranged.
Not finding a letter here that I expected I felt a momentary impatience to be at home. Transient clouds darkened my imagination, and in those clouds I saw events from which I shrunk; but a sentence or two of the Rambler's conversation gave me firmness, and I considered that I was upon an expedition for which I had wished for years, and the recollection of which would be a treasure to me for life.
clothing. The above familiar glimpse of Sir Eyre Coote, the gallant conqueror of Hyder Ali, and preser ver of our Indian empire, has a pleasing effect. Sir Eyre was despatched a second time to India, as Commander-in-Chief, in 1778, having retrieved the glory of the British arms, died at Madras in 1783. “ Nor is he yet forgotten. Now and then a whiteheaded old Sepoy may still be found who loves to talk of Porto Novo and Pollilore. It is but a short time since one of those aged men came to present a memorial to an English officer who holds one of the highest employments in India. A print of Coote hung in the room. The veteran recognised at once that face and figure which he had not seen for more than half a century, and, forgetting his salam to the living, halted, drei himself up, and, with solemn reverence, paid his military obeisance to the dead.”—
Macaulay's Essays,” ed. 1850, p. 614.-ED.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 29. Mr. Keith breakfasted with us. Dr. Johnson expatiated rather too strongly upon the benefits derived to Scotland from the Union, and the bad state of our people before it. I am entertained with his copious exaggeration upon that subject, but I am uneasy when people are by who do not know him as well as I do, and may be apt to think him narrow-minded ;* I therefore diverted the subject.
The English chapel to which we went this morning was but mean. The altar was bare fir table, with a coarse stool for kneeling on, covered with a piece of thick sail-cloth doubled, by way of cushion. The congregation was small. Mr. Tait, the clergyman, read prayers very well, though with much of the Scotch accent. He preached on “Love your enemies.” It was remarkable that, when talking of the connexions amongst men, he said, that some connected themselves with men of distinguished talents, and, since they could not equal them, tried to deck themselves with their merit by being their companions. The sentence was to this purpose. It had an odd coincidence with what might be said of my connecting myself with Dr. Johnson.
After church we walked down to the quay. We then went to Macbeth's castle. I had a romantic satisfaction in seeing Dr. Sohn
* It is remarkable that Dr. Johnson read this gentle remonstrance, and took no notice of it to me.-Boswell. [If ruffled for a moment by the “gentle remonstrance," Johnson must have been soothed to complacency by the next passage in the Journal. ED.]
+ A better church was afterwards erected, which in its turn gave way to the present edifice, a very handsome and commodious structure. Inverness, when Johnson saw it, was a little old-fashioned Highland town—a northern emporium or capital for all the country north of the Spey, though not above half its present size, and with a population of only five or six thousand. There was some shipping at the harbour, and a few merchants exported malt, salt-fish, skins, &c., to Holland and the Thames, receiving cloths, wines, and other commodities in exchange. There was no banking establishment nearer than Aberdeen. Shortly after the Union a weekly post was established by foot-runners through the central Highlands ; but in 1755 this was supplanted by a post thrice a week by way of Aberdeen. The first post-chaise was brought to the town in 1760, and was for some time the only four-wheeled carriage in the district. In 1770 the first cargo of coals was commissioned, the common fuel then and long afterwards being peats or turf. The houses were mostly thatched, and had winding stairs in front. Tea had crept slowly into use before 1773, but ale was the common beverage of the people; and there was seldom any want of smuggled brandy, or of good claret, which could be bad at from eighteen-pence to two shillings a bottle. Fish and game were abundant. All classes-merchants, lawyers and tradesmen--took the world easy in those uncompeting days. The Christmas festivities were usually kept up for two or three weeks-the gentlemen playing at bowls during the day, and the ladies amusing themselves at the card-tables. One of the duties of lawyers' clerkssmart young Highlanders in kilts—was to find out their masters at night, wherever they might happen to be, and to see them safe home! In the earlier times, however, the quiet citizens had been sorely beset by tyrannical chiefs and lawless clans, and suffered severely in the wars of Montrose and the rebellions of 1715 and 1745.-ED.
son actually in it. It perfectly corresponds with Shakspeare's description, which Sir Joshua Reynolds has so happily illustrated, in one of his notes on our immortal poet:
“This castle hath a pleasant seat: the air 1
Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself
Unto our gentle senses,” &c. Just as we came out of it a raven perched on one of the chimneytops and croaked
Then I repeated,
The raven himself is hoarse,
Under my battlements."* We dined at Mr. Keith's. Mrs. Keith was rather too attentive to Dr. Johnson, asking him many questions about his drinking only water. He repressed that observation by saying to me, remember that Lady Errol took no notice of this.”
* The ruined fortress commonly called “Macbeth's Castle," which was blown up in 1746, was erected subsequent to the period of the great usurper. The ancient castle stood at a short distance from this spot, on an eminence still called “The Crown.” The original fortress was early in ruins. There is in existence an old deed, dated at Inverness in 1362, by which Robert de Chisholm grants to the altars of the Holy Cross six acres of land within the lands of the old castle of Inverness." Malcolm Caninore is said to have destroyed the castle on account of his father, King Duncan, having been murdered there, or because it was Macbeth's castle ; and he erected a new fortress to the westward of the former, on a commanding situation overlooking the town and river. Either of the sites would answer Sbakspeare's description, which no doubt was purely fanciful, introduced, as Sir Joshua Reynolds remarks, to give repose to the mind of the reader or the spectator after the tumultuous bustle of the preceding scenes in the drama, and as a contrast to the scene of horror that immediately succeeds. There is a strong probability that Macbeth had a castle at Inverness. The Pictish sovereign, Brudei, had a residence at the mouth of the Ness about the year 565, as we learn from Adomnan's “Life of Columba.” Macbeth was Maormor or governor of Rossshire, and by his marriage he became also governor of the province of Moray; so that the whole region from the Spey to the confines of Sutherland, and extending westwards to Argyle, was under his charge. Inverness would therefore be a central point in his government. King Duncan, at the time of his death, was on a progress to Caithness, to chastise Torfin, the Jarl or Earl of Caithness, who had refused to render tribute to the Crown. He was thus obliged to traverse the territories of Macbeth, and the opportunity may have suggested the murder, especially as both Macbeth and his wife Gruodh had private wrongs to revenge. Fordun and the “Chronicon Elegiacum” concur in stating that Macbeth slew Duncan, and that Duncan died at Elgin. He was slain, according to Fordun, at Bothgofuane or Bothgowan—in Gaelic, “the blacksmith's house." Boethius, who published his history in 1526, was the first to state that Macbeth was instigated by his wife to murder Duncan at Inverness. We do not look in Shakspeare for historical facts; but the chequered character of Macbeth, his warlike energy and ambition, his remorse for his great crime, as evinced by his penitential gifts to the Church and his largesses to the poor, and his commanding talents, which extorted obedience and admi. ration to the last, are faithfully depicted by the poet. Even his superstitious fears and beliefs are natural not only to the age and country, but to his character as a great military leader. “There is so much of chance in warfare,” as Coleridge has remarked, " and such rast events are connected with the acts of a single individual, that the proper temperament for generating or receiving superstitious impressions is naturally produced.” All history, from Brutus down to Napoleon, attests this fact.-ED.