Picture of James Boswell

James Boswell

places mentioned

October 9th to 16th, 1773: Mull

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Saturday, 9th October

As, in our present confinement, any thing that had even the name of curious was an object of attention, I proposed that Col should show me the great stone, mentioned in a former page, as having been thrown by a giant to the top of a mountain. Dr Johnson, who did not like to be left alone, said he would accompany us as far as riding was practicable. We ascended a part of the hill on horseback, and Col and I scrambled up the rest. A servant held our horses, and Dr Johnson placed himself on the ground, with his back against a large fragment of rock. The wind being high, he let down the cocks of his hat, and tied it with his handkerchief under his chin. While we were employed in examining the stone, which did not repay our trouble in getting to it, he amused himself with reading Gataker On Lots and on the Christian Watch, a very learned book, of the last age, which had been found in the garret of Col's house, and which he said was a treasure here. When we descried him from above, he had a most eremitical appearance; and on our return told us, he had been so much engaged by Gataker, that he had never missed us. His avidity for variety of books, while we were in Coll, was frequently expressed; and he often complained that so few were within his reach. Upon which I observed to him, that it was strange he should complain of want of books, when he could at any time make such good ones.

We next proceeded to the lead mine. In our way we came to a strand of some extent, where we were glad to take a gallop, in which my learned friend joined with great alacrity. Dr Johnson, mounted on a large bay mare without shoes, and followed by a foal, which had some difficulty in keeping up with him, was a singular spectacle.

After examining the mine, we returned through a very uncouth district, full of sand hills; down which, though apparent precipices, our horses carried us with safety, the sand always gently sliding away from their feet. Vestiges of houses were pointed out to us, which Col, and two others who had joined us, asserted had been overwhelmed with sand blown over them. But, on going close to one of them, Dr Johnson shewed the absurdity of the notion, by remarking, that 'it was evidently only a house abandoned, the stones of which had been taken away for other purposes; for the large stones, which form the lower part of the walls, were still standing higher than the sand. If THEY were not blown over, it was clear nothing higher than they could be blown over.' This was quite convincing to me; but it made not the least impression on Col and the others, who were not to be argued out of a Highland tradition.

We did not sit down to dinner till between six and seven. We lived plentifully here, and had a true welcome. In such a season, good firing was of no small importance. The peats were excellent, and burned cheerfully. Those at Dunvegan, which were damp, Dr Johnson called 'a sullen fuel'. Here a Scottish phrase was singularly applied to him. One of the company having remarked that he had gone out on a stormy evening, and brought in a supply of peats from the stack, old Mr M'Sweyn said, 'that was MAIN HONEST!'

Blenheim being occasionally mentioned, he told me he had never seen it: he had not gone formerly; and he would not go now, just as a common spectator, for his money: he would not put it in the power of some man about the Duke of Marlborough to say, 'Johnson was here; I knew him, but I took no notice of him.' He said, he should be very glad to see it, if properly invited, which in all probability would never be the case, as it was not worth his while to seek for it. I observed, that he might be easily introduced there by a common friend of ours, nearly related to the duke. He answered, with an uncommon attention to delicacy of feeling, 'I doubt whether our friend be on such a footing with the duke as to carry any body there; and I would not give him the uneasiness of seeing that I knew he was not, or even of being himself reminded of it.'

Sunday, 10th October

There was this day the most terrible storm of wind and rain that I ever remember. It made such an awful impression on us all, as to produce, for some time, a kind of dismal quietness in the house. The day was passed without much conversation: only, upon my observing that there must be something bad in a man's mind, who does not like to give leases to his tenants, but wishes to keep them in a perpetual wretched dependence on his will, Dr Johnson said, 'You are right: it is a man's duty to extend comfort and security among as many people as he can. He should not wish to have his tenants mere Ephemerae--mere beings of an hour.' BOSWELL. 'But, sir, if they have leases, is there not some danger that they may grow insolent? I remember you yourself once told me, an English tenant was so independent, that,--if provoked, he would throw his rent at his landlord.' JOHNSON. 'Depend upon it, sir, it is the landlord's own fault, if it is thrown at him. A man may always keep his tenants in dependence enough, though they have leases. He must be a good tenant indeed, who will not fall behind in his rent, if his landlord will let him; and if he does fall behind, his landlord has him at his mercy. Indeed, the poor man is always much at the mercy of the rich; no matter whether landlord or tenant. If the tenant lets his landlord have a little rent before-hand, or has lent him money, then the landlord is in his power. There cannot be a greater man than a tenant who has lent money to his landlord; for he has under subjection the very man to whom he should be subjected.'

Monday, 11th October

We had some days ago engaged the Campbell-town vessel to carry us to Mull, from the harbour where she lay. The morning was fine, and the wind fair and moderate; so we hoped at length to get away.

Mrs M'Sweyn, who officiated as our landlady here, had never been on the main land. On hearing this, Dr Johnson said to me, before her, 'That is rather being behind-hand with life. I would at least go and see Glenelg.' BOSWELL. 'You yourself, sir, have never seen, till now, any thing but your native island.' JOHNSON. 'But, sir, by seeing London, I have seen as much of life as the world can shew.' BOSWELL. 'You have not seen Pekin.' JOHNSON. 'What is Pekin? Ten thousand Londoners would DRIVE all the people of Pekin: they would drive them like deer.'

We set out about eleven for the harbour; but, before we reached it, so violent a storm came on, that we were obliged again to take shelter in the house of Captain M'Lean, where we dined, and passed the night.

Tuesday, 12th October

After breakfast, we made a second attempt to get to the harbour; but another storm soon convinced us that it would be in vain. Captain M'Lean's house being in some confusion, on account of Mrs M'Lean being expected to lie-in, we resolved to go to Mr M'Sweyn's, where we arrived very wet, fatigued, and hungry. In this situation, we were somewhat disconcerted by being told that we should have no dinner till late in the evening; but should have tea in the mean time. Dr Johnson opposed this arrangement; but they persisted, and he took the tea very readily. He said to me afterwards, 'You must consider, sir, a dinner here is a matter of great consequence. It is a thing to be first planned, and then executed. I suppose the mutton was brought some miles off, from some place where they knew there was a sheep killed.'

Talking of the good people with whom we were, he said, 'Life has not got at all forward by a generation in M'Sweyn's family; for the son is exactly formed upon the father. What the father says, the son says; and what the father looks, the son looks.'

There being little conversation to-night, I must endeavour to recollect what I may have omitted on former occasions. When I boasted, at Rasay, of my independency of spirit, and that I could not be bribed, he said, 'Yes, you may be bribed by flattery.' At the Reverend Mr M'Lean's, Dr Johnson asked him, if the people of Coll had any superstitions. He said, 'No.' The cutting peats at the increase of the moon was mentioned as one; but he would not allow it, saying, it was not a superstition, but a whim. Dr Johnson would not admit the distinction. There were many superstitions, he maintained, not connected with religion; and this was one of them. On Monday we had a dispute at the Captain's, whether sand-hills could be fixed down by art. Dr Johnson said, 'How THE DEVIL can you do it?' but instantly corrected himself, 'How can you do it?' I never before heard him use a phrase of that nature.

He has particularities which it is impossible to explain. He never wears a night-cap, as I have already mentioned; but he puts a handkerchief on his head in the night. The day that we left Talisker, he bade us ride on. He then turned the head of his horse back towards Talisker, stopped for some time; then wheeled round to the same direction with ours, and then came briskly after us. He sets open a window in the coldest day or night, and stands before it. It may do with his constitution; but most people, amongst whom I am one, would say, with the frogs in the fable, 'This may be sport to you; but it is death to us.' It is in vain to try to find a meaning in every one of his particularities, which, I suppose, are mere habits, contracted by chance; of which every man has some that are more or less remarkable. His speaking to himself, or rather repeating, is a common habit with studious men accustomed to deep thinking; and, in consequence of their being thus rapt, they will even laugh by themselves, if the subject which they are musing on is a merry one. Dr Johnson is often uttering pious ejaculations, when he appears to be talking to himself; for sometimes his voice grows stronger, and parts of the Lord's Prayer are heard. I have sat beside him with more than ordinary reverence on such occasions.1

In our tour, I observed that he was disgusted whenever he met with coarse manners. He said to me, 'I know not how it is, but I cannot bear low life: and I find others, who have as good a right as I to be fastidious, bear it better, by having mixed more with different sorts of men. You would think that I have mixed pretty well too.'

He read this day a good deal of my Journal, written in a small book with which he had supplied me, and was pleased, for he said, 'I wish thy books were twice as big.' He helped me to fill up blanks which I had left in first writing it, when I was not quite sure of what he had said, and he corrected any mistakes that I had made. 'They call me a scholar,' said he, 'and yet how very little literature is there in my conversation.' BOSWELL. 'That, sir, must be according to your company. You would not give literature to those who cannot taste it. Stay till we meet Lord Elibank.'

We had at last a good dinner, or rather supper, and were very well satisfied with our entertainment.

Wednesday, 13th October

Col called me up, with intelligence that it was a good day for a passage to Mull; and just as we rose, a sailor from the vessel arrived for us. We got all ready with dispatch. Dr Johnson was displeased at my bustling, and walking quickly up and down. He said, 'It does not hasten us a bit. It is getting on horseback in a ship. All boys do it; and you are longer a boy than others.' He himself has no alertness, or whatever it may be called; so he may dislike it, as Oderunt hilarem tristes.

Before we reached the harbour, the wind grew high again. However, the small boat was waiting, and took us on board. We remained for some time in uncertainty what to do: at last it was determined, that, as a good part of the day was over, and it was dangerous to be at sea at night, in such a vessel, and such weather, we should not sail till the morning tide, when the wind would probably be more gentle. We resolved not to go ashore again, but lie here in readiness. Dr Johnson and I had each a bed in the cabbin. Col sat at the fire in the forecastle, with the captain, and Joseph, and the rest. I eat some dry oatmeal, of which I found a barrel in the cabbin. I had not done this since I was a boy. Dr Johnson owned that he too was fond of it when a boy; a circumstance which I was highly pleased to hear from him, as it gave me an opportunity of observing that, notwithstanding his joke on the article of oats, he was himself a proof that this kind of food was not peculiar to the people of Scotland.

Thursday, 14th October

When Dr Johnson awaked this morning, he called, 'Lanky!' having, I suppose, been thinking of Langton; but corrected himself instantly, and cried, 'Bozzy!' He has a way of contracting the names of his friends. Goldsmith feels himself so important now, as to be displeased at it. I remember one day, when Tom Davies was telling that Dr Johnson said, 'We are all in labour for a name to Goldy's play,' Goldsmith cried, 'I have often desired him not to call me Goldy.'

Between six and seven we hauled our anchor, and set sail with a fair breeze; and, after a pleasant voyage, we got safely and agreeably into the harbour of Tobermorie, before the wind rose, which it always has done, for some days, about noon.

Tobermorie is an excellent harbour. An island lies before it, and it is surrounded by a hilly theatre. The island is too low, otherwise this would be quite a secure port; but, the island not being a sufficient protection, some storms blow very hard here. Not long ago, fifteen vessels were blown from their moorings. There are sometimes sixty or seventy sail here: to-day there were twelve or fourteen vessels. To see such a fleet was the next thing to seeing a town. The vessels were from different places; Clyde, Campbelltown, Newcastle, etc. One was returning to Lancaster from Hamburgh. After having been shut up so long in Coll, the sight of such an assemblage of moving habitations, containing such a variety of people, engaged in different pursuits, gave me much gaiety of spirit. When we had landed, Dr Johnson said, 'Boswell is now all alive. He is like Antaeus; he gets new vigour whenever he touches the ground.' I went to the top of a hill fronting the harbour, from whence I had a good view of it. We had here a tolerable inn. Dr Johnson had owned to me this morning, that he was out of humour. Indeed, he shewed it a good deal in the ship; for when I was expressing my joy on the prospect of our landing in Mull, he said, he had no joy, when he recollected that it would be five days before he should get to the main land. I was afraid he would now take a sudden resolution to give up seeing Icolmkill. A dish of tea, and some good bread and butter, did him service, and his bad humour went off. I told him, that I was diverted to hear all the people whom we had visited in our tour, say, 'Honest man! he's pleased with every thing; he's always content!' 'Little do they know,' said I. He laughed, and said, 'You rogue!'

We sent to hire horses to carry us across the island of Mull to the shore opposite to Inchkenneth, the residence of Sir Allan M'Lean, uncle to young Col, and chief of the M'Leans, to whose house we intended to go the next day. Our friend Col went to visit his aunt, the wife of Dr Alexander M'Lean, a physician, who lives about a mile from Tobermorie.

Dr Johnson and I sat by ourselves at the inn, and talked a good deal. I told him, that I had found, in Leandro Alberti's Description of Italy, much of what Addison has given us in his Remarks. He said, "The collection of passages from the Classicks has been made by another Italian: it is, however, impossible to detect a man as a plagiary in such a case, because all who set about making such a collection must find the same passages; but, if you find the same applications in another book, then Addison's learning in his Remarks tumbles down. It is a tedious book; and, if it were not attached to Addison's previous reputation, one would not think much of it. Had he written nothing else, his name would not have lived. Addison does not seem to have gone deep in Italian literature: he shews nothing of it in his subsequent writings. He shews a great deal of French learning. There is, perhaps, more knowledge circulated in the French language than in any other. There is more original knowledge in English.' 'But the French,' said I, 'have the art of accommodating literature.' JOHNSON. 'Yes, sir; we have no such book as Moreri's Dictionary.'" BOSWELL. "Their Ana are good.' JOHNSON. 'A few of them are good; but we have one book of that kind better than any of them; Selden's Table-talk. As to original literature, the French have a couple of tragick poets who go round the world, Racine and Corneille, and one comick poet, Moliere.'--BOSWELL. 'They have Fenelon.' JOHNSON. 'Why, sir, Telemachus is pretty well.' BOSWELL. 'And Voltaire, sir.' JOHNSON. 'He has not stood his trial yet And what makes Voltaire chiefly circulate is collection; such as his Universal History.' BOSWELL. 'What do you say to the Bishop of Meaux?' JOHNSON. 'Sir, nobody reads him.'2 He would not allow Massillon and Bourdaloue to go round the world. In general, however, he gave the French much praise for their industry.

He asked me whether he had mentioned, in any of the papers of the Rambler, the description in Virgil of the entrance into Hell, with an application to the press; 'for,' said he, 'I do not much remember them'. I told him, 'No.' Upon which he repeated it:

Vestibulum ante ipsum, primisque in faucibus orci,
Luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae;
Pallentesque habitant Morbi, tristisque Senectus,
Et Metus, et malesuada Fames, et turpis Egestas,
Terribiles visu formae; Lethumque, Laborque.3

'Now,' said he, 'almost all these apply exactly to an authour; all these are the concomitants of a printing-house.' I proposed to him to dictate an essay on it, and offered to write it. He said, he would not do it then, but perhaps would write one at some future period.

The Sunday evening that we sat by ourselves at Aberdeen, I asked him several particulars of his early years, which he readily told me; and I wrote them down before him. This day I proceeded in my inquiries, also writing them in his presence. I have them on detached sheets. I shall collect authentick materials for The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL. D. ; and, if I survive him, I shall be one who will most faithfully do honour to his memory. I have now a vast treasure of his conversation, at different times, since the year 1762, when I first obtained his acquaintance; and, by assiduous inquiry, I can make up for not knowing him sooner.4

A Newcastle ship-master, who happened to be in the house, intruded himself upon us. He was much in liquor, and talked nonsense about his being a man for 'Wilkes and Liberty', and against the ministry. Dr Johnson was angry, that 'a fellow should come into OUR company, who was fit for NO company'. He left us soon.

Col returned from his aunt, and told us, she insisted that we should come to her house that night. He introduced to us Mr Campbell, the Duke of Argyle's factor in Tyr-yi. He was a genteel, agreeable man. He was going to Inveraray, and promised to put letters into the post-office for us. I now found that Dr Johnson's desire to get on the main land, arose from his anxiety to have an opportunity of conveying letters to his friends.

After dinner, we proceeded to Dr M'Lean's, which was about a mile from our inn. He was not at home, but we were received by his lady and daughter, who entertained us so well, that Dr Johnson seemed quite happy. When we had supped, he asked me to give him some paper to write letters. I begged he would write short ones, and not EXPATIATE, as we ought to set off early. He was irritated by this, and said, 'What must be done, must be done: the thing is past a joke.' 'Nay, sir,' said I, 'write as much as you please; but do not blame me, if we are kept six days before we get to the main land. You were very impatient in the morning: but no sooner do you find yourself in good quarters, than you forget that you are to move.' I got him paper enough, and we parted in good humour.

Let me now recollect whatever particulars I have omitted. In the morning I said to him, before we landed at Tobermorie, 'We shall see Dr M'Lean, who has written the History of the M'Leans.' JOHNSON. 'I have no great patience to stay to hear the history of the M'Leans. I would rather hear the history of the Thrales.' When on Mull, I said, 'Well, sir, this is the fourth of the Hebrides that we have been upon.' JOHNSON. 'Nay, we cannot boast of the number we have seen. We thought we should see many more. We thought of sailing about easily from island to island; and so we should, had we come at a better season; but we, being wise men, thought it would be summer all the year where we were. However, sir, we have seen enough to give us a pretty good notion of the system in insular life.'

Let me not forget, that he sometimes amused himself with very slight reading; from which, however, his conversation shewed that he contrived to extract some benefit. At Captain M'Lean's he read a good deal in The Charmer, a collection of songs.

Friday, 15th October

We this morning found that we could not proceed, there being a violent storm of wind and rain, and the rivers being impassable. When I expressed my discontent at our confinement, Dr Johnson said, 'Now that I have had an opportunity of writing to the main land, I am in no such haste.' I was amused with his being so easily satisfied; for the truth was, that the gentleman who was to convey our letters, as I was now informed, was not to set out for Inveraray for some time; so that it was probable we should be there as soon as he: however, I did not undeceive my friend, but suffered him to enjoy his fancy.

Dr Johnson asked, in the evening, to see Dr M'Lean's books. He took down Willis De Anima Brutorum, and pored over it a good deal.

Miss M'Lean produced some Erse poems by John M'Lean, who was a famous bard in Mull, and had died only a few years ago. He could neither read nor write. She read and translated two of them; one, a kind of elegy on Sir John M'Lean's being obliged to fly his country in 1715; another, a dialogue between two Roman Catholick young ladies, sisters, whether it was better to be a nun or to marry. I could not perceive much poetical imagery in the translation. Yet all of our company who understood Erse, seemed charmed with the original. There may, perhaps, be some choice of expression, and some excellence of arrangement, that cannot be shewn in translation.

After we had exhausted the Erse poems, of which Dr Johnson said nothing, Miss M'Lean gave us several tunes on a spinnet, which, though made so long ago, as in 1667, was still very well toned. She sung along with it. Dr Johnson seemed pleased with the musick, though he owns he neither likes it, nor has hardly any perception of it. At Mr M'Pherson's, in Slate, he told us, that 'he knew a drum from a trumpet, and a bagpipe from a guitar, which was about the extent of his knowledge of musick'. To-night he said, that, 'if he had learnt musick, he should have been afraid he would have done nothing else but play. It was a method of employing the mind, without the labour of thinking at all, and with some applause from a man's self.'

We had the musick of the bagpipe every day, at Armidale, Dunvegan, and Coll. Dr Johnson appeared fond of it, and used often to stand for some time with his ear close to the great drone.

The penurious gentleman of our acquaintance, formerly alluded to, afforded us a topick of conversation to-night. Dr Johnson said, I ought to write down a collection of the instances of his narrowness, as they almost exceeded belief. Col told us, that O'Kane, the famous Irish harper, was once at that gentleman's house. He could not find in his heart to give him any money, but gave him a key for a harp, which was finely ornamented with gold and silver, and with a precious stone, and was worth eighty or a hundred guineas. He did not know the value of it; and when he came to know it, he would fain have had it back; but O'Kane took care that he should not. JOHNSON. 'They exaggerate the value; every body is so desirous that he should be fleeced. I am very willing it should be worth eighty or a hundred guineas; but I do not believe it.' BOSWELL. 'I do not think O'Kane was obliged to give it back.' JOHNSON. 'No, sir. If a man with his eyes open, and without any means used to deceive him, gives me a thing, I am not to let him have it again when he grows wiser. I like to see how avarice defeats itself; how, when avoiding to part with money, the miser gives something more valuable.' Col said, the gentleman's relations were angry at his giving away the harp-key, for it had been long in the family. JOHNSON. 'Sir, he values a new guinea more than an old friend.'

Col also told us, that the same person having come up with a serjeant and twenty men, working on the high road, he entered into discourse with the serjeant, and then gave him sixpence for the men to drink. The serjeant asked, 'Who is this fellow?' Upon being informed, he said, 'If I had known who he was, I should have thrown it in his face.' JOHNSON. 'There is much want of sense in all this. He had no business to speak with the serjeant. He might have been in haste, and trotted on. He had not learnt to be a miser: I believe we must take him apprentice.' BOSWELL. 'He would grudge giving half a guinea to be taught' JOHNSON. 'Nay, sir, you must teach him gratis. You must give him an opportunity to practice your precepts.'

Let me now go back, and glean Johnsoniana. The Saturday before we sailed from Slate, I sat awhile in the afternoon with Dr Johnson in his room, in a quiet serious frame. I observed, that hardly any man was accurately prepared for dying; but almost every one left something undone, something in confusion; that my father, indeed, told me he knew one man (Carlisle of Limekilns), after whose death all his papers were found in exact order; and nothing was omitted in his will. JOHNSON. 'Sir, I had an uncle who died so; but such attention requires great leisure, and great firmness of mind. If one was to think constantly of death, the business of life would stand still. I am no friend to making religion appear too hard. Many good people have done harm, by giving severe notions of it. In the same way, as to learning: I never frighten young people with difficulties; on the contrary, I tell them that they may very easily get as much as will do very well. I do not indeed tell them that they will be BENTLEYS.'

The night we rode to Col's house, I said, 'Lord Elibank is probably wondering what is become of us.' JOHNSON. 'No, no; he is not thinking of us.' BOSWELL. 'But recollect the warmth with which he wrote. Are we not to believe a man, when he says he has a great desire to see another? Don't you believe that I was very impatient for your coming to Scotland?' JOHNSON. 'Yes, sir; I believe you were; and I was impatient to come to you. A young man feels so, but seldom an old man.' I however convinced him that Lord Elibank, who has much of the spirit of a young man, might feel so. He asked me if our jaunt had answered expectation. I said it had much exceeded it. I expected much difficulty with him, and had not found it 'And,' he added, 'wherever we have come, we have been received like princes in their progress.'

He said, he would not wish not to be disgusted in the Highlands; for that would be to lose the power of distinguishing, and a man might then lie down in the middle of them. He wished only to conceal his disgust.

At Captain M'Lean's, I mentioned Pope's friend, Spence. JOHNSON. 'He was a weak conceited man.'5

Last night at the inn, when the factor in Tyr-yi spoke of his having heard that a roof was put on some part of the buildings at Icolmkill, I unluckily said, 'It will be fortunate if we find a cathedral with a roof on it.' I said this from a foolish anxiety to engage Dr Johnson's curiosity more. He took me short at once. 'What, sir? How can you talk so? If we shall FIND a cathedral roofed! As if we were going to a terra incognita; when every thing that is at Icolmkill is so well known. You are like some New England men who came to the mouth of the Thames. "Come," said they, "let us go up and see what sort of inhabitants there are here." They talked, sir, as if they had been to go up the Susquehannah, or any other American river.'

Saturday, 16th October

This day there was a new moon, and the weather changed for the better. Dr Johnson said of Miss M'Lean, 'She is the most accomplished lady that I have found in the Highlands. She knows French, musick, and drawing, sews neatly, makes shell-work, and can milk cows; in short, she can do every thing. She talks sensibly, and is the first person whom I have found, that can translate Erse poetry literally.' We set out, mounted on little Mull horses. Mull corresponded exactly with the idea which I had always had of it; a hilly country, diversified with heath and grass, and many rivulets. Dr Johnson was not in very good humour. He said, it was a dreary country, much worse than Sky. I differed from him, 'O, sir,' said he, 'a most dolorous country!'

We had a very hard journey to-day. I had no bridle for my sheltie, but only a halter; and Joseph rode without a saddle. At one place, a loch having swelled over the road, we were obliged to plunge through pretty deep water. Dr Johnson observed, how helpless a man would be, were he travelling here alone, and should meet with any accident; and said, 'he longed to get to a country of saddles and bridles'. He was more out of humour to-day, than he has been in the course of our tour, being fretted to find that his little horse could scarcely support his weight; and having suffered a loss, which, though small in itself, was of some consequence to him, while travelling the rugged steeps of Mull, where he was at times obliged to walk. The loss that I allude to was that of the large oak-stick, which, as I formerly mentioned, he had brought with him from London. It was of great use to him in our wild peregrination; for, ever since his last illness in 1766, he has had a weakness in his knees, and has not been able to walk easily. It had too the properties of a measure; for one nail was driven into it at the length of a foot; another at that of a yard. In return for the services it had done him, he said, this morning he would make a present of it to some museum; but he little thought he was so soon to lose it. As he preferred riding with a switch, it was intrusted to a fellow to be delivered to our baggage-man, who followed us at some distance; but we never saw it more. I could not persuade him out of a suspicion that it had been stolen. 'No, no, my friend,' said he, 'it is not to be expected that any man in Mull, who has got it, will part with it. Consider, sir, the value of such a PIECE OF TIMBER here!'

As we travelled this forenoon, we met Dr M'Lean, who expressed much regret at his having been so unfortunate as to be absent while we were at his house.

We were in hopes to get to Sir Allan Maclean's at Inchkenneth, to-night; but the eight miles, of which our road was said to consist, were so very long, that we did not reach the opposite coast of Mull till seven at night, though we had set out about eleven in the forenoon; and when we did arrive there, we found the wind strong against us. Col determined that we should pass the night at M'Quarrie's, in the island of Ulva, which lies between Mull and Inchkenneth; and a servant was sent forward to the ferry, to secure the boat for us: but the boat was gone to the Ulva side, and the wind was so high that the people could not hear him call; and the night so dark that they could not see a signal. We should have been in a very bad situation, had there not fortunately been lying in the little sound of Ulva an Irish vessel, the Bonnetta, of Londonderry, Captain M'Lure, master. He himself was at M'Quarrie's; but his men obligingly came with their long-boat, and ferried us over.

M'Quarrie's house was mean; but we were agreeably surprised with the appearance of the master, whom we found to be intelligent, polite, and much a man of the world. Though his clan is not numerous, he is a very ancient chief, and has a burial place at Icolmkill. He told us, his family had possessed Ulva for nine hundred years; but I was distressed to hear that it was soon to be sold for the payment of his debts.

Captain M'Lure, whom we found here, was of Scotch extraction, and properly a M'Leod, being descended of some of the M'Leods who went with Sir Normand of Bernera to the battle of Worcester, and after the defeat of the royalists, fled to Ireland, and, to conceal themselves, took a different name. He told me, there was a great number of them about Londonderry; some of good property. I said, they should now resume their real name. The Laird of M'Leod should go over, and assemble them, and make them all drink the large horn full, and from that time they should be M'Leods. The captain informed us, he had named his ship the Bonnetta, out of gratitude to Providence; for once, when he was sailing to America with a good number of passengers, the ship in which he then sailed was becalmed for five weeks, and during all that time, numbers of the fish bonnetta swam close to her, and were caught for food; he resolved therefore, that the ship he should next get, should be called the Bonnetta.

M'Quarrie told us a strong instance of the second sight. He had gone to Edinburgh, and taken a man-servant along with him. An old woman, who was in the house, said one day, 'M'Quarrie will be at home to- morrow, and will bring two gentlemen with him'; and she said, she saw his servant return in red and green. He did come home next day. He had two gentlemen with him; and his servant had a new red and green livery, which M'Quarrie had bought for him at Edinburgh, upon a sudden thought, not having the least intention when he left home to put his servant in livery, so that the old woman could not have heard any previous mention of it. This, he assured us, was a true story.

M'Quarrie insisted that the mercheta mulierum, mentioned in our old charters, did really mean the privilege which a lord of a manor, or a baron, had, to have the first night of all his vassals' wives. Dr Johnson said, the belief of such a custom having existed was also held in England, where there is a tenure called Borough-English, by which the eldest child does not inherit, from a doubt of his being the son of the tenant.6 M'Quarrie told us, that still, on the marriage of each of his tenants, a sheep is due to him; for which the composition is fixed at five shillings. I suppose, Ulva is the only place where this custom remains.

Talking of the sale of an estate of an ancient family, which was said to have been purchased much under its value by the confidential lawyer of that family, and it being mentioned that the sale would probably be set aside by a suit in equity, Dr Johnson said, 'I am very willing that this sale should be set aside, but I doubt much whether the suit will be successful; for the argument for avoiding the sale is founded on vague and indeterminate principles, as that the price was too low, and that there was a great degree of confidence placed by the seller in the person who became the purchaser. Now, how low should a price be? or what degree of confidence should there be to make a bargain be set aside? a bargain, which is a wager of skill between man and man. If, indeed, any fraud can be proved, that will do.'

When Dr Johnson and I were by ourselves at night, I observed of our host, 'aspectum generosum habet.' 'Et generosum animum,' he added. For fear of being overheard in the small Highland houses, I often talked to him in such Latin as I could speak, and with as much of the English accent as I could assume, so as not to be understood, in case our conversation should be too loud for the space.

We had each an elegant bed in the same room; and here it was that a circumstance occurred, as to which he has been strangely misunderstood. From his description of his chamber, it has erroneously been supposed, that his bed being too short for him, his feet, during the night, were in the mire; whereas he has only said, that when he undressed, he felt his feet in the mire: that is, the clay-floor of the room, on which he stood before he went into bed, was wet, in consequence of the windows being broken, which let in the rain.

1 It is remarkable, that Dr Johnson should have read this account of some of his own peculiar habits, without saying any thing on the subject which I hoped he would have done.

2 I take leave to enter my strongest protest against this judgement Bossuet I hold to be one of the first luminaries of religion and literature. If there are who do not read him, it is full time they should begin.

3 Just in the gate, and in the jaws of hell,
Revengeful cares, and sullen sorrows dwell;
And pale diseases, and repining age;
Want, fear, and famine's unresisted rage;
Here toils and death, and death's half-brother, sleep,
Forms terrible to view, their sentry keep. DRYDEN.

4 It is no small satisfaction to me to reflect, that Dr Johnson read this, and, after being apprised of my intention, communicated to me, at subsequent periods, many particulars of his life, which probably could not otherwise have been preserved.

5 Mr Langton thinks this must have been the hasty expression of a splenetick moment as he has heard Dr Johnson speak of Mr Spence's judgement in criticism with so high a degree of respect, as to shew that this was not his settled opinion of him. Let me add that in the preface to the Preceptor, he recommends Spence's Essay on Pope's Odyssey, and that his admirable lives of the English Poets are much enriched by Spence's Anecdotes of Pope. BOSWELL. 'A good scholar, sir?' JOHNSON. 'Why, no, sir.' BOSWELL. 'He was a pretty scholar.' JOHNSON. 'You have about reached him.'

6 Sir William Blackstone says in his Commentaries, that 'he cannot find that ever this custom prevailed in England'; and therefore he is of opinion that it could not have given rise to Borough-English.

James Boswell, The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides with Samuel Johnson, LL.D. (Oxford, Mississippi, 2004)

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