Picture of James Boswell

James Boswell

places mentioned

October 27th to November 7th, 1773: Through Glasgow to Ayrshire

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Wednesday, 27th October

When I went into Dr Johnson's room this morning, I observed to him how wonderfully courteous he had been at Inveraray, and said, 'You were quite a fine gentleman, when with the duchess.' He answered, in good humour, 'Sir, I look upon myself as a very polite man': and he was right, in a proper manly sense of the word. As an immediate proof of it, let me observe, that he would not send back the Duke of Argyle's horse without a letter of thanks, which I copied.

To his Grace the Duke of ARGYLE.

My Lord,

That kindness which disposed your grace to supply me with the horse, which I have now returned, will make you pleased to hear that he has carried me well.

By my diligence in the little commission with which I was honoured by the duchess, I will endeavour to shew how highly I value the favours which I have received, and how much I desire to be thought,

My lord,
Your grace's most obedient,
and most humble servant,
Rosedow, Oct. 29, 1773.

The duke was so attentive to his respectable guest, that on the same day, he wrote him an answer, which was received at Auchinleck:

To Dr JOHNSON, Auchinleck, Ayrshire. Sir,

I am glad to hear your journey from this place was not unpleasant, in regard to your horse. I wish I could have supplied you with good weather, which I am afraid you felt the want of.

The Duchess of Argyle desires her compliments to you, and is much obliged to you for remembering her commission. I am, sir,

Your most obedient humble servant,


Inveraray, Oct. 29, 1773.

I am happy to insert every memorial of the honour done to my great friend. Indeed, I was at all times desirous to preserve the letters which he received from eminent persons, of which, as of all other papers, he was very negligent; and I once proposed to him, that they should be committed to my care, as his Gustos Rotulorum. I wish he had complied with my request, as by that means many valuable writings might have been preserved, that are now lost. 1

After breakfast, Dr Johnson and I were furnished with a boat, and sailed about upon Lochlomond, and landed on some of the islands which are interspersed. He was much pleased with the scene, which is so well known by the accounts of various travellers, that it is unnecessary for me to attempt any description of it.

I recollect none of his conversation, except that, when talking of dress, he said, 'Sir, were I to have any thing fine, it should be very fine. Were I to wear a ring, it should not be a bauble, but a stone of great value. Were I to wear a laced or embroidered waistcoat, it should be very rich. I had once a very rich laced waistcoat, which I wore the first night of my tragedy.'

Lady Helen Colquhoun being a very pious woman, the conversation, after dinner, took a religious turn. Her ladyship defended the presbyterian mode of publick worship; upon which Dr Johnson delivered those excellent arguments for a form of prayer which he has introduced into his Journey. I am myself fully convinced that a form of prayer for publick worship is in general most decent and edifying. Solennia verba have a kind of prescriptive sanctity, and make a deeper impression on the mind than extemporaneous effusions, in which, as we know not what they are to be, we cannot readily acquiesce. Yet I would allow also of a certain portion of extempore address, as occasion may require. This is the practice of the French Protestant churches. And although the office of forming supplications to the throne of Heaven is, in my mind, too great a trust to be indiscriminately committed to the discretion of every minister, I do not mean to deny that sincere devotion may be experienced when joining in prayer with those who use no Liturgy.

We were favoured with Sir James Colquhoun's coach to convey us in the evening to Cameron, the seat of Commissary Smollet. Our satisfaction of finding ourselves again in a comfortable carriage was very great. We had a pleasing conviction of the commodiousness of civilization, and heartily laughed at the ravings of those absurd visionaries who have attempted to persuade us of the superior advantages of a state of nature.

Mr Smollet was a man of considerable learning, with abundance of animal spirits; so that he was a very good companion for Dr Johnson, who said to me, 'We have had more solid talk here than at any place where we have been.'

I remember Dr Johnson gave us this evening an able and eloquent discourse on the origin of evil, and on the consistency of moral evil with the power and goodness of God. He shewed us how it arose from our free agency, an extinction of which would be a still greater evil than any we experience. I know not that he said any thing absolutely new, but he said a great deal wonderfully well; and perceiving us to be delighted and satisfied, he concluded his harangue with an air of benevolent triumph over an objection which has distressed many worthy minds: This then is the answer to the question, [words in Greek]?' Mrs Smollet whispered me, that it was the best sermon she had ever heard. Much do I upbraid myself for having neglected to preserve it.

Thursday, 28th October

Mr Smollet pleased Dr Johnson, by producing a collection of news-papers in the time of the Usurpation, from which it appeared that all sorts of crimes were very frequent during that horrible anarchy. By the side of the high road to Glasgow, at some distance from his house, he had erected a pillar to the memory of his ingenious kinsman, Dr Smollet; and he consulted Dr Johnson as to an inscription for it. Lord Kames, who, though he had a great store of knowledge, with much ingenuity, and uncommon activity of mind, was no profound scholar, had it seems recommended an English inscription. Dr Johnson treated this with great contempt, saying 'An English inscription would be a disgrace to Dr Smollet'; and, in answer to what Lord Kames had urged, as to the advantage of its being in English, because it would be generally understood, I observed, that all to whom Dr Smollet's merit could be an object of respect and imitation, would understand it as well in Latin; and that surely it was not meant for the Highland drovers, or other such people, who pass and repass that way.

We were then shewn a Latin inscription, proposed for this monument. Dr Johnson sat down with an ardent and liberal earnestness to revise it, and greatly improved it by several additions and variations. I unfortunately did not take a copy of it, as it originally stood; but I have happily preserved every fragment of what Dr Johnson wrote:

Quisquis ades, viator,
Vel mente felix, vel studiis cultus,
Immorare paululum memoriae
Viri iis virtutibus
Quas in homine et cive
Et laudes, et imiteris,
Postquam mira...
Tali tantoque viro, suo patrueli,
Hanc columnam,
Amoris eheul inane monumentum,
In ipsis Leviniae ripis,
Quas primis infans vagitibus personuit,
Versiculisque jam fere moriturus illustravit,
Ponendam curavit
......... 2

We had this morning a singular proof of Dr Johnson's quick and retentive memory. Hay's translation of Martial was lying in a window. I said, I thought it was pretty well done, and shewed him a particular epigram, I think, of ten, but am certain of eight, lines. He read it, and tossed away the book, saying 'No, it is NOT pretty well.' As I persisted in my opinion, he said, 'Why, sir, the original is thus' (and he repeated it); 'and this man's translation is thus,' and then he repeated that also, exactly, though he had never seen it before, and read it over only once, and that too, without any intention of getting it by heart.

Here a post-chaise, which I had ordered from Glasgow, came for us, and we drove on in high spirits. We stopped at Dunbarton, and though the approach to the castle there is very steep, Dr Johnson ascended it with alacrity, and surveyed all that was to be seen. During the whole of our tour he shewed uncommon spirit, could not bear to be treated like an old or infirm man, and was very unwilling to accept of any assistance, insomuch that, at our landing at Icolmkill, when Sir Allan McLean and I submitted to be carried on men's shoulders from the boat to the shore, as it could not be brought quite close to land, he sprang into the sea, and waded vigorously out.

On our arrival at the Saracen's Head Inn, at Glasgow, I was made happy by good accounts from home; and Dr Johnson, who had not received a single letter since we left Aberdeen, found here a great many, the perusal of which entertained him much. He enjoyed in imagination the comforts which we could now command, and seemed to be in high glee. I remember, he put a leg up on each side of the grate, and said, with a mock solemnity, by way of soliloquy, but loud enough for me to hear it, 'Here am I, an ENGLISH man, sitting by a COAL fire.'

Friday, 29th October

The professors of the university being informed of our arrival, Dr Stevenson, Dr Reid, and Mr Anderson, breakfasted with us. Mr Anderson accompanied us while Dr Johnson viewed this beautiful city. He had told me, that one day in London, when Dr Adam Smith was boasting of it, he turned to him and said, 'Pray, sir, have you ever seen Brentford?' This was surely a strong instance of his impatience, and spirit of contradiction. I put him in mind of it to-day, while he expressed his admiration of the elegant buildings, and whispered him, 'Don't you feel some remorse?'

We were received in the college by a number of the professors, who shewed all due respect to Dr Johnson; and then we paid a visit to the principal, Dr Leechman, at his own house, where Dr Johnson had the satisfaction of being told that his name had been gratefully celebrated in one of the parochial congregations in the Highlands, as the person to whose influence it was chiefly owing, that the New Testament was allowed to be translated into the Erse language. It seems some political members of the Society in Scotland for propagating Christian Knowledge, had opposed this pious undertaking, as tending to preserve the distinction between the Highlanders and Lowlanders. Dr Johnson wrote a long letter upon the subject to a friend, which being shewn to them, made them ashamed, and afraid of being publickly exposed; so they were forced to a compliance. It is now in my possession, and is, perhaps, one of the best productions of his masterly pen.

Professors Reid and Anderson, and the two Messieurs Foulis, the Elzevirs of Glasgow, dined and drank tea with us at our inn, after which the professors went away; and I, having a letter to write, left my fellow-traveller with Messieurs Foulis. Though good and ingenious men, they had that unsettled speculative mode of conversation which is offensive to a man regularly taught at an English school and university. I found that, instead of listening to the dictates of the Sage, they had teazed him with questions and doubtful disputations. He came in a flutter to me, and desired I might come back again, for he could not bear these men. 'O ho! sir,' said I, 'you are flying to me for refuge!' He never, in any situation, was at a loss for a ready repartee. He answered, with quick vivacity, 'It is of two evils chooseing the least.' I was delighted with this flash bursting from the cloud which hung upon his mind, closed my letter directly, and joined the company.

We supped at Professor Andersen's. The general impression upon my memory is, that we had not much conversation at Glasgow where the professors, like their brethren at Aberdeen, did not venture to expose themselves much to the battery of cannon which they knew might play upon them. Dr Johnson, who was fully conscious of his own superior powers, afterwards praised Principal Robertson for his caution in this respect. He said to me, 'Robertson, sir, was in the right. Robertson is a man of eminence, and the head of a college at Edinburgh. He had a character to maintain, and did well not to risk its being lessened.'

Saturday, 30th October

We set out towards Ayrshire. I sent Joseph on to Loudoun, with a message, that, if the earl was at home, Dr Johnson and I would have the honour to dine with him. Joseph met us on the road, and reported that the earl 'jumped for joy', and said, 'I shall be very happy to see them.' We were received with a most pleasing courtesy by his lordship, and by the countess his mother, who, in her ninety-fifth year, had all her faculties quite unimpaired. This was a very cheering sight to Dr Johnson, who had an extraordinary desire for long life. Her ladyship was sensible and well-informed, and had seen a great deal of the world. Her lord had held several high offices, and she was sister to the great Earl of Stair.

I cannot here refrain from paying a just tribute to the character of John Earl of Loudoun, who did more service to the county of Ayr in general, as well as to individuals in it, than any man we have ever had. It is painful to think that he met with much ingratitude from persons both in high and low rank: but such was his temper, such his knowledge of 'base mankind,'3 that, as if he had expected no other return, his mind was never soured, and he retained his good-humour and benevolence to the last. The tenderness of his heart was proved in 1745-6, when he had an important command in the Highlands, and behaved with a generous humanity to the unfortunate. I cannot figure a more honest politician; for, though his interest in our county was great, and generally successful, he not only did not deceive by fallacious promises, but was anxious that people should not deceive themselves by too sanguine expectations. His kind and dutiful attention to his mother was unremitted. At his house was true hospitality; a plain but a plentiful table; and every guest, being left at perfect freedom, felt himself quite easy and happy. While I live, I shall honour the memory of this amiable man.

At night, we advanced a few miles farther, to the house of Mr Campbell of Treesbank, who was married to one of my wife's sisters, and were entertained very agreeably by a worthy couple.

Sunday, 31st October

We reposed here in tranquillity. Dr Johnson was pleased to find a numerous and excellent collection of books, which had mostly belonged to the Reverend Mr John Campbell, brother of our host. I was desirous to have procured for my fellow traveller, to-day, the company of Sir John Cuninghame, of Caprington, whose castle was but two miles from us. He was a very distinguished scholar, long abroad, and during part of the time lived much with the learned Cuninghame, the opponent of Bentley as a critick upon Horace. He wrote Latin with great elegance, and, what is very remarkable, read Homer and Ariosto through every year. I wrote to him to request he would come to us; but unfortunately he was prevented by indisposition.

Monday, 1st November

Though Dr Johnson was lazy, and averse to move, I insisted that he should go with me, and pay a visit to the Countess of Eglintoune, mother of the late and present earl. I assured him, he would find himself amply recompensed for the trouble; and he yielded to my solicitations, though with some unwillingness. We were well mounted, and had not many miles to ride. He talked of the attention that is necessary in order to distribute our charity judiciously. 'If thoughtlessly done, we may neglect the most deserving objects; and, as every man has but a certain proportion to give, if it is lavished upon those who first present themselves, there may be nothing left for such as have a better claim. A man should first relieve those who are nearly connected with him, by whatever tie; and then, if he has any thing to spare, may extend his bounty to a wider circle.'

As we passed very near the castle of Dundonald, which was one of the many residencies of the kings of Scotland, and in which Robert the Second lived and died, Dr Johnson wished to survey it particularly. It stands on a beautiful rising ground, which is seen at a great distance on several quarters, and from whence there is an extensive prospect of the rich district of Cuninghame, the western sea, the isle of Arran, and a part of the northern coast of Ireland. It has long been unroofed; and, though of considerable size, we could not, by any power of imagination, figure it as having been a suitable habitation for majesty. Dr Johnson, to irritate my old Scottish enthusiasm, was very jocular on the homely accommodation of 'King Bob', and roared and laughed till the ruins echoed.

Lady Eglintoune, though she was now in her eighty-fifth year, and had lived in the retirement of the country for almost half a century, was still a very agreeable woman. She was of the noble house of Kennedy, and had all the elevation which the consciousness of such birth inspires. Her figure was majestick, her manners high-bred, her reading extensive, and her conversation elegant. She had been the admiration of the gay circles of life, and the patroness of poets. Dr Johnson was delighted with his reception here. Her principles in Church and state were congenial with his. She knew all his merit, and had heard much of him from her son, Earl Alexander, who loved to cultivate the acquaintance of men of talents, in every department.

All who knew his lordship, will allow that his understanding and accomplishments were of no ordinary rate. From the gay habits which he had early acquired, he spent too much of his time with men, and in pursuits far beneath such a mind as his. He afterwards became sensible of it, and turned his thoughts to objects of importance; but was cut off in the prime of his life. I cannot speak, but with emotions of the most affectionate regret, of one, in whose company many of my early days were passed, and to whose kindness I was much indebted.

Often must I have occasion to upbraid myself, that soon after our return to the main land, I allowed indolence to prevail over me so much, as to shrink from the labour of continuing my Journal with the same minuteness as before; sheltering myself in the thought, that we had done with the Hebrides; and not considering, that Dr Johnson's Memorabilia were likely to be more valuable when we were restored to a more polished society. Much has thus been irrecoverably lost.

In the course of our conversation this day, it came out, that Lady Eglintoune was married the year before Dr Johnson was born; upon which she graciously said to him, that she might have been his mother; and that she now adopted him; and when we were going away, she embraced him, saying, 'My dear son, farewell!' My friend was much pleased with this day's entertainment, and owned that I had done well to force him out.

Tuesday, 2d November

We were now in a country not only 'of saddles and bridles', but of post-chaises; and having ordered one from Kilmarnock, we got to Auchinleck before dinner.

My father was not quite a year and a half older than Dr Johnson; but his conscientious discharge of his laborious duty as a judge in Scotland, where the law proceedings are almost all in writing, a severe complaint which ended in his death, and the loss of my mother, a woman of almost unexampled piety and goodness, had before this time in some degree affected his spirits, and rendered him less disposed to exert his faculties: for he had originally a very strong mind, and cheerful temper. He assured me, he never had felt one moment of what is called low spirits, or uneasiness, without a real cause. He had a great many good stories, which he told uncommonly well, and he was remarkable for 'humour, incolumi gravitate', as Lord Monboddo used to characterize it. His age, his office, and his character, had long given him an acknowledged claim to great attention, in whatever company he was; and he could ill brook any diminution of it. He was as sanguine a Whig and Presbyterian, as Dr Johnson was a Tory and Church of England man: and as he had not much leisure to be informed of Dr Johnson's great merits by reading his works, he had a partial and unfavourable notion of him, founded on his supposed political tenets; which were so discordant to his own, that, instead of speaking of him with respect to which he was entitled, he used to call him 'a JACOBITE FELLOW'. Knowing all this, I should not have ventured to bring them together, had not my father, out of kindness to me, desired me to invite Dr Johnson his house.

I was very anxious that all should be well; and begged of my friend to avoid three topicks, as to which they differed very widely; Whiggism, Presbyterianism, and--Sir John Pringle. He said courteously, 'I shall certainly not talk on subjects which I am told are disagreeable to a gentleman under whose roof I am; especially, I shall not do so to YOUR FATHER.'

Our first day went off very smoothly. It rained, and we could not get out; but my father shewed Dr Johnson his library, which, in curious editions of the Greek and Roman classicks, is, I suppose, not excelled by any private collection in Great Britain. My father had studied at Leyden, and been very intimate with the Gronovii, and other learned men there. He was a sound scholar, and, in particular, had collated manuscripts and different editions of Anacreon, and others of the Greek lyrick poets, with great care; so that my friend and he had much matter for conversation, without touching on the fatal topicks of difference.

Dr Johnson found here Baxter's Anacreon, which he told me he had long inquired for in vain, and began to suspect there was no such book. Baxter was the keen antagonist of Barnes. His life is in the Biographia Britannica. My father has written many notes on this book, and Dr Johnson and I talked of having it reprinted.

Wednesday, 3d November

It rained all day, and gave Dr Johnson an impression of that incommodiousness of climate in the west, of which he has taken notice in his Journey; but, being well accommodated, and furnished with variety of books, he was not dissatisfied.

Some gentlemen of the neighbourhood came to visit my father; but there was little conversation. One of them asked Dr Johnson how he liked the Highlands. The question seemed to irritate him, for he answered, 'How, sir, can you ask me what obliges me to speak unfavourably of a country where I have been hospitably entertained? Who CAN like the Highlands? --I like the inhabitants very well.' The gentleman asked no more questions.

Let me now make up for the present neglect, by again gleaning from the past. At Lord Monboddo's, after the conversation upon the decrease of learning in England, his Lordship mentioned Hermes by Mr Harris of Salisbury, as the work of a living authour, for whom he had a great respect. Dr Johnson said nothing at the time; but when we were in our post-chaise, told me, he thought Harris 'a coxcomb'. This he said of him, not as a man, but as an authour; and I give his opinions of men and books, faithfully, whether they agree with my own, or not. I do admit, that there always appeared to me something of affectation in Mr Harris's manner of writing; something of a habit of clothing plain thoughts in analytick and categorical formality. But all his writings are imbued with learning; and all breathe that philanthropy and amiable disposition, which distinguished him as a man.4

At another time, during our tour, he drew the character of a rapacious Highland chief with the strength of Theophrastus or la Bruyere; concluding with these words: 'Sir, he has no more the soul of a chief, than an attorney who has twenty houses in a street, and considers how much he can make by them.'

He this day, when we were by ourselves, observed, how common it was for people to talk from books; to retail the sentiments of others, and not their own; in short, to converse without any originality of thinking. He was pleased to say, 'You and I do not talk from books.'

Thursday, 4th November

I was glad to have at length a very fine day, on which I could shew Dr Johnson the place of my family, which he has honoured with so much attention in his Journey. He is, however, mistaken in thinking that the Celtick name, Auchinleck, has no relation to the natural appearance of it. I believe every Celtick name of a place will be found very descriptive. Auchinleck does not signify a 'stony field', as he has said, but a 'field of flag stones'; and this place has a number of rocks, which abound in strata of that kind. The 'sullen dignity of the old castle', as he has forcibly expressed it, delighted him exceedingly. On one side of the rock on which its ruins stand, runs the river Lugar, which is here of considerable breadth, and is bordered by other high rocks, shaded with wood. On the other side runs a brook, skirted in the same manner, but on a smaller scale. I cannot figure a more romantick scene.

I felt myself elated here, and expatiated to my illustrious mentor on the antiquity and honourable alliances of my family, and on the merits of its founder, Thomas Boswell, who was highly favoured by his sovereign, James IV of Scotland, and fell with him at the battle of Flodden field; and in the glow of what, I am sensible, will, in a commercial age, be considered as genealogical enthusiasm, did not omit to mention what I was sure my friend would not think lightly of, my relation to the Royal Personage, whose liberality, on his accession to the throne, had given him comfort and independence. I have, in a former page, acknowledged my pride of ancient blood, in which I was encouraged by Dr Johnson: my readers therefore will not be surprised at my having indulged it on this occasion.

Not far from the old castle is a spot of consecrated earth, on which may be traced the foundations of an ancient chapel, dedicated to St Vincent, and where in old times 'was the place of graves' for the family. It grieves me to think that the remains of sanctity here, which were considerable, were dragged away, and employed in building a part of the house of Auchinleck, of the middle age; which was the family residence, till my father erected that 'elegant modern mansion', of which Dr Johnson speaks so handsomely. Perhaps this chapel may one day be restored.

Dr Johnson was pleased, when I shewed him some venerable old trees, under the shade of which my ancestors had walked. He exhorted me to plant assiduously, as my father had done to a great extent.

As I wandered with my reverend friend in the groves of Auchinleck, I told him, that, if I survived him, it was my intention to erect a monument to him here, among scenes which, in my mind, were all classical; for in my youth I had appropriated to them many of the descriptions of the Roman poets. He could not bear to have death presented to him in any shape; for his constitutional melancholy made the king of terrours more frightful. He turned off the subject, saying, 'Sir, I hope to see your grand-children!'

This forenoon he observed some cattle without horns, of which he has taken notice in his Journey, and seems undecided whether they be of a particular race. His doubts appear to have had no foundation; for my respectable neighbour, Mr Fairlie, who, with all his attention to agriculture, finds time both for the Classicks and his friends, assures me they are a distinct species, and that, when any of their calves have horns, a mixture of breed can be traced. In confirmation of his opinion, he pointed out to me the following passage in Tacitus, Ne armentis quidem suus honor, aut gloria frontis (De mor. Germ. Section 5) which he wondered had escaped Dr Johnson.

On the front of the house of Auchinleck is this inscription:

... Quod petis, hic est;
Est Ulubris, animus si te non deficit aequus.

It is characteristick of the founder; but the animus aequus is, alas! not inheritable, nor the subject of devise. He always talked to me as if it were in a man's own power to attain it; but Dr Johnson told me that he owned to him, when they were alone, his persuasion that it was in a great measure constitutional, or the effect of causes which do not depend on ourselves, and that Horace boasts too much, when he says, aequum mi animum ipse parabo.

Friday, 5th November

The Reverend Mr Dun, our parish minister, who had dined with us yesterday, with some other company, insisted that Dr Johnson and I should dine with him to-day. This gave me an opportunity to shew my friend the road to the church, made by my father at a great expence, for above three miles, on his own estate, through a range of well enclosed farms, with a row of trees on each side of it. He called it the Via sacra, and was very fond of it. Dr Johnson, though he held notions far distant from those of the Presbyterian clergy, yet could associate on good terms with them. He indeed occasionally attacked them. One of them discovered a narrowness of information concerning the dignitaries of the Church of England, among whom may be found men of the greatest learning, virtue, and piety, and of a truly apostolic character. He talked before Dr Johnson, of fat bishops and drowsy deans; and, in short, seemed to believe the illiberal and profane scoffings of professed satyrists, or vulgar railers. Dr Johnson was so highly offended, that he said to him, 'Sir, you know no more of our church than a Hottentot.' I was sorry that he brought this upon himself.

Saturday, 6th November

I cannot be certain, whether it was on this day, or a former, that Dr Johnson and my father came in collision. If I recollect right, the contest began while my father was shewing him his collection of medals; and Oliver Cromwell's coin unfortunately introduced Charles the First, and Toryism. They became exceedingly warm, and violent, and I was very much distressed by being present at such an altercation between the two men, both of whom I reverenced; yet I durst not interfere. It would certainly be very unbecoming in me to exhibit my honoured father, and my respected friend, as intellectual gladiators, for the entertainment of the publick; and therefore I suppress what would, I dare say, make an interesting scene in this dramatick sketch this account of the transit of Johnson over the Caledonian hemisphere.

Yet I think I may, without impropriety, mention one circumstance, as an instance of my father's address. Dr Johnson challenged him, as he did us all at Talisker, to point out any theological works of merit written by Presbyterian ministers in Scotland. My father, whose studies did not lie much in that way, owned to me afterwards, that he was somewhat at a loss how to answer, but that luckily he recollected having read in catalogues the title of Durham On the Galatians; upon which he boldly said, 'Pray, sir, have you read Mr Durham's excellent commentary on the Galatians?' 'No, sir,' said Dr Johnson. By this lucky thought my father kept him at bay, and for some time enjoyed his triumph; but his antagonist soon made a retort, which I forbear to mention.

In the course of their altercation, Whiggism and Presbyterianism, Toryism and Episcopacy, were terribly buffeted. My worthy hereditary friend, Sir John Pringle, never having been mentioned, happily escaped without a bruise.

My father's opinion of Dr Johnson may be conjectured from the name he afterwards gave him, which was Ursa Major. But it is not true, as has been reported, that it was in consequence of my saying that he was a CONSTELLATION of genius and literature. It was a sly abrupt expression to one of his brethren on the bench of the Court of Session, in which Dr Johnson was then standing; but it was not said in his hearing.

Sunday, 7th November

My father and I went to publick worship in our parish-church, in which I regretted that Dr Johnson would not join us; for, though we have there no form of prayer, nor magnificent solemnity, yet, as God is worshipped in spirit and in truth, and the same doctrines preached as in the Church of England, my friend would certainly have shewn more liberality, had he attended. I doubt not, however, but he employed his time in private to very good purpose. His uniform and fervent piety was manifested on many occasions during our tour, which I have not mentioned. His reason for not joining in Presbyterian worship has been recorded in a former page.

1 As a remarkable instance of his negligence, I remember some years ago to have found lying loose in his study, and without the cover, which contained the address, a letter to him from Lord Thurlow, to whom he had made an application as Chancellor, in behalf of a poor literary friend. It was expressed in such terms of respect for Dr Johnson, that, in my zeal for his reputation, I remonstrated warmly with him on his strange inattention, and obtained his permission to take a copy of it; by which probably it has been preserved, as the original I have reason to suppose is lost.

2 The epitaph which has been inscribed on the pillar erected on the banks of the Leven, in honour of Dr Smollet, is as follows. The part which was written by Dr Johnson, it appears, has been altered: whether for the better, the reader will judge. The alterations are distinguished by italicks [all caps].

Siste viator!
Si lepores ingeniique venam benignam,
Si morum callidissimum pictorem,
Unquam es miratus,
Immorare paululum memoriae
Viri virtutibus HISCE
Quas in homine et cive
Et laudes et imiteris.
Haud mediocriter ornati:
Qui in literis variis versatus.
Postquam felicitate SIBI PROPRIA
Sese posteris commendaverat,
Morte acerba raptus
Anno oetatis 51
Eheul quam procul a patria!
Prope Liburni portum in Italia,
Jacet sepultus.
Tali tantoque viro, patrueli suo,
Cui in decursu lampada
Se pottus tradidisse decuit,
Hanc Columnam,
Amoris, eheul inane monumentum
In ipsis Leviniae ripis,
Primis infans vagitibus personuit,
Ponendam curavit
Abi et reminscere.
Hoc quidem honore,
Non modo defuncti memoriae,
Verum ettam exemplo, prospectum esse;
Aliis enim, si modo digni sint,
Idem erit virtutis praemium!

3 The unwilling gratitude of base mankind. POPE.

4 This gentleman, though devoted to the study of grammar and dialecticks, was not so absorbed in it as to be without a sense of pleasantry, or to be offended at his favourite topicks being treated lightly. I one day met him in the street, as I was hastening to the House of Lords, and told him, I was sorry I could not stop, being rather too late to attend an appeal of the Duke of Hamilton against Douglas. 'I thought,' said he, 'their contest had been over long ago.' I answered, 'The contest concerning Douglas's filiation was over long ago; but the contest now is, who shall have the estate.' Then, assuming the air of 'an antient sage philosopher', I proceeded thus: 'Were I to PREDICATE concerning him, I should say, the contest formerly was, What IS he? The contest now is, What HAS he?' 'Right,' replied Mr Harris, smiling, 'you have done with QUALITY, and have got into QUANTITY.'

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

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