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James Boswell.

The journal of a tour to the Herbrides, with Samuel Johnson, LL.D.; containing some poetical pieces by Dr. Johnson, relative to the tour, and never before published; a series of his conversation, literary anecdotes and opinions of men and books; with an authentic account of the distresses and escape online

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Online LibraryJames BoswellThe journal of a tour to the Herbrides, with Samuel Johnson, LL.D.; containing some poetical pieces by Dr. Johnson, relative to the tour, and never before published; a series of his conversation, literary anecdotes and opinions of men and books; with an authentic account of the distresses and escape → online text (page 1 of 45)
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JOHNSON S VISIT TO F1.O11A MACDONAUX Pffyc Ha



BOSWELL'S

JOURNAL OF

A TOUR TO THE HEBRIDES

WITH SAMUEL JOHNSON, LL.D.

ILLUSTRATED.




JOHNSON ON \ UirjIILA.ND SIIEI.TIE. Plll/c 2i).



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LONDON :

OKFK'K OK TI1K .NATIONAL ILLUSTRATED LIBRARY,
_>-J7, STRAND.



THE JOURNAL



OF

A TOUR TO THE HEBRIDES

WITH SAMUEL JOHNSON, LLD.

BY JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.

CONTAINING

SOME POETICAL PIECES BY DR. JOHNSON, RELATIVE TO THE TOUR, AND NEVER
BEFORE PUBLISHED;

A SERIES OF HIS CONVERSATION, LITERARY ANECDOTES, AND OPINIONS OF
MEN AND BOOKS:

WITH AN AUTHENTIC ACCOUNT OP

THE DISTRESSES AND ESCAPE OF THE GRANDSON OF KING JAMES II.
IN THE YEAR 1746.



" O ! while along the stream of time, thy name
Expanded flics, and gathers all its fame,
Say, shall my little bark attendant sail,
Pursue the triumph, and partake the gale ? " POPE.



A NEW EDITION,

WITH INTRODUCTION AND NOTES,

BY ROBERT CARRUTHERS.



ILLUSTRATED WITH NUMEROUS PORTRAITS, VIEWS, AND
CHARACTERISTIC DESIGNS.



LONDON:

OFFICE OF THE NATIONAL ILLUSTRATED LIBRARY,
227, STRAND.



" HE WAS OF AN ADMIRABLE PREGNANCY OP WIT, AND THAT PREGNANCY
MVCH IMPEOVED BY CONTINUAL STCDY PROM HIS CHIIJJHOOD J BY WHICH HE
HAD GOTTEN SUCH A PROMPTNESS IN EXPRESSING HIS MIND, THAT HIS EXTKM-
PORAL SPEECHES WERE IITTLE INFERIOR TO BIS PREMEDITATED WHITINGS.
MANY, NO DOUBT, HAD HEAD AS MUCH, AND PERHAPS MORE THAN HE ; BUT
SCARCE EVER ANY COXCOCTKD HIS READING INTO JUDGMENT AS HE DID."

Baker's Chronicle.



INTRODUCTION.



THE " JOURNAL OF A TOUR TO THE HEBRIDES" was the
first portion of his " Life of Dr. Johnson" that Mr. Boswell
gave to the public. It appeared in the autumn of 1785, about
nine months after the death of Johnson, and two editions were
exhausted within a twelvemonth. A third was issued in Au-
gust, 1786, and this was the last which the author lived to
revise. His death, " unexpected by his friends, and the subject
of universal regret," says his affectionate literary associate,
Malone, took place on the 19th of May, 1795.

The Journal could hardly fail to gain immediate popularity.
Both the subject and the plan of the Work were attractive.
No author, perhaps, ever stood higher with his contemporaries,
or was regarded with greater interest as a man, than Johnson.
His writings were in all hands, and his Dictionary was looked
upon as a national triumph. Garrick's epigram, that one
Englishman had, in the contest for philological honours, beat
forty Frenchmen, was the key-note to a whole chorus of acclam-
ations. Then, the personal character and peculiarities of
Johnson his sturdy independence, his strong prejudices, his
dogmatism, his unrivalled dexterity and power in argument,
his \eryjigure, as Boswell has observed, were all, more or less,
known to the great mass of readers, from the Land's-End to the
Hebrides. Fragments of his conversation, including some of
his weighty and pungent remarks, his witty sarcasms and lively
personal sallies, had got abroad, and public curiosity was strongly
excited regarding the daily life, habits, and opinions of the
great literary dictator. Immediately on his death every peri-



vi INTRODUCTION.

odical was ready with its quota of biography or criticism. Mrs.
Piozzi lost no time in announcing her " Anecdotes ;" Sir John
Hawkins was known to be busy with his " Life," and Dr.
Strahan sent to the press those private " Prayers and Medita-
tions," which afford so strange, so solemn, and so humbling a
memorial of Johnson's piety and weakness.

Thus heralded, the copious, varied, and authentic Journal
of Boswell made its appearance, constituting a new era in our
biographical literature. Middleton, in his "Life of Cicero,"
and Mason, in his "Life of Gray," had given specimens of
detailed biography, interweaving letters and journals with the
narrative. The French " Ana" had shown the value of anec-
dote in illustrating character. Boswell acknowledged that he
had taken the outline of his plan from Mason, but in reality,
he worked after no model. He could have written his memoirs
in no other way. He unconsciously painted Johnson as Crom-
well wished to be painted by Lely : every wart and blemish
was delineated. His undistinguishing veneration made little
distinction between virtues and defects between what was per-
manent and what was merely accidental. All was set down.
The world had at last got assurance of a faithful full-length pic-
ture of a genuine man. To write the " Life of Johnson" was
Boswell's special mission upon earth. For any other worldly
purpose or employment he was inferior to most men, but in
this he was great and inimitable. His peculiar talents, his
social and inquisitive nature, his position in society, even his
glaring foibles and weaknesses, fitted him for the task. We
cannot appreciate his excellence unless we estimate what our
lighter literature would be deprived of if his genial labours
were withdrawn. How much valuable contemporary history
and fine criticism would be lost ! What lessons of practical
wisdom, free from the formality of didactic teaching what
sportive wit, keen satire, and pregnant observation! How
little should we know of that brilliant intellectual circle in



INTRODUCTION. Vii

which Johnson moved of Burke, Goldsmith, Reynolds, Beau-
clerk, the Burneys, the Langtons, and the Thrales, all placed
before us by the recording pen of Bos well, as by the wand of
an enchanter ? Deeper truths, too, are there, the fruits of sad
and bitter experience, " when days were dark and friends were
few ;" and the struggling adventurer toiled on obscure in the
recesses of that mighty Babel which ultimately was filled with
his fame.

It is seldom that the true inner life of a man will bear to be
laid open to the world, nor would the world be benefitted by
the spectacle. Johnson had his secrets unknown to Boswell,
but he was subjected to such a scrutiny as is without parallel
in literary history, and that he came out of it with so little
damage is the best testimony that could be borne to his moral
worth. His intellectual character was elevated by the ordeal.
Burke said truly that Boswell's work was a greater monument
to Johnson's fame than all his writings put together. In fact,
it contained the essence or best materials of his writings stript
of their cumbrous covering of words. We had the fruit without
the rind, the sap without the bark of the tree. No other emi-
nent person of his day could have exhibited such an amount of
ready colloquial talent, embracing such a variety of knowledge,
and joined to original and salient points of character. Burke
himself, we suspect, though sometimes magnificent, would have
appeared very unequal, very diffuse, and even tedious ; and
among authors there are absolutely no materials for comparison.
Dryden confessed that he " knew not what to say." Addison'e
taciturnity in general society is well known. Swift loved, and
his readers love, his " little language" to Stella, but his morbid
eccentricities and trifling would have appeared contemptible
in a journal of his daily life. Pope was sententious and fond
of anecdote, but he was too intent on versifying to spend much
of his time in talk, while his physical weakness often disposed
him to fall asleep at table. We need not run further over the



Vlll INTBODUCTION.

list of our immortals, the result would be tlie same. A biogra-
pher like Boswell would have ruined any other great man but
Johnson.

The chief interest of Boswell' s Journal lies in the central
figure so fully developed in the sage of Bolt Court exploring
the wilds of the Hebrides. The journey was a memorable one
for Johnson at the age of sixty-four. His love of London
amounted to a passion, yet what greater contrast to Fleet Street
and the Strand than the bleak shores of Sky and Mull ? He
was fond of his ease, and travelling over mountains and bogs,
with scarce a bridle-track, or crossing stormy friths and arms
of the sea in open boats, was attended with danger as well as
inconvenience. The season, too, was far advanced ; but the
drenching rains and cloudy skies he set at defiance, and as for
the shelter of woods, he was probably better pleased to be with-
out it, that he might have license to rail at the want of trees.
His stout heart (that never grew old) and his strong desire to
see new modes of life, with a malicious hope that he might
detect and demolish the whole fabric of Ossian and Macpherson*
irresistably impelled him to the north. Perhaps a lingering
touch of Jacobitism (" scotched but not killed " by his pension),
and a dim veneration for the mysterious second sight, mingled
with the other motives. In his youth he had indulged visions
of the " showery west," and of sainted lona, where

" The mighty kings of three fair realms are laid."

And in his age he was to realize those boyish dreams. His
reception did not belie the ancient hospitality of the country.
His fame had preceded him wherever he went; and lairds,
tenants, and clergy, with ladies, the flower of Hebridean society,
vied with each other in paying him attention. The clergy, in-
deed, he would not hear preach. Indolence and High Churchism
veiled to himself under the guise of religious principle, kept
him away from the precincts of a Presbyterian church ; but he



INTRODUCTION. IX

delighted to find the laborious ministers of the west learned,
pious, and estimable men, who, like the Scotch professors,
listened meekly to the roll of his sonorous sentences, and bore
his reproofs and contradictions in silence.

The grand external features of the country made little im-
pression on the travellers. Coleridge said the five finest things
in Scotland were Edinburgh, the ante-chamber of the Fall of
Foyers, Loch Lomond, the Trosachs, and the view of the Hebrides
from some point he had forgotten, but which was doubtless the
first view, approaching either from east or west, of that far-
stretching archipelago of dark, variously-shaped islands, rising
out of the sea, and striking the traveller with a sensation of
delighted surprise, and of wild and lonely beauty. Johnson saw
four of these five wonders, but he was vastly indifferent and
incurious about such things. His imperfect eyesight interfered
with his appreciation of scenery, and it required some direct
human interest or powerful associations to rouse him to intel-
lectual activity. Great, however, was the anxiety evinced as to
what impressions had been made upon him by his Highland
tour. How was he to treat Scotland ? What was he to say of
Ossian ? His " Journey," a brief, unpretending narrative, was
read with extraordinary avidity, particularly in Scotland. It
set innumerable tongues and pens to work, abusing the writer
for illiberality, but it also set many of the lairds to work, plant-
ing and improving their domains. The work was deficient in
information, and in information of a kind that could easily have
been obtained, but this Johnson was too indolent to seek ; and
apart from him, Boswell could do little or nothing the mistletoe
could not spread without the support of the oak. Nothing can
be more meagre than those parts of his Journal, as the purely
descriptive passages, the account of Charles Edward's escape
from Sky, &c., in which Boswell had not Johnson to lean upon.
His whole faculties apparently were engrossed by this one
theme. Johnson's volume, however, gave an excellent sketch



X INTRODUCTION.

of the old feudal, or rather, patriarchal system of the Highlands,
and it completed the topography of Pennant, by adding views of
society and manners to the details of the antiquarian and natu-
ralist. His brief notices of some of the solitary scenes through
which they journeyed the mountains and green pastoral val-
leys on the main-land or the sounds and bays, and boating
excursions along the rocky coasts or the princely reception that
awaited the travellers at the island courts of Rasay and Dunve-
gan possess all the interest and novelty of romantic narrative.
These short picturesque passages, with the reflections suggested
at Inchkenneth and lona, are stamped with true poetic feeling,
and show how clearly and vividly the light of imagination burned
in Johnson to the last. The petty cavils and uncouth prejudices
which mar the early part of his " Journey," melt and disappear
in these Highland solitudes, which he regarded as the chosen
retreats of ancient piety, loyalty, and hospitality. Nor was the
company he met unworthy of the scene. Johnson's genius was
not dramatic ; but his description of Flora Macdonald, of young
Coll, of the veteran Sir John Maclean and his daughters, of
Macleod, and of the joyous, overflowing household of Rasay,
forms a small gallery of distinct and happy portraits. Such
views of insular life, so near home, were new to the English
people ; and so much were they interested in the history and
character of Coll, that the death of the young islander was felt
as a personal and private grief throughout the kingdom.

Boswell's Journal is, of course, pitched in a lower key. How
far he was justified in relating all he saw and heard in the course
of the Tour, is a question not likely to be very nicely weighed
by those who have derived so much genuine pleasure from his
revelations. We judge the case differently from the parties he
visited, many of whom were dragged into unwelcome and un-
enviable notoriety. Johnson perused most of the Journal in
manuscript ; his vanity was flattered, but there is no reason to
believe that he ever suspected the work would be published in



INTRODUCTION. XI

its original shape. Bos well was afterwards sensible that he had
told too much ; and he endeavoured, though with very indif-
ferent success, to be more guarded as he advanced with his
" Magnum Opus." He certainly improved in style and general
correctness as a writer ; but it is marvellous that he should have
escaped the usually potent effects of Highland wrath, in conse-
quence of some of his disclosures. If the rough and haughty
laird of Lochbuy could have foreseen how he was to be repre-
resented by his visitor, he would assuredly have thrust him into
the dungeon of his old castle, though it should have cost him a
second trial and fine ; and the chief of the Macdonalds might
have been tempted to "sequestrate" him, like another Lady
Grange, to Heskir or St. Kilda. The veriest domestic spy could
not have acted worse than he did on some occasions ; but for all
such offences, one excuse may be made it was Boswell's way ;
he was unconscious of the wrong he inflicted ; he was every day
exhibiting his own sores and buffets ; and though a wiser man
would have left unsaid much that he has written, a wiser man
would not have made so entertaining a book.

Notwithstanding the novelties of their journey, Johnson said
they had gone too late to the Hebrides to see a people of peculiar
appearance and a system of antiquated life : " The Highlanders
were fast losing their distinction, and hastening to mingle with
the general community." The country was in a state of transi-
tion, confusion, and discontent. The old military system was
broken up, chief and clan were disunited, and emigration was in
full progress. Every where there seemed to be, as in the poet's
dream,

" A lurid light, a trampling throng

Sense of intolerable wrong."

The last gleams of romance in Highland life had been extin-
guished at Culloden. The chief no longer boasted his coshir or
retinue, or gave great banquets in his strong tower while the
senachie recited his ancestral glories and exploits, or sallied forth



Xll INTBODUCTION.

to levy war or black-mail. Lochiel's lantern, the moon, shone
in vain at Michaelmas for a ereayh or foray. Instead of the
fiery cross to summon the clan, the bailiff now went round to
dun and distress for rent ! The law was paramount, heritable
jurisdiction was abolished, and feuds were transferred from the
clan and claymore to the Sheriff Court or the Parliament House
in Edinburgh. Rent had formerly been a subordinate con-
sideration. The value of the soil was in " man and steel, the
soldier and his sword;" and with these the Highland chief, like
the Cretan warrior, ploughed, and sowed, and reaped. Up to
the seventeenth century, the history of the Western Islands is
little else than a record of wars and tumults of revolts against
the Scottish crown, or of sanguinary feuds between the Mac-
donalds, the Macleans, and Macleods. The long Norwegian
sway in the Hebrides had not induced piratical habits among
the people. There were no native Vikings or buccaneers. The
Celtic blood preponderated, and determined the institutions, the
speech, and customs of the islanders. Some of their clan feuds
were of the most barbarous and revolting character. At one
time, we find the Macleods assaulted by the Macdonalds when
peacefully assembled in church : the building was suddenly sur-
rounded and set on fire, and the worshippers perished in the
flames ! On another occcasion, the Macleods chased some two
hundred of the Macdonalds into a cave by the sea- side in the
island of Eig, and, piling up huge fires at the mouth of the cave,
suffocated the miserable clansmen, whose bones still remain to
attest the deed. This atrocity is not without a parallel in
modern history: a French officer commanding in Algeria, in
the nineteenth century, had the incredible audacity and wicked-
ness to perpetrate the same enormity while waging war with
the natives. Long-protracted local hostilities desolated the
islands. At one time, the Macleods were compelled, in the
agony of hunger, to eat dogs and other unclean animals their
whole produce having been wasted and destroyed. Some



INTRODUCTION. XU1

glimpses of chivalrous enterprise are interposed amidst these
outrages and sufferings. In the reign of Elizabeth, we find the
Chief of Dunvegan the famed " Rorie More," and the Chief of
the Macdonalds, leading each five hundred men to the shores of
Ulster to assist Red Hugh O'Donell in his contest with the
English Crown. And picturesque the sight must have been, as
the chief, in his twelve-oared galley, with a fleet of boats behind,
struck out from his island fastness by the black rocks, and the
rowers chanted the j'orram, or boat-song, with which they
solaced their toils and fatigues. The unbounded hospitality of
Rorie More made Dunvegan famous in song and tale. The



Online LibraryJames BoswellThe journal of a tour to the Herbrides, with Samuel Johnson, LL.D.; containing some poetical pieces by Dr. Johnson, relative to the tour, and never before published; a series of his conversation, literary anecdotes and opinions of men and books; with an authentic account of the distresses and escape → online text (page 1 of 45)