James Johnson.

The recess, or Autumnal relaxation in the Highlands and Lowlands; being the home circuit versus foreign travel, a serio-comic tour to the Hebrides online

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double sur l'tranger on envoyer la moitie de la nation en Amerique ou que la moitie
de la nation mange at Vautre?''

As America will one day close her ports against our people, when they shall have too
many of their own, it seems that the last alternative of Voltaire will be our lot !

f The climate of Italy, however, must be taken into account, as a check to redundant
population. Thus, in any given number, or in the total population of Italy, the annual
mortality is just double that of an equal number in England. Let us suppose, what


But is there no bright side, or relief, to the picture ? It is evident
that a long period must elapse before we shall find ourselves in the
unenviable predicament of the Celestial Empire before the forests of
Canada shall disappear the banks of the Allegany and Mississippi
present the cultivation of those of the Thames and the Clyde and Van
Diernen's Land become an Isle of Wight. But when all these proba-
bilities shall have been realized, there may be resources in store for the
cravings of human appetite, and the support of rising generations.

There is every reason to believe that the solid portions of our globe
are not the only parts that present a redundant population. In the
ocean, as well as upon dry laud, the first law of nature is " eat or be
eaten." If man did not devour or destroy his predecessors and compe-
titors in the animal kingdom, they would eat and exterminate him.
The inhabitants of the boundless deep appear to be even more carni-
vorous, or at least piscivorous than man. It is possible that some of
the minor tribes may live upon water alone ; but it is certain that
almost the whole of the marine aristocracy feed on the flesh of their
inferiors. The monarch of the floods (and the same observation
might possibly apply to monarchs on dry land) is far less voracious
than the generality of his subjects. The whale is contented with a
sprat for his supper ; while the shark, not half the size of a whale's
fin, will bolt a seven pound piece of salt junk, hook and all, at the risk
of his life.

As the density of population increases, and the relief of emigration
diminishes, the supply of the luxuries of life must give way to the
supply of the necessaries. Man must learn to live more on vegetable,
than on animal food, because the same space of ground that supports
one man on the latter, will support twenty on the former.

But, as a gradation in this descending scale of diet, the ocean offers
one of immense magnitude and utility. Fish, to an almost unlimited
extent, may be procured for the subsistence of man ; and a time must
come when prudence, as well as patriotism will encourage fisheries, by
inducing the better classes to curb their carnivorous propensities, and
keep Lent six or nine months in the year, before they are compelled to
live entirely on potatoes.

indeed is true, that, in an English town, the population doubles in twenty-eight years.
Now if the annual mortality were, in that town, exactly what it is in Naples one in
twenty-eight the population, instead of doubling, would be precisely the same at the
end of the twenty-eight years, as it was in the beginning. But as the ratio of mortality
is one in fifty-six the population doubles in the above period. It is remarkable that
writers on political economy have passed over this cause of redundant populationthe
salubrity of our climate.

T 2


In fine, when people in easy circumstances shall dine more frequently
on salmon, sole, and cod, than on beef, venison, and pheasant, they will
tend to convert pasturage into corn fields, and felons into fishermen.
They will open out an immense source of employment for the idle, and
of food for the hungry an employment not calculated to increase the
redundancy of population and a species of food that is sufficiently
nutritious, without being stimulating to either our corporeal or mental

This proposition has the advantage of being capable of practical ap-
plication. Let the master or mistress of a family order fish, andjish
only (with bread and farinaceous food) two days in the week, and the
work of utility is half achieved.

The Chinese, who labour under great disadvantages, on account of the
vast extent of inland territory, have, nevertheless, availed themselves of
the resources of the ocean, in a very remarkable manner. There, we
see millions of human beings who are born on the water, live on the
water, and die on the water, without ever possessing a " local habita-
tion," or perhaps setting a foot on the soil. Their fishing FLEETS are
organized with the greatest regularity commanded by skilful ADMIRALS
disciplined by experienced OFFICERS, of all grades and manoeuvred
by myriads, whose natural element is the ocean *. England is most
felicitously circumstanced in this respect. If her line of coast could be
measured, from Scilly to Feroe, with all the creeks and indentations of
her thousand isles, it would probably outmeasure the whole sea-board
from Ushant to the East Indies. Such are the resources of her seas
that, if there was not an ox or a sheep, a pig or a duck, a fowl or a
pheasant, a hare or a stag, on the whole face of Great Britain, her
twenty millions of inhabitants might draw ample and wholesome pro-
visions from the depths of the ocean and the surface of the soil.

But, in political economy, the work of reformation must, like charity,
begin at home. If families and individuals do not practise and promote
morality and temperance, frugality and industry, the enactments of the
legislature will prove a dead letter, if not a delusion.

* These fleets are more useful than the fleets of European states, which, although they
tend to check population, occasion a heavy expense to the nation at large, and bring
nothing eatable into the market at last. They are not ' fishers of men," but slayers of
mankind and Europe will, one day, find it necessary to convert cannon into fish-hooks,
and gunpowder into bay-salt.



I long had my doubts whether the Scotch came originally from Ire-
land, or the Irish from Scotland. The navigation of the Crinan Canal
determined my conviction that the Highlands were peopled from the
Emerald Isle. Who but Irishmen would dream of cutting a ship canal
over hill and dale, through marble and granite, while a tract of level and
soft soil lay contiguous, and very little raised above the surface of the
ocean ? But this is not all. In carrying the canal over, not through,
a considerable elevation in a rocky valley, the vessel is mounted on the
shoulders of nine locks all of which might have been spared, by lower-
ing the bed of the canal, instead of raising the water over the hill ! Be
this as it may, the Crinan Canal is fast verging to decay ; and it is
highly probable that another and better will be formed near it, at much
less expense.

We are no sooner clear of the western extremity of the Crinan, than
we find ourselves involved among a Cyclades of islands, where the
tides rush and run, whirl and foam, clash and fret, in a most surprising,
and indeed alarming manner. I have been through the Pentland
Firth, the Race of Alderney, the Roup na Ran of the Ganges, and
many a rapid tide-way, on the surface of this fractured globe ; but I
confess that the tumultuous currents among a group of islands which
I am unable to pronounce (Macfadyen, Rusantrue, Resave, Garvrisa,
Baisker, &c., being the most euphonous,) excited no common emotions
in my mind ; though to those unacquainted with the dangers of such
places, the scene would probably appear rather pleasing than formi-
dable. The celebrated CORRIVRECHAN was on our larboard bow, and
the romantic Loch Craignish, on our starboard beam ; yet, with the
exception of two or three gentlemen resident near this locality, not one
of the fifty passengers on board knew any thing of the islands through
which we were steering. There is little merit in an old sailor being able
to recognize, by chart and compass, the channels through which he
sails, and the headlands of the neighbouring coasts ; but this scanty
merit excited some wonder, and I believe, incredulity, when I mentioned
the names of places, as we passed along, and yet confessed that this was
the first time I had been here. This was a species of divination, quite
unintelligible to landsmen, but of very easy explanation among the salt-
water tribe of tourists.

In sailing through this northern Cyclades, the geologist will find
much gratification. Every quarter of a mile that we proceed, we see
natural walls, mostly perpendicular, on the right hand and on the left,


stretching away up into the interior. These are of the same formation
as the basaltic columns of Staffa, but taking the exact form of stone
walls built by hands. Were these formed by design ? If so, for what
purpose ?


We need not travel to the celebrated Strait that separates Rhegium
from " Trinacria's burning isle," to see a whirlpool nor to the dreary
shores of Norway, to behold a Mahlstrom. We have one within a few
hours sail of Oban namely, between the northern point of Jura, and
the southern rocks

" Of Scarba's Isle, whose tortur'd shore
Still rings to CORREVRECHAN'S roar."

The first time I sailed through the Faro of Messina, my classical
associations experienced a great damper, when I found that I had so
little chance of being swallowed up in the waves of Charybdis, or
dashed poetically to pieces against the rocks of Scylla. Those who have
read Leyden's beautiful poem, the " Mermaid," or the Legends of Cor-
rivrechan on which it is founded ; and who may pass the whirlpool, on a
fine summer's morning in the steamer, will doubtless be much disap-
pointed at not finding a Mahlstrom or Charybdis among the Western
Islands. In calm weather, and at high or low water, a slight skiff might
navigate the Corrivrechan, and an inobservant traveller would probably
remark little more than the frowning cliffs, the splintered rocks, and
the wave-worn caverns on each side of the Sound. In calm weather,
too, even when the flood or ebb makes, especially in the neaps, the
water is smooth and clear ; but it is a current of melting and boiling
glass " streaming and whirling, in all sorts of evolutes and involutes
of curves, and running forward, all the while, like a mill-stream, whirl-
pool, curves, and all." But when a gale of wind from the westward,
with its concomitant surge and swell, meets the spring flood from the
eastward, rushing through the Strait of Corrivrechan at the rate of nine
miles an hour, then, indeed, an elemental conflict takes place, in which
the finest ship would quickly perish. In the narrow passage between
Jura and Scarba, lies a sunken rock, or rather an island, with a broad
base, occupying a considerable portion of the bottom of the Sound, and
rising, like a huge pyramid, to within fifteen fathoms of the surface.
In spring tides, the tremendous and rapid gush of the flood, from the
south-east, impinges against this gigantic submarine breakwater; and
part of it surging over the obstacle, and coming in collision with the


Atlantic swell, rises in a ridge, with a crest of foam, forming the first,
and not the least formidable line of breakers in this dangerous strait.
The great body of the flood tide, however, is repelled and reflected,
laterally, from the submarine pyramid, and takes the direction of Scarba,
against whose rugged and iron-bound coast it dashes with indescribable
fur) T , and with a noise like peals of thunder, reverberated from cliff to
cliff, and re-echoed from cavern to cavern. Repulsed again from
this impregnable barrier of rock and cliff, and encountering the winds
and waves from the Western Ocean, a portion of the furious tide
sweeps round and round, in tumultuous gyrations, till it falls into
the same roaring torrent, whence it first issued. Here is the most
distinct scene of the whirlpool, or Gulf of Corrivrechan. But quickly
the sound, from Scarba to Jura, becomes the theatre of the most terrific
combat between conflicting elements, that human eye ever witnessed
a war between storms and surges from the west, and tides and tor-
rents from the east, that baffles all description. To see Corrivrechan in
high feather, with the sense of terror added to the sublimity of the
scene, it would be necessary to drift into the vortex, during a storm
and flood tide. The spectator of the splendid phenomenon, however,
would never tell the tale, nor delineate the event by pen or pencil. The
tourist, therefore, had better scale one of the crags on the Scarba side
of the Strait, and there observe the elemental conflict one of the sources
of the sublime subtracted the feeling of personal danger. I think,
upon the whole, this would be the safest procedure : for although the
maid of Colonsay's lover, when swallowed up in the Corrivrechan, was
hospitably received by the Mermaid and her court, in the depths of the
whirlpool, and ultimately effected his escape; yet I can hardly believe
that Leyden himself would try the experiment, though entitled to high
poetic honours in the sparry grottoes of his mermaid nymph.


The scanty population of Garveloch is diminished rather than in-
creased, since the time of Miss Martineau's farmers the Murdochs,
the Ellas, and the Anguses. There is now but one farm in the chief
island, and we look in vain for the wild boy Archie, climbing the STORR,
in search of gannets, or the industrious Ronald, burning kelp on the
shore *.

* Miss Martiueau, it is quite evident, never visited the scene of her very interesting
little political novel. If she had, she svould not have located her heroine on the Garve-


It is a wonder that the talented author of dramatised political eco-
nomy, should have placed Ella of Garveloch so near the Corrivrechan,
without once alluding to that interesting object. By the way, Miss M.
has copied the famous boat scene, almost verbatim from MacCulloch,
without any symptom of quotation. By this procedure generally the
fair economist has greatly enhanced her own fame; since forty-nine,
out of every fifty of her readers, know nothing of the sources whence
she draws her information, and therefore give her credit for originality,
where she only finds the thread or tale that binds the fragments toge-
ther. Since Miss Martineau's establishment of a communication be-
tween Garveloch and Oban, by means of Angus and Ella's boat, there
has been wonderful progress in the art as well as the science of political
economy, among the islanders, as the following statement will show.
My authority is the skipper of the vessel in which we were embarked.

A sloop, laden with oatmeal, and insured for double her value, took
it into her head to run away with her crew, one day, in the Sound of
Jura, and to make directly for Corrivrechan, during a strong flood tide
and western gale. The master and men did all in their power (so they
said) to turn the sloop from her fatal course, but in vain. They,
therefore, took to their boat, and, with difficulty landed on the eastern
shore of Jura. The sloop made two or three heavy plunges, bows
under, on reaching the first line of the eastern surges was soon en-
tangled in the broken water whirled round and round in the great
eddy and disappeared among the tremendous breakers of the outer, or
western line.

The regular affidavits having been made, as to the loss of the sloop,
the insurance was demanded. But, to the consternation of the captain,
and the joy of the underwriters, the vessel was discovered, a few days
afterwards, by some fishermen, high and dry in a creek on the western
shore of Colonsay ! The cargo was very little damaged, a thin stratum
only of the oatmeal, on the surface, being baked into a kind of cake, by
the sea water, and serving as a defence against the further penetration
of the moisture.

It appeared that the mermaid's court, in the crystal caves of Corri-
vrechan, either did not like, or did not want, a cargo of oatmeal at that
time ; and therefore the sloop was thrown up, uninjured, from the
briny deep, carried to sea by the flood tide and cast on the shore of a
neighbouring island by the ebb. Whether this almost miraculous pre-

loch Isles. A very intelligent clergyman residing near Crinan, observed to me that, had
she placed the domicile of Ella on SCAKBA, the story would have possessed all the ne-
cessary unities of the drama; but as it is, the natives of these parts are furnished with
a handle for criticism, which they do not fail to use, when the subject is discussed.


serration did or did not actually happen, I can only give the above
authority but I have no hesitation in saying that it ought to have
occurred since political justice is a necessary ingredient in political

It is now time to return, from this short excursion, to the little port
of Crinan, where we found a steamer proceeding up Loch Fine.


Delightfully situated between a smiling town and a romantic eminence
at the confluence of a winding stream and noble lake embosomed in
beautiful plantations and surrounded, for many miles, by magnificent
woods, pleasure-grounds, hills, valleys, rocks, and cascades, stands the
silent, solitary, and sombre castle of Inverary not as a ruin, but as a
modern palace, completely prepared for the reception of a splendid or
even royal retinue.

The gate of the park stands open for the stranger and we approach
the massive edifice, without seeing the human form, or hearing the
human voice. We are not even challenged by that most faithful and
vigilant vidette the dog. Yet the gardens, the walks, the shrub-
beries, are all in the most perfect order. We make the circuit of the
princely mansion, and even peep over the massive balustrades into the
areas ; but all is silent as the palace of Diomede, in the street of tombs,
in Pompeii ! We stop under the portico, and, after some hesitation,
sound the bell, whose funereal tones echo and re-echo through the long
arcades. A solemn and protracted pause ensues, and once more we
toll the heavy bell. We commence our retreat, when a footstep is
heard, and the portal opens. We are conducted, politely and respect-
fully, through the spacious and warlike hall along galleries of paint-
ings through tapestried apartments, and richly furnished bed and
banquetting rooms while female, or even male visiters, have often the
pleasure of taking a glance at their own dear figures and faces in the
splendid mirrors that have often reflected the elegant form of the Duchess

I have nothing to do with description. A thousand tourists have
delineated this paradise of the Highlands, with all its majestic woods,
venerable avenues, interminable promenades, and romantic scenery.
The view from the Fair)' Mount, or rather mountain of Duniquaich,
might well compete with many that have been celebrated by our petits-
maitres, who have examined every country except their own.

But why this solitude in such a fairy scene and that, too, in the


month of August, when the metropolis is deserted, and when every one
who has a horse to ride, or a leg to stand on, rushes into the country ?
The reasons may be good and numerous; but I cannot help thinking
that some of the following ones enter into the catalogue. It is possible
that HERRINGS have at last become stale acquaintances, and conse-
quently dull society, for Dukes and Duchesses of Argyle that trees
are without tongues, though they return a melancholy moan to the
mountain breeze that rocks only reverberate the sounds they receive
that cascades emit the same hoarse and unvaried note
" From night till morn, from morn till dewy eve"

that the music of the lark, the thrush, and the nightingale, pall on the
sense, for want of that succession of new performers, which we have at
the Opera, the Oratorio, and the Harmonicon that the cooing of the
dove can be little understood where

" Love is but an empty sound,
The modern fair one's jest"

that the health resulting from pure air and rustic exercise, is never
appreciated till it is lost that, in fine, the most beautiful scenery in
the world soon grows insipid without society ; and that solitude is only
suited to the hermit, who, having determined to live upon roots, can
have no possible need of more ideas than the porker Zimmerman to
the contrary notwithstanding.


There is, as every Scottish tourist knows, a large inn at Inverary
and a large I had nearly said, a larger innkeeper. This shrewd, good-
humoured, and facetious host recommended to us an excellent horse
and car, of his own, to cross the lofty ridge of mountain that separates
Loch Fine from Loch Awe, on the highest point of which is the spot
where Burke surveyed the most sublime and magnificent scene he had
ever beheld. The appointed hour for starting was ten o'clock; but it
was twelve before ROANAN (for that was the horse's name) stood at the
door of the head inn. It appeared that ROAM AN was kept on " board
wages" that is, nothing per day, with liberty to find his own supper
,on the mountains at night. Like the fair Caledonian rustics on Sun-
days, he had, that morning, come down to Inverary, barefooted, and
consequently required a pair, at least, of shoes, for the journey to Dal-
mally. While the hostler was labouring hard to make the girths meet
round the portly corporation of Roanan, an arch leer played on the
features of his rubicund master, contrasting strongly with the air of


discontent, indeed of downright anger, which displayed itself in the
ears, the eyes, and the whole countenance of Roanan. But however
different were these two personages, in the furniture of their attic
stories, there was a wonderful similarity between Roanan and his mas-
ter in the middle regions, as far as dimensions were concerned. The
former seemed to have collected the grass of a whole mountain's side
into his capacious paunch, during the night ; while the latter proved, to
a demonstration, that the noble science of gastronomy was cultivated,
with success, very far to the north of the Albion Tavern.

Winding through the beautiful grounds of Argyle, we had scarcely
ascended three or four miles of the mountain before honest Roanan was
completely BLOWN, and, despite of the kicking, pricking, whipping,
and vociferating of the driver, refused, most doggedly, to proceed a step
farther with his present cargo. It was quite clear, indeed, that Roanan
had lost all taste for the sublime, and that he was silently pouring out
curses, from the deepest recesses of his soul, on the head of Edmund
Burke, for drawing, or rather causing him to draw, such annual shoals
of idle Sassenachs, to the summit of a high mountain, in order to view
Loch Awe and Ben Cruachan from the same spot where that celebrated
writer contemplated the sublime prospect. To admit that brutes have
REASON, would be tantamount to treason against the majesty of man.
I dare not, therefore, advocate the propriety of Roanan's conduct, on
this occasion. But, contrary to a celebrated political maxim, we deter-
mined, in this instance, to redress the grievance, before we punished the
offence. We therefore disengaged Roanan from his live lumber, and
proceeded up the mountain on foot, while the irrational creature, find-
ing his chief burthen taken off, returned to the task of dragging the
baggage slowly after us.

The atmosphere was remarkably clear, and seating ourselves on the
highest part of the mountain pass, we had ample leisure to contem-
plate the scene which drew from the celebrated Burke the acknow-
ledgment alluded to. That acknowledgment alone proved that this
great orator and writer had not gone far south, in search of the sublime
that he had never gazed from the gorge of the Jura on the Pays de

" That glorious valley with its lake,

And Alps on Alps in clusters swelling,
Mighty and pure, and fit to make

The ramparts of a godhead's dwelling: "

that he had never stood on the Rhigi at sunrise on the Col de Balm at
noon or on Vesuvius at sunset. But even to eyes that had beheld
.these gorgeous scenes, the prospect, from the place where we stood,


would appear wild and magnificent. Loch Awe lies a narrow and pro-
longed watery mirror at our feet, inclosed between lofty, rude, and savage
mountains, and reflecting the whole-length portrait of their monarch,
BEN GRUACHAN, on its tranquil breast. At the remote north-eastern

Online LibraryJames JohnsonThe recess, or Autumnal relaxation in the Highlands and Lowlands; being the home circuit versus foreign travel, a serio-comic tour to the Hebrides → online text (page 9 of 28)