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A Highland hut.
my mind, and the contrast made a strong impression on my imagination.
When we had advanced a good way by the side of Lochness, I perceived a little hut, with an old-looking woman at the door of it. I thought here might be a scene that would amuse Dr. Johnson; so I mentioned it to him. 'Let's go in,' said he. We dismounted, and we and our guides entered the hut. It was a wretched little hovel of earth only, I think, and for a window had only a small hole, which was stopped with a piece of turf, that was taken out occasionally to let in light. In the middle of the room or space which we entered, was a fire of peat, the smoke going out at a hole in the roof. She had a pot upon it, with goat's flesh, boiling. There was at one end under the same roof, but divided by a kind of partition made of wattles, a pen or fold in which we saw a good many kids.
Dr. Johnson was curious to know where she slept. I asked one of the guides, who questioned her in Erse. She answered with a tone of emotion, saying, (as he told us,) she was afraid we wanted to go to bed to her. This coquetry, or whatever it may be called, of so wretched a being, was truly ludicrous. Dr. Johnson and I afterwards were merry upon it. I said it was he who alarmed the poor woman's virtue. No, Sir, (said he,) she'll say, "There came a wicked young fellow, a wild dog, who I believe would have ravished me, had there not been with him a grave old gentleman, who repressed him; but when he gets out of the sight of his tutor, I'll warrant you he'll spare no woman he meets, young or old." No, Sir, (I replied,) she'll say, "There was a terrible ruffian who would have forced me, had it not been for a civil decent young man who, I take it, was an angel sent from heaven to protect me."
Dr. Johnson would not hurt her delicacy, by insisting on 'seeing her bed-chamber,' like Archer in the Beaux Stratagem'. But my curiosity was more ardent; I lighted a piece
1 Boswell refers, I think, to a passage in act iv. sc. 1 of Farquhar's Comedy, where Archer says to Mrs. Sullen :-'I can't at this distance,
A Highland hut.
of paper, and went into the place where the bed was. There was a little partition of wicker, rather more neatly done than that for the fold, and close by the wall was a kind of bedstead of wood with heath upon it by way of bed! at the foot of which I saw some sort of blankets or covering rolled up in a heap. The woman's name was Fraser; so was her husband's. He was a man of eighty. Mr. Fraser of Balnain allows him to live in this hut, and keep sixty goats, for taking care of his woods, where he then was. They had five children, the eldest only thirteen. Two were gone to Inverness to buy meal'; the rest were looking after the goats. This contented family had four stacks of barley, twenty-four sheaves in each. They had a few fowls. We were informed that they lived all the spring without meal, upon milk and curds and whey alone. What they get for their goats, kids, and fowls, maintains them during the rest of the year.
She asked us to sit down and take a dram. I saw one chair. She said she was as happy as any woman in Scotland. She could hardly speak any English except a few detached words. Dr. Johnson was pleased at seeing, for the first time, such a state of human life. She asked for snuff. It is her luxury, and she uses a great deal. We had none; but gave her sixpence a-piece. She then brought out her whiskey bottle. I tasted it; as did Joseph and our guides, so I gave her sixpence more. She sent us away with many
prayers in Erse.
We dined at a publick house called the General's Hut',
Madam, distinguish the figures of the embroidery.' This passage is copied by Goldsmith in She Stoops to Conquer, act iii, where Marlow says to Miss Hardcastle: 'Odso! then you must shew me your embroidery.'
'Johnson (Works, ix. 28) gives a long account of this woman. 'Meal she considered as expensive food, and told us that in spring, when the goats gave milk, the children could live without it.'
' It is very odd, that when these roads were made, there was no care taken for Inns. The King's House, and the General's Hut, are miserable places; but the project and plans were purely military. WALTER
from General Wade, who was lodged there when he commanded in the North. Near it is the meanest parish Kirk I ever saw. It is a shame it should be on a high-road. After dinner, we passed through a good deal of mountainous country. I had known Mr. Trapaud, the deputy governour of Fort Augustus, twelve years ago, at a circuit at Inverness, where my father was judge. I sent forward one of our guides, and Joseph, with a card to him, that he might know Dr. Johnson and I were coming up, leaving it to him to invite us or not'. It was dark when we arrived. The inn was wretched. Government ought to build one, or give the resident governour an additional salary; as in the present state of things, he must necessarily be put to a great expence in entertaining travellers. Joseph announced to us, when we alighted, that the governour waited for us at the gate of the fort. We walked to it. He met us, and with much civility conducted us to his house. It was comfortable to find ourselves in a well-built little square, and a neatly furnished house, in good company, and with a good supper before us; in short, with all the conveniences of civilised life in the midst of rude mountains. Mrs. Trapaud, and the governour's daughter, and her husband, Captain Newmarsh, were all most obliging and polite. The governour had excellent animal spirits, the conversation of a soldier, and somewhat of a Frenchman, to which his extraction entitles him. He is brother to General Cyrus Trapaud. We passed a very agreeable evening'.
SCOTT. Johnson found good entertainment here. We had eggs and bacon and mutton, with wine, rum, and whisky. I had water.' Piozzi Letters, i. 124.
''Mr. Boswell, who between his father's merit and his own is sure of reception wherever he comes, sent a servant before,' &c. Johnson's Works, ix. 30.
* On April 6, 1777, Johnson noted down: 'I passed the night in such sweet uninterrupted sleep as I have not known since I slept at Fort Augustus.' Pr. and Med. p. 159. On Nov. 21, 1778, he wrote to Boswell: 'The best night that I have had these twenty years was at Fort Augustus.' Ante, iii. 419.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 31.
The governour has a very good garden. We looked at it, and at the rest of the fort, which is but small, and may be commanded from a variety of hills around. We also looked at the galley or sloop belonging to the fort, which sails upon the Loch, and brings what is wanted for the garrison. Captains Urie and Darippe, of the 15th regiment of foot, breakfasted with us. They had served in America, and entertained Dr. Johnson much with an account of the Indians'. He said, he could make a very pretty book out of them, were he to stay there. Governour Trapaud was much struck with Dr. Johnson. I like to hear him, (said he,) it is so majestick. I should be glad to hear him speak in your court.' He pressed us to stay dinner; but I considered that we had a rude road before us, which we could more easily encounter in the morning, and that it was hard to say when we might get up, were we to sit down to good entertainment, in good company: I therefore begged the governour would excuse us. Here too, I had another very pleasing proof how much my father is regarded. The governour expressed the highest respect for him, and bade me tell him, that, if he would come that way on the Northern circuit, he would do him all the honours of the garrison.
Between twelve and one we set out, and travelled eleven miles, through a wild country, till we came to a house in Glenmorison, called Anoch, kept by a M'Queen'. Our landlord was a sensible fellow; he had learned his grammar,
'See ante, iii. 279.
A M'Queen is a Highland mode of expression. An Englishman would say one M'Queen. But where there are clans or tribes of men, distinguished by patronymick surnames, the individuals of each are considered as if they were of different species, at least as much as nations are distinguished; so that a M‘Queen, a M'Donald, a M'Lean, is said, as we say a Frenchman, an Italian, a Spaniard. BOSWELL.
''I praised the propriety of his language, and was answered that I need not wonder, for he had learnt it by grammar. By subsequent
August 31.] Treating a party of soldiers.
and Dr. Johnson justly observed, that 'a man is the better for that as long as he lives.' There were some books here: a Treatise against Drunkenness, translated from the French; a volume of The Spectator; a volume of Prideaux's Connection, and Cyrus's Travels'. M'Queen said he had more volumes; and his pride seemed to be much piqued that we were surprised at his having books.
Near to this place we had passed a party of soldiers, under a serjeant's command, at work upon the road. We gave them two shillings to drink. They came to our inn, and made merry in the barn. We went and paid them a visit, Dr. Johnson saying, 'Come, let's go and give 'em another shilling a-piece.' We did so; and he was saluted 'MY LORD' by all of them. He is really generous, loves influence, and has the way of gaining it. He said, 'I am quite feudal, Sir.' Here I agree with him. I said, I regretted I was not the head of a clan; however, though not possessed of such an hereditary advantage, I would always endeavour to make my tenants follow me. I could not be a patriarchal chief, but I would be a feudal chief.
The poor soldiers got too much liquor. Some of them fought, and left blood upon the spot, and cursed whiskey next morning. The house here was built of thick turfs, and thatched with thinner turfs and heath. It had three rooms in length, and a little room which projected. Where we sat, the side-walls were wainscotted, as Dr. Johnson said, with wicker, very neatly plaited. Our landlord had made the whole with his own hands.
opportunities of observation I found that my host's diction had nothing peculiar. Those Highlanders that can speak English commonly speak it well, with few of the words and little of the tone by which a Scotchman is distinguished . . . By their Lowland neighbours they would not willingly be taught; for they have long considered them as a mean and degenerate race.' Johnson's Works, ix. 31. He wrote to Mrs. Thrale: This man's conversation we were glad of while we staid. He had been out, as they call it, in forty-five, and still retained his old opinions.' Piozzi Letters, i. 130.
'By the Chevalier Ramsay.