Page images


Dr. Cheyne's rule of life.

[Sept. 5. This being a beautiful day, my spirits were cheered by the mere effect of climate. I had felt a return of spleen during my stay at Armidale, and had it not been that I had Dr. Johnson to contemplate, I should have sunk into dejection; but his firmness supported me. I looked at him, as a man whose head is turning giddy at sea looks at a rock, or any fixed object. I wondered at his tranquillity. He said, 'Sir, when a man retires into an island, he is to turn his thoughts entirely to another world. He has done with this.' Bos

WELL. It appears to me, Sir, to be very difficult to unite a due attention to this world, and that which is to come; for, if we engage eagerly in the affairs of life, we are apt to be totally forgetful of a future state; and, on the other hand, a steady contemplation of the awful concerns of eternity renders all objects here so insignificant, as to make us indifferent and negligent about them.' JOHNSON. 'Sir, Dr. Cheyne has laid down a rule to himself on this subject, which should be imprinted on every mind :-" To neglect nothing to secure my eternal peace, more than if I had been certified I should die within the day: nor to mind any thing that my secular obligations and duties demanded of me, less than if I had been ensured to live fifty years more'."

I must here observe, that though Dr. Johnson appeared now to be philosophically calm, yet his genius did not shine forth as in companies, where I have listened to him with admiration. The vigour of his mind was, however, sufficiently manifested, by his discovering no symptoms of feeble relaxation in the dull, ' weary, flat and unprofitable'' state in which we now were placed.

I am inclined to think that it was on this day he composed the following Ode upon the Isle of Sky, which a few days afterwards he shewed me at Rasay :


Cheyne's English Malady, ed. 1733, p. 229.

'Weary, stale, flat and unprofitable.'

Hamlet, act. i. sc. 2.

See ante, iii. 399, where Boswell is reproached by Johnson with 'bringing in gabble,' when he makes this quotation.


Sept. 5.] Johnson's ODE ON THE ISLE OF SKY.


Ponti profundis clausa recessibus,
Strepens procellis, rupibus obsita,
Quam grata defesso virentem
Skia sinum nebulosa pandis.

His cura, credo, sedibus exulat;
His blanda certe pax habitat locis:
Non ira, non moeror quietis
Insidias meditatur horis.

At non cavata rupe latescere,
Menti nec ægræ montibus aviis
Prodest vagari, nec frementes
E scopulo numerare fluctus.

Humana virtus non sibi sufficit,
Datur nec æquum cuique animum sibi
Parare posse, ut Stoicorum
Secta crepet nimis alta fallax.

Exæstuantis pectorus impetum,
Rex summe, solus tu regis arbiter,
Mentisque, te tollente, surgunt,
Te recidunt moderante fluctus'.


After supper, Dr. Johnson told us, that Isaac Hawkins Browne drank freely for thirty years, and that he wrote his poem, De Animi Immortalitate, in some of the last of these years. I listened to this with the eagerness of one who,

1 VARIOUS Readings.

Line 2. In the manuscript, Dr. Johnson, instead of rupibus obsita, had written imbribus uvida, and uvida nubibus, but struck them both out.

Lines 15 and 16. Instead of these two lines, he had written, but afterwards struck out, the following:

Parare posse, utcunque jactet
Grandiloquus nimis alta Zeno.

BOSWELL. In Johnson's Works, i. 167, these lines are given with some variations, which perhaps are in part due to Mr. Langton, who, we are told (ante, Dec. 1784), edited some, if not indeed all, of Johnson's Latin poems.


Cowper wrote to S. Rose on May 20, 1789:-' Browne was an enV.-12 conscious


Boswell's fondness for wine.

[Sept. 6.

conscious of being himself fond of wine, is glad to hear that a man of so much genius and good thinking as Browne had the same propensity'.


We set out, accompanied by Mr. Donald M'Leod, (late of Canna,) as our guide. We rode for some time along the district of Slate, near the shore. The houses in general are made of turf, covered with grass. The country seemed well peopled. We came into the district of Strath, and passed along a wild moorish tract of land till we arrived at the shore. There we found good verdure, and some curious whin-rocks, or collections of stones like the ruins of the foundations of old buildings. We saw also three Cairns of considerable size.

About a mile beyond Broadfoot, is Corrichatachin, a farm of Sir Alexander Macdonald's, possessed by Mr. M'Kinnon,

tertaining companion when he had drunk his bottle, but not before; this proved a snare to him, and he would sometimes drink too much.' Southey's Cowper, vi. 237. His De Animi Immortalitate was published in 1754. He died in 1760, aged fifty-four. See ante, i. 388.

'Boswell, in one of his Hypochondriacks (ante, iv. 207) says:—' I do fairly acknowledge that I love Drinking; that I have a constitutional inclination to indulge in fermented liquors, and that if it were not for the restraints of reason and religion, I am afraid I should be as constant a votary of Bacchus as any man. . . . Drinking is in reality an occupation which employs a considerable portion of the time of many people; and to conduct it in the most rational and agreeable manner is one of the great arts of living. Were we so framed that it were possible by perpetual supplies of wine to keep ourselves for ever gay and happy, there could be no doubt that drinking would be the summum bonum, the chief good, to find out which philosophers have been so variously busied. But we know from humiliating experience that men cannot be kept long in a state of elevated drunkenness.'


That my readers may have my narrative in the style of the country through which I am travelling, it is proper to inform them, that the chief of a clan is denominated by his surname alone, as M'Leod, McKinnon, M'Intosh. To prefix Mr. to it would be a degradation from the M'Leod, &c. My old friend, the Laird of M'Farlane, the great antiquary, took it highly amiss, when General Wade called him



Sept. 6.] Highland joyous social manners.

who received us with a hearty welcome, as did his wife, who was what we call in Scotland a lady-like woman. Mr. Pennant in the course of his tour to the Hebrides, passed two nights at this gentleman's house. On its being mentioned, that a present had here been made to him of a curious specimen of Highland antiquity, Dr. Johnson said, 'Sir, it was more than he deserved; the dog is a Whig'.'

We here enjoyed the comfort of a table plentifully furnished, the satisfaction of which was heightened by a numerous and cheerful company; and we for the first time had a specimen of the joyous social manners of the inhabitants. of the Highlands. They talked in their own ancient language, with fluent vivacity, and sung many Erse songs with such spirit, that, though Dr. Johnson was treated with the greatest respect and attention, there were moments in which he seemed to be forgotten. For myself, though but a Lowlander, having picked up a few words of the language, I presumed to mingle in their mirth, and joined in the choruses with as much glee as any of the company. Dr. Johnson being fatigued with his journey, retired early to his chamber, where he composed the following Ode, addressed to Mrs. Thrale':

Mr. McFarlane. Dr. Johnson said, he could not bring himself to use this mode of address; it seemed to him to be too familiar, as it is the way in which, in all other places, intimates or inferiors are addressed. When the chiefs have titles they are denominated by them, as Sir James Grant, Sir Allan M'Lean. The other Highland gentlemen, of landed property, are denominated by their estates, as Rasay, Boisdale; and the wives of all of them have the title of ladies. The tacksmen, or principal tenants, are named by their farms, as Kingsburgh, Corrichatachin; and their wives are called the mistress of Kingsburgh, the mistress of Corrichatachin.-Having given this explanation, I am at liberty to use that mode of speech which generally prevails in the Highlands and the Hebrides. BOSWELL.

1 See ante, iii. 312.


'Boswell implies that Sir A. Macdonald's table had not been furnished plentifully. Johnson wrote:-'At night we came to a tenant's house of the first rank of tenants, where we were entertained better than at the landlord's.' Piozzi Letters, i. 141.

''Little did I once think,' he wrote to her the same day, 'of seeing ODA.

[blocks in formation]

Dr. Johnson was much pleased with his entertainment here. There were many good books in the house: Hector Boethius in Latin; Cave's Lives of the Fathers; Baker's Chronicle; Jeremy Collier's Church History; Dr. Johnson's small Dictionary; Craufurd's Officers of State, and several

this region of obscurity, and little did you once expect a salutation from this verge of European life. I have now the pleasure of going where nobody goes, and seeing what nobody sees.' Piozzi Letters, i. 120. About fourteen years since, I landed in Sky, with a party of friends, and had the curiosity to ask what was the first idea on every one's mind at landing. All answered separately that it was this Ode. WALTER SCOTT.

› See Appendix B.


« PreviousContinue »