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A sandy desart.
The tradition is, that a giant threw such another stone at his mistress, up to the top of a hill, at a small distance; and that she in return, threw this mass down to him'. It was all in sport.
'Malo me petit lasciva puella'.'
As we advanced, we came to a large extent of plain ground. I had not seen such a place for a long time. Col and I took a gallop upon it by way of race. It was very refreshing to me, after having been so long taking short steps in hilly countries. It was like stretching a man's legs after being cramped in a short bed. We also passed close by a large extent of sand-hills, near two miles square. Dr. Johnson said, 'he never had the image before. It was horrible, if barrenness and danger could be so.' I heard him, after we were in the house of Breacacha, repeating to himself, as he walked about the room,
'And smother'd in the dusty whirlwind, dies'.'
Probably he had been thinking of the whole of the simile in Cato, of which that is the concluding line; the sandy desart had struck him so strongly. The sand has of late been blown over a good deal of meadow, and the people of the island say, that their fathers remembered much of the space which is now covered with sand, to have been under tillage'.
Johnson's remark on these stones is curious as shewing that he had not even a glimpse of the discoveries to be made by geology. After saying that 'no account can be given' of the position of one of the stones, he continues:- There are so many important things of which human knowledge can give no account, that it may be forgiven us if we speculate no longer on two stones in Col.' Works, ix. 122. See ante, ii. 536, for his censure of Brydone's 'anti-mosaical remark.' Malo me Galatea petit, lasciva puella.' 'My Phillis me with pelted apples plies.'
DRYDEN. Virgil, Eclogues, iii. 64.
Cato, act ii. sc. 6.
• Johnson seems unwilling to believe this. I am not of opinion
Johnson's powers of ridicule.
[Oct. 6. Col's house is situated on a bay called Breacacha Bay. We found here a neat new-built gentleman's house, better than any we had been in since we were at Lord Errol's. Dr. Johnson relished it much at first, but soon remarked to me, that there was nothing becoming a Chief about it: it was a mere tradesman's box'.' He seemed quite at home, and no longer found any difficulty in using the Highland address; for as soon as we arrived, he said, with a spirited familiarity, 'Now, Col, if you could get us a dish of tea.' Dr. Johnson and I had each an excellent bed-chamber. We had a dispute which of us had the best curtains. His were rather the best, being of linen; but I insisted that my bed had the best posts, which was undeniable. Well, (said he,) if you have the best posts, we will have you tied to them and whipped.' I mention this slight circumstance, only to shew how ready he is, even in mere trifles, to get the better of his antagonist, by placing him in a ludicrous view. I have known him sometimes use the same art, when hard pressed in serious disputation. Goldsmith, I remember, to retaliate for many a severe defeat which he has suffered from him, applied to him a lively saying in one of Cibber's comedies, which puts this part of his character in a strong light. There is no arguing with Johnson; for, if his pistol misses fire, he knocks you down with the butt end of it.'
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 6.
After a sufficiency of sleep, we assembled at breakfast. We were just as if in barracks. Every body was master.
that by any surveys or land-marks its [the sand's] limits have been ever fixed, or its progression ascertained. If one man has confidence enough to say that it advances, nobody can bring any proof to support him in denying it.' Works, ix. 122. He had seen land in like manner laid waste north of Aberdeen; where the owner, when he was required to pay the usual tax, desired rather to resign the ground.' Ib. p. 15.
Box, in this sense, is not in Johnson's Dictionary. * See ante, ii. 115, and iv. 316.
Happiness in a cottage.
We went and viewed the old castle of Col, which is not far from the present house, near the shore, and founded on a rock. It has never been a large feudal residence, and has nothing about it that requires a particular description. Like other old inconvenient buildings of the same age, it exemplified Gray's picturesque lines,
'Huge' windows that exclude the light,
And passages that lead to nothing.'
It may however be worth mentioning, that on the second story we saw a vault, which was, and still is, the family prison. There was a woman put into it by the laird, for theft, within these ten years; and any offender would be confined there yet; for, from the necessity of the thing, as the island is remote from any power established by law, the laird must. exercise his jurisdiction to a certain degree.
We were shewn, in a corner of this vault, a hole, into which Col said greater criminals used to be put. It was now filled up with rubbish of different kinds. He said, it was of a great depth. Ay, (said Dr. Johnson, smiling,) all such places, that are filled up, were of a great depth.' He is very quick in shewing that he does not give credit to careless or exaggerated accounts of things. After seeing the castle, we looked at a small hut near it. It is called Teigh Franchich, i. e. the Frenchman's House. Col could not tell us the history of it. A poor man with a wife and children now lived in it. We went into it, and Dr. Johnson gave them some charity. There was but one bed for all the family, and the hut was very smoky. When he came out, he said to me, 'Et hoc secundum sententiam philosophorum est esse beatus. BOSWELL. The philosophers, when they placed happiness in a cottage, supposed cleanliness and no smoke.' JOHNSON. 'Sir, they did not think about either.'
In the original, Rich windows. A Long Story, 1. 7.
''And this according to the philosophers is happiness.' Boswell says of Crabbe's poem The Village, that 'its sentiments as to the false notions of rustick happiness and rustick virtue were quite congenial with Johnson's own.' Ante, iv. 202.
Advice to landlords.
We walked a little in the laird's garden, in which endeavours have been used to rear some trees; but, as soon as they got above the surrounding wall, they died. Dr. Johnson recommended sowing the seeds of hardy trees, instead of planting.
Col and I rode out this morning, and viewed a part of the island. In the course of our ride, we saw a turnipfield, which he had hoed with his own hands. He first introduced this kind of husbandry into the Western islands'. We also looked at an appearance of lead, which seemed very promising. It has been long known; for I found letters to the late laird, from Sir John Areskine and Sir Alexander Murray, respecting it.
After dinner came Mr. M'Lean, of Corneck, brother to Isle of Muck, who is a cadet of the family of Col. He possesses the two ends of Col, which belong to the Duke of Argyll. Corneck had lately taken a lease of them at a very advanced rent, rather than let the Campbells get a footing in the island, one of whom had offered nearly as much as he. Dr. Johnson well observed, that, 'landlords err much when they calculate merely what their land may yield. The rent must be in a proportionate ratio of what the land may yield, and of the power of the tenant to make it yield. A tenant cannot make by his land, but according to the corn and cattle which he has. Suppose you should give him twice as much land as he has, it does him no good, unless he gets also more stock. It is clear then, that the Highland landlords, who let their substantial tenants leave them, are infatuated; for the poor small tenants cannot give
This innovation was considered by Mr. Macsweyn as the idle project of a young head, heated with English fancies; but he has now found that turnips will really grow, and that hungry sheep and cows will really eat them.' Johnson's Works, ix. 121. The young laird is heir, perhaps, to 300 square miles of land, which, at ten shillings an acre, would bring him £96,000 a year. He is desirous of improving the agriculture of his country; and, in imitation of the Czar, travelled for improvement, and worked with his own hands upon a farm in Hertfordshire.' Piozzi Letters, i. 168.
Abstraction from the world.
them good rents, from the very nature of things. They have not the means of raising more from their farms'.' Corneck, Dr. Johnson said, was the most distinct man that he had met with in these isles: he did not shut his eyes, or put his fingers in his ears, which he seemed to think was a good deal the mode with most of the people whom we have seen of late.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 7.
Captain M'Lean joined us this morning at breakfast. There came on a dreadful storm of wind and rain, which continued all day, and rather increased at night. The wind was directly against our getting to Mull. We were in a strange state of abstraction from the world: we could neither hear from our friends, nor write to them. Col had brought Daille on the Fathers', Lucas on Happiness, and More's Dialogues', from the Reverend Mr. M'Lean's, and Burnet's History of his own Times, from Captain M'Lean's; and he had of his own some books of farming, and Gregory's Geometry. Dr. Johnson read a good deal of Burnet, and of Gregory, and I observed he made some geometrical notes in the end of his pocket-book. I read a little of Young's Six Wecks' Tour through the Southern Counties; and Ovid's Epistles, which I had bought at Inverness, and which helped to solace many a weary hour.
We were to have gone with Dr. Johnson this morning to
14 In more fruitful countries the removal of one only makes room for the succession of another; but in the Hebrides the loss of an inhabitant leaves a lasting vacuity; for nobody born in any other parts of the world will choose this country for his residence.' Johnson's Works, ix. 93.
In 1628 Daillé wrote his celebrated book, De l'usage des Pères, or Of the Use of the Fathers. Dr. Fleetwood, Bishop of Ely, said of it that he thought the author had pretty sufficiently proved they were of no use at all.' Chalmers's Biog. Dict. xi. 209.
Enquiry after Happiness, by Richard Lucas, D.D., 1685.
• Divine Dialogues, by Henry More, D.D. See ante, ii. 186, note 1. By David Gregory, the second of the sixteen professors which the family of Gregory gave to the Universities. Ante, p. 53.