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Oct. 8.] Early emigration from the Highlands.
shall only give what is called his Epitaph, which Dr. Johnson said, 'was not so very bad.'
'Nature's minion, Virtue's wonder,
I asked, what 'Art's corrective' meant. 'Why, Sir, (said he,) that the laird was so exquisite, that he set art right, when she was wrong.'
I found several letters to the late Col, from my father's old companion at Paris, Sir Hector M'Lean, one of which was written at the time of settling the colony in Georgia'. It dissuades Col from letting people go there, and assures him there will soon be an opportunity of employing them better at home. Hence it appears that emigration from the Highlands, though not in such numbers at a time as of late, has always been practised. Dr. Johnson observed that 'the Lairds, instead of improving their country, diminished their people.'
There are several districts of sandy desart in Col. There are forty-eight lochs of fresh water; but many of them are very small,-meer pools. About one half of them, however, have trout and eel. There is a great number of horses in the island, mostly of a small size. Being over-stocked, they sell some in Tir-yi, and on the main land. Their black cattle, which are chiefly rough-haired, are reckoned remarkably good. The climate being very mild in winter, they never put their beasts in any house. The lakes are never frozen so as to bear a man; and snow never lies above a few hours. They have a good many sheep, which they eat mostly themselves, and sell but a few. They have goats in several places. There are no foxes; no serpents, toads, or frogs, nor any venomous creature. They have otters and mice here; but had no rats till lately that an American vessel brought them. There is a rabbit-warren on the north-east of the island, belonging to the Duke of Argyle. Young Col intends to get some hares, of which there are none at present. There are no black-cock, muir-fowl, nor partridges; but there are snipe, • Muir-fowl is grouse. Ante, p. 50. wild-duck
See ante, i. 147.
Description of the island of Col.
wild-duck, wild-geese, and swans, in winter; wild-pidgeons, plover, and great number of starlings; of which I shot some, and found them pretty good eating. Woodcocks come hither, though there is not a tree upon the island. There are no rivers in Col; but only some brooks, in which there is a great variety of fish. In the whole isle there are but three hills, and none of them considerable for a Highland country. The people are very industrious. Every man can tan. They get oak, and birch-bark, and lime, from the main land. Some have pits; but they commonly use tubs. I saw brogues' very well tanned; and every man can make them. They all make candles of the tallow of their beasts, both moulded and dipped; and they all make oil of the livers of fish. The little fish called Cuddies produce a great deal. They sell some oil out of the island, and they use it much for light in their houses, in little iron lamps, most of which they have from England; but of late their own blacksmith makes them. He is a good workman; but he has no employment in shoeing horses, for they all go unshod here, except some of a better kind belonging to young Col, which were now in Mull. There are two carpenters in Col; but most of the inhabitants can do something as boat-carpenters. They can all dye. Heath is used for yellow; and for red, a moss which grows on stones. They make broad-cloth, and tartan, and linen, of their own wool and flax, sufficient for their own use; as also stockings. Their bonnets come from the main-land. Hard-ware and several small articles are brought annually from Greenock, and sold in the only shop in the island, which is kept near the house, or rather hut, used for publick worship, there being no church in the island. The inhabitants of Col have increased considerably within these thirty years, as appears from the parish registers. There are but three considerable tacksmen on Col's part of the island': the rest is let to small tenants, some of whom
'See ante, p. 184, note 2.
In Col only two houses pay the window tax; for only two have six windows, which, I suppose, are the laird's and Mr. Macswcyn's.'
A ride in the island of Col.
pay so low a rent as four, three, or even two guineas. The highest is seven pounds, paid by a farmer, whose son goes yearly on foot to Aberdeen for education, and in summer returns, and acts as a school-master in Col. Dr. Johnson said, There is something noble in a young man's walking two hundred miles and back again, every year, for the sake of learning'.'
This day a number of people came to Col, with complaints of each others' trespasses. Corneck, to prevent their being troublesome, told them, that the lawyer from Edinburgh was here, and if they did not agree, he would take them to task. They were alarmed at this; said, they had never been used to go to law, and hoped Col would settle matters himself. In the evening Corneck left us.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 9.
As, in our present confinement, any thing that had even the name of curious was an object of attention, I proposed that Col should shew me the great stone, mentioned in a former page', as having been thrown by a giant to the top of a mountain. Dr. Johnson, who did not like to be left alone, said he would accompany us as far as riding was practicable. We ascended a part of the hill on horseback, and Col and I scrambled up the rest. A servant held our horses, and Dr. Johnson placed himself on the ground, with his back against a large fragment of rock. The wind being high, he let down
Johnson's Works, ix. 125. The window-tax, as it stands at present (January 1775) ... lays a duty upon every window, which in England augments gradually from two-pence, the lowest rate upon houses with not more than seven windows, to two shillings, the highest rate upon houses with twenty-five windows and upwards.' Wealth of Nations, v. 2.2.1. The tax was first imposed in 1695, as a substitute for hearth money. Macaulay's England, ed. 1874, vii. 271. It was abolished in 1851.
Thomas Carlyle was not fourteen when, one 'dark frosty November morning,' he set off on foot for the University at Edinburgh-a distance of nearly one hundred miles. Froude's Carlyle, i. 22.
3 Ante, p. 330.
the cocks of his hat, and tied it with his handkerchief under his chin. While we were employed in examining the stone, which did not repay our trouble in getting to it, he amused himself with reading Gataker on Lots and on the Christian Watch', a very learned book, of the last age, which had been found in the garret of Col's house, and which he said was a treasure here. When we descried him from above, he had a most eremitical appearance; and on our return told us, he had been so much engaged by Gataker, that he had never missed us. His avidity for variety of books, while we were in Col, was frequently expressed; and he often complained that so few were within his reach. Upon which I observed to him, that it was strange he should complain of want of books, when he could at any time make such good ones.
We next proceeded to the lead mine. In our way we came to a strand of some extent, where we were glad to take a gallop, in which my learned friend joined with great alacrity. Dr. Johnson, mounted on a large bay mare without shoes, and followed by a foal, which had some difficulty in keeping up with him, was a singular spectacle.
After examining the mine, we returned through a very uncouth district, full of sand hills; down which, though appar ent precipices, our horses carried us with safety, the sand always gently sliding away from their feet. Vestiges of houses were pointed out to us, which Col, and two others who had joined us, asserted had been overwhelmed with sand blown over them. But, on going close to one of them, Dr. Johnson shewed the absurdity of the notion, by remarking, that it was evidently only a house abandoned, the stones of which had been taken away for other purposes; for the large stones, which form the lower part of the walls, were still standing higher than the sand. If they were not blown over, it was clear nothing higher than they could be
Of the Nature and Use of Lots: a Treatise historicall and theologicall. By Thomas Gataker. London, 1619. The Spirituall Watch, or Christ's Generall Watch-word. By Thomas Gataker. London, 1619.
Delicacy of feeling.
blown over.' This was quite convincing to me; but it made not the least impression on Col and the others, who were not to be argued out of a Highland tradition.
We did not sit down to dinner till between six and seven. We lived plentifully here, and had a true welcome. In such a season good firing was of no small importance. The peats were excellent, and burned cheerfully. Those at Dunvegan, which were damp, Dr. Johnson called 'a sullen fuel.' Here a Scottish phrase was singularly applied to him. One of the company having remarked that he had gone out on a stormy evening, and brought in a supply of peats from the stack, old Mr. M'Sweyn said, 'that was main honest'!'
Blenheim being occasionally mentioned, he told me he had never seen it': he had not gone formerly; and he would not go now, just as a common spectator, for his money: he would not put it in the power of some man about the Duke of Marlborough to say, 'Johnson was here; I knew him, but I took no notice of him'.' He said, he should be very glad to see it, if properly invited, which in all probability would never be the case, as it was not worth his while to seek for it. I observed, that he might be easily introduced there by a common friend of ours, nearly related to the duke'. He answered, with an uncommon attention to delicacy of feeling, 'I doubt whether our friend be on such a footing with the duke as to carry any body there; and I would not give him the uneasiness of seeing that I knew he was not, or even of being himself reminded of it.'
'See ante, p. 301.
He visited it with the Thrales on Sept. 22, 1774, when returning from his tour to Wales, and with Boswell in 1776 (ante, ii. 516).
'Mr. Croker says that 'this, no doubt, alludes to Jacob Bryant, the secretary or librarian at Blenheim, with whom Johnson had had perhaps some coolness now forgotten.' The supposition of the coolness seems needless. With so little to go upon, guessing is very haz
Topham Beauclerk, who had married the Duke's sister, after she had been divorced for adultery with him from her first husband Viscount Bolingbroke. Ante, ii. 282, note 1.