« VorigeDoorgaan »
"I hope my friend Boswell will inform me of your motions. It will be cruel to deprive me an instant of the honour of attending you. As I value you more than any king in Christendom, I will perform that duty with infinitely greater alacrity than any courtier. I can contribute but little to your entertainment; but my sincere esteem for you gives me some title to the opportunity of expressing it.
"I dare say you are by this time sensible that things are pretty much the same as when Buchanan complained of being born solo et seculo inerudito. Let me hear of you, and be persuaded that none of your admirers is more sincerely devoted to you, than, dear Sir, your most obedient and most humble servant, ELIBANK."
Dr. Johnson, on the following Tuesday, answered for both of us, thus:
TO LORD ELIBANK. "Skie, Sept. 14. 1773. "MY LORD,- On the rugged shore of Skie I had the honour of your lordship's letter, and can with great truth declare that no place is so gloomy but that it would be cheered by such a testimony of regard, from a mind so well qualified to estimate characters, and to deal out approbation in its due proportions. If I have more than my share, it is your lordship's fault; for I have always reverenced your judgment too much, to exalt myself in your presence by any false pretensions.
"Mr. Boswell and I are at present at the disposal of the winds, and therefore cannot fix the time at which we shall have the honour of seeing your lordship. But we should either of us think ourselves injured by the supposition that we would miss your lordship's conversation when we could enjoy it; for I have often declared that I never met you without going away a wiser man. I am, my Lord, your lordship's most obedient and most humble servant, SAM. JOHNSON."
At Portree, Mr. Donald M'Queen went to church and officiated in Erse, and then came to dinner. Dr. Johnson and I resolved that we should treat the company, so I played the landlord, or master of the feast, having previously ordered Joseph to pay the bill.
Sir James Macdonald intended to have built a village here, which would have done great good. A village is like a heart to a country. It produces a perpetual circulation, and gives the people an opportunity to make profit of many little articles, which would otherwise be in a good measure lost. We had here a dinner, et præterea nihil. Dr. Johnson did not talk. When we were about to depart, we found that Rasay had been beforehand with us, and that all was paid; I would fain have contested this matter with him, but seeing him resolved, I declined it. We parted with cordial embraces from him and worthy Malcolm. In the evening Dr. Johnson and I remounted our horses, accompanied by Mr. M'Queen and Dr. Macleod. It rained very hard. We rode what they call six miles, upon Rasay's lands in Sky, to Dr. Macleod's house. On the road Dr. Johnson appeared to be somewhat out of spirits. When I talked of our meeting Lord Elibank, he said, "I cannot be with him much. I long to be again in civilised life; but can stay but a short while;" (he meant at Edinburgh). He said, "let us go to Dunvegan to-morrow." "Yes" said I, "if it is not a deluge." "At any rate," he replied. This showed a kind of fretful impatience; nor was it to be wondered at, considering our disagreeable ride. I feared he would give up Mull and
Icolmkill; for he said something of his apprehensions of being detained by bad weather in going to Mull and Iona. However, I hoped well. We had a dish of tea at Dr. Macleod's, who had a pretty good house, where was his brother, a halfpay officer. His lady was a polite, agreeable woman, Dr. Johnson said, he was glad to see that he was so well married, for he had an esteem for physicians. The doctor accompanied us to Kingsburgh, which is called a mile farther; but the computation of Sky has no connection whatever with real distance.
I was highly pleased to see Dr. Johnson safely arrived at Kingsburgh, and received by the hospitable Mr. Macdonald, who, with a most respectful attention, supported him into the house. Kingsburgh was completely the figure of a gallant Highlander, exhibiting "the graceful mien and manly looks," which our popular Scotch song has justly attributed to that character. He had his tartan plaid thrown about him, a large blue bonnet with a knot of black riband like a cockade, a brown short coat of a kind of duffil, a tartan waistcoat with gold buttons and gold button-holes, a bluish philibeg, and tartan hose. He had jet black hair tied behind, and was a large stately man, with a steady sensible countenance.
There was a comfortable parlour with a good fire, and a dram went round. By and by supper was served, at which there appeared the lady of the house, the celebrated Miss FLORA MACDONALD. (1)
(1) It is stated in the account of the rebellion, published under the title of "Ascanius," that she was the daughter of Mr
She is a little woman, of a genteel appearance, and uncommonly mild and well bred. To see Dr. Samuel Johnson, the great champion of the English Tories, salute Miss Flora Macdonald in the isle of Sky, was a striking sight; for, though somewhat congenial in their notions, it was very improbable they should meet here.
Miss Flora Macdonald (for so I shall call her) told me, she heard upon the main land, as she was returning home about a fortnight before, that Mr. Boswell was coming to Sky, and one Mr. Johnson, a young English buck (1), with him. He was highly
Macdonald, a tacksman or gentleman-farmer, of Melton, in South Uist, and was, in 1746, about twenty-four years old. It is also said, that her portrait was painted in London in 1747, for Commodore Smith, in whose ship she had been brought prisoner from Scotland; but I have not been able to trace it. Dr. Johnson says of her to Mrs. Thrale," She must then have been a very young lady; she is now not old; of a pleasing person, and elegant behaviour. She told me that she thought herself honoured by my visit; and I am sure that whatever regard she bestowed on me was liberally repaid. If thou likest her opinions, thou wilt praise her virtue.' She was carried to London, but dismissed without a trial, and came down with Malcolm Macleod, against whom sufficient evidence could not be procured. She and her husband are poor, and are going to try their fortune in America. Sic rerum volvitur orbis."-Letters, vol. i. p. 153.-They did emigrate to America; but returned to Sky, where she died on the 4th of March, 1790.-C. - It is remarkable that this distinguished lady signed her name Flory, instead of the more classical orthography. Her marriage contract, which is in my possession, bears the name spelled Flory. WALTER SCOTT.
(1) It may be useful to future readers to know that the word "macaroni" used in a former passage of this work, and the word "buck," here used, are nearly synonymous with the term "dandy," employed now-a-days (1831) to express a young gentleman who in his dress and manners affects the extreme of the fashion.-C.