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elegant lines of a modern poet, on the "facile temper of the beauteous sex:
"Like birds new-caught, who flutter for a time,
And struggle with captivity in vain ;
But by-and-by they rest, they smooth their plumes,
Surely such notes are much better than the querulous growlings of suspicious Whigs and discontented republicans.
By this sail
Kingsburgh conducted us in his boat across one of the lochs, as they call them, or arms of the sea, which flow in upon all the coasts of Sky, to a mile beyond a place called Grishinish. Our horses had been sent round by land to meet us. we saved eight miles of bad riding. Dr. Johnson said, "When we take into the computation what we have saved, and what we have gained by this agreeable sail, it is a great deal." He observed, "it is very disagreeable riding in Sky. The way is so narrow, one only at a time can travel, so it is quite unsocial; and you cannot indulge in meditation by yourself, because you must be always attending to the steps which your horse takes." This was a just and clear description of its inconveniencies.
The topic of emigration being again introduced, Dr. Johnson said, that “ a rapacious chief would make a wilderness of his estate." Mr. Donald M'Queen told us, that the oppression, which then made so much noise, was owing to landlords listen
(1) Agis, a tragedy, by John Home.
ing to bad advice in the letting of their lands (1); that interested and designing people flattered them with golden dreams of much higher rents than could reasonably be paid; and that some of the gentlemen tacksmen, or upper tenants, were themselves in part the occasion of the mischief, by overrating the farms of others. That many of the tacksmen, rather than comply with exorbitant demands, had gone off to America, and impoverished the country, by draining it of its wealth; and that their places were filled by a number of poor people, who had lived under them, properly speaking, as servants, paid by a certain proportion of the produce of the lands, though called sub-tenants. I observed, that if the men of substance were once banished from a Highland estate, it might probably be greatly reduced in its value; for one bad year might ruin a set of poor tenants, and men of any property would not settle in such a country, unless from the temptation of getting land extremely cheap; for an inhabitant of any good county in Britain had better go to America than to the Highlands or the Hebrides. Here, therefore, was a consideration that ought to induce a chief to act a more liberal part, from a mere motive of interest, independent of the lofty and honourable principle of keeping a clan together, to be in readiness to serve his king. I added, that I could not help thinking a little arbitrary power in the sovereign, to control the bad policy and greediness of the chiefs, might sometimes be of service.
(1) See General Macleod's account of this matter in his Memoirs, APPENDIX, No. IV. — C.
In France, a chief would not be permitted to force a number of the king's subjects out of the country. Dr. Johnson concurred with me, observing, that were an oppressive chieftain a subject of the French king, he would, probably, be admonished by a letter." (1)
During our sail, Dr. Johnson asked about the use of the dirk, with which he imagined the Highlanders cut their meat. He was told, they had a knife and fork besides to eat with. He asked, how did the women do? and was answered, some of them had a knife and fork too; but in general the men, when they had cut their meat, handed their knives and forks to the women, and they themselves eat with their fingers. The old tutor (2) of Macdonald always eat fish with his fingers, alleging that a knife and fork gave it a bad taste. I took the liberty to observe to Dr. Johnson, that he did so. Yes," said he, "but it is because I am short-sighted, and afraid of bones, for which reason I am not fond of eating many kinds of fish, because I must use my fingers." Dr. McPherson's "Dissertations on Scottish Antiquities," which he had looked at when at Corrichatachin, being mentioned, he remarked, that "you might read half an hour, and ask yourself what you had been reading: there were so many words to so little matter, that there was no getting through the book."
As soon as we reached the shore, we took leave of Kingsburgh, and mounted our horses. We passed
(1) Meaning, no doubt, a "lettre de cachet."-C.
(2) He means one of the family (an uncle probably) who was guardian during the minority of the young heir.-C.
through a wild moor, in many places so soft that we were obliged to walk, which was very fatiguing to Dr. Johnson. Once he had advanced on horseback to a very bad step. There was a steep declivity on his left, to which he was so near, that there was not room for him to dismount in the usual way. He tried to alight on the other side, as if he had been a young buck indeed, but in the attempt he fell at his length upon the ground; from which, however, he got up immediately without being hurt. During this dreary ride, we were sometimes relieved by a view of branches of the sea, that universal medium of connection amongst mankind. A guide, who had been sent with us from Kingsburgh, explored the way (much in the same manner as, I suppose, is pursued in the wilds of America) by observing certain marks known only to the inhabitants. We arrived at Dunvegan late in the afternoon. The great size of the castle, which is partly old and partly new, and is built upon a rock close to the sea, while the land around it presents nothing but wild, moorish, hilly, and craggy appearances, gave a rude magnificence to the scene. Having dismounted, we ascended a flight of steps, which was made by the late Macleod, for the accommodation of persons coming to him by land, there formerly being, for security, no other access to the castle but from the sea; so that visiters who came by the land were under the necessity of getting into a boat, and sailed round to the only place where it could be approached. We were introduced into a stately diningroom, and received by Lady Macleod, mother of
the Laird, who, with his friend Talisker, having been detained on the road, did not arrive till some time after us.
We found the lady of the house a very polite and sensible woman, who had lived for some time in London, and had there been in Dr. Johnson's company. After we had dined, we repaired to the drawing-room, where some of the young ladies of the family, with their mother, were at tea. This room had formerly been the bed-chamber of Sir Roderick Macleod, one of the old lairds: and he chose it, because, behind it, there was a considerable cascade, the sound of which disposed him to sleep. Above his bed was this inscription: "Sir Rorie Macleod of Dunvegan, Knight. God send good rest!" Rorie is the contraction of Roderick. He was called Rorie More, that is, great Rorie, not from his size, but from his spirit. Our entertainment here was in so elegant a style, and reminded my fellow-traveller so much of England, that he became quite joyous. He laughed, and said, "Boswell, we came in at the wrong end of this island." "Sir," said I, "it was best to keep this for the last." He answered, "I would have it both first and last."
Tuesday, Sept. 14. Dr. Johnson said in the morning, “Is not this a fine lady?" (1) There was
(1) She was the daughter of Alexander Brodie, Esq. of Brodie, Lyon King at Arms. She had lately come with her daughters out of Hampshire, to superintend her son's house hold at Dunvegan. See his Memoirs in the Appendix, No. V. This respectable lady died in 1803. It has been said that she expressed considerable dissatisfaction at Dr. Johnson's rude be