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M'Queen, though he was of opinion that Dr. Johnson had deserted the point really in dispute, was much pleased with what he said, and owned to me, he thought it very just; and Mrs. Macleod was so much captivated by his eloquence, that she told me, "I was a good advocate for a bad cause."
Friday, Sept. 24. This was a good day. Dr Johnson told us, at breakfast, that he rode harder at a fox chase than any body. (1) "The English," said he, “are the only nation who ride hard a-hunting. A Frenchman goes out upon a managed horse, and capers in the field, and no more thinks of leaping a hedge (2) than of mounting a breach. Lord Powerscourt (3) laid a wager, in France, that he would ride a great many miles in a certain short time. The French academicians set to work, and calculated that, from the resistance of the air, it was impossible. His lordship, however, performed it."
Our money being nearly exhausted, we sent a bill for thirty pounds, drawn on Sir William Forbes and Co., to Lochbraccadale, but our messenger found it very difficult to procure cash for it; at length, however, he got us value from the master of a vessel which was to carry away some emigrants. There is
(1) [He certainly rode on Mr. Thrale's old hunter with a good firmness, and though he would follow the hounds fifty miles an end sometimes, would never own himself either tired or amused.-PIOZZI.]
(2) Because, in the greater part of France, there are no edges; nor do they hunt, in the sense- - in which we use that word - of running down the animal.-C.
(3) Edward Wingfield, second Viscount of the last creation, born in 1729, succeeded his brother in 1762, and died in 1764. -C
a great scarcity of specie in Sky. () Mr. M'Queen said he had the utmost difficulty to pay his servants' wages, or to pay for any little thing which he has to buy. The rents are paid in bills, which the drovers give. The people consume a vast deal of snuff and tobacco, for which they must pay ready money; and pedlars, who come about selling goods, as there is not a shop in the island, carry away the cash. If there were encouragement given to fisheries and manufactories, there might be a circulation of money introduced. I got one and twenty shillings in silver at Portree, which was thought a wonderful store. (2)
Talisker, Mr. M'Queen, and I, walked out, and looked at no less than fifteen different waterfalls, near the house, in the space of about a quarter of a mile. We also saw Cuchillin's well, said to have been the favourite spring of that ancient hero. I drank of it. The water is admirable. On the shore are many stones full of crystallisations in the heart.
Though our obliging friend, Mr. M'Lean, was but the young laird, he had the title of Col constantly given him. After dinner he and I walked to the top of Prieshwell, a very high rocky hill, from whence there is a view of Barra the Long
(1) This scarcity of cash still exists on the islands, in several of which five-shilling notes are necessarily issued to have some circulating medium. If you insist on having change, you must purchase something at a shop. - WALTER SCOTT.
(2) [When Prince Charles was about to sail from Portree in disguise, he wanted change of a guinea, but only thirteen shillings could be collected, which the Prince was for accepting in lieu of his coin, till his more prudent friend Malcolm Macleod pointed out the suspicion to which such unreasonable liberality might give rise. CHAMBERS.]
the Loch of Dunvegan
Island (1) part of Rum
part of Rasay and a vast deal of the Isle of Sky. Col, though he had come into Sky with an intention to be at Dunvegan, and pass a considerable time in the island, most politely resolved first to conduct us to Mull, and then to return to Sky. This was a very fortunate circumstance; for he planned an expedition for us of more variety han merely going to Mull. He proposed we should see the islands of Egg, Muck, Col, and Tyryi. In all these islands he could show us every thing worth seeing; and in Mull he said he should be as if at home, his father having lands there, and he at a farm.
Dr. Johnson did not talk much to-day, but seemed intent in listening to the schemes of future excursion, planned by Col. Dr. Birch, however, being mentioned, he said, he had more anecdotes than any man. I said. Percy had a great many;
that he flowed with them like one of the brooks here. JOHNSON. "If Percy is like one of the brooks here, Birch was like the river Thames. Birch excelled Percy in that, as much as Percy excels Goldsmith." I mentioned Lord Hales as a man of anecdote. He was not pleased with him, for publishing only such memorials and letters as were unfavourable for the Stuart family. "If," said he, a man fairly warns you, 'I am to give all the ill
do you find the good,' he may; but if the object
(1) A series of islands; the two Uists, Benbecula, and some others, are called by the general name of Long Island. — C.
which he professes be to give a view of a reign, let him tell all the truth. I would tell truth of the two Georges, or of that scoundrel, King William. Granger's Biographical History' is full of curious anecdote (1), but might have been better done. The dog is a Whig. I do not like much to see a Whig in any dress; but I hate to see a Whig in a parson's gown."
Saturday, Sept. 25.- It was resolved that we should set out, in order to return to Slate, to be in readiness to take a boat whenever there should be a fair wind. Dr. Johnson remained in his chamber writing a letter, and it was long before we could get him into motion. He did not come to breakfast, but had it sent to him. When he had finished his letter, it was twelve o'clock, and we should have set out at ten. When I went up to him, he said to me, "Do you remember a song which begins (2),
'Every island is a prison
Strongly guarded by the sea;
Kings and princes, for that reason,
I suppose he had been thinking of our confined situ
(2) The song begins
(1) [Dr. James Granger died in 1776. His Biographical History of England, dedicated to Horace Walpole, was published in 1769. A continuation, by the Rev. Mark Noble, appeared in 1806. In a letter to Boswell, Aug. 30. 1776, Dr. Johnson says, "I have read every word of Granger: it has entertained me exceedingly."]
"Welcome, welcome, brother debtor,
The stanza quoted by Johnson is the sixth. See Ritson's Songs, vol. ii. p. 105.— C.
ation. (1) He would fain have got in a boat from hence, instead of riding back to Slate. A scheme for it was proposed. He said, "We'll not be driven tamely from it :" but it proved impracticable.
We took leave of Macleod and Talisker, from whom we parted with regret. Talisker, having been bred to physic, had a tincture of scholarship in his conversation, which pleased Dr. Johnson, and he had some very good books; and being a colonel in the Dutch service, he and his lady, in consequence of having lived abroad, had introduced the ease and politeness of the continent into this rude region.
Young Col was now our leader. Mr. M'Queen was to accompany us half a day more. We stopped at a little hut, where we saw an old woman grinding with the quern, the ancient Highland instrument, which it is said was used by the Romans; but which, being very slow in its operation, is almost entirely gone into disuse.
The walls of the cottages in Sky, instead of being one compacted mass of stones, are often formed by two exterior surfaces of stone, filled up with earth in the middle, which makes them very warm. The roof is generally bad. They are thatched, sometimes with straw, sometimes with heath, sometimes with fern. The thatch is secured by ropes of straw, or of heath; and, to fix the ropes, there is a stone tied to the end of each. These stones hang round the bottom of the roof, and make it look like
(1) [The letter Johnson had been writing was to Mrs. Thrale, and it begins with the same question,-" Do you remember the song, Every island,' &c." ?]