foolish talking have we had!' Yes,' said she, 'but while they talked, you said nothing.' I was struck with the reproof. How much better is the man who does any thing that is innocent, than he who does nothing! Besides, I love anecdotes. I fancy mankind may come, in time, to write all aphoristically, except in narrative; grow weary of preparation, and connection, and illustration, and all those arts by which a big book is made. If a man is to wait till he weaves anecdotes into a system, we may be long in getting them, and get but few, in comparison of what we might get."


[ocr errors]

Dr. Robertson said, the notions of Eupham Macallan, a fanatic woman, of whom Lord Hailes gives a sketch, were still prevalent among some of the presbyterians; and, therefore, it was right in Lord Hailes, a man of known piety, to undeceive them.

We walked out, that Dr. Johnson might see some of the things which we have to show at Edinburgh. We went to the Parliament-house (1), where the parliament of Scotland sat, and where the ordinary lords of session hold their courts, and to the new sessionhouse adjoining to it, where our court of fifteen (the fourteen ordinaries, with the lord president at their head) sit as a court of review. We went to the advocates' library, of which Dr. Johnson took a cursory view; and then to what is called the Laigh (or under) Parliament-house, where the records of

(1) It was on this visit to the parliament-house, that Mr. Henry Erskine (brother of Lord Buchan and Lord Erskine), after being presented to Dr. Johnson by Mr. Boswell, and having made his bow, slipped a shilling into Boswell's hand, whispering that it was for the sight of his bear. WALTER Scorr. [This was the subject of a cotemporary caricature.]

Scotland, which has an universal security by register, are deposited, till the great register office be finished. (1) I was pleased to behold Dr. Samuel Johnson rolling about in this old magazine of antiquities. There was, by this time, a pretty numerous circle of us attending upon him. Somebody talked of happy moments for composition, and how a man can write at one time, and not at another. "Nay," said Dr. Johnson, "a man may write at any time, if he will set himself doggedly to it.” (2)

I here began to indulge old Scottish sentiments, and to express a warm regret, that, by our union with England, we were no more; our independent kingdom was lost. JOHNSON. "Sir, never talk of your independency, who could let your queen remain twenty years in captivity, and then be put to death, without even a pretence of justice, without your ever attempting to rescue her; and such a queen too! as every man of any gallantry of spirit would have sacrificed his life for." Worthy MR. JAMES KERR, keeper of the records. "Half our nation was bribed by English money." JOHN"Sir, that is no defence: that makes you worse." Good MR. BROWN, keeper of the advocates' library. "We had better say nothing about it." Boswell. "You would have been glad, however, to have had us last war, Sir, to fight your battles!" JOHNSON. "We should have had you


(1) This great Register Office is now one of the architectural beauties of Edinburgh.-C.

(2) This word is commonly used to signify sullenly, gloomily; and in that sense alone it appears in Dr. Johnson's Dictionary. I suppose be meant by it, "with an obstinate resolution, similar to that of a sullen man.



for the same price, though there had been no union, as we might have had Swiss, or other troops. No, I shall agree to a separation. You have only to go home." Just as he had said this, I, to divert the subject, showed him the signed assurances of the three successive kings of the Hanover family, to maintain the presbyterian establishment in Scot- land. "We'll give you that," said he, “into the bargain." (1)

We next went to the great church of St. Giles, which has lost its original magnificence in the inside, by being divided into four places of presbyterian worship. "Come," said Dr. Johnson jocularly to Principal Robertson (2), "let me see what was once a church!" We entered that division which was formerly called the New Church, and of late the High Church, so well known by the eloquence of Dr. Hugh Blair. It is now very elegantly fitted up; but it was then shamefully dirty. Dr. Johnson said nothing at the time; but when we came to the great door of the royal infirmary, where, upon a board, was this inscription, "Clean your feet!" he turned about slyly, and said,

(1) The meaning seems to be that, in a fit of Jacobite jocularity, Johnson was willing, in consideration of the dissolution of the Union, to allow the Hanover family to reign in Scotland, inferring, of course, that the Stuarts were to reign in England. C.-[Perhaps, Johnson meant that they, the Scotch, were welcome not only to stay at home, but to keep their kirk tooas inferior to the church as Scotland to England.-J.G.L.]

(2) I have hitherto called him Dr. William Robertson, to distinguish him from Dr. James Robertson, who is soon to make his appearance; but Principal, from his being the head of our college, is his usual designation, and is shorter: so I shall ase it hereafter.



"There is no occasion for putting this at the doors of your churches ! "

We then conducted him down the Posthousestairs, Parliament-close, and made him look up from the Cowgate to the highest building in Edinburgh (from which he had just descended), being thirteen floors or stories from the ground upon the back elevation; the front wall being built upon the edge of the hill, and the back wall rising from the bottom of the hill several stories before it comes to a level with the front wall. (1) We proceeded to the college, with the Principal at our head. Dr. Adam Fergusson, whose "Essay on the History of Civil Society" gives him a respectable place in the ranks of literature, was with us. As the college buildings are indeed very mean, the Principal said to Dr. Johnson, that he must give them the same epithet that a Jesuit did when showing a poor college abroad: "Ha miseriæ nostræ." Dr. Johnson was, however, much pleased with the library, and with the conversation of Dr. James Robertson, professor of Oriental languages, the librarian. We talked of Kennicot's edition of the Hebrew Bible, and hoped it would be quite faithful. JOHNSON. "Sir, I know not any crime so great that a man could contrive to commit, as poisoning the sources of eternal truth."

I pointed out to him where there formerly stood an old wall enclosing part of the college, which I remember bulged out in a threatening manner, and of which there was a common tradition similar to The site is

(1) [This lofty house was burned down in 1824. now occupied by Sir William Forbes's bank.-CHAMBERS.]


[ocr errors]

that concerning Bacon's study at Oxford, that it would fall upon some very learned man. It had some time before this been taken down, that the street might be widened, and a more convenient wall built. Dr. Johnson, glad of an opportunity to have a pleasant hit at Scottish learning, said, "They have been afraid it never would fall."

We showed him the royal infirmary, for which, and for every other exertion of generous public spirit in his power, that noble-minded citizen of Edinburgh, George Drummond (1), will be ever held in honourable remembrance. And we were too proud not to carry him to the abbey of Holyrood House, that beautiful piece of architecture, but, alas! that deserted mansion of royalty, which Hamilton of Bangour, in one of his elegant poems calls,

"A virtuous palace, where no monarch dwells."


I was much entertained while Principal Robertson fluently harangued to Dr. Johnson, upon the spot, concerning scenes of his celebrated History of Scotland. We surveyed that part of the palace appropriated to the Duke of Hamilton, as keeper, in which our beautiful Queen Mary lived, and in which David Rizzio was murdered, and also the state rooms. Dr. Johnson was a great reciter of all -sorts of things, serious or comical. I overheard him repeating here, in a kind of muttering tone,

(1) [This excellent magistrate died in 1766. Some years after his death, a bust of him, by Nollekens, was placed in the public hall of the hospital, with this inscription from the pen of Robertson:-"George Drummond, to whom this country is indebted for all the benefit which it derives from the royal infirmary."]

« VorigeDoorgaan »