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but from the great difficulty of describing visible objects, I found my account so unsatisfactory, that my readers would probably have exclaimed,
"And write about it, goddess, and about it (1);"
and therefore I have omitted it.
When we got home, and were again at table with Dr. Johnson, we first talked of portraits. He agreed in thinking them valuable in families. I wished to know which he preferred, fine portraits, or those of which the merit was resemblance. JOHNSON. "Sir, their chief excellence is being like." BOSWELL. "Are you of that opinion as to the portraits of ancestors, whom one has never seen?" JOHNSON. "It then becomes of more consequence that they should be like; and I would have them in the dress of the times, which makes a piece of history. One should like to see how Rorie More looked. Truth, Sir, is of the greatest value in these things." Mr. M'Queen observed, that if you think it of no consequence whether portraits are like, if they are but well painted, you may be indifferent whether a piece of history is true or not, if well told.
Dr. Johnson said at breakfast to-day, "that it was but of late that historians bestowed pains and attention in consulting records, .to attain to accuracy. Bacon, in writing his History of Henry VII., does not seem to have consulted any, but to have just taken what he found in other histories, and blended it with what he learned by tradition."
(1) Dunciad, b. 4. v. 252. — .C.
He agreed with me that there should be a chronicle kept in every considerable family, to preserve the characters and transactions of successive generations.
After dinner I started the subject of the temple of Anaitis. Mr. M'Queen had laid stress on the name given to the place by the country people,Ainnit; and added, "I knew not what to make of this piece of antiquity, till I met with the Anaitidis delubrum in Lydia, mentioned by Pausanias and the elder Pliny." Dr. Johnson, with his usual acuteness, examined Mr. M'Queen as to the meaning of the word Ainnit, in Erse; and it proved to be a water-place, or a place near water, "which," said Mr. M'Queen, "agrees with all the descriptions of the temples of that goddess, which were situated near rivers, that there might be water to wash the statue." JOHNSON. "Nay, Sir, the argument from the name is gone. The name is exhausted by what we see. We have no occasion to go to a distance for what we can pick up under our feet. Had it been an accidental name, the similarity between it and Anaitis might have had something in it; but it turns out to be a mere physiological name." Macleod said, Mr. M'Queen's knowledge of etymology had destroyed his conjecture. JOHNSON. "Yes, Sir; Mr. M'Queen is like the eagle mentioned by Waller, who was shot with an arrow feathered from his own wing." Mr. M'Queen would not, however, give up his conjecture. JOHNSON. "You have one possibility for you, and all possibilities against you. It is possible it may be the temple of Anaitis; but it is also possible that it may
be a fortification; or it may be a place of Christian worship, as the first Christians often chose remote and wild places, to make an impression on the mind; or, if it was a heathen temple, it may have been built near a river, for the purpose of lustration; and there is such a multitude of divinities, to whom it may have been dedicated, that the chance of its being a temple of Anaitis is hardly any thing. It is like throwing a grain of sand upon the sea-shore to-day, and thinking you may find it to-morrow. No, Sir, this temple, like many an illbuilt edifice, tumbles down before it is roofed in." In his triumph over the reverend antiquarian, he indulged himself in a conceit; for, some vestige of the altar of the goddess being much insisted on in support of the hypothesis, he said, " Mr. M'Queen 's fighting pro aris et focis."
It was wonderful how well time passed in a remote castle, and in dreary weather. After supper, we talked of Pennant. It was objected that he was superficial. Dr. Johnson defended him warmly. He said, “Pennant has greater variety of inquiry than almost any man, and has told us more than perhaps one in ten thousand could have done, in the time that he took. He has not said what he was to tell; so you cannot find fault with him for what he has not told. If a man comes to look for fishes, you cannot blame him if he does not attend to fowls." "But," said Colonel Macleod, "he mentions the unreasonable rise of rents in the Highlands, and says, the gentlemen are for emptying the bag without filling it,' for that is the phrase
criticism. He tells what he observes, and as much as he chooses. If he tells what is not true, you may find fault with him; but, though he tells that the land is not well cultivated, he is not obliged to tell how it may be well cultivated. If I tell that many of the Highlanders go barefooted, I am not obliged to tell how they may get shoes. Pennant tells a fact. He need go no farther, except he pleases. He exhausts nothing; and no subject whatever has yet been exhausted. But Pennant has surely told a great deal. Here is a man six feet high, and you are angry because he is not seven.' Notwithstanding this eloquent Oratio pro Pennantio, which they who have read this gentleman's Tours, and recollect the savage and the shopkeeper at Monboddo, will probably impute to the spirit of contradiction, I still think that he had better have given more attention to fewer things, than have thrown together such a number of imperfect accounts.
Saturday, Sept. 18. - Before breakfast, Dr. Johnson came up to my room, to forbid me to mention that it was his birthday; but I told him I had done it already; at which he was displeased I suppose from wishing to have nothing particular done on his account. (1) Lady Macleod and I got
(1) ["Boswell, with some of his troublesome kindness, has informed this family and reminded me, that the 18th of September is my birthday. The return of my birthday, if I remember it, fills me with thoughts which it seems to be the general care of humanity to escape. I can now look back upon three score and four years, in which little has been done,
into a warm dispute. upon a farm which she has taken, about five miles from the castle, and to make gardens and other ornaments there; all of which I approved of; but insisted that the seat of the family should always be upon the rock of Dunvegan. JOHNSON. "Ay, in time we'll build all round this rock. You may make a very good house at the farm; but it must not be such as to tempt the Laird of Macleod to go thither to reside. Most of the great families of England have a secondary residence, which is called a jointure-house; let the new house be of that kind.” The lady insisted that the rock was very inconvenient; that there was no place near it where a good garden could be made; that it must always be a rude place; that it was a Herculean labour to make a dinner here. I was vexed to find the alloy of modern refinement in a lady who had so much old family spirit. "Madam," said I, "if once you quit this rock, there is no knowing where you may settle. You move five miles first; then to St. Andrews, as the late Laird did; then to Edinburgh; and so on till you end at Hampstead, or in France. No, no; keep to the rock; it is the very jewel of the estate. It looks as if it had been let down from heaven by the four corners, to be the residence of a
She wanted to build a house
and little has been enjoyed; a life diversified by misery, spent part in the sluggishness of penury, and part under the violence of pain, in gloomy discontent or importunate distress. But, perhaps, I am better than I should have been, if I had been less afflicted. With this I will try to be content."―JOHNSON, Letters, vol. i. p. 134.]