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Johnson crossing the Atlantick.
us, he was not discomposed. After we were out of the shelter of Scalpa, and in the sound between it and Rasay, which extended about a league, the wind made the sea very rough'. I did not like it. JOHNSON. *This now is the Atlantick. If I should tell at a tea table in London, that I have crossed the Atlantick in an open boat, how they'd shudder, and what a fool they'd think me to expose myself to such danger?' He then repeated Horace's ode,
Otium Divos rogat in patenti
Prensus Ægæo In the confusion and hurry of this boisterous sail, Dr. Johnson's spurs, of which Joseph had charge, were carried over-board into the sea, and lost. This was the first misfortune that had befallen us. Dr. Johnson was a little angry at first, observing that 'there was something wild in letting a pair of spurs be carried into the sea out of a boat;' but then he remarked, “that, as Janes the naturalist had said upon losing his pocket-book, it was rather an inconvenience than a loss.' He told us, he now recollected that he dreamt the night before, that he put his staff into a river, and chanced to let it go, and it was carried down the stream and lost. 'So now you see, (said he,) that I have lost my spurs; and this story is better than many of those which we have concerning second sight and dreams.' Mr. M'Queen said he did not believe the second sight; that he never met with any well attested instances; and if he should, he should impute them to chance : because all who pretend to that quality often fail in their predictions, though they take a great scope, and sometimes interpret literally, sometimes figuratively, so
1. The wind blew enough to give the boat a kind of dancing agitation. Piozzi Letters, i. 142. “The water was calm, and the rowers were vigorous; so that our passage was quick and pleasant.' Johnson's Works, ix. 54.
· Caught in the wild Ægean seas,
FRANCIS. Horace, 2 Odes, xvi. 1. • See ante, iv. under Dec. 9, 1784, note.
as to suit the events. He told us, that, since he came to be minister of the parish where he now is, the belief of witchcraft, or charms, was very common, insomuch that he had many prosecutions before his session (the parochial ecclesiastical court) against women, for having by these means carried off the milk from people's cows. He disregarded them; and there is not now the least vestige of that superstition. He preached against it; and in order to give a strong proof to the people that there was nothing in it, he said from the pulpit that every woman in the parish was welcome to take the milk from his cows, provided she did not touch them'.
Dr. Johnson asked him as to Fingal. He said he could repeat some passages in the original, that he heard his grandfather had a copy of it; but that he could not affirm that Ossian composed all that poem as it is now published. This came pretty much to what Dr. Johnson had maintained'; though he goes farther, and contends that it is no better than such an epick poem as he could make from the song of Robin Hood; that is to say, that, except a few passages, there is nothing truly ancient but the names and some vague traditions. Mr. M'Queen alleged that Homer was made up of detached fragments. Dr. Johnson denied this; obserying, that it had been one work originally, and that you could not put a book of the Iliad out of its place; and he believed the same might be said of the Odyssey.
· Such spells are still believed in. A lady of property in Mull, a friend of mine, had a few years since much difficulty in rescuing from the superstitious fury of the people, an old woman, who used a charm to injure her neighbour's cattle. It is now in my possession, and consists of feathers, parings of nails, hair, and such like trash, wrapt in a lump of clay. WALTER SCOTT.
Sir Walter Scott, writing in Skye in 1814, says :— Macleod and Mr. Suter have both heard a tacksman of Macleod's recite the celebrated Address to the Sun; and another person repeat the description of Cuchullin's car. But all agree as to the gross infidelity of Macpherson as a translator and editor.' Lockhart's Scott, iv. 308. • See post, Nov. 10.
The Laird of Rasay.
The approach to Rasay was very pleasing. We saw before us a beautiful bay, well defended by a rocky coast; a good family mansion; a fine verdure about it,-with a considerable number of trees ;-and beyond it hills and mountains in gradation of wildness. Our boatmen sung with great spirit. Dr. Johnson observed, that naval musick was very ancient. As we came near the shore, the singing of our rowers was succeeded by that of reapers, who were busy at work, and who seemed to shout as much as to sing, while they worked with a bounding activity'. Just as we landed, I observed a cross, or rather the ruins of one, upon a rock, which had to me a pleasing vestige of religion. I perceived a large company coming out from the house. We met them as we walked up. There were Rasay himself; his brother Dr. Macleod; his nephew the Laird of M‘Kinnon; the Laird of Macleod; Colonel Macleod of Talisker, an officer in the Dutch service, a very genteel man, and a faithful branch of the family ; Mr. Macleod of Muiravenside, best krown by the name of Sandie Macleod, who was long in exile on account of the part which he took in 1745; and several other persons. We were welcomed upon the green, and conducted into the house, where we were introduced to Lady Rasay, who was surrounded by a numerous family, consisting of three sons and ten daughters. The Laird of Rasay is a sensible, polite, and most hospitable gentleman. I was told that his island of Rasay, and that of Rona, (from which the eldest son of the family has his title, and a considerable extent of land which he has in Sky, do not altogether yield him a very large revenue”; and yet he lives in
The women reaped the corn, and the men bound up the sheaves. The strokes of the sickle were timed by the modulation of the harvestsong, in which all their voices were united.' Johnson's Works, ix. 58.
• The money which he raises annually by rent from all his dominions, which contain at least 50,000 acres, is not believed to exceed £250; but as he keeps a large farm in his own hands, he sells every year great numbers of cattle ... The wine circulates vigorously, and the tea, chocolate, and coffee, however they are got, are always at hand.' Piozzi Letters, i. 142. “Of wine and punch they are very Sept. 8.)
A dance at Rasay.
great splendour; and so far is he from distressing his people, that, in the present rage for emigration, not a man has left his estate.
It was past six o'clock when we arrived. Some excellent brandy was served round immediately, according to the custom of the Highlands, where a dram is generally taken every day. They call it a scalch'. On a side-board was placed for us, who had come off the sea, a substantial dinner, and a variety of wines. Then we had coffee and tea. I observed in the room several elegantly bound books, and other marks of improved life. Soon afterwards a fidler appeared, and a little ball began. Rasay himself danced with as much spirit as any man, and Malcolm bounded like a roe. Sandie Macleod, who has at times an excessive flow of spirits, and had it now, was, in his days of absconding, known by the name of M'Cruslick”, which it seems was the designation of a kind of wild man in the Highlands, something between Proteus and Don Quixote; and so he was called here. He made much jovial noise. Dr. Johnson was so delighted with this scene, that he said, 'I know not how
liberal, for they get them cheap; but as there is no custom-house on the island, they can hardly be considered as smugglers.' Ib. p. 160. • Their trade is unconstrained; they pay no customs, for there is no officer to demand them; whatever, therefore, is made dear only by impost is obtained here at an easy rate.' Johnson's Works, ix. 52.
No man is so abstemious as to refuse the morning dram, which they call a skalk.' Johnson's Works, ix. p. 51.
* Alexander Macleod, of Muiravenside, advocate, became extremely obnoxious to government by his zealous personal efforts to engage his chief Macleod, and Macdonald of Sky, in the Chevalier's attempts of 1745. Had he succeeded, it would have added one third at least to the Jacobite army. Boswell has oddly described M'Cruslick, the being whose name was conferred upon this gentleman, as something between Proteus and Don Quixote. It is the name of a species of satyr, or esprit follet, a sort of mountain Puck or hobgoblin, seen among the wilds and mountains, as the old Highlanders believed, sometimes mirthful, sometimes mischievous. Alexander Macleod's precarious mode of life and variable spirits occasioned the soubriquet. WALTER Scott.
we shall get away. It entertained me to observe him sitting by, while we danced, sometimes in deep meditation,sometimes smiling complacently,—sometimes looking upon Hooke's Roman History,—and sometimes talking a little, amidst the noise of the ball, to Mr. Donald M'Queen, who anxiously gathered knowledge from him. He was pleased with M'Queen, and said to me, 'This is a critical man, Sir. There must be great vigour of mind to make him cultivate learning so much in the isle of Sky, where he might do without it. It is wonderful how many of the new publications he has. There must be a snatch of every opportunity. Mr. M'Queen told me that his brother (who is the fourth generation of the family following each other as ministers of the parish of Snizort,) and he joined together, and bought from time to time such books as had reputation. Soon after we came in, a black cock and grey hen, which had been shot, were shewn, with their feathers on, to Dr. Johnson, who had never seen that species of bird before, We had a company of thirty at supper; and all was good humour and gaiety, without intemperance.
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 9. At breakfast this morning, among a profusion of other things, there were oat-cakes, made of what is called graddaned meal, that is, meal made of grain separated from the husks, and toasted by fire, instead of being threshed and kiln-dried. This seems to be bad management, as so much fodder is consumed by it. Mr. M'Queen however defended it, by saying, that it is doing the thing much quicker, as one operation effects what is otherwise done by two. His chief reason however was, that the servants in Sky are, according to him, a faithless pack, and steal what they can; so that much is saved by the corn passing but once through their hands, as at each time they pilfer some. It appears to me, that the gradaning is a strong proof of the laziness of the Highlanders, who will rather make fire act for them, at the expence of fodder, than labour themselves. There was also,