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Sept. 10.) Infidelity in a Highland gentleman.
what I cannot help disliking at breakfast, cheese: it is the custom over all the Highlands to have it; and it often smells very strong, and poisons to a certain degree the elegance of an Indian repast'. The day was showery; however, Rasay and I took a walk, and had some cordial conversation. I conceived a more than ordinary regard for this worthy gentleman. His family has possessed this island above four hundred years'. It is the remains of the estate of Macleod of Lewis, whom he represents. When we returned, Dr. Johnson walked with us to see the old chapel. He was in fine spirits. He said, “This is truly the patriarchal life: this is what we came to find.'
After dinner, M'Cruslick, Malcolm, and I, went out with guns, to try if we could find any black-cock; but we had no sport, owing to a heavy rain. I saw here what is called a Danish fort. Our evening was passed as last night was. One of our company, I was told, had hurt himself by too much study, particularly of infidel metaphysicians; of which he gave a proof, on second sight being mentioned. He immediately retailed some of the fallacious arguments of Vol. taire and Hume against miracles in general. Infidelity in a Highland gentleman appeared to me peculiarly offensive. I was sorry for him, as he had otherwise a good character. I told Dr. Johnson that he had studied himself into infidelity. JOHNSON. “Then he must study himself out of it again. That is the way. Drinking largely will sober him again.'
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 10. Having resolved to explore the Island of Rasay, which could be done only on foot, I last night obtained my fellowtraveller's permission to leave him for a day, he being unable
* Johnson also complained of the cheese. “In the islands they do what I found it not very easy to endure. They pollute the tea-table by plates piled with large slices of Cheshire cheese, which mingles its less grateful odours with the fragrance of the tea.' Works, ix. 52.
• .The estate has not, during four hundred years, gained or lost a single acre.' 16. p. 55.
Boswell's ascent of Dun Can.
to take so hardy a walk. Old Mr. Malcolm M'Cleod, who had obligingly promised to accompany me, was at my bedside between five and six. I sprang up immediately, and he and I, attended by two other gentlemen, traversed the country during the whole of this day. Though we had passed over not less than four-and-twenty miles of very rugged ground, and had a Highland dance on the top of Dun Can, the highest mountain in the island, we returned in the evening not at all fatigued, and piqued ourselves at not being outdone at the nightly ball by our less active friends, who had remained at home.
My survey of Rasay did not furnish much which can interest my readers; I shall therefore put into as short a compass as I can, the observations upon it, which I find registered in my journal. It is about fifteen English miles long, and four broad. On the south side is the laird's family seat, situated on a pleasing low spot. The old tower of three stories, mentioned by Martin, was taken down soon after 1746, and a modern house supplies its place. There are very good grass-fields and corn-lands about it, well-dressed. I observed, however, hardly any inclosures, except a good garden plentifully stocked with vegetables, and strawberries, raspberries, currants, &c.
On one of the rocks just where we landed, which are not high, there is rudely carved a square, with a crucifix in the middle. Here, it is said, the Lairds of Rasay, in old times, used to offer up their devotions. I could not approach the spot, without a grateful recollection of the event commemorated by this symbol.
A little from the shore, westward, is a kind of subterraneous house. There has been a natural fissure, or separation of the rock, running towards the sea, which has been roofed over with long stones, and above them turf has been laid. In that place the inhabitants used to keep their oars. There are a number of trees near the house, which grow well; some of them of a pretty good size. They are mostly plane and ash. A little to the west of the house is an old
A ruined chapel in Rasay.
ruinous chapel, unroofed, which never has been very curious. We here saw some human bones of an uncommon size. There was a heel-bone, in particular, which Dr. Macleod said was such, that if the foot was in proportion, it must have been twenty-seven inches long. Dr. Johnson would not look at the bones. He started back from them with a striking appearance of horrour'. Mr. M'Queen told us it was formerly much the custom, in these isles, to have human bones lying above ground, especially in the windows of churches. On the south of the chapel is the family buryingplace. Above the door, on the east end of it, is a small bust or image of the Virgin Mary, carved upon a stone which makes part of the wall. There is no church upon the island. It is annexed to one of the parishes of Sky; and the minister comes and preaches either in Rasay's house, or some other house, on certain Sundays. I could not but value the family seat more, for having even the ruins of a chapel close to it. There was something comfortable in the thought of being so near a piece of consecrated ground'. Dr. Johnson said, “I look with reverence upon every place that has been set apart for religion ;' and he kept off his hat while he was within the walls of the chapel.
Lord Stowell told me, that on the road from Newcastle to Berwick, Dr. Johnson and he passed a cottage, at the entrance of which were set up two of those great bones of the whale, which are not unfrequently seen in maritime districts. Johnson expressed great horror at the sight of these bones; and called the people, who could use such relics of mortality as an ornament, mere savages. CROKER.
? In like manner Boswell wrote :-. It is divinely cheering to me to think that there is a Cathedral so near Auchinleck (as Carlisle ).' Ante, iii. 472.
3 . It is not only in Rasay that the chapel is unroofed and useless; through the few islands which we visited we neither saw nor heard of any house of prayer, except in Sky, that was not in ruins. The malignant influence of Calvinism has blasted ceremony and decency together ... It has been for many years popular to talk of the lazy devotion of the Romish clergy; over the sleepy laziness of men that erected churches we may indulge our superiority with a new triumph, by comparing it with the fervid activity of those who suffer them to V.-13
The eight crosses, which Martin mentions as pyramids for deceased ladies, stood in a semicircular line, which contained within it the chapel. They marked out the boundaries of the sacred territory within which an asylum was to be had. One of them, which we observed upon our landing, made the first point of the semicircle. There are few of them now remaining. A good way farther north, there is a row of buildings about four feet high; they run from the shore on the east along the top of a pretty high eminence, and so down to the shore on the west, in much the same direction with the crosses. Rasay took them to be the marks for the asylum ; but Malcolm thought them to be false sentinels, a common deception, of which instances occur in Martin, to make invaders imagine an island better guarded. Mr. Donald M'Queen, justly in my opinion, supposed the crosses which form the inner circle to be the church's landmarks.
The south end of the island is much covered with large stones or rocky strata. The laird has enclosed and planted part of it with firs, and he shewed me a considerable space marked out for additional plantations.
Dun Can is a mountain three computed miles from the laird's house. The ascent to it is by consecutive risings, if that expression may be used when vallies intervene, so that there is but a short rise at once; but it is certainly very high above the sea. The palm of altitude is disputed for by the people of Rasay and those of Sky; the former contending for Dun Can, the latter for the mountains in Sky, over against it. We went up the east side of Dun Can pretty easily. It is mostly rocks all around, the points of which hem the summit of it. Sailors, to whom it was a good object as they pass along, call it Rasay's cap. Before we reached this mountain, we passed by two lakes. Of the first, Malcolm told me a strange fabulous tradition. He
fall.' Johnson's Works, ix. 61. He wrote to Mrs. Thrale :- By the active zeal of Protestant devotion almost all the chapels have sunk into ruin. Piozzi Letters, i. 152.
A strange fabulous tradition.
said, there was a wild beast in it, a sea horse, which came and devoured a man's daughter; upon which the man lighted a great fire, and had a sow roasted at it, the smell of which attracted the monster. In the fire was put a spit. The man lay concealed behind a low wall of loose stones, and he had an avenue formed for the monster, with two rows of large flat stones, which extended from the fire over the summit of the hill, till it reached the side of the loch. The monster came, and the man with the red-hot spit destroyed it. Malcolm shewed me the little hiding-place, and the rows of stones. He did not laugh when he told this story. I recollect having seen in the Scots Magazine, several years ago, a poem upon a similar tale, perhaps the same, translated from the Erse, or Irish, called Albin and the Daughter of Mey.
There is a large tract of land, possessed as a common, in Rasay. They have no regulations as to the number of cattle. Every man puts upon it as many as he chooses. From Dun Can northward, till you reach the other end of the island, there is much good natural pasture unincumbered by stones. We passed over a spot, which is appropriated for the exercising ground. In 1745, a hundred fighting men were reviewed here, as Malcolm told me, who was one of the officers that led them to the field'. They returned home all but about fourteen. What a princely thing is it to be able to furnish such a band! Rasay has the true spirit of a chief. He is, without exaggeration, a father to his people.
There is plenty of lime-stone in the island, a great quarry of free-stone, and some natural woods, but none of any age, as they cut the trees for common country uses.
The lakes, of which there are many, are well stocked with trout. Malcolm catched one of four-and-twenty pounds weight in the loch next to Dun Can, which, by the way, is certainly a Danish name, as most names of places in these islands are.
Not many years ago,' writes Johnson, 'the late Laird led out one hundred men upon a military expedition.' Works, ix. 59. What the expedition was he is careful not to state.