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Sir George Mackenzie's Works.
with wonder and pleasure, while Dr. Johnson harangued. I am vexed that I cannot take down his full strain of eloquence.
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 15. The gentlemen of the clan went away early in the morning to the harbour of Lochbradale, to take leave of some of their friends who were going to America.
It was a very wet day. We looked at Rorie More's horn, which is a large cow's horn, with the mouth of it ornamented with silver curiously carved. It holds rather more than a bottle and a half. Every Laird of M•Leod, it is said, must, as a proof of his manhood, drink it off full of claret, without laying it down. From Rorie More many of the branches of the family are descended; in particular, the Talisker branch; so that his name is much talked of. We also saw his bow, which hardly any man now can bend, and his Glaymore, which was wielded with both hands, and is of a prodigious size. We saw here some old pieces of iron armour, immensely heavy. The broadsword now used, though called the Glaymore, (i.e. the great sword, is much smaller than that used in Rorie More's time. There is hardly a target now to be found in the Highlands. After the disarming act', they made them serve as covers to their butter-milk barrels; a kind of change, like beating spears into pruning-hooks'.
Sir George Mackenzie's Works (the folio edition) happened to lie in a window in the dining room. I asked Dr. Johnson to look at the Characteres Advocatorum. He allowed him power of mind, and that he understood very well what he tells'; but said, that there was too much declamation,
· This act was passed in 1746. * Isaiah, ii. 4.
• Sir Walter Scott, after mentioning Lord Orford's (Horace Walpole) History of His Own Time, continues :-The Memoirs of our Scots by Sir George Mackenzie are of the same class—both immersed in little political detail, and the struggling skirmish of party, seem to have lost sight of the great progressive movements of human affairs.' Lockhart's Scott, vii. 12. V.--16
and that the Latin was not correct. He found fault with appropinquabant', in the character of Gilmour. I tried him with the opposition between gloria and palma, in the comparison between Gilmour and Nisbet, which Lord Hailes, in his Catalogue of the Lords of Session, thinks difficult to be understood. The words are, penes illum gloria, penes hunc palma'.' In a short Account of the Kirk of Scotland, which I published some years ago, I applied these words to the two contending parties, and explained them thus: “The popular party has most eloquence: Dr. Robertson's party most influence. I was very desirous to hear Dr. Johnson's explication. JOHNSON. 'I see no difficulty. Gilmour was admired for his parts; Nisbet carried his cause by his skill in law. Palma is victory.' I observed, that the character of Nicholson, in this book resembled that of Burke: for it is said, in one place, ' in omnes lusos & jocos se sæpe resolvebat";' and, in another, ‘sed accipitris more e conspectu aliquando astantium sublimi se protrahens volatu, in prædam miro impetu descendebat*.' JOHNSON. “No, Sir; I never heard Burke make a good joke in my life®.' BOSWELL. “But, Sir, you will allow he is a hawk.' Dr. Johnson, thinking that I meant this of his joking, said, “No, Sir, he is not the hawk
. Illum jura potius ponere quam de jure respondere dixisses; eique appropinquabant clientes tanquam judici potius quam advocato.' Mackenzie's Works, ed. 1716, vol. i. part 2, p. 7.
• Opposuit ei providentia Nisbetum : qui summâ doctrinâ consummatâque eloquentiâ causas agebat, ut justitiæ scalæ in æquilibrio essent; nimiâ tamen arte semper utens artem suam suspectam reddebat. Quoties ergo conflixerunt, penes Gilmorum gloria, penes Nisbetum palma fuit; quoniam in hoc plus artis et cultus, in illo naturæ et virium.' 16.
• He often indulged himself in every species of pleasantry and wit. BOSWELL.
• But like the hawk, having soared with a lofty flight to a height which the eye could not reach, he was wont to swoop upon his quarry with wonderful rapidity. BOSWELL. These two quotations are part of the same paragraph, and are not even separated by a word. Ib. p. 6. • See ante, i. 525; iii. 367 ; iv. 319; and v. 35.
Burke's joking and eloquence.
there. He is the beetle in the mire'.' I still adhered to my metaphor, But he soars as the hawk.' JOHNSON. Yes, Sir; but he catches nothing. M'Leod asked, what is the particular excellence of Burke's eloquence ? JOHNSON. Copiousness and fertility of allusion; a power of diversifying his matter, by placing it in various relations. Burke has great information, and great command of language ; though, in my opinion, it has not in every respect the highest elegance.' BOSWELL. “Do you think, Sir, that Burke has read Cicero much?' JOHNSON. “I don't believe it, Sir. Burke has great knowledge, great fluency of words, and great promptness of ideas, so that he can speak with great illustration on any subject that comes before him. He is neither like Cicero, nor like Demosthenes', nor like any one else, but speaks as well as he can.'
In the 65th page of the first volume of Sir George Mackenzie, Dr. Johnson pointed out a paragraph beginning with Aristotle, and told me there was an error in the text, which he bade me try to discover. I was lucky enough to hit it at once.
As the passage is printed, it is said that the devil answers even in engines. I corrected it to-ever in ænigmas. "Sir, (said he,) you are a good critick. This would have been a great thing to do in the text of an ancient authour.'
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 16. Last night much care was taken of Dr. Johnson, who was still distressed by his cold. He had hitherto most strangely slept without a night-cap. Miss M‘Leod made him a large flannel one, and he was prevailed with to drink a little brandy when he was going to bed. He has great virtue in not drinking wine or any fermented liquor, because, as
· Some years later he said that “when Burke lets himself down to jocularity he is in the kennel.' Ante, iv. 318.
· Cicero and Demosthenes, no doubt, were brought in by the passage about Nicholson. Mackenzie continues :— Hic primus nos a Syllogismorum servitute manumisit et Aristotelem Demostheni potius quam Ciceroni forum concedere coegit.' P. 6.
he acknowledged to us, he could not do it in moderation'. Lady M‘Leod would hardly believe him, and said, 'I am sure, Sir, you would not carry it too far.' JOHNSON. “ Nay, madam, it carried me. I took the opportunity of a long illness to leave it off. It was then prescribed to me not to drink wine ; and, having broken off the habit, I have never returned to it'.'
In the argument on Tuesday night, about natural goodness, Dr. Johnson denied that any child was better than another, but by difference of instruction ; though, in consequence of greater attention being paid to instruction by one child than another, and of a variety of imperceptible causes, such as instruction being counteracted by servants, a notion was conceived, that of two children, equally well educated, one was naturally much worse than another. He owned, this morning, that one might have a greater aptitude to learn than another, and that we inherit dispositions from our parents'. 'I inherited, (said he,) a vile melancholy from my father, which has made me mad all my life, at least not sober*.' Lady M‘Leod wondered he should tell this. “Madam, (said I,) he knows that with that madness he is superior to other men.'
I have often been astonished with what exactness and perspicuity he will explain the process of any art. He this morning explained to us all the operation of coining, and, at night, all the operation of brewing, so very clearly, that Mr. M'Queen said, when he heard the first, he thought he had been bred in the Mint; when he heard the second, that he had been bred a brewer.
I was elated by the thought of having been able to entice such a man to this remote part of the world. A ludicrous, yet just image presented itself to my mind, which I expressed to the company. I compared myself to a dog who has got hold of a large piece of meat, and runs away with it to a corner, where he may devour it in peace, without any fear
"See ante, ii. 498 and iv. 172, note 2. · See ante, ii. 500.
• See ante, i. 120. See ante, 1. 75.
Boswell defends his forwardness.
of others taking it from him. In London, Reynolds, Beauclerk, and all of them, are contending who shall enjoy Dr. Johnson's conversation. We are feasting upon it, undisturbed, at Dunvegan.'
It was still a storm of wind and rain. Dr. Johnson however walked out with M.Leod, and saw Rorie More's cascade in full perfection. Colonel M.Leod, instead of being all life and gaiety, as I have seen him, was at present grave, and somewhat depressed by his anxious concern about M'Leod's affairs, and by finding some gentlemen of the clan by no means disposed to act a generous or affectionate part to their Chief in distress, but bargaining with him as with a stranger. However, he was agreeable and polite, and Dr. Johnson said, he was a very pleasing man. My fellow-traveller and I talked of going to Sweden'; and, while we were settling our plan, I expressed a pleasure in the prospect of seeing the king. JOHNSON. I doubt, Sir, if he would speak to us.' Colonel M'Leod said, 'I am sure Mr. Boswell would speak to him. But, seeing me a little disconcerted by his remark, he politely added, “and with great propriety.' Here let me offer a short defence of that propensity in my disposition, to which this gentleman alluded. It has procured me much happiness. I hope it does not deserve so hard a name as either forwardness or impudence. If I know myself, it is nothing more than an eagerness to share the society of men distinguished either by their rank or their talents, and a diligence to attain what I desire'. If a man is praised for seeking knowledge, though mountains and seas are in his way, may he not be pardoned, whose ardour, in the pursuit of the same object, leads him to encounter difficulties as great, though of a different kind?
After the ladies were gone from table, we talked of the Highlanders not having sheets; and this led us to consider
"On Sept. 13, 1777, Johnson wrote :- Boswell shrinks from the Baltick expedition, which, I think, is the best scheme in our power.' Ante, iii, 152, note 1. • See ante, ii. 67, note i.