We turn, then, to his career at the bar. There can be no shadow of a doubt that with proper industry, backed as he was with very strong social and family connections, he would have secured a lucrative professional practice. In February of 1767 he is 'coming into great employment; I have this winter made sixty-five guineas, which is a considerable sum for a young man,' and the Boswelliana shew him in easy intercourse with the best society in the Scottish capital. Belonging as he did to the hereditary noblesse de la robe, as Lockhart calls it, he was not likely, with but moderate attention, to have stood like Scott, 'an hour by the Tron, wi' deil ane to speir his price,'—Sir Walter's fee book shews for the first year a return of L24, 3s., and L57, 15s. for the second. As he had years before vowed to Lord Hailes that he would transcribe Erskine's Institutes several times over till he had imprinted it on his memory, so now he was hopeful by binding up the session papers of securing a treasure of law reasoning and a collection of extraordinary facts. By March he had cleared eighty guineas, and was 'Surprised at myself, I speak with so much ease and boldness, and have already the language of the bar so much at command. I am doing nobly. I can hardly ever answer the letters of my friends.' He had quarrelled with Rousseau who had likewise broken with Hume, whose appointment as secretary to Conway had perhaps cured him of his follies over the wild philosopher. We find Boswell also designing squibs which were in the London printshops, writing verses for them and ridiculing 'The Savage' of his former idolatry.
Paoli had sent him a long letter of sixteen pages. Chatham in his retirement at Bath, mystifying the court and his colleagues, could yet find time to send him a three-paged communication. In reply, the young traveller assures him that the character of the great minister had 'filled many of my best hours with the noble admiration which a disinterested soul can enjoy in the bower of philosophy.' He informs his lordship that he is preparing for publication his Tour in Corsica, that he has entered at the bar, and 'I begin to like it. I labour hard; and feel myself coming forward, and I hope to be useful to my country. Could your Lordship find time to honour me now and then with a letter? I have been told how favourably your Lordship has spoken of me. To correspond with a Paoli and a Chatham is enough to keep a young man ever ardent in the pursuit of a virtuous fame.' In June he expected to be busier than ever, during the week when his father sat as Judge of the Outer House, 'for you must know that the absurdity of mankind makes nineteen out of twenty employ the son of the judge before whom their case is heard,' an admission which only increases our regret at the want of professional industry on the part of the son. His addiction to the society of players only increased the more as his practice at the bar would have been thought to engross his attention. For the opening of the Canongate Theatre, on 9th December 1767, he had been induced to write a prologue to the play of The Earl of Essex with which the newly licensed house started its career. Part of the opening verses, as spoken by Ross, 'a very good copy, very conciliatory' as the Earl of Mansfield styled them, runs as follows:—
'This night, lov'd George's free enlightened age Bids Royal favour shield the Scottish stage; His Royal favour every bosom cheers; The drama now with dignity appears! Hard is my fate if murmurings there be Because that favour is announced by me. Anxious, alarm'd, and aw'd by every frown, May I entreat the candour of the Town? You see me here by no unworthy art; My all I venture where I've fix'd my heart. Fondly ambitious of an honest fame, My humble labours your indulgence claim. I wish to hold no Right but by your choice, I'll trust my patent to the Publick Voice.'
The effect of this, aided by friends properly planted in different parts of the theatre, Boswell assures us was instantaneous and effectual. But the plaudits given would have been better in a strictly professional court, and it led, we can see, to the association of Boswell with but questionable society. 'The joyous crew of thunderers in the galleries,' as Robert Fergusson describes them, the vulgar cits applying to their parched lips 'thirst quenching porter,' and the notoriously irregular lives of the players, all these were ties and associations ill calculated to appease the just indignation of his father or to add to forensic reputation in Edinburgh. The Scottish Themis, says Scott, speaking from his own early experience of much higher literary pursuits, is peculiarly jealous of any flirtation with the muses on the part of those who have ranged themselves under her banners, and to them the least lingering look behind is fatal. Little wonder, then, that the paternal anger was again roused, when 'the look behind' on his part was coupled with the bitter remembrances of the laureate of the Soapers, of the Erskine Correspondence, and his own long indulgence destined at last to bear such sorry fruits.
'How unaccountable it is,' he cries impatiently to Temple, 'that my father and I should be so ill together! He is a man of sense and a man of worth; but from some unhappy turn in his disposition he is much dissatisfied with a son you know.... To give you an instance. I send you a letter I had a few days ago. I have answered in my own style; I will be myself! How galling it is to the friend of Paoli to be treated so!' He confesses his father has 'that Scots strength of sarcasm which is peculiar to a North Briton,' and that time was when it would have depressed him. But now he is firm, and, 'as my revered friend Mr Samuel Johnson used to say,' he feels the privileges of an independent human being! To add to the confusion of Lord Auchinleck his son had flung himself with all his enthusiasm into the famous Douglas Trial, the cause that figures so much to the confusion, it is to be feared, of the general reader. Of this some full account is necessary in order to explain that extraordinary trial,—perhaps the most protracted and famous that ever came before a court,—which, dragging its slow length along through a longer course than the Peloponnesian War, fills the shelves of legal libraries with eighteen portly volumes of papers and reports. In the case Boswell really held no actual brief, though were we to follow the impression he gives of his services we should infer he had been leading counsel for the plaintiff, Douglas. 'With a labour of which few are capable,' says Bozzy, many years after, 'he compressed the substance of the immense volumes of proofs and arguments into an octavo pamphlet,' to which its author believed 'we may ascribe a great share of the popularity on Mr Douglas's side.' Then he adds in a characteristic sentence, the meaning of which can be fully appreciated only by those who have followed his contributions to magazines and the press of the day, 'Mr Boswell took care to keep the newspapers and other publications incessantly warm with various writings, both in prose and in verse, all tending to touch the heart and rouse the parental and sympathetic feelings.'
Lady Jane Douglas, sister to Archibald, Duke of Douglas, had been privately married in 1746 to Colonel Steuart, afterwards Sir John Steuart of Grandtully. She was then in the forty-ninth year of her age, and the marriage was not divulged till May 1748 to her brother who had not been reconciled and had in consequence suspended her allowance. At Paris, in very humble lodgings, she gave birth to male twins in the house of a Madame le Brun. The parents in 1749 returned to Scotland where one of the children died; in 1761 the Duke of Douglas had himself followed. Three claimants took the field, the Duke of Hamilton as heir male of line, the Earl of Selkirk as heir of provision under former deeds, and Archibald Steuart or Douglas. Lady Jane died in 1753, and Sir John in 1764, both on their death-beds testifying to the legitimacy of their surviving child. The Duke of Douglas, long prejudiced against this son's claim by the machinations of the Hamiltons, had revoked the deed in their favour for a settlement executed in behalf of his sister's son Archibald. But stories had become rife of that son being the child of a Nicholas Mignon and Marie Guerin from whom he had been purchased, and an action to reduce service on a plea of partus suppositio was instituted by the tutors of the Duke of Hamilton who was then a minor. In France negociations were conducted, investigations made, and witnesses examined by Burnet of Monboddo, Gardenstone, Hailes, and Eskgrove, and at last in July 1767 the Court of Session issued its decision. Lord Dundas, the President, speaking first, and dwelling on the age of Lady Jane, childless by a former marriage, the secrecy of the birth, and the intrinsic valuelessness of death-bed depositions when set against pecuniary interests and family pride, recorded his vote in favour of the Hamiltons. Six days were subsequently taken up with the speeches of the other judges, and Monboddo, speaking last, voted for Douglas. The verdict was seven on each side, and by the President's vote the case in Scotland was won by the pursuers. Kames, Monboddo, and Lord Auchinleck, were in favour of the defender, Douglas.
The case was at once by him appealed to the House of Lords. Douglas was favoured in Scotland, where for years the state of interest had been such that people in company used to bargain, for the maintenance of peace, that no mention of this disturbing plea should be introduced. So high did the feeling run in Edinburgh that the Hamilton party had been driven from their apartments in Holyrood Palace and their property plundered. It was fortunate that this loophole of escape to another court was opened, for before the Union such a cause would have led almost to civil broil where the rival interests of the factions, through the ramifications of marriage and other connections, extended so widely. In earlier days the strife would have ended by an appeal to the sword on the causeway. All the court influence of the Hamiltons had been bent, and bent in vain, to secure the exclusion from the bench of Lord Monboddo, counsel for Douglas, and a duel had been fought between their agent Andrew Stuart and Thurlow the opposing advocate. The excitement over the verdict of the Lords on Monday, February 27, 1769, was unprecedented. In the Autobiography of Jupiter Carlyle is fortunately preserved the account of the scene, witnessed by the doctor himself, who had been successful in gaining admission to the court, where from nine in the morning till ten at night he remained, hemmed in by the crowd and overcome with the oppressive heat. Mansfield spoke over one hour, and, on his appearing to faint, the Chancellor rushed out for a bottle and glasses, the current of fresh air being felt by the crowd as a relief. Finally the verdict of the Scottish courts was reversed without a division, and a verdict found in favour of Douglas. Hume was not satisfied of the legitimacy of the pursuer, neither was Lord Shelburne, and bribery on both sides had been extensively employed, over L100,000 having been calculated to have been spent in this protracted litigation.
It was on the evening of Thursday, shortly after eight, that the tidings reached Edinburgh by express. The city was at once illuminated, and next morning Dundas on his way to the Parliament House was threatened by a mob such as the town had not seen since the Porteous Riot. Two troops of dragoons were drafted at once on the same day into the capital. As usually told, the story, which is vouched for by Ramsay of Ochtertyre, is that the mob of the night before had been headed by the excited Boswell, and that the windows of his father's house were smashed. Had such been the case, it must have been by an oversight on the part of the mob, or some petulant freak of the son, for on this occasion both Boswell and his father had for once been unanimous in their belief in the legitimacy of Douglas. But there is no need for doubting Ramsay's assertion that Lord Auchinleck had, with tears in his eyes, to implore President Dundas to commit his son to the Tolbooth! Not only had Bozzy taken the field in the November of 1767 with his Essence of the Douglas Cause, 'which I regretted that Dr Johnson never took the trouble to study,' even though 'the question interested nations,' and the pamphlet had produced, as its writer flattered himself, considerable effect in deciding the case, but he had ventured on a breach of professional etiquette in publishing Dorando, a Spanish Tale. This brochure was ordered by the Court of Session to be suppressed as contempt of court, after it had run through three editions. No copy of this forlorn hope of the book hunter has ever been found, though doubtless it lurks in some library where its want of the writer's name upon the title page may have kept it from making its reappearance. Though it bore no name, yet Boswell, when writing to Temple over it, speaks of 'My publisher Wilkie,' and he seems to have been afraid that the copy sent by him should fall into the hands of strangers. In the Gentleman's Magazine for July 1767, however, it is reviewed, but the value of the shilling booklet does not seem to have impressed the critic. 'The Spanish Tale,' he says, 'supposes the contests to be finally determined in favour of Don Ferdinand against the family of Ardivoso—but the real question is still in dispute, having been removed by appeal to the House of Lords. The pamphlet is zealously but feebly written: the author in some places affects the sublime, and in some the pathetic; but these are the least tolerable parts of his performance.' Thus airily does the reviewer dismiss Bozzy's determined effort to rouse, as he imagined, the parental and sympathetical feelings, and it is clear at least that, however much its recovery would add to the stock of harmless pleasure among professed Boswellians and collectors, its loss cannot be said to have 'eclipsed the gaiety of nations.'
During the course of the trial the Tour in Corsica had been preparing. Early in 1768 it was issued from the celebrated press of Robert and Andrew Foulis in Glasgow, and the publishers were the Dillys in the Poultry, London, who were to act for him in all his literary undertakings to the end of his life. It was a lull in the storm of the Douglas crisis, and the old judge, eager enough to see his son associated with anything rational, was not unpleased with its appearing as a pledge of better things. 'Jamie,' he admitted, 'had taen a toot on a new horn.' The account of Corsica which had been made up from various sources of information ran to two hundred and thirty-nine pages; but the real interest of the volume attaches to the Journal which occupies a hundred and twenty. The translations from Seneca were done by Thomas Day, then very young, the author of Sandford and Merton, and the creator of that constellation of excellence, Mr Barlow, whose connection in any degree with Boswell is almost provocative of a smile. The peculiar orthography of the writer is defended in the preface, for he allows himself not only such divergencies as 'tremenduous,' 'authour,' 'ambassadour,' but also 'authentick' and 'panegyrick.' The dedication of the first edition to Paoli was dated on his own birthday, and the book ran to a third edition before the October of the same year. As purchased by the Dillys for a hundred guineas it would appear to have been a profitable speculation, and the wide circulation to which it attained we shall see was not merely due to accident but to more solid qualities. 'Pray read,' says Horace Walpole to his friend Gray, 'the new account of Corsica. The author is a strange being, and has a rage of knowing everybody that ever was talked of. He forced himself upon me at Paris in spite of my teeth and my doors.' 'Mr B.'s book,' replies Gray—with a curious anticipation of the Carlylean canon of criticism—'has pleased and moved me strangely; all I mean that relates to Paoli. The pamphlet proves, what I have always maintained, that any fool may write a most valuable book by chance, if he will only tell us what he heard and saw with veracity. Of Mr B.'s book I have not the least suspicion, because I am sure he could invent nothing of the kind. The title of this part of his work is a dialogue between a Green Goose and a Hero.' But Gray was fastidious, in this case blindly so. The merits of Goldsmith he could when dying perceive, but the rollicking humour of Bozzy in this his first book was sealed to the recluse critic who 'never spoke out,' a thing that never could be safely asserted of the author of the Tour in Corsica.
That 'authour,' however, was now bent on extracting the sanction of approval from his idol. He hastened to London, heralding his arrival, as was his wont, by a deftly contributed paragraph to the papers. The society journals of to-day have not improved on Boswell in their method of obtaining first hand information; he was a most assiduous chronicler of his own actions, and there can be no doubt that there is much Boswell 'copy' buried in the pages of the papers of the time. From the Public Advertizer of February 28th we learn 'James Boswell, Esq., is expected in town,' and, on March 24th, 'yesterday James Boswell, Esq., arrived from Scotland at his lodgings in Half Moon Street, Piccadilly.' He had received no letter from Johnson since the one in which the Latinity of his thesis had been criticised, and Boswell had heard that the publication in his book of a letter from his friend had given offence to its writer. Johnson was in Oxford at the time, and thither flew Bozzy to obtain the approval of his labours and, with an eye to all future contingencies, his sanction for the publication in his biography of all Johnson's letters to him. 'When I am dead, sir,' was the reply, 'you may do as you will.'
'My book,' he writes eagerly to Temple, 'has amazing celebrity. Lord Lyttelton, Mr Walpole, Mrs Macaulay, and Mr Garrick, have all written me noble letters about it. There are two Dutch translations going forward.' General Oglethorpe, an old veteran who had seen service under Prince Eugene, and the friend of Pope whose verses upon him 'I had read from my early years,' called upon him and solicited his acquaintance. He became a sort of literary lion. 'I am really the great man now,' he cries; 'I have David Hume in the forenoon, Mr Johnson in the afternoon of the same day. I give admirable dinners and good claret, and the moment I go abroad again, which will be in a day or two, I set up my chariot. This is enjoying the fruit of my labours, and appearing like the friend of Paoli.' Alas for that friend!—he confesses to his correspondent that he has been 'wild.' The form of this outbreak may be sufficiently seen by the general reader in the leading questions which at this time Boswell is found putting to Johnson; for the Life of Johnson, as we shall indicate in its proper place, is no less the life of the biographer, whose mind was ever seeking to shelter itself under the guidance of a stronger force, and to effect a moral anchorage or moorings behind the lee of his great friend. When Bozzy indulges in 'the luxury of noble sentiments,' he is often known to be courting an indemnity to his conscience for lax practice. Longfellow makes Miles Standish in his belligerent mood turn in the Caesar to where the thumb-marks in the margin proclaimed that the battle was hottest; Boswell often indicates the decline and fall of the moralist by an apparently undue vein of pietistic comments.
The next year was to witness the friend of Paoli in his most eccentric display—the Shakesperian Festival inaugurated by Garrick at Stratford. By this ludicrous gathering it is that Boswell is known to the mass of readers who have never cared to know more of 'Corsica Boswell' than what they can gather from the lively picture of Macaulay. There he is known only as it were in the gross, to which indeed, as Johnson said of Milton, the undramatic nature of the essayist's mind was rather prone, careless as it was or incapable of the finer shades of character. Yet, as we know, he was not the solitary masker or mummer in this extraordinary carnival, which seems not creditable to the taste of its promoters, and resembles rather the entry of a travelling circus into a provincial town than a serious commemoration of a great man. However, 'thither Mr Boswell repaired with all the enthusiasm of a poetical mind;' as he informs us, 'such an opportunity for the warbling of his Muse was not neglected.' On Wednesday, Sept. 6th, about five in the morning, says The Scots Magazine for that month in its leading article, the performers from Drury Lane paraded the streets of Stratford, and serenaded the ladies with a ballad by Garrick, beginning
'Ye Warwickshire lads and ye lasses See what at our Jubilee passes; Come revel away, rejoice and be glad, For the lad of all lads was a Warwickshire lad, Warwickshire lad, All be glad, For the lad of all lads was a Warwickshire lad.'
Guns were fired, the magistrates assembled, and there was a public breakfast in the town-hall. In this number of the magazine there is a letter extending to seven columns from James Boswell, Esq., on his return to London, after being 'much agitated' by 'this jubilee of genius.' He describes it as 'truly an antique idea, a Grecian thought;' the oratorio at the great Stratford church, with the music by Dr Arne, was, he admits, grand and admirable, but 'I could have wished that prayers had been read, and a short sermon preached.' Then the performance of the dedication ode by Garrick is described as 'noble and affecting, like an exhibition in Athens or Rome.' Lord Grosvenor, at the close, went up to Garrick, 'and told him that he had affected his whole frame, showing him his nerves and veins still quivering with agitation.' The masquerade our traveller, as the 'travelled thane,' affects to regard complacently as an 'entertainment not suited to the genius of the British nation, but to a warmer country, where the people have a great flow of spirits, and a readiness at repartee.' Bozzy no doubt had seen the carnival abroad, and his memories of sunnier skies would not find congenial atmosphere in the unpropitious weather when the Avon rose with the floods of rain, the lower grounds were laid under water, and a guinea for a bed was regarded as an imposition, though 'no one,' declares our hero, 'was understood to come there who had not plenty of money'—their own or their father's, presumably. The break up seems to have been effected in confusion, but the good-humoured mummer, taking one consideration with another, compares it to eating an artichoke, where 'we have some fine mouthfuls, but also swallow the leaves and the hair, which are confoundedly difficult of digestion. After all, I am highly satisfied with my artichoke.'
He brought 'the warbling of his muse' with him. It is no better or worse than the staple. In the character of a Corsican, he sings—
'From the rude banks of Golo's rapid flood, Alas! too deeply tinged with patriot blood; O'er which, dejected, injur'd Freedom bends, And sighs indignant o'er all Europe sends, Behold a Corsican! In better days Eager I sought my country's fame to raise. Now when I'm exiled from my native land I come to join this classic festal band; To soothe my soul on Avon's sacred stream, And from your joy to catch a cheering gleam.'
After an apostrophe to happy Britons, on whose propitious isle propitious freedom ever deigns to smile, he closes with an appeal—
'But let me plead for liberty distress'd, And warm for her each sympathetic breast; Amidst the splendid honours which you bear, To save a sister island be your care; With generous ardour make us also free, And give to Corsica a noble Jubilee.'
Colman and Foote, of course, as comedians were there, but Goldsmith and Johnson shewed their sense by their absence. The only trace of Davy's old master was found in a Coventry ribbon put out by 'a whimsical haberdasher,' with the motto from Johnson's Prologue at the opening of Drury Lane in 1747—'Each change of many colour'd life he drew.'
Boswell had a free hand as a writer for the London Magazine, in which he had a proprietary interest. To it he contributed the following account, accompanied with a portrait—the source of much of Macaulay's indictment. 'One of the most remarkable masks upon this occasion was James Boswell, Esq., in the dress of an armed Corsican chief. He entered the amphitheatre about twelve o'clock. He wore a short dark-coloured coat of coarse cloth, scarlet waistcoat and breeches, and black spatterdashes; his cap or bonnet was of black cloth; on the front of it was embroidered in gold letters viva la liberta, and on one side of it was a handsome blue feather and cockade, so that it had an elegant as well as a warlike appearance. On the breast of his coat was sewed a Moor's head, the crest of Corsica, surrounded with branches of laurel. He had also a cartridge-pouch, into which was stuck a stiletto, and on his left side a pistol was hung upon the belt of his cartridge-pouch. He had a fusee slung across his shoulder, wore no powder in his hair, but had it plaited at full length with a knot of blue ribbons at the end of it. He had, by way of a staff, a very curious vine all of one piece, emblematical of the sweet bard of Avon. He wore no mask, saying it was not proper for a gallant Corsican. So soon as he came into the room he drew universal attention. The novelty of the Corsican dress, its becoming appearance, and the character of the brave nation concurred to distinguish the armed Corsican chief. He was first accosted by Mrs Garrick, with whom he had a good deal of conversation. There was an admirable dialogue between Lord Grosvenor, in the character of a Turk, and the Corsican on the different constitution of the countries so opposite to each other,—Despotism and Liberty; and Captain Thomson, of the navy, in the character of an honest tar, kept it up very well; he expressed a strong inclination to stand by the brave islanders. Mr Boswell danced both a minuet and a country dance with a very pretty lady, Mrs Sheldon, wife to Captain Sheldon, of the 38th Regiment of Foot, who was dressed in a genteel domino, and before she danced threw off her mask.'
He adds a cool puff of his own verses, 'which, it is thought, are well suited to the occasion, while at the same time they preserve the true Corsican character.' About a month after this masquerade, Goldsmith dined at Boswell's lodging with Garrick, Johnson, Davies, and others, where 'Goldsmith,' says the biographer, 'strutted about, bragging of his dress, and I believe was seriously vain of it, for his mind was wonderfully prone to such impressions!' Bozzy could criticise, as on all occasions, the bloom coloured coat of 'honest Goldsmith,' yet he was eager for Garrick to fall in with the idea of the tradesmen of Stratford to make the Jubilee an annual event in the interests of local trade, and 'I flatter myself with the prospect of attending you at several more Jubilees.'
Though he had again commenced in London his attendance on Johnson and note-taking, there was now a divided source of attraction. Things had gone hard with Paoli since Boswell had been in the island. In spite of his Irish brigades and his British volunteers, the overwhelming forces which the French were able to put in the field, on the cession of the island to them by the Genoese, brought to an end the stubborn resistance of the inhabitants. In the August of 1768 Boswell had raised in Scotland a subscription of L700 for ordnance furnished by the Carron Iron Work Company, and in 1769 there had issued from the press a little duodecimo, 'British Essays in favour of the Brave Corsicans: collected and published by James Boswell, Esq.' The papers are twenty in number, some by himself, others by 'a gentleman whose name would do honour to any cause (whom we think to have been Trecothick, the successor of Beckford, as Lord Mayor of London), and the greatest part furnished by persons unknown to me.' They deal with the dangers to trade from France and the Bourbon Compact, and point at the value of Corsica as a station superior to Gibraltar or Minorca. One paper signed 'P. J.' has the undoubted Boswellian touch in dealing with the sailors thrown idle by the cessation of the along-shore Mediterranean trade. 'None are less avaricious than our honest tars, nor have they, in reality, any reason to be discontented. Every common sailor has at least five and thirty shillings a month, over and above which he has his victuals and drink, and that in great abundance. There is no such thing as stinting aboard a ship, unless when reduced to difficulties by stormy weather. The crew have their three meals a day regularly, and if they should be hungry between meals, there is always a biscuit or a luncheon of something cold to be had.'
France had bought Corsica from Genoa in May 1768. Marboeuf, whom Boswell had found in the island, had been superseded, and a descent of the French under Count Vaux with 20,000 men ended the war. Paoli escaped to a ruinous convent on the shore, and, after lying there in concealment, he embarked on an English vessel bound for Leghorn. On September 20th he reached London, and the Public Advertizer of October 4th, through its faithful correspondent, informed its readers how 'On Sunday last General Paoli, accompanied by James Boswell, Esq., took an airing in Hyde Park in his coach.' On the evening of the 10th he was presented by the traveller to Johnson, who was highly pleased with the lofty port of the stranger and the easy 'elegance of manners, the brand of the soldier, l'homme d'epee.'
An impression is abroad that Boswell's books were not taken seriously. Nothing could be more remote from the truth. The Whigs were in favour of his views, and Burke, together with Frederick the Great, believed our interests would suffer by the increase of French power in the Mediterranean. Shelburne, for Chatham had resigned before November 1768, was the advocate of similar views, telling our ambassador at Versailles to remonstrate with the French court, while Junius, in his letter to the Duke of Grafton, told the country that Corsica would never have been invaded by the French, but for the sight of a weak and distracted ministry. When the hand of Napoleon was heavy on the Genoese, they remembered that their cession of the island had made their master, by his birth at Ajaccio on August 15, 1769, a Frenchman. But the nation at the time of Boswell's books was weary of war, and their influence, though great, was not visible in any actual political results.
Boswell had expected to draw the sage on the subject of matrimony, having promised himself, as he says, a good deal of instructive conversation on the conduct of the married state. But the oracles were dumb. On his return to the north he was married, on the 25th November 1769, to his cousin. We find in the Scots Magazine of that month the following extracts under the list of marriages:—
'At Lainshaw, in the shire of Air, JAMES BOSWELL, Esq., of Auchinleck, advocate, to MISS PEGGY MONTGOMERY, daughter of the late DAVID MONTGOMERY of Lainshaw, Esq.'
'At Edinburgh, ALEXANDER BOSWELL, Esq., of Auchinleck, one of the Lords of Session and Justiciary, to Miss BETTY BOSWELL, second daughter of JOHN BOSWELL, Esq., of Balmuto, deceased.'
His father, now past sixty, had married again, and married a cousin for the second time, like his son on the present occasion. That they were married on the same day and at different places affords a clear indication that the father and son were no longer on the best of terms.
LOVE AFFAIRS—LITERARY CLUB. 1766-73
'How happy could I be with either, Were t'other dear charmer away.'—GAY.
'Love,' wrote Madame de Stael, 'is with man a thing apart, 'tis woman's whole existence.' This is not true at least of Boswell, for his love affairs fill as large a part in his life as in that of Benjamin Constant. A most confused chapter withal, and one that luckily was not known to Macaulay, whose colours would otherwise have been more brilliant. We find Bozzy paying his addresses at one and the same time to at least eight ladies, exclusive as this is of sundry minor divinities of a fleeting and more temporary nature not calling here for allusion. His first divinity was the grass-widow of Moffat, and here Temple had been compelled to remonstrate in spite of all the lover's philandering about her freedom from her husband, who had used her ill. Were she unfaithful, he declares her worthy to be 'pierced with a Corsican dagger,' but in March he has found it too much like a 'settled plan of licentiousness,' discovering her to be an ill-bred rompish girl, debasing his dignity, without refinement, though handsome and lively. Then there is the quarrel and the reconciliation, she vowing she loved him more than ever she had done her husband, but meeting with opposition from his brother David and others, who furnished the love-sick heart of her adorer with examples of her faithlessness such as made him recoil. He vows now his frailties are at an end, and he resolves to turn out an admirable member of society. He had broken with her as with the gardener's daughter a year ago—an everlasting lesson to him.
By March 1767 the reigning favourite was Miss Bosville of Yorkshire. But his lot being cast in Scotland would be an objection to the beauty; then we hear of a young lady in the vicinity of whose claims Lord Auchinleck approved, because their lands lay happily together for family extension. She was just eighteen, pious, good-tempered and genteel, and for four days she had been on a visit to 'the romantick groves' of his ancestors, when suddenly the scene is changed for the Sienese signora of whom we heard upon his travels. 'My Italian angel,' he cries, 'is constant; I had a letter from her but a few days ago, which made me cry.' He conjures his friend Temple to come to him, and 'on that Arthur Seat where our youthful fancies roved abroad shall we take counsel together.' The local divinity we learn is Miss Blair of Adamtown; he has been drinking her health, and aberrations from sobriety and virtue have ensued, but he thought things would be brought to a climax were Temple to visit her. A long letter of commission follows, the envoy is instructed to appear as his old friend, praising him to Miss Blair for his good qualities. Temple is adjured to dwell upon his odd, inconstant, impetuous nature, how he is accustomed to women of intrigue, and he is to ask of the fair one if she does not think there is insanity in the Boswell family. She is to hear of his travels, his acquaintance with foreign princes, Voltaire and Rousseau, his desire to have a house of his own; and then he diverges into practicality when he desires his friend to 'study the mother,' and take notes of all that passed, as it might have the effect of fixing the fate of the lover. Temple, it may be imagined, did not interpret his commission in such a literal spirit, and inconstancy and insanity could hardly be recommendations in Miss Blair's eyes. That such should be the case,—outside the confessions of Mr Rochester in Jane Eyre,—would appear to the commissioner an obvious fact.
A silence followed on Temple's departure from the divinity. Boswell dreaded a certain nabob, 'a man of copper,' as his rival. Then he believed the fair offended by his own Spanish stateliness and gravity; and again a letter, 'written with all the warmth of Italian affection,' restores the signora to the first place, from which she is deposed by a note from Miss Blair, explaining that his letter had been delayed a week at the Ayr post-office. Then fresh ravings, clouded by the belief that she is cunning and sees his weakness, for three people at Ayr have assured him she is a jilt, and he is shocked at the risk he has run, a warning for the future to him against 'indulging the least fondness for a Scotch lass.' He has, he feels, a soul of a more Southern frame, and some Englishwoman ought to be sensible of his merit, though the Dutch translator of his Tour, Mademoiselle de Zuyl, has been writing to him. Random talking is his dread, he must guard against it, and Miss Blair revives. 'I must have her learn the harpsichord,' he cries, 'and French; she shall be one of the finest women in the island.' Later on they have had a long meeting, of which space only prevents the inimitable reproduction,—'squeezing and kissing her fine hand, while she looked at me with those beautiful black eyes.' He meets her at the house of Lord Kames, he sees her at Othello—she was in tears at the affecting scenes, and 'rather leaned' to him (he thought), and 'the jealous Moor described my own soul.' But true love did never yet run smooth; he has been 'as wild as ever. Trust me in time coming; I will give you my word of honour.' Then—curious psychological trait—'to-morrow I shall be happy with my devotions.'
By the beginning of 1768 he fears all is over. A rumour—a false one as it proved—had reached him that the divinity was to be married to Sir Alexander Gilmour, M.P. for Midlothian. He gets friendly with the nabob, warms him with old claret, and bewails with him their hapless devotion. They agree to propose in turn, and, being in turn rejected, he feels sure that 'a Howard, or some other of the noblest in the kingdom' is to be his fate. The Dutch translator again holds the field, to be soon dismissed for her frivolity and her infidelity. Then Miss Dick of Prestonfield reigns with solid qualifications—she lacks a fortune, but is fine, young, healthy, and amiable. A visit to Holland, to finally decide on the Mademoiselle's claims, was proposed, but his father, warned in time, would not consent. Temple, too, was against this, and 'Temple thou reasonest well,' he cries, and thinks his abnegation will be a solace to his worthy father on his circuit. Freed now from Miss Blair and the Dutch divinity, he is devoted to la belle Irlandaise, 'just sixteen, with the sweetest countenance and a Dublin education.' Never till now had he been so truly in love; every flower is united, and she is a rose without a thorn. Her name 'Mary Anne' he has carved upon a tree, and cutting off a lock of her hair she had promised Bozzy not to marry a lord before March, or forget him. 'Sixteen,' he says; 'innocence and gaiety make me quite a Sicilian swain.'
His book had dissipated his professional energies, and he had even taken to gaming. Incidentally we learn that he had lost more than he could pay, and that Mr Sheridan had advanced enough to clear him, on a promise that he should not engage in play for three years. Mary Anne has added to his complications by her forgetfulness, and the local candidate Miss Blair reappears. Favoured as she was by his father, it would have been easy to bring things to a climax, but on her mother's part there was some not unnatural coldness over his indiscreet talk about his love of the heiress. Bozzy was a convivial knight-errant in what was called 'Saving the ladies.' At clubs and gatherings any member would toast his idol in a bumper, and then another champion would enter his peerless Dulcinea in two bumpers, to be routed by the original toper taking off four. The deepest drinker 'saved his lady,' as the phrase ran; though, says George Thomson speaking of the old concerts in St Cecilia's Hall, at the foot of Niddry's Wynd, which were maintained by noblemen and gentlemen, the bold champion had often considerable difficulty in saving himself from the floor, in his efforts to regain his seat! Miss Burnet of Monboddo, celebrated by Burns, and Miss Betty Home, he describes as the reigning beauties of the time deeply involved in thus causing the fall of man. Boswell was not behind, and he ascribes his aberrations to the 'drinking habit which still prevails in Scotland,' renewing good intentions, only to be broken in the same letter that reveals the Moffat lady again, 'like a girl of eighteen, with the finest black hair,' whom he loves so much that he is in a fever. 'This,' he adds truly enough, 'is unworthy of Paoli's friend.'
The May of 1769 saw him in Ireland, where his relations in County Down secured his entry into the best society. A dispatch to the Public Advertizer, of July 7th, informed the public that 'James Boswell, Esq., dined with His Grace the Duke of Leinster at his seat at Carton. He went by special invitation to meet the Lord Lieutenant; came next morning with his Excellency to the Phoenix Park, where he was present at a review of Sir Joseph Yorke's dragoons; he dined with the Lord Mayor, and is now set out on his return to Scotland.' The belle Irlandaise had forgotten him, but it is to this occasion that we may refer some verses that were published by his son Sir Alexander. Chambers thinks they refer to his cousin, but the general belief tends in the direction of the notorious Margaret Caroline Rudd, the associate in later years of the brothers Perreau, who were executed for forgery. In the Life of Johnson we find Boswell, in 1776, expressing to his companion a desire to be introduced to this person, so celebrated for her address and insinuation, and later on he is shewn, on his own confession, to have visited her, 'induced by the fame of her talents and irresistible power of fascination,' and to have sent an account of this interview to his wife, but to have offered its perusal first, 'as it appeared to me highly entertaining,' to Temple, who was indignant over it. It would appear, then, that Boswell did not reveal to Johnson his former flirtation with this notorious woman, but we think that the obvious marks of the brogue in the verses shew conclusively that either the feeling was imitative and based on an earlier Irish song, or that the verses were judged by Boswell's son, not too devoted, as we shall find, to his father's memory, to be free from offence.
'O Larghan Clanbrassil, how sweet is thy sound, To my tender remembrance as Love's sacred ground; For there Marg'ret Caroline first charm'd my sight, And fill'd my young heart with a flutt'ring delight.
When I thought her my own, ah! too short seemed the day For a jaunt to Downpatrick, or a trip on the sea; To express what I felt, then all language was vain, 'Twas in truth what the poets have studied to feign.
But, too late, I found even she could deceive, And nothing was left but to sigh, weep, and rave; Distracted, I flew from my dear native shore, Resolved to see Larghan Clanbrassil no more.
Yet still in some moments enchanted I find A ray of her fondness beams soft on my mind; While thus in bless'd fancy my angel I see, All the world is a Larghan Clanbrassil to me.'
On this journey with Boswell there was a Margaret—his own cousin, and it is curious to find him in this mood of sentimental philandering, were it no worse, when we have now to see Bozzy at the end of his love affairs. When his great work was completed in 1791, its author contributed to the European Magazine for May and June a little sketch of himself, in order to give a fillip to its circulation. There he describes jauntily his Irish tour, and after what we know of his erratic course, it is delightful to come across this sage chronicler of his dead wife, circulating testimonials to her excellences, to which no doubt he was oblivious in her lifetime. 'They had,' he writes, 'from their earliest years lived in the most intimate and unreserved friendship.' His love of the fair sex has been already mentioned (he had quoted the song of 'the Soapers' in our first chapter), and she was the constant yet prudent and delicate confidante of all his 'egarements du coeur et de l'esprit.' This we may doubt, and the gracefully allusive French quotation reminds us of Mr Pepys' use of that language when his wife was in his mind. This jaunt was the occasion of Mr Boswell's resolving at last to engage himself in that connection to which he had always declared himself averse. In short, he determined to become a married man. He requested her, with her excellent judgment and more sedate manners, to do him the favour of accepting him with all his faults, and though he assures his readers he had uniformly protested that a large fortune had been with him a requisite in the fair, he was yet 'willing to waive that in consideration of her peculiar merit!'
Hearts are caught in the rebound, and Bozzy had solaced his loss of the belle Irlandaise with the sympathy of his fellow-traveller. Having let his fancies roam so far abroad as Siena and Holland, the lover had now returned like the bird at evening to the nest from which it flew. She had no fortune, and 'the penniless lass wi' the lang pedigree,' related as she was to the Eglintoun branch and other high families, had not in the eyes of his father the landed qualifications of Miss Blair, whose property lay so convenient for the extension of the Boswell acres. This may have been the cause of the paternal anger and the separate marriages on the same day. The wives of literary men have ever been a fruitful source of disquisition to the admirers of their heroes, and Terentia, Gemma Donati, and Anne Hathaway, have divided the biographers of Cicero, Dante, and Shakespeare. To us it seems that, like his father, she had much to bear, hampered by their domestic difficulties through her husband's constant dependence on that father for his income, and eyed with undeserved suspicion by the judge and his second wife as a Mordecai in the gate, penniless and yet supposed to be the cause of Boswell's pecuniary embarrassments and indiscretions. The marriage was deferred till after the Stratford Jubilee, and the newly married pair took up their house in Chessel's Buildings in the Canongate. For a year and a half after his marriage his correspondence with Johnson underwent an entire cessation, and in the August of 1771 General Paoli made a tour in Scotland, which, for a time, called forth the best organizing abilities of his friend. From the London Magazine of the day, in an account contributed by our hero, we learn how Paoli had paid 'a visit to James Boswell, Esq., who was the first gentleman of this country who visited Corsica, and whose writings have made the brave islanders and their general properly known over Europe.' Boswell waited on the exile and the Polish Ambassador at Ramsay's Inn, at the foot of St Mary's Wynd, visiting with them Linlithgow and Carron, 'where the general had a prodigious pleasure in viewing the forge where were formed the cannon and war-like stores' sent to Corsica by his Scottish admirers. At Glasgow they were entertained by the professors, and saw 'the elegant printing of the Scottish Stephani, the Messrs Foulis,' and no doubt their guide managed to remind their excellencies of a certain Tour in Corsica emanating thence. Auchinleck was visited to 'the joy of my worthy father and me at seeing the Corsican Hero in our romantick groves,' as he tells Garrick, and on their return to Glasgow the freedom of the city was conferred on Paoli by Lord Provost Dunlop.[A] At Edinburgh 'the general slept under the roof of his ever grateful friend.' The whole forms a favourable specimen of Boswell's organizing capacities, and viewed in relation to the friendly intercourse he is found maintaining with prominent and influential persons, our regret is but increased that in the interests of his wife and children his abilities were not exercised in a more strictly professional channel.
London he visited in the March of 1772 over an appeal to the Lords from the Court of Session. Johnson was now in good health, and was eager 'to see Beattie's College.' In the Scots Magazine for February 1773 there is mentioned a masked ball, attended by seventy persons of quality, given in Edinburgh by Sir Alexander Macdonald and his wife, Miss Bosville of Yorkshire, one of Boswell's loves. Croker says that the masquerade for which he was rallied by Johnson was given by the Dowager Countess of Fife, and that Bozzy went as a dumb conjurer; but from the expression of the Magazine, 'an entertainment little known in this part of the Kingdom,' coupled with the words employed by Johnson, there can be no doubt that Croker is wrong, and that the host on this occasion was the churlish chief, whose inhospitable ways they were to experience in Skye. He was now near the great honour of his life, admission to that Literary Club, of which, said Sir William Jones, 'I will only say that there is no branch of human knowledge on which some of our members are not capable of giving information.' Never was honour better deserved or better repaid. Without his record the fame of that club would have passed away, surviving at best in some sort of hazy companionship with the Kit-Cat, Button's, Will's, and other clubs and assemblies. Never was there a club of which each member was better qualified to take care of his own fame with posterity. None of Johnson's associates would have hesitated in declaring an extended date of renown for the Rambler; and perhaps he himself would have staked the reputation assured, as Cowper said, by the tears of bards and heroes in order to immortalize the dead, on his Rasselas or the Dictionary. Yet he and most members of that club, apart from the record of Boswell, would be but names to the literary antiquary, and be by the mass of readers entirely forgotten.
He had canvassed the members. Johnson wrote, on April 23rd, to Goldsmith, who was in the chair that evening, to consider Boswell as proposed by himself in his absence. On the night of the ballot, April 30th, Boswell dined at Beauclerk's, where, after the company had gone to the club, he was left till the fate of his election should be announced. After Johnson had taken the thing in hand there was not much danger, yet poor Bozzy 'sat in a state of anxiety which even the charming conversation of Lady Di Beauclerk could not entirely dissipate.' There he received the tidings of his election, and he hastened to the place of meeting. Burke he met that night for the first time, and on his entrance, Johnson, 'with humorous formality, gave me a charge, pointing out the conduct expected from me as a good member of the club.' That charge we can believe Forster to be right in suspecting to be a caution against publishing abroad the proceedings and the talk of the members.
In the autumn of the year, as they drew near to Monboddo, Johnson, we should think with excessive rudeness, told him 'several of the members wished to keep you out. Burke told me, he doubted if you were fit for it: but, now you are in, none of them are sorry. Burke says, that you have so much good humour naturally, it is scarce a virtue.' The faithful Bozzy replied, 'They were afraid of you, sir, as it was you who proposed me;' and the doctor was prone to admit that if the one blackball necessary to exclude had been given, they knew they never would have got in another member. Yet even from this rebuff he managed to deftly extract a compliment. Beauclerk, the doctor said, had been very earnest for the admission, and Beauclerk, replied Boswell, 'has a keenness of mind which is very uncommon.' The witty Topham, along with Reynolds, Garrick, and others, is immortalized in the pages of the man who was not thought by the wits of Gerrard Street fit for their club.
[A] By the Town Clerk Depute of Glasgow, R. Renwick, Esq., we are informed that no notice of this enrolment of General Paoli was entered at the time, pursuant to the custom of the Register over honorary burgesships.
TOUR TO THE HEBRIDES. 1773
'Breaking the silence of the seas Among the farthest Hebrides.'—WORDSWORTH.
When Boswell was leaving London in May he called, for the last time, upon Goldsmith, round whom the clouds of misfortune were fast settling, and who was planning a Dictionary of Arts and Sciences as a means of extrication from his embarrassments. In such circumstances, it was not unnatural for Goldsmith to revert to his own past travels, and to the reflection that he was unlikely again to set out upon them, unless sheltered like Johnson behind a pension. He assured Boswell that he would never be able to lug the dead weight of the Rambler through the Highlands. The enthusiastic pioneer, however, was loud in the praises of his companion; Goldsmith thought him not equal to Burke, 'who winds into a subject like a serpent.' The other, with more than wonted irrelevance, maintained that Johnson was 'the Hercules who strangled serpents in his cradle;' and with these characteristic utterances they parted, never again to meet. Throughout his great work, Boswell shews ever a curious depreciation of Goldsmith. Rivalry for the good graces of their common friend Johnson, as Scott thought, and the fear of his older acquaintance as the possible biographer made him suspicious of the merits of the poet, who figures in the pages of Boswell as a foil for his gently patronizing tone,—'honest Goldsmith.'
The tour to the Hebrides had been a project which had occurred to them in the first days of their friendship. The Description of the Western Isles of Scotland (1703) by Martin, had been put into Johnson's hands at a very early age by his father; and, though for long he had disappointed the expectations of his friend, he had talked of it in the spring of this year in such a way as to lead Boswell to write to Beattie, Robertson, Lord Elibank, and the chiefs of the Macdonalds and the Macleods, for invitations such as he could shew the doctor. Mrs Thrale also and others were induced to forward the scheme, and at last the Rambler set out on the 6th day of August. He was nine days upon the road, including two at Newcastle, where he picked up his friend Scott (Lord Stowell), and after passing Berwick, Dunbar and Prestonpans, the coach late in the evening deposited Johnson at Boyd's inn, The White Horse, in the Canongate,—the rendezvous of the old Hanoverian faction,—which occupied the site of the present building from which this volume, one hundred and twenty-three years later, is published. On the Saturday evening of his arrival a note was dispatched by him to Boswell, who flew to him, and 'exulted in the thought that I now had him actually in Caledonia.'
Arm in arm they walked up the High Street to Boswell's house in James's Court, to which he had removed from the Canongate. The first impression of the Scottish capital was not pleasing, for at ten the beat of the city drums was heard; and, amid cries of gardy loo, what Oldham euphemistically calls 'the perils of the night,' were thrown over the windows down on the pavement, in the absence of covered sewers. When Captain Burt before this time had been in Edinburgh, a 'caddie' had preceded him on a scouting expedition with cries of 'haud your han',' and among flank and rear discharges he had passed to his quarters. A zealous Scotsman, as Boswell says, could have wished the doctor to be less gifted with the sense of smell, however much the sense of the breadth of the street and the height of the buildings impressed him. His wife had tea waiting, and they sat till two in the morning. To shew respect for the sage, Mrs Boswell had given up her own room, which her husband 'cannot but gratefully mention, as one of a thousand obligations which I owe her, since the great obligation of her being pleased to accept of me as her husband.'
Next morning, on the Sunday, Mr Scott and Sir Wm. Forbes of Pitsligo breakfasted with them, and the host's heart was delighted by the 'little infantine noise' which his child Veronica made, with the appearance of listening to the great man. The fond father with a cheerful recklessness, not realized we fear, declared she should have for this five hundred pounds of additional fortune.
The best society in the capital was invited to meet Johnson at breakfast and dinner—Robertson, Hailes, Gregory, Blacklock, and others. James's Court was rather a distinguished part of the city, and an improvement upon the former quarters in Chessel's Buildings. The inhabitants, says Robert Chambers, took themselves so seriously as to keep a clerk to record their proceedings, together with a scavenger of their own, and held among themselves their social meetings and balls. Hume had occupied part of the house before Johnson's visit, though three years had passed since he had moved to the new town into St David Street. Writing from his old house to Adam Smith, he is glad to 'have come within sight of you, and to have a view of Kirkcaldy from my windows;' the study of the historian, to which he turned fondly from the Parisian salons, is represented in Guy Mannering as the library of Pleydell with its fine view from the windows, 'which commanded that incomparable prospect of the ground between Edinburgh and the sea, the Firth of Forth with its islands, and the varied shore of Fife to the northward.' Bozzy may have been reticent about the former tenant; he was 'not clear that it was right in me to keep company with him,' though he thought the man greater or better than his books. No word then was sent to him, nor to Adam Smith across the Forth to Kirkcaldy. They visited the Parliament House, where Harry Erskine was presented to Johnson, and, having made his bow, slipped a shilling into Boswell's hand, 'for the sight of his bear.' Holyrood and the University were inspected, and as they passed up the College-Wynd, where Goldsmith in his medical student days in Edinburgh had lived, Scott, as a child of two years, may have seen the party. On the 18th they set out from the capital, with the Parthian shot from Lord Auchinleck to a friend—'there's nae hope for Jamie, man; Jamie is gaen clean gyte. What do you think, man? He's done wi' Paoli. He's off wi' the land-louping scoundrel of a Corsican, and whose tail do you think he has pinned himself to now, man? A dominie, an auld dominie; he keepit a schule and ca'ad it an acaadamy!' No more bitter taunt could have been levelled against Johnson, with his memories of Edial, near Lichfield; readers who may remember the munificent manner in which the heritors of their day had provided for Ruddiman, Michael Bruce, and others, will see the contempt that the old judge had felt for the past of the Rambler. Johnson had left behind him in a drawer a volume of his diary; and, as this would have been excellent copy for his projected Life, we feel the temptation to which Boswell was exposed. 'I wish,' he says naively, 'that female curiosity had been strong enough to have had it all transcribed; which might easily have been done; and I think the theft, being pro bono publico, might have been forgiven. But I may be wrong. My wife told me she never once had looked into it. She did not seem quite easy when we left her; but away we went!'
The character-sketch of Johnson, given at the opening of the book is full of fine shading and touches; but the traveller who now follows them on the journey will hardly, in comparison with his own tourist attire, recognise what in 1773 was thought fit and convenient costume.
'He wore a full suit of plain brown clothes, with twisted hair buttons of the same colour, a large bushy greyish wig, a plain shirt, black worsted stockings, and silver buckles. Upon this tour, when journeying, he wore boots, and a very wide brown cloth greatcoat, with pockets which might have almost held the two volumes of his folio Dictionary; and he carried in his hand a large English oak stick. Let me not be censured for mentioning such minute particulars. Everything relative to so great a man is worth observing. I remember Dr Adam Smith, in his rhetorical lectures at Glasgow, told us he was glad to know that Milton wore latchets in his shoes, instead of buckles.'
A companion vignette of himself is added by Boswell.
'A gentleman of ancient blood, the pride of which was his predominant passion. He was then in his thirty-third year, and had been about four years happily married. His inclination was to be a soldier; but his father had pressed him into the profession of the law. He had travelled a good deal, and seen many varieties of human life. He had thought more than anyone had supposed, and had a pretty good stock of general learning and knowledge. He had rather too little, than too much prudence; and, his imagination being lively, he often said things of which the effect was very different from the intention. He resembled sometimes
'The best good man, with the worst natur'd muse.'
The doctor who was thrifty over this tour had not thought it necessary to bring his own black servant; but Boswell's man, Joseph Ritter, a Bohemian, a fine stately fellow over six feet, who had been over much of Europe, was invaluable to them in their journey. For this the valiant Rambler had provided a pair of pistols, powder, and a quantity of bullets, but the assurance of their needlessness had induced him to leave them behind with the precious diary in the keeping of Mrs Boswell.
Such a tour was then a feat for a man of sixty-four, in a country which, to the Englishman of his day, was as unknown as St Kilda is now to the mass of Scotchmen. The London citizen who, says Lockhart, 'makes Loch Lomond his wash-pot, and throws his shoe over Ben Nevis,' can with difficulty imagine a journey in the Hebrides with rainy weather, in open boats, or upon horseback over wild moorland and morasses, a journey that even to Voltaire sounded like a tour to the North Pole. Smollett, in Humphrey Clinker, says the people at the other end of the island knew as little of Scotland as they did of Japan, nor was Charing Cross, witness as it did the greatest height of 'the tide of human existence,' then bright with the autumnal trips of circular tours and Macbrayne steamers. The feeling for scenery, besides, was in its infancy, nor was it scenery but men and manners that were sought by our two travellers, to whom what would now be styled the Wordsworthian feeling had little or no interest. Gibbon has none of it, and Johnston laughed at Shenstone for not caring whether his woods and streams had anything good to eat in them, 'as if one could fill one's belly with hearing soft murmurs or looking at rough cascades.' Fleet Street to him was more delicious than Tempe, and the bare scent of the pastoral draws an angry snort from the critic. Boswell, in turn, confesses to no relish for nature; he admits he has no pencil for visible objects, but only for varieties of mind and esprit. The Critical Review congratulated the public on a fortunate event in the annals of literature for the following account in Johnson's Journey—'I sat down on a bank, such as a writer of romance might have delighted to feign. I had, indeed, no trees to whisper over my head but a clear rivulet streamed at my feet. The day was calm, the air soft, and all was rudeness, silence and solitude. Before me, and on either side, were high hills, which, if hindering the eye from ranging, forced the mind to find entertainment for itself.' This, little more than the reflections of a Cockney on a hayrick, is as far as the eighteenth century could go, nor need we wonder that the Rambler's moralizing at Iona struck so much Sir Joseph Banks, the President of the Royal Society, that he 'clasped his hands together, and remained for some time in an attitude of silent admiration.' Burns himself, as Prof. Veitch has rightly indicated, has little of the later feeling and regards barren nature with the unfavourable eyes of the farmer and the practical agriculturist, nor has the travelled Goldsmith more to shew. Writing from Edinburgh, he laments that 'no grove or brook lend their music to cheer the stranger,' while at Leyden, 'wherever I turned my eye, fine houses, elegant gardens, statues, grottoes, presented themselves.' Even Gray found that Mount Cenis carried the permission mountains have of being frightful rather too far, and Wordsworth and Shelley would have resented the Johnsonian description of a Highland Ben as 'a considerable protuberance.' Indeed, Goldsmith's bare mention of that object, so dear to Pope and his century,—'grottoes'—reminds us we are not yet in the modern world. Yet the boldness of the sage, and the cheerfulness of Boswell, carried them through it all. 'I should,' wrote the doctor to Mrs Thrale, 'have been very sorry to have missed any of the inconveniences, to have had more light or less rain, for their co-operation crowded the scene and filled the mind.'
Crossing the Firth, after landing on Inchkeith, they arrived at St Andrews which had long been an object of interest to Johnson. They passed Leuchars, Dundee, and Aberbrothick. The ruins of ecclesiastical magnificence would seem to have touched a hidden chord in Boswell's past, for we find him on the road talking of the 'Roman Catholick faith,' and leading his companion on transubstantiation; but this, being 'an awful subject, I did not then press Dr Johnson upon it.' Montrose was reached, and at the inn the waiter was called 'rascal' by the Rambler for putting sugar into the lemonade with his fingers, to the delight of Bozzy who rallied him into quietness by the assurance that the landlord was an Englishman. Monboddo was then passed, where 'the magnetism of his conversation drew us out of our way,' though the prompt action of Boswell as agent in advance really was the source of their invitation. Burnet was one of the best scholars in Scotland, and 'Johnson and my lord spoke highly of Homer.' All his paradoxes about the superiority of the ancients, the existence of men with tails, slavery and other institutions were vented, but all went well. The decrease of learning in England, which Johnson lamented, was met by Monboddo's belief in its extinction in Scotland, but Bozzy, as the old High School of Edinburgh boy, put in a word for that place of education and brought him to confess that it did well.
The New Inn at Aberdeen was full. But the waiter knew Boswell by his likeness to his father who put up here on circuit—the only portrait, we believe, there is of Lord Auchinleck—and accommodation was provided. They visited King's College, where Boswell 'stepped into the chapel and looked at the tomb of its founder, Bishop Elphinstone, of whom I shall have occasion to write in my history of James IV., the patron of my family.' The freedom of the city was conferred on Johnson. Was this an honour, or an excuse for a social glass among the civic Solons of an unreformed corporation? The latter may be the case, when we reflect that none of the four universities thought of giving him an honorary degree, though Beattie at this time had received the doctorate in laws from Oxford, and Gray some years before this had declined the offer from Aberdeen. Nor can we forget the taunt of George Colman the younger about Pangloss in his Heir at Law, and his own recollection how, when a lad at King's College, he had been 'scarcely a week in Old Aberdeen when the Lord Provost of the New Town invited me to drink wine with him, one evening in the Town Hall;' and presented him on October 8th, 1781, with the freedom of the city. No negative inference can be established from the contemporary notices in the Aberdeen Journal over the visit. Every paragraph is contemptuous in its tone; and till October 4th no notice is taken of the honour, when 'a correspondent says he is glad to find that the city of Aberdeen has presented Dr Johnson with the freedom of that place, for he has sold his freedom on this side of the Tweed for a pension.' The definition of oats in the Dictionary is brought up against its author, and Bozzy is also attacked in a doggerel epigram on his Corsican Tour and his system of spelling. But the doctor easily maintained his conversational supremacy over his academic hosts, who 'started not a single mawkin for us to pursue.'
Ellon, Slains Castle, and Elgin were visited. They passed Gordon Castle at Fochabers, drove over the heath where Macbeth met the witches, 'classic ground to an Englishman,' as the old editor of Shakespeare felt, and reached Nairn, where now they heard for the first time the Gaelic tongue,—'one of the songs of Ossian,' quoth the justly incredulous doctor,—and saw peat fires. At Fort George they were welcomed by Sir Eyre Coote. The old military aspirations of Bozzy flared up and were soothed: 'for a little while I fancied myself a military man, and it pleased me.' As they left, the commander reminded them of the hardships by the way, in return as Boswell interposed for the rough things Johnson had said of Scotland. 'You must change your name, sir,' said Sir Eyre. 'Ay, to Dr M'Gregor,' replied Bozzy. The notion of the lexicographer's assuming the forbidden name of the bold outlaw, with 'his foot upon his native heath,' is rather comic, though later on we find him striding about with a target and broad sword, and a bonnet drawn over his wig! Though both professed profuse addiction to Jacobite sentiments, it is curious no mention is made of Culloden. It may be that Boswell, who some days later weeps over the battle, may have diplomatically avoided it, or it may have been dark as their chaise passed it, though it is not impossible that Boswell, who at St Andrews had not known where to look for John Knox's grave, and has no mention of Airsmoss where Cameron fell in his own parish of Auchinleck, was ignorant of the site. From their inn at Inverness he wrote to Garrick gleefully over his tour with Davy's old preceptor, and then begged permission to leave Johnson for a time, 'that I might run about and pay some visits to several good people,' finding much satisfaction in hearing every one speak well of his father.
On Monday, August 30, they began their equitation; 'I would needs make a word too.' They took horses now, a third carried his man Ritter, and a fourth their portmanteaus. The scene by Loch Ness was new to the sage, and he rises in his narrative a little to it and the 'limpid waters beating their bank, and waving their surface by a gentle agitation.' Through Glenshiel, Glenmorison, Auchnasheal, they passed on to the inn at Glenelg. They made beds for themselves with fresh hay, and, like Wolfe at Quebec, they had their 'choice of difficulties;' but the philosophic Rambler maintained they might have been worse on the hillside, and buttoning himself up in his greatcoat he lay down, while Boswell had his sheets spread on the hay, and his clothes and greatcoat laid over him by way of blankets.
Next day they got into a boat for Skye, reaching Armidale before one. Here occurred one of the dramatic episodes of the book. Sir Alexander Macdonald, husband of Boswell's Yorkshire cousin Miss Bosville, and the host at the masquerade in February, was on his way to Edinburgh, and met them at the house of a tenant, 'as we believe,' wrote Johnson to Mrs Thrale, 'that he might with less reproach entertain us meanly. Boswell was very angry, and reproached him with his improper parsimony. Boswell has some thoughts of collecting the stories and making a novel of his life.' In the first edition of his book something strong had clearly been written, but it was wisely suppressed at the last moment when the book was bound, for the new pages are but clumsily pasted on the guard between leaves 166 and 169. The first edition had accordingly this account, which was even toned down in the next.
'Instead of finding the head of the Macdonalds surrounded with his clan, and a festive entertainment, we had a small company and cannot boast of our cheer. The particulars are minuted in my journal, but I shall not trouble the publick with them. I shall mention but one characteristick circumstance. My shrewd and hearty friend, Sir Thomas Blackett, Lady Macdonald's uncle, who had preceded us in a visit to this chief, upon being asked by him if the punchbowl then upon the table was not a very handsome one, replied, "Yes, if it were full." Sir Alexander, having been an Eton scholar, Dr Johnson had formed an opinion of him which was much diminished when he beheld him in the Isle of Sky, where we heard heavy complaints of rents racked, and the people driven to emigration. Dr Johnson said, "it grieves me to see the chief of a great clan appear to such disadvantage. The gentleman has talents, nay, some learning; but he is totally unfit for his situation. Sir, the Highland chiefs should not be allowed to go further south than Aberdeen." I meditated an escape from this the very next day, but Dr Johnson resolved that we should weather it out till Monday.'
Next day being Sunday Bozzy's spirits were cheered by the climate and the weather, but 'had I not had Dr Johnson to contemplate, I should have been sunk into dejection, but his firmness supported me. I looked at him as a man whose head is turning giddy at sea looks at a rock.' Everywhere they met signs of the parting of the ways in the Highlands. The old days of feudal power were merging in the industrial, the chiefs were now landlords and exacting ones. Emigration was rife, and the pages of the Scots Magazine of the time dwell much on this. A month before, four hundred men had left Strathglass and Glengarry; in June eight hundred had sailed from Stornoway; Lochaber sent four hundred, 'the finest set of fellows in the Highlands, carrying L6000 in ready cash with them. The extravagant rents exacted by the landlords is the sole cause given for this emigration which seems to be only in its infancy.' The high price of provisions and the decrease of the linen trade in the north of Ireland sent eight hundred this year from Stromness, when we find the linen dealers thanking Boswell's old rival, as he supposed, with Miss Blair, Sir Alexander Gilmour, M.P. for Midlothian, for his efforts at providing better legislation.
Rasay is one of the happiest descriptions in the tour. 'This,' said Johnson, 'is truly the patriarchal life; this is what we came to find.' They heard from home and had letters. At Kingsburgh they were welcomed by the lady of the house, 'the celebrated Miss Flora Macdonald, a little woman of genteel appearance; and uncommonly mild and well-bred.' 'I was in a cordial humour, and promoted a cheerful glass. Honest Mr M'Queen observed that I was in high glee, "my governor being gone to bed." ... The room where we lay was a celebrated one. Dr Johnson's bed was the very bed in which the grandson of the unfortunate King James the Second lay, on one of the nights after the failure of his rash attempt in 1745-6. To see Dr Samuel Johnson lying in that bed, in the Isle of Sky, in the house of Miss Flora Macdonald, struck me with such a group of ideas as it is not easy for words to describe, as they passed through the mind. The room was decorated with a great variety of maps and prints. Among others, was Hogarth's print of Wilkes grinning, with a cap of liberty on a pole by him.' Certainly Bozzy had never thought of finding a remembrance of his 'classic friend' in such circumstances.
Dunvegan and the castle of the Macleods received them in hospitable style. 'Boswell,' said Johnson, in allusion to Sir Alexander's stinted ways, 'we came in at the wrong end of the island;' the memories of their visit had not been forgotten when Scott was there on his Lighthouse Tour in 1814. The Rambler 'had tasted lotus, and was in danger of forgetting he was ever to depart.'
Landing at Strolimus, they proceeded to Corrichatachin, 'with but a single star to light us on our way.' There took place the scene that, though familiar, must be given in the writer's own words. A man who, for artistic setting and colour, could write it deliberately down even to his own disadvantage, and who could appeal to serious critics and readers of discernment and taste against the objections which he saw himself would be raised from the misinterpretation of others, is a figure not to be met with every day in literature.
'Dr Johnson went to bed soon. When one bowl of punch was finished, I rose, and was near the door, on my way upstairs to bed; but Corrichatachin said, it was the first time Col had been in his house, and he should have his bowl; and would not I join in drinking it? The heartiness of my honest landlord, and the desire of doing social honour to our very obliging conductor, induced me to sit down again. Col's bowl was finished; and by that time we were well warmed. A third bowl was soon made, and that too was finished. We were cordial, and merry to a high degree; but of what passed I have no recollection, with any accuracy. I remember calling Corrichatachin by the familiar appellation of Corri which his friends do. A fourth bowl was made, by which time Col, and young M'Kinnon, Corrichatachin's son, slipped away to bed. I continued a little time with Corri and Knockow; but at last I left them. It was near five in the morning when I got to bed. Sunday, September 26. I awaked at noon with a severe head-ach. I was much vexed that I should have been guilty of such a riot, and afraid of a reproof from Dr Johnson, I thought it very inconsistent with that conduct which I ought to maintain, while the companion of the Rambler. About one he came into my room, and accosted me, "What, drunk yet?" His tone of voice was not that of severe upbraiding; so I was relieved a little. "Sir," (said I), "they kept me up." He answered, "No, you kept them up, you drunken dog:"—this he said with good-humoured English pleasantry. Soon afterwards, Corrichatachin, Col, and other friends assembled round my bed. Corri had a brandy bottle and glass with him, and insisted I should take a dram. "Ay," said Dr Johnson, "fill him drunk again. Do it in the morning, that we may laugh at him all day. It is a poor thing for a fellow to get drunk at night, and skulk to bed, and let his friends have no sport." Finding him thus jocular, I became quite easy; and when I offered to get up, he very good naturedly said, "You need be in no such hurry now." I took my host's advice, and drank some brandy, which I found an effectual cure for my head-ach. When I rose, I went into Dr Johnson's room, and taking up Mrs M'Kinnon's Prayer-Book, I opened it at the twentieth Sunday after Trinity, in the epistle for which I read, "And be not drunk with wine, wherein there is excess." Some would have taken this as a divine interposition.'
Such is the extraordinary confession. St Augustine, Rousseau, De Quincey, have not quite equalled this. He found it had been made the subject of serious criticism and ludicrous banter. But his one object, as he tells 'serious criticks,' has been to delineate Johnson's character, and for this purpose he appeals from Philip drunk to Philip sober, and to the approbation of the discerning reader. Later on, he has laid the flattering unction to his heart, and has extracted comfort from the soul of things evil. He felt comfortable, and 'I then thought that my last night's riot was no more than such a social excess as may happen without much moral blame; and recollected that some physicians maintained, that a fever produced by it was, upon the whole, good for health: so different are our reflections on the same subject, at different periods; and such the excuses with which we palliate what we know to be wrong.'
Leaving Skye, they ran before the wind to Col.
'It was very dark, and there was a heavy and incessant rain. The sparks of the burning peat flew so much about, that I dreaded the vessel might take fire. Then as Col was a sportsman, and had powder on board, I figured that we might be blown up. Our vessel often lay so much on one side, that I trembled lest she should be overset, and indeed they told me afterwards that they had run her sometimes to within an inch of the water, so anxious were they to make what haste they could before the night should be worse. I now saw what I never saw before, a prodigious sea, with immense billows coming upon a vessel, so that it seemed hardly possible to escape. I am glad I have seen it once. I endeavoured to compose my mind; when I thought of those who were dearest to me, and would suffer severely, should I be lost, I upbraided myself. Piety afforded me comfort; yet I was disturbed by the objections that have been made against a particular providence, and by the arguments of those who maintain that it is in vain to hope that the petitions of an individual, or even of congregations, can have any influence with the Deity. I asked Col with much earnestness what I could do. He with a happy readiness put into my hand a rope, which was fixed to the top of one of the masts, and told me to hold it till he bade me pull. If I had considered the matter, I might have seen that this could not be of the slightest service; but his object was to keep me out of the way.... Thus did I stand firm to my post, while the wind and rain beat upon me, always expecting a call to pull my rope.... They spied the harbour of Lochiern, and Col cried, "Thank God, we are safe!" Dr Johnson had all this time been quiet and unconcerned. He had lain down on one of the beds, and having got free from sickness, was satisfied. The truth is, he knew nothing of the danger we were in. Once he asked whither we were going; upon being told that it was not certain whether to Mull or Col, he cried, "Col for my money!" I now went down to visit him. He was lying in philosophick tranquillity, with a greyhound of Col's at his back keeping him warm.'
Mull, Tobermory, Ulva's Isle, and Inch Kenneth followed. Then Iona,—'the sacred place which as long as I can remember, I had thought on with veneration.' The two friends, as they landed on the island, 'cordially embraced,' as they had done in the White Horse at Edinburgh, and the mark of feeling is a note that we are yet with them in the eighteenth century. They lay in a barn with a portmanteau for a pillow, and 'when I awaked in the morning and looked round me, I could not help smiling at the idea of the chief of the Macleans, the great English moralist, and myself lying thus extended in such a situation.' The old Boswell of the Roman Catholic days appears at this time. 'Boswell,' writes Johnson to Mrs Thrale, 'who is very pious went into the chapel at night to perform his devotions, but came back in haste for fear of spectres.' Second sight was often in their thoughts and conversation on their tour; at the club Colman had jocularly to bid Boswell 'cork it up' when he was too full of his belief on the point. His fear of ghosts reminds one of Pepys in the year of the great plague, as he went through the graveyard of the church, with the bodies buried thick and high, 'frighted and much troubled.'
'I left him,' says Boswell himself, 'and Sir Allan at breakfast in our barn, and stole back again to the cathedral, to indulge in solitude and devout meditation. When contemplating the venerable ruins, I reflected with much satisfaction, that the solemn scenes of piety never lose their sanctity and influence, though the cares and follies of life may prevent us from visiting them.... I hoped that, ever after having been in this holy place, I should maintain an exemplary conduct. One has a strange propensity to fix upon some point of time from whence a better course of life may begin.' This is a revelation of the inner Boswell. On the eve of the appearance of the Tour in Corsica, he had written to Temple, about 'fixing some period for my perfection as far as possible. Let it be when my account of Corsica is finished. I shall then have a character to support.' On landing at Rasay, he noticed the remains of a cross on the rock, 'which had to me a pleasing vestige of religion,' and he 'could not but value the family seat more for having even the ruins of a chapel close to it. There was something comforting in the thought of being so near a piece of consecrated ground.'
Oban received them with a tolerable inn. They were again on the mainland, and found papers with conjectures as to their motions in the islands. Next day they spent at Inverary. The castle of the Duke of Argyll was near, and now, for the first time on the tour, the indefatigable agent in advance was completely nonplussed. The spectre of the great Douglas Trial loomed large in the eyes of the pamphleteer and the hero of the riot. He had reason, he says, to fear hostile reprisals on the part of the Duchess, who had been Duchess of Hamilton and mother of the rival claimant, before she had become the wife of John, fifth Duke of Argyll. It is from this scene and from the Stratford Jubilee fiasco that the general reader draws his picture of poor Bozzy, and the belief remains that James Boswell was a pushing and forward interloper, half mountebank and half showman. Read in the original, as a revelation of the writer's character, the very reverse is the impression; he is there presented not in any ludicrous light but rather in a good-humoured and fussy way. He met his friend the Rev. John Macaulay, one of the ministers of Inverary, who accompanied them to the castle, where Boswell presented the doctor to the Duke. 'I shall never forget,' quaintly adds the chronicler, 'the impression made upon my fancy by some of the ladies' maids tripping about in neat morning dresses. After seeing for a long time little but rusticity, their lively manner, and gay inviting appearance, pleased me so much, that I thought, for a moment, I could have been a knight-errant for them.' This grandfather of the historian and essayist, the man who has dealt the heaviest blow to the reputation of poor Bozzy, was to encounter some warm retorts from the Rambler like his brother, Macaulay's grand-uncle, the minister at Calder. Mr Trevelyan is eager for the good name of his family, and finds it impossible to suppress a wish that the great talker had been there to avenge them. It may not be quite impossible that, mingling with the brilliant essayist's ill-will to the politics of the travellers, there was an unconscious strain of resentment at the contemptuous way in which his relations had been tossed by the doctor, and that Bozzy's own subsequent denunciations of the abolitionists and the slave trade had edged the memories in the mind of the son of Zachary Macaulay. Be this as it may, for this scene Macaulay has a keen eye, and as much of his colour is derived from it, it is but right that in some abridged form the incident be set down here in Boswell's own words—
'I went to the castle just about the time when I supposed the ladies would be retired from dinner. I sent in my name; and, being shewn in, found the amiable Duke sitting at the head of his table with several gentlemen. I was most politely received, and gave his grace some particulars of the curious journey which I had been making with Dr Johnson.... As I was going away, the Duke said, "Mr Boswell, won't you have some tea?" I thought it best to get over the meeting with the Duchess this night; so respectfully agreed. I was conducted to the drawing-room by the Duke, who announced my name; but the duchess, who was sitting with her daughter, Lady Betty Hamilton, and some other ladies, took not the least notice of me. I should have been mortified at being thus coldly received, had I not been consoled by the obliging attention of the Duke.
'Monday, October 25. I presented Dr Johnson to the Duke of Argyll ... the duke placed Dr Johnson next himself at table. I was in fine spirits; and though sensible of not being in favour with the duchess, I was not in the least disconcerted, and offered her grace some of the dish that was before me. It must be owned that I was in the right to be quite unconcerned, if I could. I was the Duke of Argyll's guest; and I had no reason to suppose that he adopted the prejudices and resentments of the Duchess of Hamilton.
'I knew it was the rule of modern high life not to drink to anybody; but, that I might have the satisfaction for once to look the duchess in the face, with a glass in my hand, I with a respectful air addressed her,—"My Lady Duchess, I have the honour to drink your grace's good health." I repeated the words audibly, and with a steady countenance. This was, perhaps, rather too much; but some allowance must be made for human feelings. I made some remark that seemed to imply a belief in second sight. The duchess said, "I fancy you will be a methodist." This was the only sentence her grace deigned to utter to me; and I take it for granted, she thought it a good hit on my credulity in the Douglas Cause.
'We went to tea. The duke and I walked up and down the drawing-room, conversing. The duchess still continued to shew the same marked coldness for me; for which, though I suffered from it, I made every allowance, considering the very warm part that I had taken for Douglas, in the cause in which she thought her son deeply interested. Had not her grace discovered some displeasure towards me, I should have suspected her of insensibility or dissimulation. Her grace made Dr Johnson come and sit by her, and asked him why he made his journey so late in the year. "Why, madam (said he), you know Mr Boswell must attend the Court of Session, and it does not rise till the 12th of August." She said, with some sharpness, "I know nothing of Mr Boswell." Poor Lady Lucy Douglas, to whom I mentioned this, observed, "She knew too much of Mr Boswell." I shall make no remark on her grace's speech, etc., etc.'
In all this scene it will be confessed there is nothing but rudeness on the part of the duchess, one of the beautiful Gunnings, intentional or otherwise, while the kindly touches on Boswell's part, his allowance for her supposed feelings over the trial, and his determination, for once, to look a duchess in the face, are admirable. Bozzy was by birth a gentleman, and there is not the slightest indication here of any want of breeding or taste on his side.
At Dumbarton, steep as is the incline, Johnson ascended it. The Saracen's Head, which had welcomed Paoli before now, received the travellers. There was now no more sullen fuel or peat. 'Here am I,' soliloquized the Rambler, with a leg upon each side of the grate, 'an Englishman, sitting by a coal fire.'
'Jamie's aff the hooks noo;' said the old laird, as they drew near Auchinleck, 'he's bringing doon an auld dominie.' Boswell begged of his companion to avoid three topics of discourse on which he knew his father had fixed opinions—Whiggism, Presbyterianism, and Sir John Pringle. For a time all went well. They walked about 'the romantick groves of my ancestors,' and Bozzy discoursed on the antiquity and honourable alliances of the family, and on the merits of its founder, Thomas, who fell with King James at Flodden. But the storm broke, over the judge's collection of medals, where that of Oliver Cromwell brought up Charles the First and Episcopacy. All must regret that the writer's filial feelings withheld the 'interesting scene in this dramatick sketch.' It is the one lacuna in the book. Sir John Pringle, as the middle term in the debate, came off without a bruise, but the honours lay with Lord Auchinleck. The man whose 'Scots strength of sarcasm' could retort on Johnson, that Cromwell was a man that let kings know they 'had a lith in their neck,' was likely to open new ideas to the doctor, whose political opinions could not rank higher than prejudices. 'Thus they parted,' says the son, after his father had, with his dignified courtesy, seen Johnson into the postchaise; 'they are now in a happier state of existence, in a place where there is no room for Whiggism.' 'I have always said,' the doctor maintained, 'the first Whig was the Devil!'
Edinburgh was reached on November 9th. Eighty-three days had passed since they left it, and for five weeks no news of them had been heard. Writing from London, on his arrival, Johnson said, 'I came home last night, without any incommodity, danger, or weariness, and am ready to begin a new journey. I know Mrs Boswell wished me well to go.' The irregular hours of her guest, and his habit of turning the candles downward when they did not burn brightly, letting the wax run upon the carpet, had not been quite to the taste of the hostess, who resented, 'what was very natural to a female mind,' the influence he possessed over the actions of her husband.
We may well call this tour a spirited one, as Boswell had styled his own Corsican expedition. No better book of travels in Scotland has ever been written than Boswell's Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides. The accuracy of his description, his eye for scenes and dramatic effects, have all been fully borne witness to by those who have followed in their track, and the fact of the book being day by day read by Johnson, during its preparation, gives it an additional value from the perfect veracity of its contents—'as I have resolved that the very journal which Dr Johnson read shall be presented to the publick, I will not expand the text in any considerable degree.' If the way in which the Rambler roughed it, 'laughing to think of myself roving among the Hebrides at sixty, and wondering where I shall rove at four score,' is admirable, none the less so is Bozzy's imperturbable good humour. 'It is very convenient to travel with him,' writes his companion from Auchinleck to Mrs Thrale, 'for there is no house where he is not received with kindness and respect. He has better faculties than I had imagined; more justness of discernment and more fecundity of images.' They had hoped to go sailing from island to island, and had not reckoned with what Scott, who wonders they were not drowned, calls the proverbial carelessness of Hebridean boatmen. They really had come two months too late. But Boswell's attention to the old man smoothed all difficulties,—'looking on the tour as a co-partnership between Dr Johnson and myself,' he did his part faithfully, dancing reels, singing songs, and airing the scraps of Gaelic he picked up, thinking all this better than 'to play the abstract scholar.'
Johnson's account of the journey is an able performance, and is written with a lighter touch and grace than is to be found in his early works. One passage from it has become famous,—his description of Iona. 'The man whose patriotism would not gain force upon the plain of Marathon, or whose piety would not grow warmer among the ruins of Iona,' rivals Macaulay's New Zealander as a stock quotation, and the whole book is not without incisive touches. But it is completely eclipsed by the Journal of Boswell. From start to finish there is not a dull page, and the literary polish is, we venture to think, of a higher kind than is seen in the Life. The artistic opening, and the grouping of the characters, together with the wealth of archaeological and historical information, the tripping style and sustained interest, all render this book of Boswell's a masterpiece. Johnson's account, published in 1775, took ten years to reach a second edition. Boswell's appeared in September, 1785; and by December 20 the issue was exhausted, a third followed on August 15, 1786, and the next year saw a German translation issued at Lubeck. There had been grave indiscretions, lack of reticence, and other faults in the book. Caricatures were rife. Revising for the Second Edition shewed Sir Alexander Macdonald seizing the author by the throat, and pointing with his stick to the open book, where two leaves are marked as torn out. But Boswell, in The Gentleman's Magazine for March 1786, asserts that no such applications or threats had been made. The results, however, may have added to the writer's unpopularity, as Lord Houghton suggests, at the Edinburgh bar, through the answers, replies, and other rejoinders to the strictures of Johnson, for which Boswell, as the pioneer and the introducer of the stranger, 'the chiel among them takin' notes,' may in Edinburgh society have been held as mainly responsible.
To Johnson, the memories of the tour—the lone shieling and the misty island—were a source of pleasing recollection. Taken earlier, it would have removed many of his insular prejudices by wider survey and more varied conversation. 'The expedition to the Hebrides,' he wrote to Boswell some years after, 'was the most pleasant journey I ever made;' and two years later, after restless and tedious nights, he is found reverting to it and recalling the best night he had had these twenty years back, at Fort Augustus. Yet all through September they had not more than a day and a half of really good weather, and but the same during October. Out of such slight materials and uncomfortable surroundings has Boswell produced a masterpiece of descriptive writing. The memory of Johnson has lingered where that of the Jacobite Pretender has well-nigh completely passed away. Mr Gladstone, proposing a Parliamentary vote of thanks to Lord Napier for 'having planted the Standard of St George upon the mountains of Rasselas;' Sir Robert Peel, quoting, in his address to Glasgow University as Lord Rector, Johnson's description of Iona; Sir Walter Scott finding in Skye that he and his friends had in their memories, as the one typical association of the island, the ode to Mrs Thrale, all combine to shew the abiding interest attaching to the Rambler even in Abyssinia and to his foot-steps in Scotland.