페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

ihoughts to objects of importance; but was cut off in the prime of his life. I cannot speak but with emotions of the most affectionate regret of one, in whose company many of my early days were passed, and to whose kindness I was much indebted.

Often must I have occasion to upbraid myself that, soon after our return to the main land, I allowed indolence to prevail over me so much as to Bhrink from the labour of continuing my journal with the same minuteness as before; sheltering myself in the thought that we had done with the Hebrides ; and not considering that Dr. Johnson's memorabilia were likely to be more valuable when we were restored to a

nore polished society. Much has thus been irrecoverably lost.

In the course of our conversation this day it came out that Lady Eglintoune was married the year

before Dr. Johnson was born; upon which she graciously said to him that she might have been his mother, and that she now adopted him; and when we were going away, she embraced him, saying, “ My dear son, farewell !” My friend was much pleased with this day's entertainment, and owned that I had done well to force him out. Tuesday, Nov. 2.

- We were now in a country not only of saddles and bridles,but of postchaises ;

and having ordered one from Kilmarnock, we got to Auchinleck before dinner.

My father was not quite a year and a half older than Dr. Johnson; but his conscientious discharge of his laborious duty as a judge in Scotland, where the law proceedings are almost all in writing,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

severe complaint which ended in his death, and the loss of my mother ("), a woman of almost unexampled piety and goodness, — had before this time in some degree affected his spirits, and rendered him less disposed to exert his faculties : for he had originally a very strong mind, and cheerful temper. He assured me he never had felt one moment of what is called low spirits, or uneasiness, without a real cause. He had a great many good stories, which he told uncommonly well, and he was remarkable for “humour, incolumi gravitate," as Lord Monboddo used to characterise it. His age, his office, and his character had long given him an acknowledged claim to great attention, in whatever company he was ; and he could ill brook

any diminution of it. He was as sanguine a Whig and presbyterian as Dr. Johnson was a Tory and Church-of-England man : and as he had not much leisure to be in. formed of Dr. Johnson's great merits by reading his works, he had a partial and unfavourable notion of him, founded on his supposed political tenets; which were so discordant to his own, that, instead of speaking of him with that respect to which he was entitled, he used to call him “a Jacobite fellow." Knowing all this, I should not have ventured to bring them together, had not my father, out of kindness to me, desired me to invite Dr. Johnson to his house.

I was very anxious that all should be well ; and

- (1) Euphemia Erskine, of the family of the Earl of Buchana. -C.

begged of my friend to avoid three topics, as to which they differed very widely; whiggism, presbyterianism, and — Sir John Pringle. He said courteously, “ I shall certainly not talk on subjects which I am told are disagreeable to a gentleman under whose roof I am ; especially, I shall not do so to your father."

Our first day went off very smoothly. It rained, and we could not get out; but my father showed Dr. Johnson his library, which, in curious editions of the Greek and Roman classics, is, I suppose, not excelled by any private collection in Great Britain. My father had studied at Leyden, and been very intimate with the Gronovii, and other learned men there. He was a sound scholar, and, in particular, had collated manuscripts and different editions of Anacreon, and others of the Greek lyric poets, with great care; so that my friend and he had much matter for conversation, without touching on the fatal topics of difference.

Dr. Johnson found here Baxter's “ Anacreon," which he told me he had long inquired for in vain, and began to suspect there was no such book. Baxter was the keen antagonist of Barnes. His life is in the 66

Biographia Britannica.” My father has written many notes on this book, and Dr. Johnson and I talked of having it reprinted.

Wednesday, Nov. 3. - It rained all day, and gave Dr. Johnson an impression of that incommodiousQess of climate in the west, of which he has taken notice in his “ Journey ;” but, being well accommudated, and furnished with a variety of books, he was not dissatisfied.

Some gentlemen of the neighbourhood came to visit my father, but there was little conversation. One of them asked Dr. Johnson how he liked the Highlands. The question seemed to irritate him, for he answered, “ How, Sir, can you ask me what obliges me to speak unfavourably of a country where I have been hospitably entertained ? Who can like the Highlands ? I like the inhabitants very well.” The gentleman asked no more questions.

Let me now make up for the present neglect, by again gleaning from the past. At Lord Monboddo's, after the conversation upon the decrease of learning in England, his lordship mentioned “Hermes," by Mr. Harris of Salisbury, as the work of a living author, for whom he had a great respect. Dr. Johnson said nothing at the time; but when we were in our postchaise, told me, he thought Harris “a coxcomb.” This he said of him, not as a man, but as an author; and I give his opinions of men and books, faithfully, whether they agree with my own or not. I do admit, that there always appeared to me something of affectation in Mr. Harris's manner of writing; something of a habit of clothing plain thoughts in analytic and categorical formality. But all his writings are imbued with learning; and all breathe that philanthropy and amiable disposition, which distinguished him as a man. (1)

(1) This gentleman, though devoted to the study of grammar and dialectics, was not so absorbed in it as to be without a sense of pleasantry, or to be offended at his favourite topics being

At another time, during our Tour, he drew the character of a rapacious Highland chief with the strength of Theophrastus or la Bruyère; concluding with these words : “ Sir, he has no more the soul of a chief, than an attorney who has twenty houses in a street, and considers how much he can make by them."

He this day, when we were by ourselves, observed, how common it was for people to talk from books ; to retail the sentiments of others, and not their own ; in short, to converse without any originality of thinking. He was pleased to say, “ You and I do not talk from books."

Thursday, Nov. 4. — I was glad to have at length a very

fine day, on which I could show Dr. Johnson the place of my family, which he has honoured with so much attention in his “ Journey.” He is, however, mistaken in thinking that the Celtic name, Auchinleck, has no relation to the natural appearance of it. I believe every Celtic name of a place will be found very descriptive. Auchinleck does not signify a stony field, as he has said, but a field of

treated lightly, I one day met him in the street, as I was hastening to the House of Lords, and told him, I was sorry I could not stop, being rather too late to attend an appeal of the Duke of Hamilton against Douglas. “I thought,” said he, “ their contest had been over long ago." I answered, “ The contest concerning Douglas's filiation was over long ago; but the contest now is, who shall have the estate.” Then assuming the air of “ an ancient sage philosopher," I proceeded thus: “ Were I to predicate concerning him, I should say, the contest formerly was, What is he? The contest now is, What has he ? " “ Right," replied Mr. Harris, smiling, “ you have done with quality, and have got into quantity.B. - See antè, as to Mr. Harris's learning, Vol. III. p. 266.- C.

« 이전계속 »