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striking instance of that spirit of contradiction to which he had a strong propensity, when Lord Elibank was some days after talking of it with the natural elation of a Scotchman, or of any man who is proud of a stately fortress in his own country, Dr. Johnson affected to despise it, observing, that “it would make a good prison in ENGLAND."
Lest it should be supposed that I have suppressed one of his sallies against my country, it may not be improper here to correct a mistaken account that has been circulated, as to his conversation this day. It has been said, that being desired to attend to the noble prospect from the Castle-hill, he replied,
• Sir, the noblest prospect that a Scotchman ever
We had with us to-day at dinner, at my house,
262 (1) Lady Elizabeth Erskine, daughter of the fifth Earl of Kellie, widow of Mr. Walter Macfarlane, and wife, by a second marriage, of the fourth Lord Colville: she died in 1794. - C. #169.
(2) Lady Anne, born in 1735; died in 1802, unmarried. - C.
(3) As seventh earl; born in 1736 : he died in 1797, unmarried. — C.
(4) “ And his son, the advocate.” — First edit. Young Mr. Tytler, the advocate, became afterwards a lord of session, under the title of Lord Woodhouselee.-C.
boast that he had, from the first, resisted both Ossian and the giants of Patagonia (1), averred his positive disbelief of its authenticity. Lord Elibank said, “I am sure it is not M.Pherson's Mr. Johnson, I keep company a great deal with you; it is known I do. I may borrow from
better things than I can say myself, and give them as my own; but if I should, every body will know whose they are.” The doctor was not softened by this compliment. He denied merit to Fingal, supposing it to be the production of a man who has had the advantages that the present age affords; and said, “nothing is more easy than to write enough in that style if once you begin." ()
One gentleman in company expressing his opinion " that Fingal was certainly genuine, for that he had heard a great part of it repeated in the original, Dr. Johnson indignantly asked him, whether he understood the original; to which an answer being given in the negative, “Why, then," said Dr. Johnson, we see to what this testimony comes : thus it is." (3)
(1) The story told in Commodore Byron's Voyage of his having fallen in with a gigantic tribe of natives, on the coast of Patagonia. — C.
(2) I desire not to be understood as agreeing entirely with the opinions of Dr. Johnson, which I relate without any remark. The many imitations, however, of Fingal, that have been published, confirm this observation in a considerable degree.
(3) Young Mr. Tytler briskly stepped forward, and said, * Fingal is certainly genuine, for I have heard a great part of it repeated in the original." Dr. Johnson indignantly asked him, Sir, do you understand the original ?" TYTLER.“ No, Sir.“
on. “ Why, then, we see to what this testimony comes :
I mentioned this as a remarkable proof how liable the mind of man is to credulity, when not guarded by such strict examination as that which Dr.Johnson habitually practised. The talents and integrity of the gentleman who made the remark are unquestionable; yet, had not Dr. Johnson made him advert to the consideration, that he who does not understand a language cannot know that something which is recited to him is in that language, he might have believed, and reported to this hour, that he had “ heard a great part of Fingal repeated in the original."
For the satisfaction of those on the north of the Tweed, who may think Dr. Johnson's account of Caledonian credulity and inaccuracy too strong, it is but fair to add, that he admitted the same kind of ready belief might be found in his own country. “ He would undertake,” he said, “ to write an epic poem on the story of Robin Hood; and half England, to whom the names and places he should mention in it are familiar, would believe and declare they had heard it from their earliest years."
One of his objections to the authenticity of Fingal, during the conversation at Ulinish, is omitted in my Journal, but I perfectly recollect it. “ Why is not the original deposited in some public library, instead of exhibiting attestations of its existence? Suppose there were a question in a court of justice, whether
thus it is.” He afterwards said to me, “ Did you observe the wonderful confidence with which young Tytler advanced with his front ready brazed ?" - First edit.-C.
a man be dead or alive. You aver he is alive, and you bring fifty witnesses to swear it. I answer,
Why do you not produce the man?'” This is an argument founded on one of the first principles of the law of evidence, which Gilbert (1) would have held to be irrefragable.
I do not think it incumbent op me to give any precise decided opinion upon this question, as to which I believe more than some, and less than others. The subject appears to have now become very uninteresting to the public. That Fingal is not from beginning to end a translation from the Gaelic, but that some passages have been supplied by the editor to connect the whole, I have heard admitted by very warm advocates for its authenticity. If this be the case, why are not these distinctly ascertained ? Antiquaries and admirers of the work may complain, that they are in a situation similar to that of the unhappy gentleman whose wife in. formed him, on her deathbed, that one of their re. puted children was not his; and, when he eagerly begged her to declare which of them it was, she an. swered, " That you shall never know;" and expired, leaving him in irremediable doubt as to them all.
I beg leave now to say something upon second, sight, of which I have related two instances, as they impressed my mind at the time. (2) I own, I re turned from the Hebrides with a considerable degree of faith in the many stories of that kind which I heard with a too easy acquiescence, without any close
(1) Chief Baron Gilbert wrote a treatise on Evidence. C. (2) See Macleod's Memoirs, vol. iv. p. 320. — C.
examination of the evidence: but, since that time, my belief in those stories has been much weakened, by reflecting on the careless inaccuracy of narrative in common matters, from which we may certainly conclude that there may be the same in what is more extraordinary. It is but just, however, to add, that the belief in second-sight is not peculiar to the Highlands and Isles.
Some years after our Tour, a cause was tried in the court of session, where the principal fact to be ascertained was, whether a ship-master, who used to frequent the Western Highlands and Isles, was drowned in one particular year, or in the year
after. A great number of witnesses from those parts were examined on each side, and swore directly contrary to each other upon this simple question.
One of them, a very respectable chieftain, who told me a story of second-sight, which I have not mentioned, but which I too implicitly believed, had in this case, previous to this public examination, not only said, but attested under his hand, that he had seen the shipmaster in the year subsequent to that in which the court was finally satisfied he was drowned. When interrogated with the strictness of judicial inquiry, and under the awe of an oath, he recollected himself better, and retracted what he had formerly asserted, apologising for his inaccuracy, by telling the judges, “ A man will say what he will not swear.' By many he was much censured, and it was maintained, that every gentleman would be as attentive to truth without the sanction of an oath as with it. Dr. Johnson, though he himself was distinguished