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which Johnson moved-of Burke, Goldsmith, Reynolds, Beauclerk, the Burneys, the Langtons, and the Thrales, all placed before us by the recording pen of Boswell, as by the wand of an enchanter! Deeper truths, too, are there, the fruits of sad and bitter experience, “when days were dark and friends were · few," and the struggling adventurer toiled on obscure in the recesses of that mighty Babel which ultimately was filled with his fame.
It is seldom that the true inner life of a man will bear to be laid open to the world, nor would the world be benefitted by the spectacle. Johnson had his secrets unknown to Boswell, but he was subjected to such a scrutiny as is without parallel in literary history, and that he came out of it with so little damage is the best testimony that could be borne to his moral worth. His intellectual character was elevated by the ordeal. Burke said truly that Boswell's work was a greater monument to Johnson's fame than all his writings put together. In fact, it contained the essence or best materials of his writings stript of their cumbrous covering of words. We had the fruit without the rind, the sap without the bark of the tree. No other emi
of his day could have exhibited such an amount of ready colloquial talent, embracing such a variety of knowledge, and joined to original and salient points of character. Burke himself, we suspect, though sometimes magnificent, would have appeared very unequal, very diffuse, and even tedious; and among authors there are absolutely no materials for comparison. Dryden confessed that he “knew not what to say." Addison's taciturnity in general society is well known. Swift loved, and his readers love, his “ little language” to Stella, but his morbid eccentricities and trifling would have appeared contemptible in a journal of his daily life. Pope was sententious and fond of anecdote, but he was too intent on versifying to spend much of his time in talk, while his physical weakness often disposed him to fall asleep at table. We need not run further over the
list of our immortals; the result would be the same. A biographer like Boswell would have ruined any other great man but Johnson.
The chief interest of Boswell's Journal lies in the central figure so fully developed in the sage of Bolt Court exploring the wilds of the Hebrides. The journey was a memorable one for Johnson at the age of sixty-four. His love of London amounted to a passion, yet what greater contrast to Fleet Street and the Strand than the bleak shores of Skye and Mull? He was fond of his ease, and travelling over mountains and bogs, with scarce a bridle-track, or crossing stormy friths and arms of the sea in open boats, was attended with danger as well as inconvenience. The season, too, was far advanced; but the drenching rains and cloudy skies he set at defiance, and as for the shelter of woods, he was probably better pleased to be with. out it, that he might have license to rail at the want of trees. His stout heart (that never grew old) and his strong desire to sce new modes of life, with a malicious hope that he might detect and demolish the whole fabric of Ossian and Macpherson, irresistibly impelled him to the north. Perhaps a lingering touch of Jacobitism (“scotched but not killed” by his pension), and a dim veneration for the mysterious second sight, mingled with the other motives. In his youth he had indulged visions of the “ showery west," and of sainted Iona, where
“ The mighty kings of three fair realms are laid."
And in his age he was to realize those boyish dreams. His reception did not belie the ancient hospitality of the country, His fame had preceded him wherever he went; and lairds, tenants, and clergy, with ladies, the flower of Hebridean society, vied with each other in paying him attention. The clergy, indeed, he would not hear preach. Indolence and High Churchism veiled to himself under the guise of religious principle, kept him away from the precincts of a Presbyterian church; but he
delighted to find the laborious ministers of the west learned, pious, and estimable men, who, like the Scotch professors, listened meekly to the roll of his sonorous sentences, and bore his reproofs and contradictions in silence.
The grand external features of the country made little impression on the travellers. Coleridge said the five finest things in Scotland were-Edinburgh, the ante-chamber of the Fall of Foyers, Loch Lomond, the Trosachs, and the view of the Hebrides from some point he had forgotten, but which was doubtless the first view, approaching either from east or west, of that farstretching archipelago of dark, variously-shaped islands, rising out of the sea, and striking the traveller with a sensation of delighted surprise, and of wild and lonely beauty. Johnson saw four of these five wonders, but he was vastly indifferent and incurious about such things. His imperfect eyesight interfered with his appreciation of scenery, and it required some direct human interest or powerful associations to rouse him to intellectual activity. Great, however, was the anxiety evinced as to what impression had been made upon him by his Highland tour. How was he to treat Scotland ? What was he to say of Ossian ? His “ Journey," a brief, unpretending narrative, was read with extraordinary avidity, particularly in Scotland. It set innumerable tongues and pens to work, abusing the writer for illiberality, but it also set many of the lairds to work, planting and improving their domains. The work was deficient in information, and in information of a kind that could easily have been obtained, but this Johnson was too indolent to seek; and apart from him, Boswell could do little or nothing—the mistletoe could not spread without the support of the oak. Nothing can be more meagre than those parts of his Journal, as the purely descriptive passages, the account of Charles Edward's escape from Skye, &c., in which Boswell had not Johnson to lean upon. His whole faculties apparently were engrossed by this one theme. Johnson's volume, however, gave an excellent sketch
of the old feudal, or rather, patriarchal system of the Highlands. and it completed the topography of Pennant, by adding views of society and manners to the details of the antiquary and naturalist. His brief notices of some of the solitary scenes through which they journeyed—the mountains and green pastoral valleys on the main-land—or the sounds and bays, and boating excursions along the rocky coasts—or the princely reception that awaited the travellers at the island courts of Rasay and Dunve. gan-possess all the interest and novelty of romantic narrative. These short picturesque passages, with the reflections suggested at Inchkenneth and Iona, are stamped with true poetic feeling, and show how clearly and vividly the light of imagination burned in Johnson to the last. The petty cavils and uncouth prejudices which mar the early part of his “ Journey," melt and disappear in these Highland solitudes, which he regarded as the chosen retreats of ancient piety, loyalty, and hospitality. Nor was the company he met unworthy of the scene. Johnson's genius was not dramatic; but his description of Flora Macdonald, of young Coll, of the veteran Sir Allan Maclean and his daughters, of Macleod, and of the joyous, overflowing household of Rasay, forms a gallery of distinct and happy portraits. Such views of insular life, so near home, were new to the English people; and so much were they interested in the history and character of Coll, that the death of the young islander was felt as a personal and private grief throughout the kingdom.
Boswell's Journal is, of course, pitched in a lower key. How far he was justified in relating all he saw and heard in the course of the Tour, is a question not likely to be very nicely weighed by those who have derived so mucn genuine pleasure from his revelations. We judge the case differently from the parties he visited, many of whom were dragged into unwelcome and unenviable notoriety. Johnson perused most of the Journal in manuscript; his vanity was flattered, but there is no reason to believe that he ever suspected the work would be published in
its original shape. Boswell was afterwards sensible that he had told too much ; and he endeavoured, though with very indifferent success, to be more guarded as he advanced with his “Magnum Opus.” He certainly improved in style and general correctness as a writer; but it is marvellous that he should have escaped the usually potent effects of Highland wrath, in consequence of some of his disclosures.
If the rough and haughty laird of Lochbuy could have foreseen how he was to be repre-. resented by his visitor, he would assuredly have thrust him into the dungeon of his old castle, though it should have cost him a second trial and fine; and the chief of the Macdonalds might have been tempted to “sequestrate" him, like another Lady Grange, to Heskir or St. Kilda. The veriest domestic
could not have acted worse than he did on some occasions; but for all such offences, one excuse may be made—it was Boswell's way; ho was unconscious of the wrong he inflicted; he was every day exhibiting his own sores and buffets ; and though a wiser man would have left unsaid much that he has written, a wiser map would not have made so entertaining a book.
Notwithstanding the novelties of their journey, Johnson said they had gone too late to the Hebrides to see a people of peculiar appearance and a system of antiquated life: “ the Highlanders were fast losing their distinction, and hastening to mingle with the general community.” The country was in a state of transition, confusion, and discontent. The old military system was broken
up, chief and clan were disunited, and emigration was in full progress. Every where there seemed to be, as in the poet's dream
lurid light, a trampling throng
Sense of intolerable wrong.” The last gleams of romance in Highland life had been extinguished at Culloden. The chief no longer boasted his coshir or retinue, or gave great banquets in his strong tower while the senachie recited his ancestral glories and exploits, or sallied forth