MANY, NO DOUBT, HAD READ AS MUCH, AND PERHAPS MORE THAN HE; BUT SCARCE EVER ANY CONCOCTED HIS READING INTO JUDGEMENT AS HE DID.
Baker's Chronicle [ed. 1665, p. 449].
TOUR TO THE HEBRIDES
SAMUEL JOHNSON, LL.D.
Dr. Johnson had for many years given me hopes that we should go together, and visit the Hebrides. Martin's Account of those islands had impressed us with a notion that we might there contemplate a system of life almost totally different from what we had been accustomed to see; and, to find simplicity and wildness, and all the circumstances of remote time or place, so near to our native great island, was an object within the reach of reasonable curiosity. Dr. Johnson has said in his Journey 'that he scarcely remembered how the wish to visit the Hebrides was excited;' but he told me, in summer, 1763, that his father put Martin's Account into his hands when he was very young, and that he was much pleased with it. We reckoned there would be some inconveniencies and hardships, and perhaps a little danger; but these we were persuaded were magnified in the imagination of every body. When I was at Ferney, in 1764, I mentioned our design to Voltaire. He looked at me, as if I had talked of going to the North Pole, and said, 'You do not insist on my accompanying you?'--'No, Sir,'--'Then I am very willing you should go.' I was not afraid that our curious expedition would be prevented by such apprehensions; but I doubted that it would not be possible to prevail on Dr. Johnson to relinquish, for some time, the felicity of a London life, which, to a man who can enjoy it with full intellectual relish, is apt to make existence in any narrower sphere seem insipid or irksome. I doubted that he would not be willing to come down from his elevated state of philosophical dignity; from a superiority of wisdom among the wise, and of learning among the learned; and from flashing his wit upon minds bright enough to reflect it.
He had disappointed my expectations so long, that I began to despair; but in spring, 1773, he talked of coming to Scotland that year with so much firmness, that I hoped he was at last in earnest. I knew that, if he were once launched from the metropolis he would go forward very well; and I got our common friends there to assist in setting him afloat. To Mrs. Thrale in particular, whose enchantment over him seldom failed, I was much obliged. It was, 'I'll give thee a wind.'-' Thou art kind.'--To attract him, we had invitations from the chiefs Macdonald and Macleod; and, for additional aid, I wrote to Lord Elibank, Dr. William Robertson, and Dr. Beattie.
To Dr. Robertson, so far as my letter concerned the present subject, I wrote as follows:
'Our friend, Mr. Samuel Johnson, is in great health and spirits; and, I do think, has a serious resolution to visit Scotland this year. The more attraction, however, the better; and therefore, though I know he will be happy to meet you there, it will forward the scheme, if, in your answer to this, you express yourself concerning it with that power of which you are so happily possessed, and which may be so directed as to operate strongly upon him.'
His answer to that part of my letter was quite as I could have wished. It was written with the address and persuasion of the historian of America. 'When I saw you last, you gave us some hopes that you might prevail with Mr. Johnson to make out that excursion to Scotland, with the expectation of which we have long flattered ourselves. If he could order matters so, as to pass some time in Edinburgh, about the close of the summer session, and then visit some of the Highland scenes, I am confident he would be pleased with the grand features of nature in many parts of this country: he will meet with many persons here who respect him, and some whom I am persuaded he will think not unworthy of his esteem. I wish he would make the experiment. He sometimes cracks his jokes upon us; but he will find that we can distinguish between the stabs of malevolence, and the rebukes of the righteous, which are like excellent oil, and break not the head. Offer my best compliments to him, and assure him that I shall be happy to have the satisfaction of seeing him under my roof.
To Dr. Beattie I wrote, 'The chief intention of this letter is to inform you, that I now seriously believe Mr. Samuel Johnson will visit Scotland this year: but I wish that every power of attraction may be employed to secure our having so valuable an acquisition, and therefore I hope you will without delay write to me what I know you think, that I may read it to the mighty sage, with proper emphasis, before I leave London, which I must do soon. He talks of you with the same warmth that he did last year. We are to see as much of Scotland as we can, in the months of August and September. We shall not be long of being at Marischal College. He is particularly desirous of seeing some of the Western Islands.'