I listened to this with the eagerness of one who, conscious of being himself fond of wine, is glad to hear that a man of so much genius and good thinking as Browne had the same propensity.
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 6.
We set out, accompanied by Mr. Donald M'Leod, (late of Canna) as our guide. We rode for some time along the district of Slate, near the shore. The houses in general are made of turf, covered with grass. The country seemed well peopled. We came into the district of Strath, and passed along a wild moorish tract of land till we arrived at the shore. There we found good verdure, and some curious whin-rocks, or collections of stones like the ruins of the foundations of old buildings. We saw also three Cairns of considerable size.
About a mile beyond Broadfoot, is Corrichatachin, a farm of Sir Alexander Macdonald's, possessed by Mr. M'Kinnon, who received us with a hearty welcome, as did his wife, who was what we call in Scotland a lady-like woman. Mr. Pennant in the course of his tour to the Hebrides, passed two nights at this gentleman's house. On its being mentioned, that a present had here been made to him of a curious specimen of Highland antiquity, Dr. Johnson said, 'Sir, it was more than he deserved; the dog is a Whig.'
We here enjoyed the comfort of a table plentifully furnished, the satisfaction of which was heightened by a numerous and cheerful company; and we for the first time had a specimen of the joyous social manners of the inhabitants of the Highlands. They talked in their own ancient language, with fluent vivacity, and sung many Erse songs with such spirit, that, though Dr. Johnson was treated with the greatest respect and attention, there were moments in which he seemed to be forgotten. For myself, though but a Lowlander, having picked up a few words of the language, I presumed to mingle in their mirth, and joined in the choruses with as much glee as any of the company. Dr. Johnson being fatigued with his journey, retired early to his chamber, where he composed the following Ode, addressed to Mrs. Thrale:--
Permeo terras, ubi nuda rupes Saxeas miscet nebulis ruinas, Torva ubi rident steriles coloni Rura labores.
Pervagor gentes, hominum ferorum Vita ubi nullo decorata cultu Squallet informis, tugurique fumis Foeda latescit.
Inter erroris salebrosa longi, Inter ignotae strepitus loquelae, Quot modis mecum, quid agat, requiro, Thralia dulcis?
Seu viri curas pia nupta mulcet, Seu fovet mater sobolem benigna, Sive cum libris novitate pascet Sedula mentem;
Sit memor nostri, fideique merces, Stet fides constans, meritoque blandum Thraliae discant resonare nomen Littora Skiae.
Scriptum in Skia, Sept. 6, 1773.
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 7.
Dr. Johnson was much pleased with his entertainment here. There were many good books in the house: Hector Boethius in Latin; Cave's Lives of the Fathers; Baker's Chronicle; Jeremy Collier's Church History; Dr. Johnson's small Dictionary; Craufurd's Officers of State, and several more:--a mezzotinto of Mrs. Brooks the actress (by some strange chance in Sky), and also a print of Macdonald of Clanranald, with a Latin inscription about the cruelties after the battle of Culloden, which will never be forgotten.
It was a very wet stormy day; we were therefore obliged to remain here, it being impossible to cross the sea to Rasay.
I employed a part of the forenoon in writing this Journal. The rest of it was somewhat dreary, from the gloominess of the weather, and the uncertain state which we were in, as we could not tell but it might clear up every hour. Nothing is more painful to the mind than a state of suspence, especially when it depends upon the weather, concerning which there can be so little calculation. As Dr. Johnson said of our weariness on the Monday at Aberdeen, 'Sensation is sensation:' Corrichatachin, which was last night a hospitable house, was, in my mind, changed to-day into a prison. After dinner I read some of Dr. Macpherson's Dissertations on the Ancient Caledonians. I was disgusted by the unsatisfactory conjectures as to antiquity, before the days of record. I was happy when tea came. Such, I take it, is the state of those who live in the country. Meals are wished for from the cravings of vacuity of mind, as well as from the desire of eating. I was hurt to find even such a temporary feebleness, and that I was so far from being that robust wise man who is sufficient for his own happiness. I felt a kind of lethargy of indolence. I did not exert myself to get Dr. Johnson to talk, that I might not have the labour of writing down his conversation. He enquired here if there were any remains of the second sight. Mr. M'Pherson, Minister of Slate, said, he was resolved not to believe it, because it was founded on no principle. JOHNSON. 'There are many things then, which we are sure are true, that you will not believe.