I mentioned Hawthornden's Cypress-grove, where it is said that the world is a mere show; and that it is unreasonable for a man to wish to continue in the show-room, after he has seen it. Let him go cheerfully out, and give place to other spectators. JOHNSON. 'Yes, Sir, if he is sure he is to be well, after he goes out of it. But if he is to grow blind after he goes out of the show-room, and never to see any thing again; or if he does not know whither he is to go next, a man will not go cheerfully out of a show-room. No wise man will be contented to die, if he thinks he is to go into a state of punishment. Nay, no wise man will be contented to die, if he thinks he is to fall into annihilation: for however unhappy any man's existence may be, he yet would rather have it, than not exist at all. No; there is no rational principle by which a man can die contented, but a trust in the mercy of GOD, through the merits of Jesus Christ.' This short sermon, delivered with an earnest tone, in a boat upon the sea, which was perfectly calm, on a day appropriated to religious worship, while every one listened with an air of satisfaction, had a most pleasing effect upon my mind.
Pursuing the same train of serious reflection, he added that it seemed certain that happiness could not be found in this life, because so many had tried to find it, in such a variety of ways, and had not found it.
We reached the harbour of Portree, in Sky, which is a large and good one. There was lying in it a vessel to carry off the emigrants called the Nestor. It made a short settlement of the differences between a chief and his clan:--
'-----Nestor componere lites Inter Peleiden festinat & inter Atriden.'
We approached her, and she hoisted her colours. Dr. Johnson and Mr. McQueen remained in the boat: Rasay and I, and the rest went on board of her. She was a very pretty vessel, and, as we were told, the largest in Clyde. Mr. Harrison, the captain, shewed her to us. The cabin was commodious, and even elegant. There was a little library, finely bound. Portree has its name from King James the Fifth having landed there in his tour through the Western Isles, Ree in Erse being King, as Re is in Italian; so it is Port Royal. There was here a tolerable inn. On our landing, I had the pleasure of finding a letter from home; and there were also letters to Dr. Johnson and me, from Lord Elibank, which had been sent after us from Edinburgh. His Lordship's letter to me was as follows:--
'I flew to Edinburgh the moment I heard of Mr. Johnson's arrival; but so defective was my intelligence, that I came too late. 'It is but justice to believe, that I could never forgive myself, nor deserve to be forgiven by others, if I was to fail in any mark of respect to that very great genius.--I hold him in the highest veneration; for that very reason I was resolved to take no share in the merit, perhaps guilt, of inticing him to honour this country with a visit.--I could not persuade myself there was any thing in Scotland worthy to have a Summer of Samuel Johnson bestowed on it; but since he has done us that compliment, for heaven's sake inform me of your motions. I will attend them most religiously; and though I should regret to let Mr. Johnson go a mile out of his way on my account, old as I am, I shall be glad to go five hundred miles to enjoy a day of his company. Have the charity to send a council-post with intelligence; the post does not suit us in the country.--At any rate write to me. I will attend you in the north, when I shall know where to find you.
I am, My dear Boswell, Your sincerely Obedient humble servant, 'ELIBANK.'
'August 21st, 1773.'
The letter to Dr. Johnson was in these words:--
'I was to have kissed your hands at Edinburgh, the moment I heard of you; but you was gone.
'I hope my friend Boswell will inform me of your motions. It will be cruel to deprive me an instant of the honour of attending you. As I value you more than any King in Christendom, I will perform that duty with infinitely greater alacrity than any courtier. I can contribute but little to your entertainment; but, my sincere esteem for you gives me some title to the opportunity of expressing it.
'I dare say you are by this time sensible that things are pretty much the same, as when Buchanan complained of being born solo et seculo inerudito. Let me hear of you, and be persuaded that none of your admirers is more sincerely devoted to you, than,
Dear Sir, Your most obedient, And most humble servant, 'ELIBANK.'
Dr. Johnson, on the following Tuesday, answered for both of us, thus:--
'My LORD, 'On the rugged shore of Skie, I had the honour of your Lordship's letter, and can with great truth declare, that no place is so gloomy but that it would be cheered by such a testimony of regard, from a mind so well qualified to estimate characters, and to deal out approbation in its due proportions.