His hand was cut off: he was then pulled up; but the rope broke, and he was forced to lie an hour on the ground, till another rope was brought from Perth, the execution being in a wood at some distance, at the place where the murders were committed. 'There,' said my lord, 'I see the hand of Providence.' I was really happy here. I saw in this nobleman the best dispositions and best principles; and I saw him, in my mind's eye, to be the representative of the ancient Boyds of Kilmarnock. I was afraid he might have urged drinking, as, I believe, he used formerly to do, but he drank port and water out of a large glass himself, and let us do as we pleased. He went with us to our rooms at night; said, he took the visit very kindly; and told me, my father and he were very old acquaintances; that I now knew the way to Slains, and he hoped to see me there again.
I had a most elegant room; but there was a fire in it which blazed; and the sea, to which my windows looked, roared; and the pillows were made of the feathers of some sea-fowl, which had to me a disgreeable smell: so that, by all these causes, I was kept awake a good while. I saw, in imagination, Lord Errol's father, Lord Kilmarnock (who was beheaded on Tower Hill in 1746), and I was somewhat dreary. But the thought did not last long, and I fell asleep.
Wednesday, 25th August
We got up between seven and eight, and found Mr Boyd in the dining-room, with tea and coffee before him, to give us breakfast. We were in an admirable humour. Lady Errol had given each of us a copy of an ode by Beattie, on the birth of her son, Lord Hay. Mr Boyd asked Dr Johnson, how he liked it. Dr Johnson, who did not admire it, got off very well, by taking it out, and reading the second and third stanzes of it with much melody. This, without his saying a word, pleased Mr Boyd. He observed, however, to Dr Johnson, that the expression as to the family of Errol,
A thousand years have seen it shine compared with what went before,
was an anticlimax, and that it would have been better
Ages have seen, etc.
Dr Johnson said, 'So great a number as a thousand is better. Dolus latet in universalibus. Ages might be only two ages.' He talked of the advantage of keeping up the connections of relationship, which produce much kindness. 'Every man,' said he, 'who comes into the world, has need of friends. If he has to get them for himself, half his life is spent, before his merit is known. Relations are a man's ready friends who support him. When a man is in real distress, he flies into the arms of his relations. An old lawyer, who had much experience in making wills, told me, that after people had deliberated long, and thought of many for their executors, they settled at last by fixing on their relations. This shews the universality of the principle.'
I regretted the decay of respect for men of family, and that a Nabob now would carry an election from them. JOHNSON. 'Why, sir, the Nabob will carry it by means of his wealth, in a country where money is highly valued, as it must be where nothing can be had without money; but, if it comes to personal preference, the man of family will always carry it. There is generally a scoundrelism about a low man.' Mr Boyd said, that was a good ism.
I said, I believed mankind were happier in the ancient feudal state of subordination, than they are in the modern state of independency. JOHNSON. To be sure, the CHIEF was: but we must think of the number of individuals. That THEY were less happy, seems plain; for that state from which all escape as soon as they can, and to which none return after they have left it, must be less happy; and this is the case with the state of dependance on a chief or great man.'
I mentioned the happiness of the French in their subordination, by the reciprocal benevolence and attachment between the great and those in lower rank. Mr Boyd gave us an instance of their gentlemanly spirit. An old Chevalier de Malthe, of ancient noblesse, but in low circumstances, was in a coffee-house at Paris, where was Julien, the great manufacturer at the Gobelins, of the fine tapestry, so much distinguished both for the figures and the colours. The chevalier's carriage was very old. Says Julien, with a plebeian insolence, 'I think, sir, you had better have your carriage new painted.' The chevalier looked at him with indignant contempt, and answered, 'Well, sir. you may take it home and DYE it!' All the coffee-house rejoiced at Julien's confusion.
We set out about nine. Dr Johnson was curious to see one of those structures which northern antiquarians call a Druid's temple. I had a recollection of one at Strichen; which I had seen fifteen years ago: so we went four miles out of our road, after passing Old Deer, and went thither. Mr Fraser, the proprietor, was at home, and shewed it to us. But I had augmented it in my mind; for all that remains is two stones set up on end, with a long one laid upon them, as was usual and one stone at a little distance from them. That stone was the capital one of the circle which surrounded what now remains.