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Tour to Though his imagination might incline him to a beHebrid.
lief of the marvellous and the mysterious, his vigorous reason examined the evidence with jealousy. He had a loud voice, and a slow, deliberate utterance, which no doubt gave some additional weight to the sterling metal of his conversation. Lord Pembroke said ouce to me at Wilton, with a happy pleasantry, and some truth, that “ Dr. Johnson's sayings would not appear so extraordinary, were it not for his bow-wow way.” But I admit the truth of this only on some occasions. The Messiah played upon the Canterbury organ is more sublime than when played upon an inferior instrument; but very slight musick will seem grand, when conveyed to the ear through that majestick medium. While, therefore, Dr. Johnson's sayings are read, let his manner be taken along with them. Let it, however, be observed, that the sayings themselves are generally great; that, though he might be an ordinary composer at times, he was for the most part a Handel. His person was large, robust, I may say approaching to the gigantick, and grown unwieldy from corpulency. His countenance was naturally of the cast of an ancient statue, but somewhat disfigured by the scars of that evil, which, it was formerly imagined, the royal touch could cure. He was now in his sixty-fourth year, and was become a little dull of hearing. His sight had always been somewhat weak; yet, so much does mind govern, and even supply the deficiency of organs, that his perceptions were uncommonly quick and accurate. His head, and sometimes also his body, shook with a kind of motion like the effect of a palsy : he appeared to be frequently disturbed by cramps, or convulsive contractions', of
Such they appeared to me; but since the first edition, Sir Joshua Reynolds has observed to me,“ that Dr. Johnson's extraordinary gestures were only habits, in which he indulged himself at certain times. When in company, where he was not free, or when engaged earnestly in conversation, he never gave
the nature of that distemper called St. Vitus's dance. Tour to He wore a full suit of plain brown clothes, with
Hebrid. twisted hair-buttons of the same colour, a large bushy grayish wig, a plain shirt, black worsted stockings, and silver buckles. Upon this tour, when journeying, he wore boots, and a very wide brown cloth great coat, with pockets which might have almost held the two volumes of his folio dictionary, and he carried in his hand a large English oak stick. Let me not be censured for mentioning such minute particulars : every thing relative to so great a man is worth observing. I remember Dr. Adam Smith, in his rhetorical lectures at Glasgow, told us he was glad to know that Milton wore latchets in his shoes instead of buckles. When I mention the oak stick, it is but letting Hercules have his club; and, by and by, my readers will find this stick will bud, and produce a good joke.
This imperfect sketch of “ the combination and the form" of that wonderful man, whom I venerated and loved while in this world, and after whom I gaze with humble hope, now that it has pleased Almighty God to call him to a better world, will serve to introduce to the fancy of my readers the capital object of the following journal, in the course of which I trust they will attain to a considerable degree of acquaintance with him.
His prejudice against Scotland was announced almost as soon as he began to appear in the world of
way to such habits, which proves that they were not involuntary," I still, however, think, that these gestures were involuntary; for surely had not that been the case, he would have restrained them in the publick streets.- BOSWELL. [See ante, vol. i. p. 216, Sir Joshua's reasoning at large ; notwithstanding which, it seems the better opinion that these gestures were the consequence of nervous affections, and not of trick or habit.- Ep.)
(This was no great discovery; the fashion of shoc-buckles was long posterior to Milton's day -ED.]
Tour to letters. In his “ London,” a poem, are the follow
ing nervous lines:
“ For who would leave, unbribed, Hibernia's land ?
Or change the rocks of Scotland for the Strand ?
The truth is, like the ancient Greeks and Romans, he allowed himself to look upon all nations but his own as barbarians : not only Hibernia, and Scotland, but Spain, Italy, and France, are attacked in the same poem.
If he was particularly prejudiced against the Scots, it was because they were more in his way; because he thought their success in England rather exceeded the due proportion of their real merit; and because he could not but see in them that nationality which I believe no liberal-minded Scotsman will deny. He was indeed, if I may
be allowed the phrase, at bottom much of a John Bull; much of a blunt true-born Englishman. There was a stratum of common clay under the rock of marble. He was voraciously fond of good eating; and he had a great deal of that quality called humour, which gives an oiliness and a gloss to every other quality.
I am, I flatter myself, completely a citizen of the world. In my travels through Holland, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Corsica, France, I never felt myself from home; and I sincerely love “ every kindred and tongue and people and nation.” I subscribe to what my late truly learned and philosophical friend Mr. Crosbie said, that the English are better animals than the Scots; they are nearer the sun; their blood is richer, and more mellow : but when I humour any of them in an outrageous contempt of Scotland, I fairly own I treat them as children. And thus 1 have, at some moments, found myself obliged Tour to
Hebrid. to treat even Dr. Johnson.
To Scotland, however, he ventured; and he returned from it in great good humour, with his prejudices much lessened, and with very grateful feelings of the hospitality with which he was treated ; as is evident from that admirable work, his “ Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland,” which, to my utter astonishment, has been misapprehended, even to rancour, by many of my countrymen.
To have the company of Chambers and Scott, he delayed his journey so long, that the court of session, which rises on the 11th of August, was broke up before he got to Edinburgh.
On Saturday the 14th of August, 1773, late in the evening, I received a note from him, that he was arrived at Boyd's inn', at the head of the Canon-gate.
“ Saturday night. “Mr. Johnson sends his compliments to Mr. Boswell, being just arrived at Boyd's.” I went to him directly. He embraced me cordially; and I exulted in the thought that I now had him actually in Caledonia. Mr. Scott's amiable manners, and attachment to our Socrates, at once united me to him. He told me that before I came in, the doctor had unluckily had a bad specimen of Scottish cleanliness. He then drank no fermented liquor. He asked to have his lemonade made sweeter; upon which the waiter, with his greasy fingers, lifted a lump of sugar, and put it into it. The doctor, in indignation, threw it out of the window. Scott said he was afraid he would have knocked the waiter down?. Mr. Johnson [has since] told me that
[The sign of the White Hors. It continued a place from which coaches used to start till the end of the eighteenth century; some twelve or fifteen years ago it was a carrier's inn, and has since been held unworthy even of that occupation, and the sign is taken down. It was a base hovel. -WALTER SCOTT.) "[" The house," says Lord Stowell, “ was kept by a woman, and she was
Tour to such another trick was played him at the house of a Hebrid.
lady in Paris'. He was to do me the honour to lodge under my roof.
roof. I I regretted sincerely that I had not also a room for Mr. Scott. Mr. Johnson and I walked arm-in-arm up the High-street, to my house in James's-court”: it was a dusky night: I could not prevent his being assailed by the evening effluvia of Edinburgh. I heard a late baronet, of some distinction in the political world in the beginning of the present reign, observe, that " walking the streets of Edinburgh at night was pretty perilous, and a good deal odoriferous.” The peril is much abated by the care which the magistrates have taken to enforce the city laws against throwing foul water from the windows; but, from the structure of the houses in the old town, which consist of many stories, in each of which a different family lives, and there being no covered sewers, the odour still continues. A zealous Scotsman would have wished Mr. Johnson to be without one of his five senses upon this occasion. As we marched slowly along, he grumbled in my ear, “ I smell you in the dark !" But he acknowledged that the breadth of the street, and the loftiness of the buildings on each side, made a noble appearance.
My wife had tea ready for him, which it is well known he delighted to drink at all hours, particularly when sitting up late, and of which his able defence against Mr. Jonas Hanway should have obtained him a magnificent reward from the East India company. He showed much complacency upon finding that the called Luckie, which it seems is synonymous to Goody, in England. I, at first, thought the appellation very inappropriate, and that Unlucky would have been better, for Doctor Johnson had a mind to have thrown the waiter, as well as the lemonade, out of the window.”—ED.)
(See post, Nov. 1775.-Ed.)
( “ Boswell," Dr. Johnson writes, “ bas very handsome and spacious rooms, level with the ground at one side of the house, and on the other four stories high."- Lett. i. 109.- ED.)