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· [The much respected Mr. Fact is as singularly happy in his conjectures with respect to our motives as, we have no doubt, he is accurate in detailing his instructive dream.-S. S.)
JOHNSON'S SECOND JOURNEY.
I had for a fortnight cruised throughout the Archipelago of the Hebridean Islands, and roamed along the rocky shores of those parts of the mainland lying nearest to them--one night perhaps reposing on the sofa of a steam-boat, another lying wrapped up in the cloak which barely sheltered me from the inclemency that a Lowlander experiences in an open boat, even in the month of June, and on a third braving the dangers of a Skye coverlet, though without courage to commit myself to the hospitality of sheets, damp if they were clean, or dirty if they were dry,--when, on a Saturday evening, I laid myself down with a feeling of satisfied snugness in one of the clean, cozy, and even elegant cots of the princely galley not over ambitiously named “ The United Kingdom.” Taken on board after a weary waiting for many hours in a little skiff, and on a dangerous sea, and welcomed with the kindness of long friendship by one whom I had only once met, I felt as comfortable as gratified wishes, disappointed fears, a good supper, and a pint of what, in spite of a fortnight's disloyal devotion to whisky, I still owned to be the liege lord of my potations, could make me. A tolerable seaman, and a very tired wight, it may be needless to say that I was asleep in three seconds, and as soundly so as obliviousness could make me. How long I remained in a state of apparent unconsciousness, I cannot pretend to guess, for it was only upon the magical words“ Cape Wrath " being articulated by some one who stood beside me, that I became aware that I had dreamed. Unlike professional visionaries, however, I perfectly remember that I did not, in the course of the night, for one instant suppose myself transported from the place where I lay, for the purpose of seeing or hearing what I was afterwards to narrate. My imagination, it would seem, partook of the satisfaction of my bodily frame, and was too well pleased with my quarters to compel me to change them.
The position of my cot was such, that one of the skirts of my coat, then lying on the sofa, the seat of which was
on a level with the tier of beds that I slept in, had been drawn on to the coverlet as I passed over it to bed. In the pocket of this was a miniature edition of the Journal of Dr. Samuel Johnson to the Western Islands, which had, together with more modern productions relating to these, been the only thing in the shape of books that I had seen for many days. I had, first from a desire to master its contents, and compare its statements, and weigh its opinions, amid the very localities regarding which they were conversant; and, next, from admiration of its author's vigour, and wonder at his admixture of error and accumen; and, lastly, from having nothing else to read; perused and re-perused every page of this celebrated work again and again during the two preceding weeks. I had almost begun to forget its arrogance, and even to become enamoured of its pompous if massive and magnificent style; and, while I longed in vain for the hospitalities which in his time were common in the Highlands, I thought them but indifferently replaced by those crude and often unsuccessful attempts at copying the general conveniences which, in the Lowlands, supersede the necessity of these that I had recently had opportunities of observing. In short, I admired his book-envied his introductionsand would even have suffered a resemblance to Boswell, as remote as I was myself from Johnson, for companionship's sake, after the solitariness felt in uninterrupted disappointments in weather and in wishes. From a spirit of retaliation against dirty innkeepers-extortionating boatmen-undecided skippers-and proud but yet ignorant chance local informants, I was disposed to be somewhat enthusiastic in the cause of the lexicographer, and severe upon the vulgarities in the animadversions—even if provoked-of the « Reverend Donald M‘Nicol of Lismore.” In this state of mind, then, it was not wonderful, if not that the ghost of the great man itself should complacently visit me, a willing, and devoted, and newly acquired disciple,-at least that I should believe, in my deep and eager slumber, that he actually appeared to me in proper person, at the side of the very bed where I lay. This I then as assuredly and distinctly did as I do now that I hold a pen in my hand and am awake to use it. With a shake that communicated a kindly feeling in its very roughness, he awoke me. At once I knew who and what he was. I could not mistake the person, which was “ large, robust I may say, approaching to the gigantic, and grown unwieldy from corpulency.” The “ coun
tenance, 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;” “ the head, that sometimes shook with a kind of motion like the effects of a palsy;” nor the “ loud voice and slow and deliberate utterance, which no doubt gave some additional weight to the sterling metal of his conversation.” * “ He wore a full suit of plain brown clothes, with twisted hair buttons of the same colour, a large bushy grey wig, a plain shirt, black worsted stockings," beneath travelling boots, and over his arm carried the identical brown cloth greatcoat, which had the pockets that were so wide as almost to have held the “ two folio volumes of his dictionary." + In his hand he wielded an English oak stick, but whether the same that he had stolen from him in Skye " for the sake of the timber,” I I am not able to say, although I think it unlikely that it was ever returned where firewood is so scarce.
After a moment's hesitation, he began to speak, and his words were too emphatically imprinted on my memory to be easily forgotten. He said—“ It has come to my knowledge, Sir, that you have made it a business, and yet have found it a pleasure, to compare the observations I made and recorded on the condition of the Western Highlands and Islands of Scotland, and of their native population, with those opinions your own limited opportunities of remark have enabled you to form. Sir, I am glad to learn that one of your years has had spirit enough to conceive, and industry sufficient to execute, even a portion of your plan. He who forms a project, and sets earnestly about its execution, gives evidence of power as well as of will, although he may not be able to fulfil it. Intelligence may be accumulated by reading alone, but wisdom can seldom be acquired but through the media of comparison and experience. I learn farther, Sir, that you have confessed something like astonishment at finding much that yet is accurate in my remarks, notwithstanding the lapse of four-and-fifty years, and the changes that have taken place upon the surface of society. Sir, you have doubtless done involuntary homage to the substantial truth, if not to the laborious and topographical accuracy of my descriptions of the natural and artificial objects worthy of the notice I have taken of them. Learn,
then, that greater and more obvious changes may take place in the space of half a century in the aspect of these than with any of the more remote causes of peculiarities in manners or national idiosyncrasy. But, Sir, I shall be glad to hear what you have to say. Speak out, Sir.”
I confess frankly that my wonted self-possession had by this time well nigh forsaken me, and I felt that my whole frame partook in some degree of the paralysis which affected my tongue. “Well, Sir! Can you speak? The man who is too timid to enunciate his opinions, is too feeble to form any worthy of articulation. Know, Sir—” These words thundering in my ears served to recall me to my senses, and I attempted to get out of bed, stammering an apology, before this ominous sentence could be finished.--Remain where you are, Sir. Lie still. It is not what you have written I wish to become acquainted with; but it is with what you have seen and what you have thought. It needs not the aid of caligraphy to secure all that is worth any thing in the latter; and it is through the medium of his cogitation that I can best and most briefly perceive of what a man has been a spectator. To fill up the memory with mere resemblances is idle. Where there may be much to recollect, and the faculty is limited—the short-hand of ideas occasioned by the scene, is a better memorial than the landscape of literal remembrance, or the laboured description of a portion of reminiscence perhaps too severely taxed.”
By this time, I had gathered confidence, as well as the blankets round me, and, seated on the mattress, with a self-possession reflected back from himself, I went on to say--" The observations I have been able to make, Doctor, not merely in the course of the tour upon which I am at present engaged, but during many a lonely pedestrian peregrination in the Highland districts for a succession of summers since my boyhood, are certainly, in their main features, strikingly in accordance with the general tenor of your own. I have been, I confess, frequently astonished at the depth and profundity, not merely of your remarks on objects present, but of your speculations as to the changes likely to occur in the communities among which for a while you sojourned. The power of prophecy, without the ostentation of prediction, seems to have been yours—not, certainly, the presence of inspiration, but the foreknowledge which results from deduction, and the conviction that certain
classes of causes must ever give occasion to certain phenomena in the progress of society. To perceive that you anticipated modern political economists in your views of the influence of middlemen * of capital interposed between landholders and the peasantry, surprised me not less than to find information as novel as it is accurate scattered throughout your pages, and discourse + upon practical subjects, apparently the most alien from your pursuits or predelictions. But what I felt most astonishment at was, even to meet with otherwise intelligent Highlanders who had never heard of the existence of your volume-knowing your name only as that of lexicographer, and ignorant whether you were of the “ Johnstons of Ardnamurchan or of Mull.' I They yet spontaneously and unconsciously confirmed many of your statements, participated in a number of your views, and, regarding certain vices bequeathed by the feudal system as national evils, referred to the slow operation of causes long since indicated by you, as furnishing the only sure, if tedious remedies. Others, indeed, I have conversed with, but a proportion of them were Lowlanders, in the same ratio nearly that that denomination of Scotsmen bears to the descendants of the Celt, who could hardly find language foul enough to express their indignation and contempt at your volume upon Scotland—they would have me believe, but at your general oral and ridiculous abuse of that country, as I would rather infer.”
“ The distinction of motive is likely enough to exist,” interposed the Dr. “ He who cannot refute opinions, will first allege general inaccuracy, and next find refuge in general abuse. But have you met with any Highlanders who have participated in your sentiments ?” “ With not one," I replied, “ who has, upon every topic embraced in your Tour, coincided with me in opinion. I am unable to account for the obstinacy of acute men in their assertion of belief in the authenticity of the poems attributed to Ossian. With many such, who are Gaelic, or of Gaelic descent, I have pleasure in discoursing on terms of mental communion, but, to a man, they all allege that it is merely necessary to understand their native tongue, to hold the same conviction on the point.” “ This species of self-deception is not uncommon, Sir. What we exclusively possess, and must continue to do so,
* Johnson's Tour.
+ Boswell's Tour.