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Fàilte! . Johnson and Boswell in Scotland The Highlands and the Islands. The Counties. Boswell, James - born October 29, 1740, Edinburgh, Scotland Died May 19, 1795, London, England

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Johnson and Boswell in Scotland

The Highlands and the Islands

james boswell
Boswell, James - born October 29, 1740, Edinburgh, ScotlandDied May 19, 1795, London, England

Friend and biographer of Samuel Johnson (Life of Johnson, 2 vol., 1791). The 20th-century publication of his journals proved him to be also one of the world's greatest diarists.

Boswell's father, Alexander Boswell, advocate and laird of Auchinleck in Ayrshire from 1749, was raised to the bench with the judicial title of Lord Auchinleck in 1754. The Boswells were anold and well-connected family, and James was subjected to the strong pressure of an ambitious family.

James Boswell
samuel johnson
Samuel Johnson
  • Dr Samuel Johnson September 7 (18), 1709December 13, 1784 , often referred to simply as Dr Johnson, was one of England's greatest literary figures: a critic, poet, essayist, biographer and lexicographer.
where have they been
Inch Keith

St.Andrews

Aberbrothick

Montrose

Aberdeen

Slanes Castle, the Buller of Buchan

Banff

Elgin

Fores, Calder, Fort George

Inverness

Loch Ness

Fall of Fiers

Fort Augustus

Anoch

Where have they been?
where else did they go
Glensheals

The Highlands

Glenelg

Skye, Armadale (Armidel)

Coriatachan (Skye)

Raasay

Dunvegan

Ullinish

Talisker

Ostig

Col

Grissippol

Castle of Col

Mull

Ulva

Where else did they go?
elgin
Boswell:The bishop’s house, and those of the other clergy, which are still pretty entire, do not seem to have been proportioned to the magnificence of the cathedral, which has been of great extent, and had very fine carved work. The ground within the walls of the cathedral is employed as a burying-place. The family of Gordon have their vault here; but it has nothing grand.

Johnson: Let us not however make too much haste to despise our neighbours. Our own cathedrals are mouldering by unregarded dilapidation. It seems to be part of the despicable philosophy of the time to despise monuments of sacred magnificence, and we are in danger of doing that deliberately, which the Scots did not do but in the unsettled state of an imperfect constitution. Those who had once uncovered the cathedrals never wished to cover them again; and being thus made useless, they were, first neglected, and perhaps, as the stone was wanted, afterwards demolished.

Elgin
and where else
Inch Kenneth

Icolmkill (Iona)

Invarary, Loch Lomond

Glasgow

Back to Edinburgh

And where else?
about the higlands
Boswell:After breakfast, he (Johnson) said to me, ‘A Highland chief should now endeavour to do every thing to raise his rents, by means of the industry of his people. Formerly, it was right for him to have his house full of idle fellows; they were his defenders, his servants, his dependants, his friends. Now they may be better employed.

Johnson:That the primitive manners are continued where the primitive language is spoken, no nation will desire me to suppose, for the manners of mountaineers are commonly savage, but they are rather produced by their situation than derived from their ancestors. ... Mountaineers are thievish, because they are poor, and having neither manufactures nor commerce, can grow richer only by robbery.

About the Higlands
more on the highlands
Boswell: The system of things is now so much altered, that the family cannot have influence but by riches, because it has no longer the power of ancient feudal times. An individual of a family may have it; but it cannot now belong to a family, unless you could have a perpetuity of men with the same views.

Johnson: They regularly plunder their neighbours, for their neighbours are commonly their enemies; and having lost that reverence for property, by which the order of civil life is preserved, soon consider all as enemies, whom they do not reckon as friends, and think themselves licensed to invade whatever they are not obliged to protect.

More on the Highlands
loch ness
Loch Ness
  • Johnson: Civility seems part of the national character of Highlanders. Every chieftain is a monarch, and politeness, the natural product of royal government, is diffused from the laird through the whole clan. But they are not commonly dexterous: their narrowness of life confines them to a few operations, and they are accustomed to endure little wants more than to remove them.

Lough Ness, though not twelve miles broad, is a very remarkable diffusion of water without islands. It fills a large hollow between two ridges of high rocks, being supplied partly by the torrents which fall into it on either side, and partly, as is supposed, by springs at the bottom. Its water is remarkably clear and pleasant, and is imagined by the natives to be medicinal. We were told, that it is in some places a hundred and forty fathoms deep, a profundity scarcely credible, and which probably those that relate it have never sounded. Its fish are salmon, trout, and pike.

armadale armidel on skye
Armadale / Armidel on Skye
  • Johnson: We landed at Armidel, where we were met on the sands by Sir Alexander Macdonald, who was at that time there with his lady, preparing to leave the island and reside at Edinburgh.
  • Boswell: We reached the shore of Armidale before one o’clock. Sir Alexander M’Donald came down to receive us. He and his lady (formerly Miss Bosville of Yorkshire) were then in a house built by a tenant at this place, which is in the district of Slate, the family mansion here having been burned in Sir Donald Macdonald’s time.
talisker on skye
Talisker on Skye
  • Johnson: Talisker is the place beyond all that I have seen, from which the gay and the jovial seem utterly excluded; and where the hermit might expect to grow old in meditation, without possibility of disturbance or interruption. It is situated very near the sea, but upon a coast where no vessel lands but when it is driven by a tempest on the rocks. Towards the land are lofty hills streaming with water-falls. The garden is sheltered by firs or pines, which grow there so prosperously, that some, which the present inhabitant planted, are very high and thick.
isles of mull and iona
Boswell:We sent to hire horses to carry us across the island of Mull to the shore opposite to Inchkenneth, the residence of Sir Allan M’Lean, uncle to young Col, and chief of the M’Leans, to whose house we intended to go the next day. Our friend Col went to visit his aunt, the wife of Dr Alexander M’Lean, a physician, who lives about a mile from Tobermorie.

Johnson:Mr. Boswell's curiosity strongly impelled him to survey Iona, or Icolmkil, which was to the early ages the great school of Theology, and is supposed to have been the place of sepulture for the ancient kings. I, though less eager, did not oppose him....The Isle of Mull is perhaps in extent the third of the Hebrides. It is not broken by waters, nor shot into promontories, but is a solid and compact mass, of breadth nearly equal to its length. Of the dimensions of the larger Islands, there is no knowledge approaching to exactness. I am willing to estimate it as containing about three hundred square miles.

Isles of Mull and Iona
auchinleck
Boswell:My father was not quite a year and a half older than Dr Johnson [...]; and as he had not much leisure to be informed of Dr Johnson’s great merits by reading his works, he had a partial and unfavourable notion of him, founded on his supposed political tenets; which were so discordant to his own, that, instead of speaking of him with respect to which he was entitled, he used to call him ‘a JACOBITE FELLOW’. Knowing all this, I should not have ventured to bring them together, had not my father, out of kindness to me, desired me to invite Dr Johnson his house.I was very anxious that all should be well; and begged of my friend to avoid three topicks, as to which they differed very widely; Whiggism, Presbyterianism, and—Sir John Pringle. He said courteously, ‘I shall certainly not talk on subjects which I am told are disagreeable to a gentleman under whose roof I am; especially, I shall not do so to YOUR FATHER.’

Johnson:From Glasgow we directed our course to Auchinleck, an estate devolved, through a long series of ancestors, to Mr. Boswell's father, the present possessor. In our way we found several places remarkable enough in themselves, but already described by those who viewed them at more leisure, or with much more skill; and stopped two days at Mr. Campbell's, a gentleman married to Mr. Boswell's sister....Lord Auchinleck, who is one of the Judges of Scotland, and therefore not wholly at leisure for domestick business or pleasure, has yet found time to make improvements in his patrimony. He has built a house of hewn stone, very stately, and durable, and has advanced the value of his lands with great tenderness to his tenants.... Auchinleck, which signifies a stony field, seems not now to have any particular claim to its denomination. It is a district generally level, and sufficiently fertile, but like all the Western side of Scotland, incommoded by very frequent rain. It was, with the rest of the country, generally naked, till the present possessor finding, by the growth of some stately trees near his old castle, that the ground was favourable enough to timber, adorned it very diligently with annual plantations.

Auchinleck
return to edinburgh
Boswell: I wished to have shewn Dr Johnson the Duke of Hamilton’s house, commonly called the Palace of Hamilton, which is close by the town. It is an object which, having been pointed out to me as a splendid edifice, from my earliest years, in travelling between Auchinleck and Edinburgh, has still great grandeur in my imagination. My friend consented to stop, and view the outside of it, but could not be persuaded to go into it.We arrived this night at Edinburgh, after an absence of eighty-three days. For five weeks together, of the tempestuous season, there had been no account received of us. I cannot express how happy I was on finding myself again at home.

Johnson: We now returned to Edinburgh, where I passed some days with men of learning, whose names want no advancement from my commemoration, or with women of elegance, which perhaps disclaims a pedant's praise. The conversation of the Scots grows every day less unpleasing to the English; their peculiarities wear fast away; their dialect is likely to become in half a century provincial and rustick, even to themselves. The great, the learned, the ambitious, and the vain, all cultivate the English phrase, and the English pronunciation, and in splendid companies Scotch is not much heard, except now and then from an old Lady.

Return to Edinburgh