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Chapter 32 (1 references)

The gentlemen of the clan went away early in the morning to the harbour of Lochbradale, to take leave of some of their friends who were going to America. It was a very wet day. We looked at Rorie More's horn, which is a large cow's horn, with the mouth of it ornamented with silver curiously carved. It holds rather more than a bottle and a half. Every laird of M'Leod, it is said, must, as a proof of his manhood, drink it off full of claret, without laying it down. From Rorie More many of the branches of the family are descended; in particular, the Talisker branch; so that his name is much talked of. We also saw his bow, which hardly any man now can bend, and his glaymore, which was wielded with both hands, and is of a prodigious size. We saw here some old pieces of iron armour, immensely heavy. The broadsword now used, though called the glaymore (i.e. the great sword), is much smaller than that used in Rorie More's time. There is hardly a target now to be found in the Highlands. After the disarming act, they made them serve as covers to their butter-milk barrels; a kind of change, like beating spears into pruning-hooks. Sir George Mackenzie's Works (the folio edition) happened to lie in a window in the dining room. I asked Dr Johnson to look at the Characteres Advocatorum. He allowed him power of mind, and that he understood very well what he tells; but said, that there was too much declamation, and that the Latin was not correct. He found fault with approprinquabant, in the character of Gilmour. I tried him with the opposition between gloria and palma, in the comparison between Gilmour and Nisbet, which Lord Hailes, in his Catalogue of the Lords of Session, thinks difficult to be understood. The words are, penes ittum gloria, penes hunc palma. In a short Account of the Kirk of Scotland, which I published some years ago, I applied these words to the two contending parties, and explained them thus: 'The popular party has most eloquence; Dr Robertson's party most influence.' I was very desirous to hear Dr Johnson's explication. JOHNSON. 'I see no difficulty. Gilmour was admired for his parts; Nisbet carried his cause by the skill in law. Palma is victory.' I observed, that the character of Nicholson, in this book resembled that of Burke: for it is said, in one place, in omnes lusos & jocos se saepe resolvebat; [Footnote: He often indulged himself in every species of pleasantry and wit.] and, in another, sed accipitris more e conspectu aliquando astantium sublimi se protrahens volatu, in praedam miro impetu descendebat. [Footnote: But like the hawk, having soared with a lofty flight to a height which the eye could not reach, he was want to swoop upon his quarry with wonderful rapidity.] JOHNSON. 'No, sir; I never heard Burke make a good joke in my life.' BOSWELL. 'But, sir, you will allow he is a hawk.' Dr Johnson, thinking that I meant this of his joking, said, 'No, sir, he is not the hawk there. He is the beetle in the mire.' I still adhered to my metaphor. 'But he SOARS as the hawk.' JOHNSON. 'Yes, sir; but he catches nothing.' M'Leod asked, what is the particular excellence of Burke's eloquence? JOHNSON. 'Copiousness and fertility of allusion; a power of diversifying his matter, by placing it in various relations. Burke has great information, and great command of language; though, in my opinion, it has not in every respect the highest elegance.' BOSWELL. 'Do you think, sir, that Burke has read Cicero much?' JOHNSON. 'I don't believe it, sir. Burke has great knowledge, great fluency of words, and great promptness of ideas, so that he can speak with great illustration on any subject that comes before him. He is neither like Cicero, nor like Demosthenes, nor like any one else, but speaks as well as he can.'