Saturday, 28th August
Dr Johnson had brought a Sallust with him in his pocket from Edinburgh. He gave it last night to Mr M'Aulay's son, a smart young lad about eleven years old. Dr Johnson had given an account of the education at Oxford, in all its gradations. The advantage of being servitor to a youth of little fortune struck Mrs M'Aulay much. I observed it aloud. Dr Johnson very handsomely and kindly said, that, if they would send their boy to him, when he was ready for the university, he would get him made a servitor, and perhaps would do more for him. He could not promise to do more; but would undertake for the servitorship. [Footnote: Dr Johnson did not neglect what he had undertaken. By his interest with the Rev. Dr Adams, master of Pembroke College, Oxford, where he was educated for some time, he obtained a servitorship for young M'Aulay. But it seems he had other views; and I believe went abroad.]
I should have mentioned that Mr White, a Welchman, who has been many years factor (i.e. steward) on the estate of Calder, drank tea with us last night, and upon getting a note from Mr M'Aulay, asked us to his house. We had not time to accept of his invitation. He gave us a letter of introduction to Mr Ferne, master of stores at Fort George. He shewed it to me. It recommended 'two celebrated gentlemen; no less than Dr Johnson, AUTHOR OF HIS DICTIONARY, and Mr Boswell, known at Edinburgh by the name of Paoli'. He said, he hoped I had no objection to what he had written; if I had, he would alter it. I thought it was a pity to check his effusions, and acquiesced; taking care, however, to seal the letter, that it might not appear that I had read it.
A conversation took place, about saying grace at breakfast (as we do in Scotland) as well as at dinner and supper; in which Dr Johnson said, 'It is enough if we have stated seasons of prayer; no matter when. A man may as well pray when he mounts his horse, or a woman when she milks her cow, (which Mr Grant told us is done in the Highlands), as at meals; and custom is to be followed.' [Footnote: He could not bear to have it thought that, in any instance whatever, the Scots are more pious than the English. I think grace as proper at breakfast as at any other meal. It is the pleasantest meal we have. Dr Johnson has allowed the peculiar merit of breakfast in Scotland.]
We proceeded to Fort George. When we came into the square, I sent a soldier with the letter to Mr Ferne. He came to us immediately, and along with him came Major Brewse of the Engineers, pronounced BRUCE. He said he believed it was originally the same Norman name with Bruce. That he had dined at a house in London, where were three Bruces, one of the Irish line, one of the Scottish line, and himself of the English line. He said he was shewn it in the Herald's office spelt fourteen different ways. I told him the different spellings of my name. Dr Johnson observed, that there had been great disputes about the spelling of Shakspear's name; at last it was thought it would be settled by looking at the original copy of his will; but, upon examining it, he was found to have written it himself no less than three different ways.
Mr Ferne and Major Brewse first carried us to wait on Sir Eyre Coote, whose regiment, the 37th, was lying here, and who then commanded the fort. He asked us to dine with him, which we agreed to do.
Before dinner we examined the fort. The Major explained the fortification to us, and Mr Ferne gave us an account of the stores. Dr Johnson talked of the proportions of charcoal and salt-petre in making gunpowder, of granulating it, and of giving it a gloss. He made a very good figure upon these topicks. He said to me afterwards, that he had talked OSTENTATIOUSLY. We reposed ourselves a little in Mr Ferne's house. He had every thing in neat order as in England; and a tolerable collection of books. I looked into Pennant's Tour in Scotland. He says little of this fort; but that 'the barracks, &c. form several streets'. This is aggrandizing. Mr Ferne observed, if he had said they form a square, with a row of buildings before it, he would have given a juster description. Dr Johnson remarked, 'how seldom descriptions correspond with realities; and the reason is, that people do not write them till some time after, and then their imagination has added circumstances'.
We talked of Sir Adolphus Oughton. The Major said, he knew a great deal for a military man. JOHNSON. 'Sir, you will find few men, of any profession, who know more. Sir Adolphus is a very extraordinary man; a man of boundless curiosity and unwearied diligence.'
I know not how the Major contrived to introduce the contest between Warburton and Lowth. JOHNSON. 'Warburton kept his temper all along, while Lowth was in a passion. Lowth published some of Warburton's letters. Warburton drew HIM on to write some very abusive letters, and then asked his leave to publish them; which he knew Lowth could not refuse, after what he had done. So that Warburton contrived that he should publish, apparently with Lowth's consent, what could not but shew Lowth in a disadvantageous light.' [Footnote: Here Dr Johnson gave us part of a conversation held between a Great Personage and him, in the library at the Queen's Palace, to the course of which this contest was considered. I have been at great pains to get that conversation as perfectly preserved as possible. It may perhaps at some future time be given to the publick.]
At three the drum beat for dinner. I, for a little while, fancied myself a military man, and it pleased me. We went to Sir Eyre Coote's, at the governour's house, and found him a most gentleman-like man. His lady is a very agreeable woman, with an uncommonly mild and sweet tone of voice. There was a pretty large company: Mr Ferne, Major Brewse, and several officers. Sir Eyre had come from the East Indies by land, through the Desarts of Arabia. He told us, the Arabs could live five days without victuals, and subsist for three weeks on nothing else but the blood of their camels, who could lose so much of it as would suffice for that time, without being exhausted. He highly praised the virtue of the Arabs; their fidelity, if they undertook to conduct any person; and said, they would sacrifice their lives rather than let him be robbed. Dr Johnson, who is always for maintaining the superiority of civilized over uncivilized men, said, 'Why, sir, I can see no superiour virtue in this. A serjeant and twelve men, who are my guard, will die, rather than that I shall be robbed.' Colonel Pennington, of the 37th regiment, took up the argument with a good deal of spirit and ingenuity. PENNINGTON. 'But the soldiers are compelled to this, by fear of punishment.' JOHNSON. 'Well, sir, the Arabs are compelled by the fear of infamy.' PENNINGTON. 'The soldiers have the same fear of infamy, and the fear of punishment besides; so have less virtue; because they act less voluntarily.' Lady Coote observed very well, that it ought to be known if there was not, among the Arabs, some punishment for not being faithful on such occasions.
We talked of the stage. I observed, that we had not now such a company of actors as in the last age; Wilks, Booth, &c. &c. JOHNSON. 'You think so, because there is one who excels all the rest so much: you compare them with Garrick, and see the deficiency. Garrick's great distinction is his universality. He can represent all modes of life, but that of an easy fine-bred gentleman.' PENNINGTON. 'He should give over playing young parts.' JOHNSON. 'He does not take them now; but he does not leave off those which he has been used to play, because he does them better than any one else can do them. If you had generations of actors, if they swarmed like bees, the young ones might drive off the old. Mrs Gibber, I think, got more reputation than she deserved, as she had a great sameness; though her expression was undoubtedly very fine. Mrs Clive was the best player I ever saw. Mrs Pritchard was a very good one; but she had something affected in her manner: I imagine she had some player of the former age in her eye, which occasioned it.'
Colonel Pennington said, Garrick sometimes failed in emphasis; as for instance, in Hamlet,
I will speak DAGGERS to her; but use NONE,
I will SPEAK daggers to her; but USE none.
We had a dinner of two complete courses, variety of wines, and the regimental band of musick playing in the square, before the window, after it. I enjoyed this day much. We were quite easy and cheerful, Dr Johnson said, 'I shall always remember this fort with gratitude.' I could not help being struck with some admiration, at finding upon this barren sandy point, such buildings, such a dinner, such company: it was like enchantment. Dr Johnson, on the other hand, said to me more rationally, that it did not strike HIM as any thing extraordinary; because he knew, here was a large sum of money expended in building a fort; here was a regiment. If there had been less than what we found, it would have surprized him. HE looked coolly and deliberately through all the gradations: my warm imagination jumped from the barren sands to the splendid dinner and brilliant company, to borrow the expression of an absurd poet,
Without ands or ifs, I leapt from off the sands upon the cliffs.
The whole scene gave me a strong impression of the power and excellence of human art.
We left the fort between six and seven o'clock: Sir Eyre Coote, Colonel Pennington, and several more, accompanied us down stairs, and saw us into our chaise. There could not be greater attention paid to any visitors. Sir Eyre spoke of the hardships which Dr Johnson had before him. BOSWELL. 'Considering what he has said of us, we must make him feel something rough in Scotland.' Sir Eyre said to him, 'You must change your name, sir.' BOSWELL. 'Ay, to Dr M'Gregor.'
We got safely to Inverness, and put up at Mackenzie's inn. Mr Keith, the collector of Excise here, my old acquaintance at Ayr, who had seen us at the fort, visited us in the evening, and engaged us to dine with him next day, promising to breakfast with us, and take us to the English chapel; so that we were at once commodiously arranged.
Not finding a letter here that I expected, I felt a momentary impatience to be at home. Transient clouds darkened my imagination, and in those clouds I saw events from which I shrunk; but a sentence or two of the Rambler's conversation gave me firmness, and I considered that I was upon an expedition for which I had wished for years, and the recollection of which would be a treasure to me for life.