Thursday, 2d September
I had slept ill. Dr Johnson's anger had affected me much. I considered that, without any bad intention, I might suddenly forfeit his friendship; and was impatient to see him this morning. I told him how uneasy he had made me, by what he had said, and reminded him of his own remark at Aberdeen, upon old friendships being hastily broken off. He owned, he had spoken to me in passion; that he would not have done what he threatened; and that, if he had, he should have been ten times worse than I; that forming intimacies, would indeed be 'limning the water', were they liable to such sudden dissolution; and he added, 'Let's think no more on't.' BOSWELL. 'Well then, sir, I shall be easy. Remember, I am to have fair warning in case of any quarrel. You are never to spring a mine upon me. It was absurd in me to believe you.' JOHNSON. 'You deserved about as much, as to believe me from night to morning.' After breakfast, we got into a boat for Sky. It rained much when we set off, but cleared up as we advanced. One of the boatmen, who spoke English, said, that a mile at land was two miles at sea. I then observed, that from Glenelg to Armidale in Sky, which was our present course, and is called twelve, was only six miles: but this he could not understand. 'Well,' said Dr Johnson, 'never talk to me of the native good sense of the Highlanders. Here is a fellow who calls one mile two, and yet cannot comprehend that twelve such imaginary miles make in truth but six.'
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.
The most ancient seat of the chief of the Macdonalds in the Isle of Sky was at Duntulm, where there are the remains of a stately castle. The principal residence of the family is now at Mugstot, at which there is a considerable building. Sir Alexander and Lady Macdonald had come to Armidale in their way to Edinburgh, where it was necessary for them to be soon after this time.
Armidale is situated on a pretty bay of the narrow sea, which flows between the main land of Scotland and the Isle of Sky. In front there is a grand prospect of the rude mountains of Moidart and Knoidart. Behind are hills gently rising and covered with a finer verdure than I expected to see in this climate, and the scene is enlivened by a number of little clear brooks.
Sir Alexander Macdonald having been an Eton scholar, and being a gentleman of talents, Dr Johnson had been very well pleased with him in London. But my fellow traveller and I were now full of the old Highland spirit, and were dissatisfied at hearing of racked rents and emigration; and finding a chief not surrounded by his clan. Dr Johnson said, 'Sir, the Highland chiefs should not be allowed to go farther south than Aberdeen. A strong-minded man, like Sir James Macdonald, may be improved by an English education; but in general, they will be tamed into insignificance.'
We found here Mr Janes of Aberdeenshire, a naturalist. Janes said he had been at Dr Johnson's in London, with Ferguson the astronomer. JOHNSON. 'It is strange that, in such distant places, I should meet with any one who knows me. I should have thought I might hide myself in Sky.'