Wednesday, 29th September
After a very good sleep, I rose more refreshed than I had been for some nights. We were now at but a little distance from the shore, and saw the sea from our windows, which made our voyage seem nearer. Mr M'Pherson's manners and address pleased us much. He appeared to be a man of such intelligence and taste as to be sensible of the extraordinary powers of his illustrious guest. He said to me, 'Dr Johnson is an honour to mankind; and, if the expression may be used, is an honour to religion.'
Col, who had gone yesterday to pay a visit at Camuscross, joined us this morning at breakfast. Some other gentlemen also came to enjoy the entertainment of Dr Johnson's conversation. The day was windy and rainy, so that we had just seized a happy interval for our journey last night. We had good entertainment here, better accommodation than at Corrichatachin, and time enough to ourselves. The hours slipped along imperceptibly. We talked of Shenstone. Dr Johnson said, he was a good layer-out of land, but would not allow him to approach excellence as a poet. He said, he believed he had tried to read all his Love Pastorals, but did not get through them. I repeated the stanza,
'"She gazed as I slowly withdrew; My path I could hardly discern; So sweetly she bade me adieu, I thought that she bade me return."'
He said, 'That seems to be pretty.' I observed that Shenstone, from his short maxims in prose, appeared to have some power of thinking; but Dr Johnson would not allow him that merit. He agreed, however, with Shenstone, that it was wrong in the brother of one of his correspondents to burn his letters; 'for,' said he, 'Shenstone was a man whose correspondence was an honour.' He was this afternoon full of critical severity, and dealt about his censures on all sides. He said, Hammond's Love Elegies were poor things. He spoke contemptuously of our lively and elegant, though too licentious, lyrick bard, Hanbury Williams, and said, 'he had no fame, but from boys who drank with him'.
While he was in this mood, I was unfortunate enough, simply perhaps, but, I could not help thinking, undeservedly, to come within 'the whiff and wind of his fell sword'. I asked him, if he had ever been accustomed to wear a night-cap. He said 'No.' I asked, if it was best not to wear one. JOHNSON. 'Sir, I had this custom by chance, and perhaps no man shall ever know whether it is best to sleep with or without a night-cap.' Soon afterwards he was laughing at some deficiency in the Highlands, and said, 'One might as well go without shoes and stockings.' Thinking to have a little hit at his own deficiency, I ventured to add, 'or without a night-cap, sir'. But I had better have been silent; for he retorted directly, 'I do not see the connection there' (laughing). 'Nobody before was ever foolish enough to ask whether it was best to wear a night-cap or not. This comes of being a little wrong-headed.' He carried the company along with him: and yet the truth is, that if he had always worn a night-cap, as is the common practice, and found the Highlanders did not wear one, he would have wondered at their barbarity; so that my hit was fair enough.