Thursday, 14th October
When Dr Johnson awaked this morning, he called, 'Lanky!' having, I suppose, been thinking of Langton; but corrected himself instantly, and cried, 'Bozzy!' He has a way of contracting the names of his friends. Goldsmith feels himself so important now, as to be displeased at it. I remember one day, when Tom Davies was telling that Dr Johnson said, 'We are all in labour for a name to Goldy's play,' Goldsmith cried, 'I have often desired him not to call me Goldy.'
Between six and seven we hauled our anchor, and set sail with a fair breeze; and, after a pleasant voyage, we got safely and agreeably into the harbour of Tobermorie, before the wind rose, which it always has done, for some days, about noon.
Tobermorie is an excellent harbour. An island lies before it, and it is surrounded by a hilly theatre. The island is too low, otherwise this would be quite a secure port; but, the island not being a sufficient protection, some storms blow very hard here. Not long ago, fifteen vessels were blown from their moorings. There are sometimes sixty or seventy sail here: to-day there were twelve or fourteen vessels. To see such a fleet was the next thing to seeing a town. The vessels were from different places; Clyde, Campbelltown, Newcastle, etc. One was returning to Lancaster from Hamburgh. After having been shut up so long in Col, the sight of such an assemblage of moving habitations, containing such a variety of people, engaged in different pursuits, gave me much gaiety of spirit. When we had landed, Dr Johnson said, 'Boswell is now all alive. He is like Antaeus; he gets new vigour whenever he touches the ground.' I went to the top of a hill fronting the harbour, from whence I had a good view of it. We had here a tolerable inn. Dr Johnson had owned to me this morning, that he was out of humour. Indeed, he shewed it a good deal in the ship; for when I was expressing my joy on the prospect of our landing in Mull, he said, he had no joy, when he recollected that it would be five days before he should get to the main land. I was afraid he would now take a sudden resolution to give up seeing Icolmkill. A dish of tea, and some good bread and butter, did him service, and his bad humour went off. I told him, that I was diverted to hear all the people whom we had visited in our tour, say, 'Honest man! he's pleased with every thing; he's always content!' 'Little do they know,' said I. He laughed, and said, 'You rogue!'
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.
Dr Johnson and I sat by ourselves at the inn, and talked a good deal. I told him, that I had found, in Leandro Alberti's Description of Italy, much of what Addison has given us in his Remarks. He said, "The collection of passages from the Classicks has been made by another Italian: it is, however, impossible to detect a man as a plagiary in such a case, because all who set about making such a collection must find the same passages; but, if you find the same applications in another book, then Addison's learning in his Remarks tumbles down. It is a tedious book; and, if it were not attached to Addison's previous reputation, one would not think much of it. Had he written nothing else, his name would not have lived. Addison does not seem to have gone deep in Italian literature: he shews nothing of it in his subsequent writings. He shews a great deal of French learning. There is, perhaps, more knowledge circulated in the French language than in any other. There is more original knowledge in English.' 'But the French,' said I, 'have the art of accommodating literature.' JOHNSON. 'Yes, sir; we have no such book as Moreri's Dictionary.'" BOSWELL. "Their Ana are good.' JOHNSON. 'A few of them are good; but we have one book of that kind better than any of them; Selden's Table-talk. As to original literature, the French have a couple of tragick poets who go round the world, Racine and Corneille, and one comick poet, Moliere.'--BOSWELL. 'They have Fenelon.' JOHNSON. 'Why, sir, Telemachus is pretty well.' BOSWELL. 'And Voltaire, sir.' JOHNSON. 'He has not stood his trial yet And what makes Voltaire chiefly circulate is collection; such as his Universal History.' BOSWELL. 'What do you say to the Bishop of Meaux?' JOHNSON. 'Sir, nobody reads him.' [Footnote: I take leave to enter my strongest protest against this judgement Bossuet I hold to be one of the first luminaries of religion and literature. If there are who do not read him, it is full time they should begin.] He would not allow Massillon and Bourdaloue to go round the world. In general, however, he gave the French much praise for their industry.
He asked me whether he had mentioned, in any of the papers of the Rambler, the description in Virgil of the entrance into Hell, with an application to the press; 'for,' said he, 'I do not much remember them'. I told him, 'No.' Upon which he repeated it:
Vestibulum ante ipsum, primisque in faucibus orci, Luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae; Pallentesque habitant Morbi, tristisque Senectus, Et Metus, et malesuada Fames, et turpis Egestas, Terribiles visu formae; Lethumque, Laborque. [Footnote: Just in the gate, and in the jaws of hell, Revengeful cares, and sullen sorrows dwell; And pale diseases, and repining age; Want, fear, and famine's unresisted rage; Here toils and death, and death's half-brother, sleep, Forms terrible to view, their sentry keep. DRYDEN.]
'Now,' said he, 'almost all these apply exactly to an authour; all these are the concomitants of a printing-house.' I proposed to him to dictate an essay on it, and offered to write it. He said, he would not do it then, but perhaps would write one at some future period.
The Sunday evening that we sat by ourselves at Aberdeen, I asked him several particulars of his early years, which he readily told me; and I wrote them down before him. This day I proceeded in my inquiries, also writing them in his presence. I have them on detached sheets. I shall collect authentick materials for The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL. D.; and, if I survive him, I shall be one who will most faithfully do honour to his memory. I have now a vast treasure of his conversation, at different times, since the year 1762, when I first obtained his acquaintance; and, by assiduous inquiry, I can make up for not knowing him sooner. [Footnote: It is no small satisfaction to me to reflect, that Dr Johnson read this, and, after being apprised of my intention, communicated to me, at subsequent periods, many particulars of his life, which probably could not otherwise have been preserved.]
A Newcastle ship-master, who happened to be in the house, intruded himself upon us. He was much in liquor, and talked nonsense about his being a man for 'Wilkes and Liberty', and against the ministry. Dr Johnson was angry, that 'a fellow should come into OUR company, who was fit for NO company'. He left us soon.
Col returned from his aunt, and told us, she insisted that we should come to her house that night. He introduced to us Mr Campbell, the Duke of Argyle's factor in Tyr-yi. He was a genteel, agreeable man. He was going to Inveraray, and promised to put letters into the post-office for us. I now found that Dr Johnson's desire to get on the main land, arose from his anxiety to have an opportunity of conveying letters to his friends.
After dinner, we proceeded to Dr M'Lean's, which was about a mile from our inn. He was not at home, but we were received by his lady and daughter, who entertained us so well, that Dr Johnson seemed quite happy. When we had supped, he asked me to give him some paper to write letters. I begged he would write short ones, and not EXPATIATE, as we ought to set off early. He was irritated by this, and said, 'What must be done, must be done: the thing is past a joke.' 'Nay, sir,' said I, 'write as much as you please; but do not blame me, if we are kept six days before we get to the main land. You were very impatient in the morning: but no sooner do you find yourself in good quarters, than you forget that you are to move.' I got him paper enough, and we parted in good humour.
Let me now recollect whatever particulars I have omitted. In the morning I said to him, before we landed at Tobermorie, 'We shall see Dr M'Lean, who has written the History of the M'Leans.' JOHNSON. 'I have no great patience to stay to hear the history of the M'Leans. I would rather hear the history of the Thrales.' When on Mull, I said, 'Well, sir, this is the fourth of the Hebrides that we have been upon.' JOHNSON. 'Nay, we cannot boast of the number we have seen. We thought we should see many more. We thought of sailing about easily from island to island; and so we should, had we come at a better season; but we, being wise men, thought it would be summer all the year where we were. However, sir, we have seen enough to give us a pretty good notion of the system in insular life.'
Let me not forget, that he sometimes amused himself with very slight reading; from which, however, his conversation shewed that he contrived to extract some benefit. At Captain M'Lean's he read a good deal in The Charmer, a collection of songs.