Sunday, 17th October
Being informed that there was nothing worthy of observation in Ulva, we took boat, and proceeded to Inchkenneth, where we were introduced by our friend Col to Sir Allan M'Lean, the chief of his clan, and to two young ladies, his daughters. Inchkenneth is a pretty little island, a mile long, and about half a mile broad, all good land.
As we walked up from the shore, Dr Johnson's heart was cheered by the sight of a road marked with cart-wheels, as on the main land; a thing which we had not seen for a long time. It gave us a pleasure similar to that which a traveller feels, when, whilst wandering on what he fears is a desert island, he perceives the print of human feet.
Military men acquire excellent habits of having all conveniencies about them. Sir Allan M'Lean, who had been long in the army, and had now a lease of the island, had formed a commodious habitation, though it consisted but of a few small buildings, only one story high. He had, in his little apartments, more things than I could enumerate in a page or two.
Among other agreeable circumstances, it was not the least, to find here a parcel of the Caledonian Mercury, published since we left Edinburgh; which I read with that pleasure which every man feels who has been for some time secluded from the animated scenes of the busy world.
Dr Johnson found books here. He bade me buy Bishop Gastrell's Christian Institutes, which was lying in the room. He said, 'I do not like to read any thing on a Sunday, but what is theological; not that I would scrupulously refuse to look at any thing which a friend should shew me in a newspaper; but in general, I would read only what is theological. I read just now some of Drummond's Travels, before I perceived what books were here. I then took up Derham's Physico-Theology.
Every particular concerning this island having been so well described by Dr Johnson, it would be superfluous in me to present the publick with the observations that I made upon it, in my Journal.
I was quite easy with Sir Allan almost instantaneously. He knew the great intimacy that had been between my father and his predecessor, Sir Hector, and was himself of a very frank disposition. After dinner, Sir Allan said he had got Dr Campbell about a hundred subscribers to his Britannia Elucidata (a work since published under the title of A Political Survey of Great Britain), of whom he believed twenty were dead, the publication having been so long delayed. JOHNSON. 'Sir, I imagine the delay of publication is owing to this; that, after publication, there will be no more subscribers, and few will send the additional guinea to get their books: in which they will be wrong; for there will be a great deal of instruction in the work. I think highly of Campbell. In the first place, he has very good parts. In the second place, he has very extensive reading; not, perhaps, what is properly called learning, but history, politicks, and, in short, that popular knowledge which makes a man very useful. In the third place, he has learned much by what is called the vox viva. He talks with a great many people.'
Speaking of this gentleman, at Rasay, he told us, that he one day called on him, and they talked of Tull's Husbandry. Dr Campbell said something. Dr Johnson began to dispute it. 'Come,' said Dr Campbell, 'we do not want to get the better of one another: we want to encrease each other's ideas.' Dr Johnson took it in good part, and the conversation then went on coolly and instructively. His candour in relating this anecdote does him much credit, and his conduct on that occasion proves how easily he could be persuaded to talk from a better motive than 'for victory'.
Dr Johnson here shewed so much of the spirit of a highlander, that he won Sir Allan's heart: indeed, he has shewn it during the whole of our tour. One night, in Col, he strutted about the room with a broad-sword and target, and made a formidable appearance; and, another night, I took the liberty to put a large blue bonnet on his head. His age, his size, and his bushy grey wig, with this covering on it, presented the image of a venerable senachi: and, however unfavourable to the Lowland Scots, he seemed much pleased to assume the appearance of an ancient Caledonian. We only regretted that he could not be prevailed with to partake of the social glass. One of his arguments against drinking, appears to me not convincing. He urged, that, 'in proportion as drinking makes a man different from what he is before he has drunk, it is bad; because it has so far affected his reason'. But may it not be answered, that a man may be altered by it FOR THE BETTER; that his spirits may be exhilarated, without his reason being affected? On the general subject of drinking, however, I do not mean positively to take the other side. I am dubius, non improbus.
In the evening, Sir Allan informed us that it was the custom of his house to have prayers every Sunday; and Miss M'Lean read the evening service, in which we all joined. I then read Ogden's second and ninth sermons on prayer, which, with their other distinguished excellence, have the merit of being short. Dr Johnson said, that it was the most agreeable Sunday he had ever passed; and it made such an impression on his mind, that he afterwards wrote the following Latin verses upon Inchkenneth:
INSULA SANCTI KENNETHI
Parva quidem regio, sed relligione priorum
Nota, Caledonias panditur inter aquas; Voce ubi Cennethus populos domuisse feroces Dicitur, et vanos dedocuisse deos. Huc ego delatus placido per coerula cursu Scire locum volui quid daret itte novi. Illic Leniades humili regnabat in aula, Leniades magnis nobilitatus avis: Una duas habuit casa cum genitore puellas, Quas Amor undarum fingeret esse deas: Non tamen inculti gelidis latuere sub antris, Accola Danubii qualia saevus habet; Mollia non deerant vacuae solatia vitae, Sive libros poscant otia, sive lyram. Luxerat illa dies, legis gens docta supernae Spes hominum ac curas cum procul esse jubet, Ponti inter strepitus sacri non munera cultus Cessarunt; pietas hic quoque cura fuit: Quid quod sacrifici versavit femina libros, Legitimas faciunt pectora pura preces. Quo vagor ulterius? quod ubique requiritur hic est; Hic secura quies, hic et honestus amor.