Thursday, 21st October

This morning the subject of politicks was introduced. JOHNSON. 'Pulteney was as paltry a fellow as could be. He was a Whig, who pretended to be honest; and you know it is ridiculous for a Whig to pretend to be honest. He cannot hold it out.' He called Mr Pitt a meteor; Sir Robert Walpole a fixed star. He said, 'It is wonderful to think that all the force of government was required to prevent Wilkes from being chosen the chief magistrate of London, though the liverymen knew he would rob their shops, knew he would debauch their daughters.' [Footnote: I think it incumbent on me to make some observation on this strong satirical sally on my classical companion, Mr Wilkes. Reporting it lately from memory, in his presence, I expressed it thus: 'They knew he would rob their shops, IF HE DURST; they knew he would debauch their daughters, IF HE COULD, which, according to the French phrase, may be said rencherir on Dr Johnson; but on looking into my Journal, I found it as above, and would by no means make any addition. Mr Wilkes received both readings with a good humour that I cannot enough admire. Indeed both he and I (as, with respect to myself, the reader has more than once had occasion to observe in the course of this Journal) are too fond of a bon mot, not to relish it, though we should be ourselves the object of it.

Let me add, in justice to the gentleman here mentioned, that at a subsequent period, he was elected chief magistrate of London, and discharged the duties of that high office with great honour to himself, and advantage to the city. Some years before Dr Johnson died, I was fortunate enough to bring him and Mr Wilkes together; the consequence of which was, that they were ever afterwards on easy and not unfriendly terms. The particulars I shall have great pleasure in relating at large in my Life of Dr Johnson.]

BOSWELL. 'The history of England is so strange, that, if it were not so well vouched as it is, it would hardly be credible.' JOHNSON. 'Sir, if it were told as shortly, and with as little preparation for introducing the different events, as the history of the Jewish kings, it would be equally liable to objections of improbability.' Mr M'Leod was much pleased with the justice and novelty of the thought. Dr Johnson illustrated what he had said, as follows: 'Take, as an instance, Charles the First's concessions to his parliament, which were greater and greater, in proportion as the parliament grew more insolent, and less deserving of trust. Had these concessions been related nakedly, without any detail of the circumstances which generally led to them, they would not have been believed.'

Sir Allan M'Lean bragged, that Scotland had the advantage of England, by its having more water. JOHNSON, 'Sir, we would not have your water, to take the vile bogs which produced it. You have too much! A man who is drowned has more water than either of us'; and then he laughed. (But this was surely robust sophistry: for the people of taste in England, who have seen Scotland, own that its variety of rivers and lakes makes it naturally more beautiful than England, in that respect.) Pursuing his victory over Sir Allan, he proceeded: 'Your country consists of two things, stone and water. There is, indeed, a little earth above the stone in some places, but a very little; and the stone is always appearing. It is like a man in rags; the naked skin is still peeping out.'

He took leave of Mr M'Leod, saying, 'Sir, I thank you for your entertainment, and your conversation.' Mr Campbell, who had been so polite yesterday, came this morning on purpose to breakfast with us, and very obligingly furnished us with horses to proceed on our journey to Mr M'Lean's of Lochbuy, where we were to pass the night. We dined at the house of Dr Alexander M'Lean, another physician in Mull, who was so much struck with the uncommon conversation of Dr Johnson, that he observed to me, 'This man is just a HOGSHEAD of sense.'

Dr Johnson said of the Turkish Spy, which lay in the room, that it told nothing but what every body might have known at that time; and that what was good in it, did not pay you for the trouble of reading to find it.

After a very tedious ride, through what appeared to me the most gloomy and desolate country I had ever beheld, we arrived, between seven and eight o'clock, at Moy, the seat of the Laird of Lochbuy. Buy, in Erse, signifies yellow, and I at first imagined that the loch or branch of the sea here, was thus denominated, in the same manner as the Red Sea; but I afterwards learned that it derived its name from a hill above it, which being of a yellowish hue, has the epithet of Buy.

We had heard much of Lochbuy's being a great roaring braggadocio, a kind of Sir John Falstaff, both in size and manners; but we found that they had swelled him up to a fictitious size, and clothed him with imaginary qualities. Col's idea of him was equally extravagant, though very different: he told us, he was quite a Don Quixote; and said, he would give a great deal to see him and Dr Johnson together. The truth is, that Lochbuy proved to be only a bluff, comely, noisy old gentleman, proud of his hereditary consequence, and a very hearty and hospitable landlord. Lady Lochbuy was sister to Sir Allan M'Lean, but much older. He said to me, 'They are quite Antediluvians.' Being told that Dr Johnson did not hear well, Lochbuy bawled out to him, 'Are you of the Johnstons of Glencro, or of Ardnamurchan?' Dr Johnson gave him a significant look, but made no answer; and I told Lochbuy that he was not Johnston, but Johnson, and that he was an Englishman.

Lochbuy some years ago tried to prove himself a weak man, liable to imposition, or, as we term it in Scotland, a FACILE man, in order to set aside a lease which he had granted; but failed in the attempt. On my mentioning this circumstance to Dr Johnson, he seemed much surprized that such a suit was admitted by the Scottish law, and observed, that 'in England no man is allowed to STULTIFY himself.' [Footnote: This maxim, however, has been controverted. See Blackstone's Commentaries, Vol. II, p. 292; and the authorities there quoted.] Sir Allan, Lochbuy, and I, had the conversation chiefly to ourselves to-night: Dr Johnson, being extremely weary, went to bed soon after supper.