Wednesday, 3d November

It rained all day, and gave Dr Johnson an impression of that incommodiousness of climate in the west, of which he has taken notice in his Journey; but, being well accommodated, and furnished with variety of books, he was not dissatisfied.

Some gentlemen of the neighbourhood came to visit my father; but there was little conversation. One of them asked Dr Johnson how he liked the Highlands. The question seemed to irritate him, for he answered, 'How, sir, can you ask me what obliges me to speak unfavourably of a country where I have been hospitably entertained? Who CAN like the Highlands? --I like the inhabitants very well.' The gentleman asked no more questions.

Let me now make up for the present neglect, by again gleaning from the past. At Lord Monboddo's, after the conversation upon the decrease of learning in England, his Lordship mentioned Hermes by Mr Harris of Salisbury, as the work of a living authour, for whom he had a great respect. Dr Johnson said nothing at the time; but when we were in our post-chaise, told me, he thought Harris 'a coxcomb'. This he said of him, not as a man, but as an authour; and I give his opinions of men and books, faithfully, whether they agree with my own, or not. I do admit, that there always appeared to me something of affectation in Mr Harris's manner of writing; something of a habit of clothing plain thoughts in analytick and categorical formality. But all his writings are imbued with learning; and all breathe that philanthropy and amiable disposition, which distinguished him as a man. [Footnote: This gentleman, though devoted to the study of grammar and dialecticks, was not so absorbed in it as to be without a sense of pleasantry, or to be offended at his favourite topicks being treated lightly. I one day met him in the street, as I was hastening to the House of Lords, and told him, I was sorry I could not stop, being rather too late to attend an appeal of the Duke of Hamilton against Douglas. 'I thought,' said he, 'their contest had been over long ago.' I answered, 'The contest concerning Douglas's filiation was over long ago; but the contest now is, who shall have the estate.' Then, assuming the air of 'an antient sage philosopher', I proceeded thus: 'Were I to PREDICATE concerning him, I should say, the contest formerly was, What IS he? The contest now is, What HAS he?' 'Right,' replied Mr Harris, smiling, 'you have done with QUALITY, and have got into QUANTITY.']

At another time, during our tour, he drew the character of a rapacious Highland chief with the strength of Theophrastus or la Bruyere; concluding with these words: 'Sir, he has no more the soul of a chief, than an attorney who has twenty houses in a street, and considers how much he can make by them.'

He this day, when we were by ourselves, observed, how common it was for people to talk from books; to retail the sentiments of others, and not their own; in short, to converse without any originality of thinking. He was pleased to say, 'You and I do not talk from books.'