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TOUR TO THE HEBRIDES,
SAMUEL JOHNSON, L. L. D.
R. JOHNSON had for many years given me hopes that we should go together, and visit the Hebrides. Martin's Account of those islands had impressed us with a notion that we might there contemplate a system of life almost totally different from what we had been accustomed to see; and, to find simplicity and wildness, and all the circumstances of remote time or place, so near to our native great island, was an object within the reach of reasonable curiosity. Dr. Johnson has said in his journey, " that he scarcely remembered how the wish to visit the Hebrides was excited ;" but he told me, in summer 1763, that his father put Martin's Account into his hands when he
was very young, and that he was much pleased with it. We reckoned there would be some inconveniencies and hardships, and perhaps & little danger ; but these we were persuaded were magnified in the imagination of every body. When I was at Ferney, in 1764, I mentioned our design to Voltaire. He looked at me, as if I had talked of going to the North Pole, and said, “ You do not insist on my ac
companying you?"_"No, Sir.”_" Then I “ am very willing you should go.” I was not afraid that our curious expedition would be prevented by such apprehensions; but I doubted that it would not be possible to prevail on Dr. Johnson to relinquith, for some time, the felicity of a London life, which, to a mari who can enjoy it with full intellectual relish, is apt" to make exiftence in any narrower fphere seem infipid or irkfome. I doubted that he would not be willing to come down from his elevated fate of philosophical dignity; frem a superiority of wisdom amongst the wise, and of learning amongst the learned ; and from fialhing his wit upon minds bright enough to reflect it.
He had disappointed my expectations so long, that I began to despair ; büt in spring, 1773, he talked of coining to Scotland that year with . so much firmness, that I hoped he was at last in carnest. I knew that, if he were once launched
from the metropolis, he would go forward very well; and I got our common friends there to aslift in setting him afloat. To Mrs. Thrale in particular, whose enchantmentoyer him seldom failed, I was much obliged. It was, “ I'll give " thee a wind.”_" Thou art kind." To attract him, we had invitations from the chiefs Macdonald and Macleod; and, for additional aid, I wrote to Lord Elibank, Dr. William Robertson, and Dr. Beattie.
To Dr. Robertson, so far as my letter concerned the present subject, I wrote as follows :
“OUR friend, Mr. Samuel Johnson, is in great "health and spirits; and, I do think, has a se“rious resolution to visit Scotland this
year. “The more attraction, however, the better; " and therefore, though I know he will be
happy to meet you there, it will forward the
scheme, if, in your answer to this, you ex“press yourself concerning it with that power " of which you are so happily possessed, and " which may be so directed as to operate “ strongly upon him.”
His answer to that part of my letter was quite as I could have wished. It was written with the address and persuasion of the historian of America.
“ WHEN I saw you laft, you gave us some hopes that you might prevail with Mr. Johnson
to make out that excursion to Scotlarid, withi “the expectation of which we have long flat"tered ourselves. If he could order matters
fo, as to pass some time in Edinburgh, about " the close of the fummer session, and then “ visit some of the Highland scenes, I am con« fident he would be pleased with the grand “ features of nature in many parts of this
country: he will meet with many persons “ here who respect him, and some whom I am “ persuaded he will think not unworthy of his “esteem. I wish he would make the experi
He fometimes cracks his jokes upon us; but he will find that we can distinguish
between the stabs of malevolence, and the " rebukes of the righteous, which are like excellent * oil*, and break not the head. Offer my best
compliments to him, and assure him that I “ Thall be happy to have the satisfaction of fee
ing him under my roof."
To Dr. Beattie I wrote, “ The chief inten“ tion of this letter is to inform you, that I “now seriously believe Mr. Samuel Johnson will " visit Scotland this year: but I wish that every
power of attraction may be employed to fecure our having so valuable an acquisition,
* Our friend Edmund Burke, who by this time had received fome pretty fore rubs from Dr. Johnson, on account of the unhappy difference in their politics, upon my repeating this patlage to him, exclaimed, “Oil of Vitriol !"
^ and therefore I hope you will, without delay, “ write to me what I know you think, that I
may read it to the mighty sage, with proper
emphasis, before I leave London, which I “ must do foon. He talks of you with the same warmth that he did last
year. We are " to see as much of Scotland as we can, in the 5 months of August and September. We shall " not be long of being at Alarischal College *. “ He is particularly desirous of seeing some “ of the Western Islands."
Dr. Beattie did better : ipfe venit. He was, however, so polite as to wave his privilege of nil mibi rescribas, and wrote as follows:
“ YOUR very kind and agreeable favour of '“ the 20th of April overtook me here yester"day, after having gone to Aberdeen, which place I left about a week ago. I am to set
out this day for London, and hope to have " the honour of paying my respects to Mr.
Johnson and you, about a week or ten days “ hence. I shall then do what I can, to en“ force the topic you mention ; but at present s I cannot enter upon it, as I am in a very
great hurry; for I intend to begin my journey within an hour or two."
He was as good as his word, and threw fome pleasing motives into the northern scale. But, ,
* This I find iš a Scotticism. I should have said, “ It of will not be long before we shall be at Marischal College."