‘Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides’ (1908 & 1909)

I think it’s specifically Dr. Johnson’s ‘Tour to the Hebrides’ Campbell cites in his Introduction but I didn’t want to own his edition as Johnson, to my mind, is a hateful bigot and biased against all that’s not English. But I was interested in the tour he took with the super-patient James Boswell so I obtained a couple of different copies of his Journal describing the tour from his viewpoint.

It makes for an excellent read, though being post-1900 don’t fit the criteria for transcribing to the page, although I may find a way. Johnson contradicts himself continuously which, in the 1908 edition provides fodder for Sir Walter Scott, John Wilson Croker, and Robert Chambers, &c., to correct him as well as highlight his bias and contradictions, in the footnotes:

“His prejudice against Scotland was announced almost as soon as he began to appear in the world of letters. In his ‘London,’ a poem, are the following nervous lines:-
‘For who could leave, unbribed, Hibernia’s land?
Or change the rocks of Scotland for the Strand?
There none are swept by sudden fate away;
But all, whom hunger spares. with age decay.’
The truth is, like the ancient Greeks and Romans, he allowed himself to look upon all nations but his own as barbarians; not only Hibernia and Scotland, but Spain, Italy, and France, are attacked in the same poem. If he was particularly prejudiced against the Scots, it was because they were more in his way; because he thought their success in England rather exceeded the due proportion of their real merit; and because he could not but see in them that nationality which I believe no liberal-minded Scotsman will deny. He was, indeed, if I may be allowed the phrase, at bottom much of a John Bull; much of a blunt true-born Englishman.”
– pp.9-10.

At being shown Holyrood House, Johnson muttered “a line of the old ballad, ‘Johnny Armstrong’s Last Good-night.’ ” The verse he quoted from was:

“But then rose up all Edinburgh,
They rose up by thousands three;
A cowardly Scot came John behind,
And ran him through the fair body.”
– p.35.

I don’t know how Boswell coped as his host as he was put into some fairly awkward situations:

“We returned to my house, where there met him, at dinner, the Duchess of Douglas, Sir Adolphus Oughton, Lord Chief Baron [Orde], Sir William Forbes, Principle Robertson, Mr. Cullen, advocate. Before dinner, he told us of a curious conversation between the famous George Faulkner and him. George said, that England had drained Ireland of fifty thousand pounds in specie, annually, for fifty years. ‘How so sir?’ Said Dr. Johnson: ‘you must have a very great trade?’ – ‘No trade.’ – ‘Very rich mines?’ – ‘No mines.’ – ‘From whence, then, does all this money come?’ – ‘Come! Why, out of the blood and bowels of the poor people of Ireland!'”
– pp.33-34.
“My endeavours to rouse the English-bred chieftain, in whose house we were, to the feudal and patriarchal feelings, proving ineffectual, Dr. Johnson this morning tried to bring him to our way of thinking.
JOHNSON: ‘Were I in your place, sir, in seven years I would make this an independent island, I would roast oxen whole, and hang out a flag as a signal to the Macdonalds to come and get beef and whisky.’ 
Sir Alexander was still starting difficulties. 
JOHNSON: ‘Nay, sir; if you are born to object, I have done with you. Sir, I would have a magazine of arms.’ 
SIR ALEXANDER: ‘They would rust.’ 
JOHNSON: ‘Let there be men to keep them clean. Your ancestors did not use to let their arms rust.’*
* Dr. Johnson seems to have forgotten that a Highlander going armed at this period incurred the penalty of serving as a common soldier for the first, and of transportation beyond sea for a second, offence. And as ‘for calling out his clan,’ twelve Highlanders and a bagpipe made a rebellion. – Walter Scott”
– pp.153-154 & p.154 footnote.

On Ossian’s Poetry:

“Sir Adolphus Oughton, then our deputy commander-in-chief, who was not only an excellent officer, but one of the most universal scholars I ever knew, had learned the Erse language, and expressed his belief in the authenticity of Ossian’s Poetry. Dr. Johnson took the opposite side of that perplexed question, and I was afraid the dispute would have run high between them. But Sir Adolphus, who had a very sweet temper, changed the discourse, grew playful, laughed at Lord Monboddo’s notion of men having tails, and called him a judge à posteriori, which amused Dr. Johnson, and thus hostilities were prevented.”
– p.35.

On his belief in the reality of Witchcraft:

“At supper we had Dr. Cullen, his son the advocate, Dr. Adam Fergusson, and Mr. Crosbie, advocate. Witchcraft was introduced. Mr. Crosbie said he thought it the greatest blasphemy to suppose evil spirits counteracting the Deity, and raising storms, for instance, to destroy His creatures.
JOHNSON: ‘Why, sir, if moral evil be consistent with the government of the Deity, why may not physical evil also be consistent with it? It is not more strange that there should be evil spirits than evil men: evil unembodied spirits, than evil embodied spirits. And as to storms, we know there are such things; and it is no worse that evil spirits raise them than that they rise.’
CROSBIE: ‘But it is not credible that witches should have effected what they are said in stories to have done.’
JOHNSON: ‘Sir, I am not defending their credibility. I am only saying that your arguments are not good, and will not overturn the belief of witchcraft.’ – (Dr. Fergusson said to me, aside, ‘He is right.’) – ‘And then, sir, you have all mankind, rude and civilised, agreeing in the belief of the agency of preternatural powers. You must take evidence; you must consider that wise and great men have condemned witches to die.’
CROSBIE: ‘But an act of parliament put an end to witchcraft.’
JOHNSON: ‘No, sir, witchcraft had ceased; and, therefore, an act of parliament was passed to prevent prosecution for what was not witchcraft. Why it ceased we cannot tell, as we cannot tell the reason of many other things.'”
– pp.35-36.
“The conversation then turned on atheism; on that horrible book, Système de la Nature; and on the supposition of an eternal necessity without design, without governing mind.
JOHNSON: ‘If it were so, why has it ceased? Why don’t we see men thus produced around us now? Why, at least, does it not keep pace, in some measure, with the progress of time? If it stops because there is now no need of it, then it is plain there is, and ever has been, an all-powerful intelligence. But stay!’ (said he, with one of his satyric laughs).; ‘Ha! ha! ha! I shall suppose Scotchmen made necessarily, and Englishmen by choice.”
– p.38.

I felt Chapter 10 of Grant’s ‘Old and New Edinburgh’ suggests Mrs Boswell was fairly straight-forward in her impression of the kind of person Johnson was:

“Mrs. Boswell, who was Margaret Montgomery, a relation of the Earl of Eglinton, a gentlewoman of good breeding and brilliant understanding, was disgusted with the bearing and manners of Johnson, and expressed her opinion of him that he was “a great brute!” And well might she think so, if Macaulay’s description of him be correct. “He could fast, but when he did not fast he tore his dinner like a famished wolf, with the veins swelling in his forehead, and the perspiration running down his cheeks; he scarcely ever took wine; but when he drank it, he drank it greedily and in large tumblers. Everything about him – his coat, his wig, his figure, his face, his scrofula, his St. Vitus’s dance, his rolling walk, his blinking eyes, his insatiable appetite for fish sauce and veal pie with plums, his mysterious practice of treasuring up scraps of orange-peel, his morning slumbers, his midnight disputations, his contortions, his mutterings, his gruntings, his puffings, his vigorous, acute, and ready eloquence, his sarcastic wit, his vehemence and his insolence, his fits of tempestuous rage,” &c., all served to make it a source of wonder to Mrs. Boswell that her husband could abide, much less worship, such a man. Thus, she once said to him, with extreme warmth, “I have seen many a bear led by a man, but never before saw a man led by a bear!” So romantic and fervid was his admiration of Johnson, that he tells us he added £500 to the fortune of one of his daughters, Veronica, because when a baby she was not frightened by the hideous visage of the lexicographer.”

The Union of Scotland with England was apparently of no consequence to him:

“I here began to indulge old Scottish sentiments, and to express a warm regret that, by our union with England, we were no more; our independent kingdom was lost.
JOHNSON: ‘Sir, never talk of your independency, who could let your queen [Mary Queen of Scots] remain twenty years in captivity, and then be put to death, without even a pretence of justice, without your ever attempting to rescue her; and such a queen, too! As every man of any gallantry of spirit would have sacrificed his life for.’
Worthy MR. JAMES KERR, keeper of the records: ‘ Half our nation was bribed by English money.’
JOHNSON: ‘Sir, that is no defence: that makes you worse.’
Good MR. BROWN, keeper of the Advocates Library: ‘We had better say nothing about it.’
Boswell: ‘You would have been glad, however, to have had us last war, sir, to fight your battles!’
JOHNSON: ‘We should have had you for the same price, though there had been no union, as we might have had Swiss, or other troops. No, no, I shall agree to separation. You have only to go home.’
Just as he had said this, I, to divert the subject, showed him the signed assurances of the three successive kings of the Hanover family, to maintain the Presbyterian establishment in Scotland. ‘We’ll give you that,’ said he, ‘into the bargain.’*
* The meaning seems to be that, in a fit of Jacobite jocularity. Johnson was willing, in consideration of the dissolution of the Union, to allow the Hanover family to reign in Scotland, inferring, of course, that the Stuarts were to reign in England – C(roker). [Perhaps Johnson meant that they, the Scotch, were welcome not only to stay at home, but to keep their kirk too – as inferior to the church as Scotland to England. – J. G. L.]” –
– pp.30-31 & footnote p.31.


J. Boswell (1908), ‘Journal of the Tour to the Hebrides’, London: Archibald Constable & Co. Ltd., Front Cover.


J. Boswell (1908), ‘Journal of the Tour to the Hebrides’, Vols. 1 & 2, London: Archibald Constable & Co. Ltd., Spines.


J. Boswell (1908), ‘Journal of the Tour to the Hebrides’, London: Archibald Constable & Co. Ltd., Vol. 1, Title Page.


J. Boswell (1908), ‘Journal of the Tour to the Hebrides’, Vol. 1, London: Archibald Constable & Co. Ltd., Frontispiece.


J. Boswell (1908), ‘Journal of the Tour to the Hebrides’, Vol. 1, London: Archibald Constable & Co. Ltd., Additonal Title Page.


J. Boswell (1908), ‘Journal of the Tour to the Hebrides’, Vol. 1, London: Archibald Constable & Co. Ltd., Publisher’s Page.


J. Boswell (1908), ‘Journal of the Tour to the Hebrides’, Vol. 2, London: Archibald Constable & Co. Ltd., Frontispiece.


J. Boswell (1908), ‘Journal of the Tour to the Hebrides’, Vol. 2, London: Archibald Constable & Co. Ltd., Publisher’s Page.


J. Boswell (1909), ‘Journal of the Tour to the Hebrides’, London: J. M. Dent & Co., Front Cover.


J. Boswell (1909), ‘Journal of the Tour to the Hebrides’, London: J. M. Dent & Co., Spine.


J. Boswell (1909), ‘Journal of the Tour to the Hebrides’, London: J. M. Dent & Co., Inside of Front Cover.


J. Boswell (1909), ‘Journal of the Tour to the Hebrides’, London: J. M. Dent & Co., Temple Classics; Israel Gollancz M.A.


J. Boswell (1909), ‘Journal of the Tour to the Hebrides’, London: J. M. Dent & Co., Map inside Front Cover.


J. Boswell (1909), ‘Journal of the Tour to the Hebrides’, London: J. M. Dent & Co., Publisher’s Page.


J. Boswell (1909), ‘Journal of the Tour to the Hebrides’, London: J. M. Dent & Co., Title Page.