Touring Scotland with Boswell and Johnson

Touring Scotland with Boswell and Johnson

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In 1773 Samuel Johnson  and James Boswell embarked on a journey   which took them from the tenements and colleges of Edinburgh to the caves, cottages   and castles across the highlands and islands  of Scotland. In this talk we'll be following   Johnson and Boswell using material from the  archives of Historic Environment Scotland.   These archive collections cover the whole of  Scotland so they offer a good illustration for   travel narratives such as this. The image shown  here is from a 19th century book of golf anecdotes   held by the National Library of Scotland, it's accessible on the Scran website, and it shows   an imagined scene of Johnson and Boswell playing golf  in St Andrews, Johnson is the one with the club, they did visit St Andrews on the tour.  In Boswell's introduction to his journal of   the tour he gave her the following 'warts and all' description of Johnson at the time   of the trip, he said: "he was now in his 64th  year and was become a little dull of hearing   his sight had always been somewhat weak yet  so much does mind govern and even supply the   efficiency of organs those perceptions were  uncommonly quick and accurate. His head and   sometimes also his body shook with a  kind of motion like the effects of a palsy,   they appear to be frequently disturbed by  cramps or convulsive contractions, he had a   constitutional melancholy, the clouds of which  darkened the brightness of his fancy and gave a   gloomy cast to his whole course of thinking."  Of course Dr Johnson is also remembered for  

his 1755 dictionary, also he edited  Shakespeare as well. He's also remembered for his   low opinion of Scots. And that brings us to his friend, James Boswell,   he was the Scottish lawyer who is now  most famous for being the biographer of Johnson.   He was the the son of the austere jurist  Lord Auchinleck, Boswell's early life saw him   attend the University of Edinburgh at the height  of the Scottish Enlightenment, although his   father moved him to the University of Glasgow  because he was having too much fun.  

Young Boswell then fled to London to  experience the best and the worst of society and   after various adventures and scandals he was  pulled into the orbit of Johnson's literary circle.   Johnson and Boswell were not the only people to write  accounts of tours of the highlands and islands in the 18th   century. One early account which influenced the  two was Martin Martin's, which was published in 1703,   you can see an image of the frontispiece  to that book, a facsimile copy   of it on screen, and Johnson had actually been  given a copy of Martin by his father - who   was a bookseller - when he was young and Boswell  wrote that "Martin's accounts 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".  The other well-known travel narrative from the  

1770s is that of Thomas Pennant, the Welsh-born  naturalist, antiquarian, and all around enthusiast.   He was often accompanied on his journeys around  the British Isles by an artist employed by him,   Moses Griffiths, who produced the drawings of  what we would call brochs on the screen   there, but which at the time would have been called  'Danish Forts' by the antiquarians studying them.   Another famous visitor to Scotland during this  period - in fact just before Boswell and Johnson -   was Sir Joseph Banks, he's the botanist who  accompanied Captain Cook aboard the 'Endeavour'   to Australia and New Zealand. The word  'kangaroo' first appeared in one of Banks's journals.  

Upon returning from the first voyage of the  'Endeavour', Banks was prevented from accompanying   Cook on his second voyage, so instead, in 1772 Banks embarks on his own scientific expedition to the   Hebrides, the Orkneys, and Iceland, and during  this journey he also visited Staffa and Jura.   So Johnson and Boswell both wrote and published their own accounts of their   experiences on this journey, Johnson's was  titled 'A Journey to the Western islands of   Scotland', it was published in 1775, so  not long after the journey was finished.   Boswell's account was titled 'The Journal of a  Tour to the Hebrides with Samuel Johnson', but it   wasn't published until 1785, after Johnson's death.  In fact, pleasingly, the words 'journal' and 'journey'   appear together on the same page of Johnson's  dictionary, and the titles of the publications speak   to each author's intent. The definition of 'journey'  in Johnson's dictionary is "travel by land, a voyage   or travel by sea" and "passage from place to place"  Dr Johnson's account is the description of the   expedition, and is in line with the botanists and  the antiquarians who had previously visited the   Hebrides, and it's within that context, and  includes thoughts on the effects of geography   and climate upon history, the economy, and society.  'Journal', on the other hand, that's Boswell's account,   is defined as "a diary, an account kept of daily  transactions" Boswell's account is more interested   in describing the peculiarities of  Johnson than the particularities of Scotland,   and it follows the flow of spirited conversation  more closely than the contours of the land. We can  

see as modern readers that Boswell's account, which  came after Johnson's account and after Johnson's   death, is sort of like a mini 'Life of Johnson',  before 'Life of Johnson' was written. The journey itself for us begins at Boyd's  Inn in Edinburgh, on the 14th of August 1773.   This is where Boswell came to meet the newly  arrived Johnson, the ink sketch on the screen shows   Boyd's Inn looking rather run down in 1868,  so that's about 100 years after the   journey. The site now has a  commemorative inscription which you can also see.   It was here at the inn that Johnson had  one of his lemonade accidents on the trip,   Boswell recorded that "before I came  in, the doctor had unluckily had a bad   specimen of Scottish cleanliness. He then  drank no fermented liquor, he asked to have  

his lemonade made sweeter, upon which the  waiter with his greasy fingers lifted a   lump of sugar and put it into it. The doctor, indignation, threw it out of the window." While they were in Edinburgh, Johnson  was staying with Boswell and his wife and   child in their tenement on James's  Court, you can see in the photograph.   Boswell was proud to be showing Johnson the  sights of Edinburgh, but he did have to admit   that the city was not known as - not now  known as - 'Auld Reekie' for nothing. He wrote "Mr   Johnson and I walked arm in arm up the High  Street to my house in James's Court. It was   a dusky night, and I could not prevent him being  assailed by the evening effluvia of Edinburgh"   They spent the next few days in Edinburgh meeting  members of polite and literary society, and seeing   sites such as the old parliament building, which  you can see on the screen, and the archives which   were being kept under Parliament House while  the now iconic Register House was was being built.   They also visited Saint Giles Cathedral, and  later the old Royal infirmary in Edinburgh.

The old Royal Infirmary is shown here in  the 1730s engraving from Vitruvius Scotticus, the 18th   century publication from the Adams, it also included pictures of country houses   in this style. You'll notice so far that I've  only quoted from Boswell's account of the tour,   all that Johnson wrote at this point was "on  the 18th of August we left Edinburgh, a city   too well known to admit description".  They then took a boat out to Inchkeith,    interestingly beginning their tour of the  Western Isles with a tour of an eastern isle.  

Johnson wrote "Inchkeith is nothing more than a rock  covered with a thin layer of earth, not wholly bare of   grass and very fertile of thistles. A small herd  of cows grazes annually upon it in the summer.   Boswell and Johnson both described the fort then  on Inchkeith you can still see the remains on   the survey photograph on the screen although a  lighthouse was added in the intervening time,   Boswell went on to describe the fort on  the islands, including an inscription from   the same period as the crest on screen,  so 16th century. Boswell wrote "Dr Johnson   examined it with much attention, he stalked like  a giant among the luxurious thistles and nettles"   They then traveled onto St Andrews and  dined at the inn there. Johnson found St Andrews to   be in a depressed state, writing "one of its streets  is now entirely lost; and in those   that remain, there is silence and solitude of  inactive indigence and gloomy depopulation"   The engraving on screen shows the castle in  St Andrews in the 1770s, at the time of the tour.   Of the castle ruins Johnson wrote "not far from  the cathedral, on the margin of the water, stands a   fragment of the castle in which the Archbishop  anciently resided. It was never very large, and was built with more attention to security  than pleasure" They tried to visit the library   of St Salvator's College, but were unable to do so,  as the professor who had the key was out of town.

They also visited St Andrew's  Cathedral on the 19th of August,   the two walked through the ruins of the  cathedral for a closer look. Boswell wrote   that Johnson "kept his hat off while he was on any  part of the ground where the cathedral had once stood"   The image on the screen, the sketch, is of  St Andrew's Cathedral, and St Leonards, and   that's from the early 19th century, that's part  of the Reverend John Sime drawings collection   in our archives. The other image, the engraving,  shows the cathedral in 1718, so before our journey.   The prevailing image of St Andrews, the town,  from Johnson's account, of the University, is of   a university sliding into decline amidst the ruins  of a city destroyed by extremism and poverty.   Johnson wrote that in St Andrews he had  seen "a city which only history shows that   once flourished" and "surveyed the ruins of ancient  magnificence, of which even the ruins cannot long   be visible, unless some care be taken to preserve  them. But where is the pleasure of preserving   such mournful memorials?" So a slightly different  approach to heritage than we might have now today.   On that happy note, on the 20th of August,  they departed from St Andrews, and   traveled through Dundee, although they found  nothing to say about Dundee, and they visited Arbroath Abbey. Johnson wrote "two corner  towers particularly attracted our attention. Mr  

Boswell, whose inquisitiveness is seconded by great  activity, scrambled in at a high window, but found   the stairs within broken, and could not reach  the top" You can see from the 18th century   engraving on screen what a precarious climb  that would have been. Having explored   the visible parts of the abbey, Johnson then  conjectured about the parts not standing, he   wrote "men skilled in architecture might do what we  did not attempt, they might probably form an exact   ground plot of this venerable edifice, they  may from some parts yet standing conjecture its   general form" and this is what you can see, the  other image on screen is one recreation   of what the abbey might have looked like.  They then went on to Montrose, shown in   the 18th century engraving, where they were to  stay the night at the inn. Unfortunately it was at  

this inn that Johnson had another lemonade incident,  he wrote "at our inn we did not find a reception   such as we thought proportionate to the commercial  opulence of the place, but Mr Boswell desired me to   observe that the Innkeeper was an Englishman,  and I then defended him as well as I could"  or as Boswell put it "we found but a sorry inn,  where I myself saw another waiter put a lump   of sugar with his fingers in to Dr Johnson's  lemonade, for which he called him a rascal. It put me   in great glee that our landlord was an Englishman,  I rallied the doctor upon this and he grew quiet"   At a different part of his journal Boswell  recorded that they had an argument about whether   Johnson should travel with his own lemons so that  he could continue drinking lemonade on places like   Skye. Johnson objected "I do not wish to be thought  that feeble man who cannot do without anything.   Sir, it is very bad manners to carry  provisions to any man's house as if   he could not entertain you. To an inferior it  is oppressive, to a superior it is insolent"   They left Montrose on the 21st, and  traveled to Aberdeen via Laurencekirk.   They stopped along the way at Monboddo, to visit Lord Monboddo there. They met James Burnett, Lord Monboddo,

on arrival, he's shown here in this 1780s  caricature on Scran, the original of  which is held by Edinburgh City libraries.  Monboddo was a jurist and an intellectual, he   was also of an age with Johnson, and he also  loved to engage in debate and conversation.   Like Johnson he was regarded as an eccentric,  this was partly due to his 'outlandish' notion that   humans might be related to apes in some way. While  Johnson had directed his interest in language and   etymology towards his dictionary, Monboddo had  researched and written about the evolution of   language. In spite, or perhaps because of these  similarities the two men had disagreed in the  

past, including when they had met in London. Boswell  wrote that he was he was worried about whether   the two should meet at all, but you can imagine  that he was excited to see the fireworks, and that he   had his pen ready. The meeting as reported by  Boswell however, was a cordial meeting of minds,   even if Boswell could not resist  poking fun at Monboddo greeting them dressed   in a "rustic suit and little round hat" and  introducing himself as "plain old farmer Burnett"   He also wrote that "Monboddo is a wretched  place, wild and naked, with a poor old house;   though, if I recollect right, there  are two turrets which mark an old baron's   residence" and you can see some turrets  on the screen there in the photograph.   They declined the offer to stay the  night, perhaps in part due to Johnson   complaining about the portion sizes, and continued on their way to Aberdeen. On their arrival in Aberdeen the two were  told that there was no room at the inn,   Boswell wrote "this was comfortless finding who  I was, we were told they would contrive to lodge us   by putting us for a night into a room with  two beds. I was to sleep in a little press  

bed in Dr Johnson's room. I had it wheeled out in to the dining room, and there I lay very well"   The next day Johnson was presented with  the freedom of the town at the town hall.   During their stay in Aberdeen Johnson  and Boswell visited King's College in   the old town, shown in this lovely 1920s  drawing from the Sir Basil Spence collection,   and Marischal College in the new town. This photograph here is from the 1880s,   after it had been rebuilt after Johnson and  Boswell's tour, but before it was extended   in the 1900s. Johnson described old Aberdeen as  "an ancient episcopal city in which are still  

to be seen the remains of the cathedral. It has  the appearance of a town in decay" he contrasted   this with the new town where "the houses are large  and lofty, and the streets are spacious and clean   they build almost wholly with the granite used in the new pavements of the streets of London. It is   beautiful and must be very lasting" Well we know it is.  While in Aberdeen they received an invitation to   visit Lord and Lady Errol at Slain's Castle, so  they departed for Slains on the 24th of August.

Slain's Castle was situated on the cliffs  overlooking the sea as you can see on the   screen there in this lithograph from 1810, it  was a very romantic location in the old sense. It's   not surprising that Bram Stoker often took his  holidays in nearby Cruden Bay. Johnson writes:   "I would not for my amusement wish for a storm, but  as storms whether wished for or not will sometimes   happen, I may say, without violation of humanity,  that I should willingly look out upon them from   Slain's Castle" While at Slains they took  a trip in a boat to see the Bullers of   Buchan, also known as the pot, a rock formation and  a cave in the sea, as you can see on screen here. Boswell wrote "in some places the path is  very narrow and on each side there is a sea   deep enough for a man of war to ride in,  so that it is somewhat horrid to move along,   however there is earth and grass upon the rock, and  a kind of road marked out by the prints of feet   so that one makes it out pretty safely, yet it alarmed me to see Dr Johnson striding   regularly along. He insisted on taking a boat  and sailing into the pot. We did so" Having   survived the Pot, the two were conveyed back  to Slains Castle for tea and coffee before bed.   Boswell had a night marred by smelly pillows and nightmares, he was kept awake with visions of   Lord Erroll's father who had been beheaded. The  next day, the 25th, the two departed for Banff.  

While on the road to Banff they took a detour to  see a stone circle, this is shown in the photograph.   Boswell wrote "Dr Johnson was curious to see one of  those structures which northern antiquarians call   a Druid's temple. I had a recollection  of one which I had seen 15 years ago,   but I had augmented it in my mind, for all  that remains is two stones set up on end,   with a long one laid upon them as was usual and  one stone a little at little distance from them,   that stone was the capital one of the  circle which surrounded what now remains" They arrived in Banff to stay at  the inn for the night, the painting on screen shows   Banff from the early 1800s, so not lon after  the journey, it was in his account of   Banff that Johnson  found another Scottish thing to complain about,   as if the lemonade wasn't bad enough: windows. He wrote "he that would have his   window open must hold it open with his hand, the  necessity of ventilating human habitations has   not yet been found by our northern neighbours"  In his own account, published after Johnson's,   Boswell explained these dodgy windows had  only been encountered at the 'indifferent inn'   they stayed at in Banff, and that Johnson had for  some reason assumed this was a Scottish-wide problem.   They left the next morning in a very good carriage  to travel to Forres via Cullen and Elgin. 

They stopped at Cullen for breakfast, where  Johnson was disgusted by the site of some dried   haddock. This episode may have been related  to Johnson's general aversion to strong smells   at breakfast. At another point along the  journey he complained about ripe cheese being   a feature of Scottish breakfasts, stating that  "they pollute the tea table by plates piled with   large slices of cheshire cheese, which mingles its  less grateful odours with the fragrance of the tea"   On the way to Elgin they were offered the  opportunity to visit a particular country   estate, Johnson declined, claiming that "he was  not come to Scotland to see fine places, of which   there were enough in England; but wild objects - mountains, waterfalls, peculiar manners; in short,   things which he had not seen before" At Elgin they stopped to view the remains of the cathedral,   the photograph here is from the early 1900s,  from a photograph album in our collections.   Johnson wrote of the cathedral "there is enough  yet remaining to show that it was once magnificent"   After a meal at the inn described by Johnson  as 'inedible', they continued onto Forres, but had nothing to say about the town as  it was too dark to see it when they arrived,   they continued along the coast to Nairn the next   day, and this is where Johnson first heard Gaelic on the trip.   Neither of the two had anything positive to say about  Nairn, Boswell described it as a miserable place.  

While in this area both Boswell and Johnson were  excited to be in Macbeth country, and recited lines   from the play as they traveled, eventually  arriving at that other Macbeth site, Cawdor.   They plan to stay overnight at the manse shown  in the photograph in the corner of the screen,   they went on to see the castle shown in  the the larger image on screen, Johnson wrote "the   drawbridge is still to be seen, but the moat is  now dry, the tower is very ancient, its walls   are of great thickness, arched on the top with  stone, and surrounded with battlements, the rest   of the house is later, though far from modern"  In his journal Boswell mentioned all these   features but also mentioned the hawthorn  tree within the castle shown in the photograph. They then spent the night at the  manse, planning the next legs of their journey.   On the 28th of August the two travelled to  Inverness, and stopped for dinner at Fort George.   Boswell, who seem to like being around military  regularity and pomp, "enjoyed this day very much"   which may have had something to do with the  "dinner of two complete courses, variety of   wine" and "the regimental band of music" Boswell was  enchanted at "finding upon this barren sandy   point, such buildings, such a dinner, such company"  Johnson, characteristically, was less overcome,   because he knew "here was a large sum of money  expended in building a fort, here was a regiment,   if there had been less than what we found it would  have surprised them" In his own account Johnson   declined to spend much time describing Fort George,  he wrote "I can't delineate it scientifically,   and a loose and popular description is of use only when the imagination is to be amused.   There was everywhere an appearance of the  utmost neatness and regularity, but my suffrage   is of little value because this and Fort  Augustus are the only garrisons that I ever saw"   Johnson of course has earlier stated that he did  not come to Scotland to see things he could see   in England, and from this statement we can see that  he was chiefly interested in describing ancient or   romantic scenes, even if he preferred staying and  eating at inns and grand houses that could offer    the comforts of his London home. The two now travelled  on to Inverness, where they would stay at the inn.

At Inverness they stayed for two  nights, and during their visit they   saw Macbeth's Castle so-called, meaning the  predecessor to the current Inverness Castle,   you can see this in the engraving on the screen,  and also it's shown in the town view of Inverness,   and I've provided a larger version of that as well.   Johnson wrote "here is a castle, called the castle  of Macbeth, the walls of which are yet standing.   It was no very capacious edifice, but  stands upon a rock so high and steep   that I think it was once inaccessible  but by the help of ladders or a bridge"   In his journal Boswell included a letter he had  written to their mutual friend David Garrick,   the famous actor, about his excitement about  travelling through the setting of Macbeth with Johnson   "this day" he wrote "we visited the ruins of  Macbeth's castle at Inverness, I have had   great romantic satisfaction in seeing Johnson upon  the classical scenes of Shakespeare in Scotland,   which I really looked upon as almost as improbable  as that Birnam Wood should come to Dunsinane"   They left Inverness on the 30th of August, heading  along the side of Loch Ness to Fort Augustus, a few miles down the road from  Inverness the two encountered a   double ring stone circle, and probably the  stone circle and cairn at Ballindarroch.   This circle can be seen through the long grass  in this composite and panoramic photograph from   1943. This photograph was taken by the famous  archaeologist Vere Gordon Childe when he was   working as commissioner of the Royal Commission  on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland,   the photo was taken as part of the emergency  survey of historic sites carried out during the   second world war in order to preserve a record  of historic sites in case of their destruction.

Clearly Childe thought this stone  circle worthy of record, however Johnson   felt differently, he wrote that "to go and  see one druidical temple is only to see   that it is nothing, there is neither art nor  power in it, and seeing one is quite enough"   They continued on the road  along Loch Ness to Fort Augustus,   they arrived on the 30th of August,  the drawing here is from a 1795 illustration,   Boswell wrote "it was comfortable to find  ourselves in a well-built little square,   and a neatly furnished house, in good  company, and with a good supper before us.   The governor has a very good garden we looked at  it and the rest of the fort, which is but small"   The next day they headed back onto the  military road and continued on their journey. On the night of the 31st they stopped in Glen  Moriston at an inn, near the inn they'd passed a   group of soldiers working on the road, and  they gave them some money to drink with.   Boswell wrote that "later that night the soldiers  came to our inn and made merry in the barn, we went   and paid them a visit, Dr Johnson saying come  let's go and give 'em another shilling a-piece,   we did so, and he was saluted 'my lord' by  all of them. The poor soldiers got too   much liquor, some of them fought and left blood  upon the spot, and cursed whisky next morning"   Boswell and Johnson themselves also  had a broken night, Boswell wrote:   "there were two beds in the room and a woman's  gown was hung on a rope to make a curtain of   separation between them. I awaked very early,  I began to imagine that the landlord, being  

about to emigrate, might murder us to get our  money, and lay it upon the soldiers in the barn" These fears however were unfounded, and they  safely continued on their way towards Glenelg.   On their way they travelled past Bernera  Barracks, the remains of which are   shown in the photograph here, the barracks are  located at the point of the yellow arrow in the   aerial photograph. These barracks were  constructed in the 1720s after the 1715   Jacobite rising, and they were subsequently set  set fire to by Jacobite forces in the '45, but   were back in use when Boswell and Johnson passed  by, but only with a small detachment of soldiers.   They had received positive reviews of the inn  at Glenelg, however Johnson wrote "at last we came   to our inn, weary and peevish, and began to inquire of meat  and beds. Of the provisions the negative   catalogue was very copious, here was no meat, no milk,  no bread, no eggs, no wine. We did not express much  

satisfaction" The next day, the 2nd of September,  they sailed from Glenelg to Armadale on Skye. On Skye they were to stay at Armadale Castle, the  picture shown here is from the 1820s and shows the   castle after it been rebuilt after the journey. The castle that Boswell and Johnson visited was itself built on the site of a previous   castle. Johnson wrote "Armadale is a neat house built where the Macdonalds had once a seat,   which was burnt in the commotion that followed  the revolution ... the walled orchard, which belonged   to the former house, still remains" Their host at Armadale was Alexander   MacDonald. During their stay Boswell and Johnson  returned to their theme of what they would do   if they were Highland nobility, or at least their  idea of highland nobility Boswell recorded Johnson as   saying "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"   On the 6th of September they departed Armadale  and set out for the island of Raassay. During their stay here the  two were entertained with music   and dancing. Johnson, though  he didn't dance wrote approvingly   that "nor did ever fairies trip with greater alacrity"   During their stay Boswell came across a 'Danish Fort'  while out hunting, but what we would call a broch,   this might be the rock of Don Voradale,  pictured in the drawing on screen. Johnson   also mentioned some archaeological curiosities,  writing about some stone arrowheads found on   Raassay he wrote "the people call them elf bolts, and  believe that the fairies shoot them at the cattle,   they nearly resemble those which Mr Banks has  lately bought brought from the savage countries   in the Pacific Ocean and must have been made by  a nation to which the use of metals was unknown" While they were staying here they saw the local  ruined chapel as well as some cross-   inscribed stones, and after some bad weather  they set sail and headed for Kingsborough,   they landed at Portree, and dined at the tolerable  inn there, they then traveled north to Kingsburgh   in order to meet Flora MacDonald, who is of  course shown on screen there in that portrait.   In fact Johnson slept in the same bed that Bonnie  Prince Charlie had stayed when they stayed. The  

next day, the 13th of September Flora MacDonald's  husband took them by boat to a place near   and Greshornish or Grishnish in Boswell's account.  Boswell and Johnson then rode on to Dunvegan,   They arrived at Dunvegan Castle after riding through a  boggy moor, Johnson described it thus "the house is   partly old and partly modern, it is built upon  the rock and looks upon the water, it forms two   sides of a small square, on the third side is  the skeleton of a castle of unknown antiquity,   supposed to have been a Norwegian fortress  when the Danes were masters of these islands,   it is so nearly entire that it might have been  easily made habitable were there not an ominous   tradition in the family that the owner shall not  long outlive the reparation" While they   were at Dunvegan it was Johnson's birthday, on Saturday the 18th of September   Boswell wrote "before breakfast Dr Johnson came  up to my room to forbid me to mention that   this was his birthday, but I told him I had done it  already, at which he was displeased, I suppose from   wishing to have nothing in particular done on his  account" Johnson and Boswell were forced to stay   longer than intended at Dunvegan due to poor  weather, and they left on the 21st of September Before leaving Dunvegan the two visited the  walled church of St Mary's, there they saw the   obelisk to Thomas Fraser the 10th Lord Lovat, this obelisk would have been erected by Thomas   Fraser's son the 11th Lord Lovat, Simon Fraser,  shown on the screen here. Lord Simon had   attempted to offer support both to the Jacobites  and to the government, but was eventually captured   by government forces and executed for treason, both  Boswell and Johnson were less than complimentary   about the inscription on the obelisk that  presumably Simon would have approved.   Boswell recorded the text of the  inscription in his account and wrote that   "I preserved this inscription, though of no great  value, thinking it characteristical of a man who   has made some noise in the world ... Dr Johnson  said, it was poor stuff, such as Lord Lovat's   butler might have written" While at times both  Boswell and Johnson romanticized the Jacobite   cause now that it was safely in the past, perhaps  for Johnson the only crime worse than treason, was   to not make up your mind. They travelled  south to Ullinish on the 21st of September,  

Boswell described it as "a very good  farmhouse of two stories" Their host   took them to view some archaeological  sites nearby, perhaps including a souterrain.   Johnson said that they declined to explore  this and the nearby caves because "the day was   raining and the ground was damp, we had with us neither spades nor pickaxes, and if love   of ease surmounted our desire of knowledge, the  offence has not the invidiousness of singularity"   I think we can all relate to that. While here  the host also took them to view a Danish fort,   perhaps the Broch Dunbeag pictured in another Moses  Griffiths engraving on the screen. Johnson wrote   "the entrance is covered with flat stones and is  narrow because it was necessary that the stones   which lie over it should reach from one wall  to the other, yet straight as the passage is,   they seem heavier than could have been placed  where they now lie by the naked strength of as   many men as might stand about them. They were  probably raised by putting long pieces of wood  

under them, to which the action of a long line of  lifters might be applied. Savages" wrote Johnson "in   all countries have patience proportionate to  their unskillfulness and are content to attain   their end by very tedious methods" On the 23rd  they sailed to Talisker. Boswell was   impressed by Talisker's situation, he wrote "Talisker  is a better place than one commonly finds in Skye ...   it is situated in a rich bottom, before it is  a wide expanse of sea on each hand of which   are immense rocks" While at Talisker they  decided to travel on to Coll and some of the nearby   islands with young Coll, the son of the present Laird  MacLean of Coll, or the then Laird MacLean of Coll,   he said they would be able to travel  comfortably, as his father had property on   Coll and on the surrounding islands. On the 25th  of September they left Talisker to go across Skye, they dined at Sconser, shown  in the aerial photograph, in the   aerial photograph without the arrow, and then  travelled south by boat to Strollamus, and finally   rode to - I'm going to mispronounce this - Coire-chat-achan - arriving that same night to  stay there for the second time.  

This was one of the places that Boswell and  Johnson visited twice on their tour. Boswell saw it as part of his job to be  polite to hosts by doing the things that Johnson   wouldn't do: drinking and dancing mainly,  he danced at Raassay, and here he indulged in   three too many bowls of punch and didn't  get to bed till 5am.   In his entry for the morning after - or rather just  later in the morning of - Boswell wrote "I awaked   at noon with a severe headach. I was much vexed that I should have been guilty of such a riot, and  

afraid of reproof from Dr Johnson" Johnson laughed the  incident off, and Boswell later predictably wrote   "I felt myself comfortable enough in the afternoon,  I then thought that my last night's riot was no   more than such a social excess as may happen  without much moral blame, and recollected that   some physicians maintained that a fever produced  by it was, on the whole, good for health" Despite   the good cheer, the two were getting annoyed by  being housebound due to poor weather. To make   matters worse, the house didn't have room for  all the guests and the servants, Boswell wrote   "the good people had no notion that a man could  have any occasion but for a mere sleeping place,   so during the day the bed chambers were common  to all the house. Servants eat in Dr Johnson's, and   mine was a kind of general rendezvous of  all under the roof, children and dogs not accepted"   Much to their relief they finally  left on the 28th of September, they traveled south to Ostaig. Boswell wrote "we had a fine evening and arrived  in good time, it is a pretty good house built by   the father of the current owner upon a farm near  the church. Unable to sail to Coll due to more bad   weather, Boswell and Johnson accepted an invitation  to wait out the rain in comfort back at Armadale   Castle. They arrived there on the 1st of October,  and on the 3rd they finally set sail from   Armadale to the islands as there seemed to be a  break in the weather, Johnson wrote "having awaited   some days at Armadale we were flattered at last  for the wind that promised to convey us to Mull" But they didn't make it to Mull this time, the break  in the weather didn't last, and Johnson wrote "we   were doomed to experience like others, the danger  of trusting to the wind, which blew against us in   a short time with such violence that we, being no  seasoned sailors, were willing to call it a tempest.  

I was seasick and lay down" Young Coll and the rest of the crew eventually  guided the ship towards Coll into safety, however,   the danger of sailing between the islands was real,  young Coll himself later drowned in an accident   visiting Lochbuie on Mull in 1774. The three of  them landed on Coll on the 4th of October, they stayed the night with a Captain MacLean  and wife, at a house described by Boswell as 'a   temporary hut'. After rising they mounted Shetland  ponies for the first time on their journey,   Johnson wrote "Here I first mounted a little highland  steed, and if there had been many spectators, should   have been somewhat ashamed of my figure in  the march" They then travelled to the north   parts of the island, and saw the ruins of a church, perhaps the ruins of Killunaig Church shown in   the aerial photograph. They then continued  on to Grishipoll, the house pictured on screen,   they had tea here, and on the beach nearby  Boswell found a stone that looked like a cucumber.   On the same day they travelled  on to Breachacha House. They arrived at Breachacha House owned by the Laird  of Coll, Young Coll's father, the new house is   shown on screen, and is situated close  to the beach and close to the old castle.  

Boswell wrote "we found here a new-built  gentleman's house better than any   we have been in since we were at Lord Erroll's. Dr  Johnson relished it much at first, but soon   remarked to me that there was nothing becoming  a chief about it, it was a mere tradesman's box" They were confined to Coll through bad weather, and  on the 8th of October Boswell records Johnson as   saying melodramatically "I want to be on the  mainland and go on with the existence, this is a   waste of life" On the 13th of October they finally  got onto a boat for Mull, although they   needed to spend the night on it 'not very elegantly,  nor pleasantly' in harbour due to poor weather.   On the 14th of October they finally sailed for  Mull, and landed at Tobermory. More poor weather   kept them on Mull, but eventually they rode  across the island with the intention of crossing   to Iona, although poor weather prevented this as  well, so they settled on going to Ulva on the   16th of October. At Ulva they stayed with a Mr  MacQuarrie, in a house described by Boswell as 'mean'.   While on Ulva, Johnson made some inquiries  about the Isle of Staffa, he wrote:   MacQuarrie is proprietor of both Ulva  and some adjacent islands, among which is   Staffa, so lately rose to renown of course by  Mr Banks. When the Islanders were reproached  

with their ignorance or insensibility of the  wonders of Staffa, they had not much to   reply, they had indeed considered it  little, because they had always seen it"   That's what Johnson writes anyway. Boswell  and Johnson were not able to visit Staffa   on their journey, Thomas Pennant was also  not able to get close enough to land on Staffa.   As mentioned by Johnson, Sir Joseph Banks had,  visited and the engraving on screen is based on   a drawing from his expedition. They left Ulva on  the 17th of October and sailed for Inchkenneth. As well as living in the in the big house  on the island, Sir Allan MacLean and his family also   occupied cottages, Johnson wrote the following  "we all walked together to the mansion where we   found one cottage for Sir Allan and I think two  more for the domestics in the offices, we entered,   and wanted little that palaces afford" While at  Inchkenneth they visited a nearby ruined   chapel and burial place, Johnson described it as  "a venerable chapel, which stands yet entire, except   that the roof is gone, the ground around the chapel  is covered with gravestones of Chiefs and Ladies"   The drawing on screen is an 1877 sketch of one of  the grave slabs in the Society of Antiquaries of   Scotland collection. The two left Inchkenneth on the  19th of October, and said goodbye to young Coll for   the last time, and starting the long sail along  Mull for Iona, stopping for a picnic along the   way. They landed on Iona at the village  on the 19th of October and 'cordially embraced' to  

have finally reached the island. Johnson was taken  with the history of the place and wrote memorably   "whatever withdraws us from the power of our  senses, whatever makes the past, the distant, or   the future predominate over the present, advances us in the dignity of thinking beings"   They stayed the night in a large barn.   Of the nunnery shown on screen, in a late 19th  century drawing in our collections, Johnson   wrote the following "the chapel of the nunnery is  now used by the inhabitants as a kind of general   cowhouse, and the bottom is consequently to miry  for examination" Johnson wrote that the   abbey "of the chambers or cells belonging to the  monks there are some walls remaining, but nothing   approaching to a complete compartment. The bottom  of the church is so encumbered with mud and rubbish,   that we could make no discoveries  of curious inscriptions" They sailed back to   Mull on the 20th October, and on the 21st, after  a boring ride they ended up at Lochbuie.   On screen here you can see the three residences  of the Lochbuie MacLeans: Moy Castle   is the is the medieval tower-house built  in the 15th century; the middle image is the   stable block of the current house, but would have  been the old Lochbuie House where Johnson and   Boswell would have stayed; and then the current  house is shown in the final photograph.  

One episode from their stay here  is reported by Boswell, who wrote:   "being told that Dr Johnson did not hear well,  Lochbuy bawled at him, 'Are you of the Johnstons   of Glencro, or of Ardnamurchan?' Dr Johnson  gave him a significant look, but made no answer"   They left Lochbuie on the 22nd  of October and sailed to Oban,   where they stayed at a 'tolerable inn',  the image shows Oban from the 1850s.   They travelled from Oban to Inveraray on the  military road, and they eventually reached Loch Awe.   Boswell wrote "We crossed in a ferry boat a pretty wide  lake, and on the farther side of it, close by the   shore, we found a hut for our inn. We were much wet, I  changed my clothes in part I, was at pains to   get myself well-dried. Dr Johnson resolutely kept  on all his clothes, wet as they were,   letting them steam before the smoky turf fire.  I thought him in the wrong, but his firmness  

was, perhaps, a species of heroism" After their very  wet journey, it's not surprising that both Boswell   and Johnson were complimentary   about the inn that they came to at Inveraray.   Johnson described it as 'not only commodious, but  magnificent' Boswell described the inn as excellent. but also noted that "even here Dr Johnson  would not change his work clothes" It was here that   Johnson finally decided to celebrate with a  dram, having avoided whisky so far on the journey.   After some humming and hawing about the polite thing to do in the situation,   Boswell eventually secured an invitation  from the Duke of Argyll at   Inveraray Castle. Boswell recorded that Dr Johnson  was "struck by the grandeur and elegance of this   princley seat, he thought however the castle  too low, and wished it had been a storey higher"   After dining, the two returned to their inn for  the night. They departed for Rossdhu House   via Tarbet on the 26th, finally leaving  behind the tiny ponies they'd been riding   on since Coll, and were mounted on 'stately  steeds' from the Duke of Argyll's stable.

Rossdhu House was situated on Loch Lomond, the  present house was constructed in 1772, so it would   have been brand new when visited by Johnson and  Boswell. While here Boswell and Johnson borrowed   a boat to visit the islands on Loch Lomond,  including the castle Inchgalbraith, which   is just peeking through the aerial photograph  of the island on screen. Now comfortably in the   lowlands, the two travellers were conveyed by coach  to their next stop, Cameron House, and arrived on   the 27th of October. The white arrow on the  military map on screen shows Cameron House,   the yellow arrow is Rossdhu House, and the red  arrow is Inchgalbraith Castle on the island.   Not far from Cameron House, in nearby Renton, the interestingly named Commissary Smollett, who   owned Cameron House, had erected a memorial  to his recently deceased cousin, the   author Tobias Smollet. He asked Johnson for some advice on the inscription. Johnson said   that whatever it was should be in Latin only,  and not English, as the passing drovers would   not appreciate Smollet anyway. You can see  the memorial in the aerial photograph on screen.  

On the 28th of October they departed south  towards Glasgow, and stopped at Dumbarton Rock,   to go up the rock. Boswell wrote "we drove  on in high spirits, we stopped at Dunbarton and   though the approach to the castle there is very  steep, Dr Johnson ascended it with alacrity and   surveyed all that was to be seen" And you can see  that this would have been quite a climb from the   section drawing on the screen. On the  28th of October Boswell and Johnson arrived   in Glasgow, and they there stayed at the Saracen's Head  Inn, Johnson was delighted to stay at the inn, and to put   his feet up on the fire, and to read letters from  correspondents. In the book 'Views and Notices   of Glasgow in Former Times' from 1848, one of the  books in our collections. The author records the  Saracen's Head as opening in 1755, the same year  as the Great Inn at Inveraray, it is intended to fill   the lack of accommodation for travelers to the  city, and the author wrote "It immediately rose to   favour with the better class of citizens, as well as  with the noblemen and gentleman residing in the   neighborhood. It housed a ballroom and a dining  room, in which our jovial punch-loving ancestors  

could luxuriate in metropolitan luxury" so  you can see why Boswell and Johnson liked it.   Having stated that "to describe a city so much  frequented as Glasgow is unnecessary" Dr Johnson   went on to describe Glasgow, he wrote "it is  the only episcopal city whose cathedral was   left standing in the rage of reformation, it  is now divided into many separate places of   worship, which, taken altogether compose a great  pile" And you can see the cathedral in   the engraving on screen, along with The Bishop's  Palace, which would have stood at the time.   They also visited the Old College of the University  of Glasgow, then situated on the High   Street near the Trongate, the cathedral,  and the heart of the old city of Glasgow.  

Sections of the Old College can still be seen  in the main University building at Gilmorehill,   notably the Pearce Lodge on University Avenue,  shown in the photograph,   and shown with the yellow arrow in the  John Slezer drawing on screen. While admiring the   university buildings Johnson was dismissive of  the education that could be gained there, he wrote:   "men bred in the universities of Scotland cannot  be expected to be often decorated with the   splendours of ornamental erudition, but they obtain  a mediocrity of knowledge, between learning   and ignorance" On the 30th of October they departed  from Glasgow for Auchinleck, Boswell's ancestral   seat, and home of his father. On the way  they stopped just outside Kilmarnock at   Treesbank House, to stay with Boswell's sister-in-law  and her husband, they also visited the ruins of   Dundonald Castle shown in the drawing here. This was where Robert II of Scotland had stayed,   Boswell wrote "it has long been unroofed and though of  considerable size, we could not by any power   of imagination figure it as having been a suitable  habitation for majesty. Dr Johnson, to irritate my   old Scottish enthusiasm, was very jocular on  the homely accommodation of 'King Bob', and   roared and laughed till the ruins echoed" They left  for Auchinleck on the 2nd of November.

They arrived at Auchinleck, and Johnson described it as "a house of hewn stone very stately and durable"    Auchinleck House had been built a few years before Johnson and Boswell's visit. Much as when they visited Monboddo, Boswell claimed to have been worried about   whether Johnson and his father would get on, in  this case due to their differences in religion   and politics. For the most part, Boswell's fear was  unfounded, and Auchinleck and Johnson stuck   to safe subjects like the classics. Eventually  they did argue however, Boswell was tactful  

enough to not record the argument itself, but  not so tactful as to not mention it at all.   While at Auchinleck they visited  the old castle, now ruined, the   drawing here. Johnson preferred this  to the new house, he wrote "I was less   delighted with the elegance of the modern mansion  than with the sullen dignity of the old castle.   I clambered with Mr Boswell among the ruins,  which afford striking images of ancient life" They stayed at the Inn at Hamilton on the 8th  of November, and Boswell was keen to show   Johnson the nearby palace of Hamilton, he  wrote "it is an object which, having been   pointed out to me as a splendid edifice from my  earliest years when traveling between Auchinleck   an Edinburgh, it has still great grandeur in my  imagination. My friend consented to stop and view   the outside of it, but could not be persuaded to  go inside. They departed for Edinburgh the next day,   on the 9th of November Boswell and Johnson  arrived back in Edinburgh, where they will   be staying at Boswell's house meeting  various academics and members of the gentry.  

The last day that Boswell has detailed notes  for is the 11th of November, but he does record   some more things that happened in the following  days before Johnson departed for England on the 22nd.   On the 10th of November Boswell wrote that he  accompanied Dr Johnson to Edinburgh Castle which   "he owned was a great place, but I must mention as a  striking instance of that spirit of contradiction   to which he had a strong propensity, when Lord  Ellibank was some days after talking of it with the   natural elation of a Scotchman, or of any man who  is proud of a stately fortress in his own country,   Dr Johnson affected to despise it, observing  that it would make a good PRISON in England"   Characteristically, Johnson did not say  much about that time in Edinburgh, although   he does mention one place, and it is the last  location described by Johnson in this journey,   At some point during their visit to Edinburgh  in November, Johnson and Boswell visited   Thomas Braidwood's School for the Deaf, also  known as Craigsidehouse, or Dumbie house.   Although there were not many pupils, this is one of  the first recorded schools for the deaf in the UK,   Johnson then went on to test some of the pupils  in their grasp of maths and language, and was impressed   by the results. Johnson ended his account on  a positive note, although as this is Samuel   Johnson, it was also a little bit backhanded "after  having seen the deaf taught arithmetic, who would be   afraid to cultivate the Hebrides?" On the 22nd  November, after having seen Rosslyn   Chapel, Boswell and Johnson travelled south. Johnson  then took the coach on the 24th of November, and   Boswell wrote that the two discussed the tour  when they were both back in London "he said to me   often that the time he spent on this tour was  the pleasantest part of his life, and asked me   if I would lose the recollection of it for five hundred pounds. I said I would not, and he applauded   me for setting such a value on an accession  of new images in my mind" I'm sure that   none of us would give up the images that we've  seen today for a mere five hundred 18th century pounds!   So that is the end, I hope you've enjoyed today's  talk, if you're interested in learning more about   Boswell and Johnson and their tour,  the AHRC Curious Travellers project   has produced an excellent website and  interactive map, and of course you can always   go back to the original texts which can be found  in print and online. You can view a lot of the  

images we've seen today on our Canmore website,  but we also have images which can be viewed on   our other web services, Scran, Britain From Above,  and the National Collection of Aerial Photography.   For anyone who's interested in viewing some of  the original material we hold in our archive   collections, including photographs, engravings,  and drawings, you can make an appointment to   view such material in our public search  room in Edinburgh at John Sinclair House.   You can find details on the Canmore website.  And that's it, thank you very much.

2023-02-04 06:11

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