Page:Footsteps of Dr. Johnson.djvu/300
234 THE LAIRD OF LOCH BUY.
" \Ve had heard much," writes Boswell, "of Lochbuy's being a great roaring braggadocio, a kind of Sir John Kalstaff, both in si/.e and manners; but we found that they had swelled him up to a fictitious sue, 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 Macleane, 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 Johns/cw, but Johnttw, and that he was an Englishman." !
According to Sir Walter Scott, Boswell misapprehended Loch- buy's meaning.
"There are," he says, "two septs of the powerful clan of M'Donald, who are called Mac-Ian, that isjohn's-son; and as Highlanders often translate their names when they go to the Lowlands, --as Gregor-son for Mac-Gregor, Farquhar-son for Mac-Farquhar, Lochbuy supposed that Dr. Johnson might be one of the Mac-Ians of Ardnamurchan, or of Glencro. Boswell's explanation was nothing to the purpose. The Johnstons are a clan distinguished in Scottish border history, and as brave as any Highland clan that ever wore brogues; but they lay entirely out of Lochbuy's knowledge nor was he thinking of them."
I have little doubt, however, that whatever Lochbuy was thinking of he pronounced the name Johnston. In this both Boswell and Johnson agree. This too was the name which I commonly found given to the great man in the Highlands and Lowlands alike.
" The following day (writes Boswell) we surveyed the old castle, in the pit or dungeon of which Lochbuy had some years before taken upon him to imprison several persons ; and though he had been fined in a considerable sum by the Court of Justiciary, he was so little affected by it, that while we were examining the dungeon, he said to me, with a smile, ' Your father knows something of this ; ' (alluding to my father's having sat as one of the judges on his trial). Sir Allan whispered me, that the laird could not be persuaded that he had lost his heritable jurisdiction."
Up to the year 1747 " in the Highlands," to quote Johnson's words, "some great lords had an hereditary jurisdiction over counties, and some chieftains over their own lands." This subjection of the people to their chiefs was rightly regarded as one of the main sources of the rebellions of 1715 and 1745. He who by law was privileged to keep a pit, a dungeon, and a gallows, was not likely to meet with much resistance when he summoned his people to follow him to the field. Advantage was therefore taken of the
1 See ante, p. 5.