Page:Footsteps of Dr. Johnson.djvu/284

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.


and conjured me to tell him the truth of the matter. 'This Sir Allan,' said he, 'was lie a regular baroni^ or was his title such a tradilional one as you find in Ireland ? ' 1 assured my excellent acquaintance that, ' for my own part, I would have paid more respect to a knight of K.erry, or knight of Glynn ; yet Sir Allan Macleane was a regular barond by patent ;' and, having given him this information, I took the liberty of asking him, in return, whether he would not in conscience prefer the worst cell in the jail at Gloucester (which he had been very active in overlooking while the build- ing was going on) to those exposed hovels where Johnson had been entertained by rank and beauty. He looked round the little islet, and allowed Sir Allan had some advantage in exercising ground ; but in other respects he thought the compulsory tenants of Gloucester had greatly the advantage. Such was his opinion of a place, concerning which Johnson has recorded that ' it wanted little which palaces could afford.' "

Johnson, by the way, did not write " it wanted," but " we wanted little that palaces afford." We have from Sir Walter also an amusing story which shows how the chief of the Macleanes in the embarrassment of his affairs had learnt to hate the sight of an attorney writers, as they are called in Scotland :

" Upon one occasion he made a visit to a friend residing at Carron lodge, on the banks of the Carron, where the banks of that river are studded with pretty villas : Sir Allan, admiring the landscape, asked his friend whom that handsome seat

belonged to. ' M ; the writer to the signet,' was the reply. ' Umph ! ' said Sir

Allan, but not with an accent of assent, ' I mean that other house.' ' Oh ! that

belongs to a very honest fellow, Jamie , also a writer to the signet.' ' Umph ! '

said the Highland chief of Macleane, with more emphasis than before, ' And yon smaller house ? ' That belongs to a Stirling man ; I forget his name, but I am sure he is a writer too ; for .' Sir Allan, who had recoiled a quarter of a circle back- ward at every response, now wheeled the circle entire, and turned his back on the landscape, saying, ' My good friend, I must own you have a pretty situation here ; but d n your neighbourhood.' " '

In his dislike of lawyers he would have found a common feeling in Johnson, who one day, " when inquiry was made concerning a person who had quitted a company where he was, observed that he did not care to speak ill of any man behind his back, but he believed the gentleman was an attorney." Happily there was nothing to dis- turb the tranquillity of the scene during the visit of our travellers. The Sunday which Johnson spent on Inchkenneth was, as he told Boswell, "the most agreeable he had ever passed." He thus de- scribes it to Mrs. Thrale : "Towards evening Sir Allan told us that Sunday never passed over him like another day. One of the ladies read, and read very well, the evening service, ' and Paradise was opened in the wild.' " Such was the impression produced on him that he commemorated the day in some pretty Latin lines

1 Croker's Boswell, p. 384. 2 Pope. Eloisa to Abelard, 1. 135.

�� �