Page:Footsteps of Dr. Johnson.djvu/32

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corded. The second tradition is scarcely more trustworthy. John- son at the tea-table, I was told, helped himself to sugar with his lingers, whereupon Lady Lochbuie at once had the basin emptied, and fresh sugar brought in. He said nothing at the time, but when he had finished his tea he flung down the cup, exclaiming that if he had polluted one he had also polluted the other. A lady of the family of Lochbuie, whose memory goes back ninety years, in recounting this story when I was in Scotland, added, " But I do not know whether it was true." That it was not true I have little doubt. In the first place, we have again Boswell's silence ; in the second place, to the minor decencies of life Johnson was by no means inattentive. At Paris he was on the point of refusing a cup of coffee because the footman had put in the sugar with his fingers ; and at Edinburgh, in a passion, he threw a glass of lemonade out of the window because it had been sweetened in the same manner by the waiter. In one of his letters to Mrs. Thrale he expressed his displeasure in Skye at the very practice with which he is charged a few weeks later in Mull. Describing his visit to the house of Sir Alexander Macdonald, he wrote : " The lady had not the common decencies of her tea-table : we picked up our sugar with our fingers."

It is strange that while in Mull, that " most dolorous country,' that " gloom of desolation," as Johnson described it, these stories of him are preserved, the boatman who took me across the narrow passage between it and Inch- Kenneth had no traditionary know- ledge of his host, Sir Allan Maclean, and of his retirement in that little island. To the forefathers of the men of Mull the head of the Macleans would have been an object of reverence and even of fear, and Johnson only a passing wonder. " I would cut my bones for him," said one of his clan, speaking of Sir Allan in Boswell's hearing. 2 But of the Highland chief who lived among them no remembrance remains, while the Sassenach mo/ir, who spent but a few days in the island-home of the Macleans, is still almost " a household word."

I was indeed surprised to find through the Highlands and the Hebrides how much he still remained in men's thoughts. On Loch Lomond, the boatman who rowed me to the islands on which he had landed, a man of reading and intelligence, said that though he had

1 fiozzi Letters, i. 138. " Boswell's fo/inson, v. 337.

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