Page:Footsteps of Dr. Johnson.djvu/348

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280 THE "I.ITH" IN THE NECKS OF KINGS.

sador to this Ayrshire mansion. One thing only was wanting. Would that Burns that day had played truant and had wandered up "Lugar's winding stream" as far as Auchinleck! It would, indeed, have formed an interesting group the stiff old Scotch judge and his famous son, the great Corsican patriot and the Pole, with the peasant-lad gazing at them with his eyes full of beauty and wonder. Paoli's name is well-nigh forgotten now, but he and his Corsicans deeply stirred the hearts of our forefathers. Boswell, by a private subscription in Scotland, had sent out to him in one week joo worth of ordnance "a tolerable train of artillery."' His account of his tour in that island had been widely read. Even his father " was rather fond of it. ' James,' he said, ' had taken a tout on a new horn.' ' : Whether Lord Auchinleck abused Paoli " as a land-louping scoundrel of a Corsican," or admired him as he admired other great patriots, the rest of Sir Walter Scott's account of the great altercation may be true enough :

"The controversy between Tory and Covenanter raged with great fury, and ended in Johnson's pressing upon the old judge the question, what good Cromwell, of whom lie had said something derogatory, had ever done to his country ; when, after being much tortured, Lord Auchinleck at last spoke out, 'God, Doctor! he gart kings ken that they had a lith in their neck ' he taught kings they had a. joint in their necks."

This story did not, I believe, appear in print till the year 1831, when it was given as a note by Scott in Mr. Croker's edition of Boswell. Fifty years earlier it had been told in somewhat different words of Quin the player, who had said that "on a thirtieth of January every king in Europe would rise with a crick in his neck." Davies, who records the anecdote, says that it had been attributed to Voltaire, but unjustly/' It is possible, and even not unlikely, that we have but a Scotch version of an English saying. Cromwell himself, in his letter to the governor of Edinburgh Castle, had shown that he too saw this consequence of his great deed. " The civil authority," he writes, " turned out a Tyrant in a way which the Christians in aftertimes will mention with honour, and all Tyrants in the world look at with fear." x

In one happy though impudent retort, Lord Auchinleck was very successful.

" Dr. Johnson challenged him (writes Boswell) to point out any theological

1 Letters of Boswell to Temple, p. 156. 3 Davies's Life of Garrick, ii. 115.

1 Scotland and Scotsmen, &c., i. 172. Tout 4 Cromwell's Litters and Speeches, ed. 1857,

is the blast of a horn. ii. 209.

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