Page:Footsteps of Dr. Johnson.djvu/53

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Frenchman who lived in Paris throughout the whole of the Reign of Terror, and did not notice that anything remarkable went on. It was on August 12, 1 772, a day which should for ever be famous in the annals of discovery, that Banks coming to anchor in the Sound of Mull, "was asked ashore" by Mr. Macleane of Drnm- nen. At his house he met with one Mr. Leach, an English gentleman, who told him that at the distance of about nine leagues lay an island, unvisited even by the Highlanders, with pillars on it

No yachtsman as yet threaded his way through the almost countless islets of our western seas ; the only sails as yet reflected on the unruffled surface of the land-locked firths were the fisher's and the trader's. For the sea as yet love was neither felt nor affected. There was no gladness in its dark-blue waters. Fifteen years were to pass before Byron was born the first of our poets, it has been said, who sang the delights of sailing. A ship was still " a jail, with the chance of being drowned." No Southerner went to the Highlands to hunt, or shoot, or fish. No one sought there a purer air. It was after Johnson's tour that an English writer urged the citizens of Edinburgh to plant trees in the neighbourhood of their town because " the increase of vegetation would purify the air, and dispel those putrid and noxious vapours which are frequently wafted from the Highlands."' It was on an early day of August, in a finer season than had been known for years, that Wolfe, the hero of Quebec, complained that neither temperance nor exercise could preserve him in any tolerable health in the un- friendly climate of Loch Lomond. 1 Of all the changes which have come over our country, perhaps none was more unforeseen than the growth of this passion for the Highlands and the Hebrides. Could Johnson have learnt from some one gifted with prophetic power that there were passages in his narrative which would move the men of the coming century to scoff, it was not his references to scenery which would have roused his suspicion. I have heard a Scotchman laugh uproariously over his description of a mountain as "a considerable protuberance." He did not know however where the passage came, and he admitted that, absurd as it was, it was not quite so ridiculous when taken with the context.

1 Troil's Letters on Iceland (yd ed.), p. 288. a Boswell's Jbftnson, i. 348.

There is a notice of the discovery in the Gentle- 3 Topham's Letters from Edinburgh, p. 233.

man's Magazine for 1772, p. 540, and in the * He was stationed there with his regiment.

Annual Register for the same year, i. 139. Wright's Life of General \Volfe, p. 271.


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