Strangled by a Silken Cord

Monday, 25th October [1773].—My acquaintance, the Rev. Mr. John M’Aulay, one of the ministers of Inverary, and brother to our good friend at Calder, came to us this morning, and accompanied us to the castle, where I presented Dr. Johnson to the Duke of Argyle. We were shown through the house; and I never shall forget the impression made upon my fancy by some of the ladies’ maids tripping about in neat morning dresses. After seeing for a long time little but rusticity, their lively manner, and gay inviting appearance, pleased me so much, that I thought, for the moment, I could have been a knight-errant for them.

We then got into a low one-horse chair, ordered for us by the duke, in which we drove about the place. Dr. Johnson was much struck by the grandeur and elegance of this princely seat. He thought, however, the castle too low, and wished it had been a story higher. He said, “What I admire here, is the total defiance of expense.” I had a particular pride in showing him a great number of fine old trees, to compensate for the nakedness which had made such an impression on him on the eastern coast of Scotland.

When we came in, before dinner, we found the duke and some gentlemen in the hall. Dr. Johnson took much notice of the large collection of arms, which are excellently disposed there. I told what he had said to Sir Alexander M’Donald, of his ancestors not suffering their arms to rust. “Well,” said the doctor, “but let us be glad we live in times when arms may rust. We can sit to-day at his grace’s table, without any risk of being attacked, and perhaps sitting down again wounded or maimed.” The duke placed Dr. Johnson next himself at table. I was in fine spirits; and though sensible that I had the misfortune of not being in favour with the duchess, I was not in the least disconcerted, and offered her grace some of the dish that was before me. It must be owned that I was in the right to be quite unconcerned, if I could. I was the Duke of Argyle’s guest; and I had no reason to suppose that he adopted the prejudices and resentments of the Duchess of Hamilton.

I knew it was the rule of modern high life not to drink to any body; but, that I might have the satisfaction for once to look the duchess in the face, with a glass in my hand, I with a respectful air addressed her, “My Lady Duchess, I have the honour to drink your grace’s good health.” I repeated the words audibly, and with a steady countenance. This was, perhaps, rather too much; but some allowance must be made for human feelings.

The duchess was very attentive to Dr. Johnson.

I know not how a middle state came to be mentioned. Her grace wished to hear him on that point. “Madam,” said he, “your own relation, Mr. Archibald Campbell, can tell you better about it than I can. He was a bishop of the nonjuring communion, and wrote a book upon the subject’.” He engaged to get it for her grace. He afterwards gave a full history of Mr. Archibald Campbell, which I am sorry I do not recollect particularly. He said, Mr. Campbell had been bred a violent whig, but afterwards “kept better company, and became a tory.” He said this with a smile, in pleasant allusion, as I thought, to the opposition between his own political principles and those of the duke’s clan. He added that Mr. Campbell, after the revolution, was thrown into gaol on account of his tenets; but, on application by letter to the old Lord Townshend, was released: that he always spoke of his lordship with great gratitude, saying, “though a whig, he had humanity.”

Dr. Johnson and I passed some time together, in June, 1784, at Pembroke college, Oxford, with the Rev. Dr. Adams, the master; and I having expressed a regret that my note relative to Mr. Archibald Campbell was imperfect, he was then so good as to write with his own hand, on the blank page of my journal, opposite to that which contains what I have now mentioned, the following paragraph; which, however, is not quite so full as the narrative he gave at Inverary:

“The Honourable Archibald Campbell was, I believe, the nephew of the Marquis of Argyle. He began life by engaging in Monmouth’s rebellion, and, to escape the law, lived some time in Surinam. When he returned, he became zealous for episcopacy and monarchy; and at the revolution adhered not only to the nonjurors, but to those who refused to communicate with the church of England, or to be present at any worship where the usurper was mentioned as king. He was, I believe, more than once apprehended in the reign of King William, and once at the accession of George. He was the familiar friend of Hicks and Nelson; a man of letters, but injudicious; and very curious and inquisitive, but credulous. He lived in 1743, or 44, about seventy-five years old.”

The subject of luxury having been introduced, Dr. Johnson defended it. “We have now,” said he, “a splendid dinner before us; which of all these dishes is unwholesome?” The duke asserted, that he had observed the grandees of Spain diminished in their size by luxury. Dr. Johnson politely refrained from opposing directly an observation which the duke himself had made; but said, “Man must be very different from other animals, if he is diminished by good living; for the size of all other animals is increased by it.” I made some remark that seemed to imply a belief in second-sight. The duchess said, “I fancy you will be a methodist.” This was the only sentence her grace deigned to utter to me; and I take it for granted, she thought it a good hit on my credulity in the Douglas cause.

A gentleman in company, after dinner, was desired by the duke to go to another room, for a specimen of curious marble, which his grace wished to show us. He brought a wrong piece, upon which the duke sent him back again. He could not refuse; but, to avoid any appearance of servility, he whistled as he walked out of the room, to show his independency. On my mentioning this afterwards to Dr. Johnson, he said, it was a nice trait of character.

Dr. Johnson talked a great deal, and was so entertaining, that Lady Betty Hamilton, after dinner, went and placed her chair close to his, leaned upon the back of it, and listened eagerly. It would have made a fine picture to have drawn the sage and her at this time in their several attitudes. He did not know, all the while, how much he was honoured. I told him afterwards, I never saw him so gentle and complaisant as this day.

We went to tea. The duke and I walked up and down the drawing-room, conversing. The duchess still continued to show the same marked coldness for me; for which, though I suffered from it, I made every allowance, considering the very warm part that I had taken for Douglas, in the cause in which she thought her son deeply interested. Had not her grace discovered some displeasure towards me, I should have suspected her of insensibility or dissimulation.

Her grace made Dr. Johnson come and sit by her, and asked him why he made his journey so late in the year. “Why, madam,” said he, “you know Mr. Boswell must attend the court of session, and it does not rise till the twelfth of August.” She said, with some sharpness, “I know nothing of Mr. Boswell.” Poor Lady Lucy Douglas to whom I mentioned this, observed, “She knew too much of Mr. Boswell.” I shall make no remark on her grace’s speech. I indeed felt it as rather too severe; but when I recollected that my punishment was inflicted by so dignified a beauty, I had that kind of consolation which a man would feel who is strangled by a silken cord. Dr. Johnson was all attention to her grace. He used afterwards a droll expression, upon her enjoying the three titles of Hamilton, Brandon, and Argyle. Borrowing an image from the Turkish empire, he called her a duchess with three tails.

He was much pleased with our visit at the castle of Inverary. The Duke of Argyle was exceedingly polite to him, and, upon his complaining of the shelties which he had hitherto ridden being too small for him, his grace told him he should be provided with a good horse to carry him next day.

— James Boswell, The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides with Samuel Johnson.

Perplexed Doctrine, Disordered Practice, Disturbed Quiet

Plaster bust of Samuel Johnson by Joseph Nollekens, 1777; Yale Center for British Art.
Plaster bust of Samuel Johnson by Joseph Nollekens, 1777; Yale Center for British Art.

Much therefore of that humour which transported the last century with merriment is lost to us, who do not know the sour solemnity, the sullen superstition, the gloomy moroseness, and the stubborn scruples of the ancient Puritans; or, if we know them, derive our information only from books or from tradition, have never had them before our eyes, and cannot but by recollection and study understand the lines in which they are satirized. Our grandfathers knew the picture from the life; we judge of the life by contemplating the picture.

It is scarcely possible, in the regularity and composure of the present time, to imagine the tumult of absurdity, and clamour of contradiction, which perplexed doctrine, disordered practice, and disturbed both public and private quiet, in that age when subordination was broken, and awe was hissed away; when any unsettled innovator who could hatch a half-formed notion produced it to the public; when every man might become a preacher, and almost every preacher could collect a congregation.

Samuel Johnson, Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets, Vol. I (Butler).

Rascals

BOSWELL. “I drank chocolate, Sir, this morning with Mr. Eld; and, to my no small surprize, found him to be a Staffordshire Whig, a being which I did not believe had existed.” JOHNSON. “Sir, there are rascals in all countries.” BOSWELL. “Eld said, a Tory was a creature generated between a non-juring parson and one’s grandmother.” JOHNSON. “And I have always said, the first Whig was the Devil.” BOSWELL. “He certainly was, Sir. The Devil was impatient of subordination; he was the first who resisted power:

‘Better to reign in hell, than serve in heaven.’

James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.

Donum Sanationis

Arms of the Cardinal Duke of York, Henry Benedict Stuart (Henry IX of England, II of Ireland, and I of Scotland) in the Jacobite peerage.
Arms of the Cardinal Duke of York, Henry Benedict Stuart (Henry IX of England, II of Ireland, and I of Scotland) in the Jacobite peerage.

MALCOLM
Well, more anon.—Comes the king forth, I pray you?

DOCTOR
Ay, sir; there are a crew of wretched souls
That stay his cure. Their malady convinces
The great assay of art, but at his touch—
Such sanctity hath heaven given his hand—
They presently amend.

MALCOLM
I thank you, doctor.

(Exit DOCTOR.)

MACDUFF
What’s the disease he means?

MALCOLM
‘Tis called the evil.
A most miraculous work in this good king,
Which often since my here-remain in England
I have seen him do. How he solicits heaven,
Himself best knows, but strangely visited people,
All swoll’n and ulcerous, pitiful to the eye,
The mere despair of surgery, he cures,
Hanging a golden stamp about their necks,
Put on with holy prayers. And, ’tis spoken,
To the succeeding royalty he leaves
The healing benediction. With this strange virtue,
He hath a heavenly gift of prophecy,
And sundry blessings hang about his throne,
That speak him full of grace.

Macbeth, Act 4. Scene 3.

[N]o one is so perfectly cured, as not to be attacked again by the same disease, if he be so unfortunate to lose the coin which the king hangs about his neck when he is touched, in which case he must be touched again.

à la Haye, Relation … du Voyage et Sèjour du Roy de la Grande Bretagne &c., 1660.

AT THE HEALING.

PREVENT us, O Lord, in all our doings with thy most gracious favour, and further us with thy continual help, that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in thee, we may glorify thy holy Name, and finally by thy mercy obtain everlasting life: through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Holy Gospel is written in the 16th Chapter of Saint Mark, beginning at the 14th Verse.

JESUS appeared unto the Eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen. And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my Name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following.

Lord have mercy upon us.
Christ have mercy upon us.
Lord have mercy upon us.

OUR Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, As it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. Amen.

Then shall the infirm Persons, one by one, be presented to the Queen upon their Knees; and as every one is presented and while the Queen is laying Her Hands upon them, and putting the Gold about their Necks, the Chaplain that officiates, turning himself to her Majesty, shall say these words following:

GOD give a Blessing to this Work; and grant that these sick Persons, on whom the Queen lays her Hands, may recover, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

After all have been presented, the Chaplain shall say,
[These answers are to be made by them that come to be Healed.]

Vers. O Lord, save thy servants;
Resp. Who put their trust in thee.
Vers. Send unto them help from thy holy place.
Resp. And evermore mightily defend them.
Vers. Help us, O God of our Salvation.
Resp. And for the glory of thy Name deliver us, and be merciful unto us sinners, for thy Name’s sake.
Vers. O Lord, hear our prayers.
Resp. And let our cry come unto thee.

Let us pray.

O ALMIGHTY God, who art the Giver of all health, and the aid of them that seek to thee for succour, we call upon thee for thy help and goodness mercifully to be shewed upon these thy servants, that they being healed of their Infirmities may give thanks unto thee in thy holy Church, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Then the Chaplain, standing with his face towards them that come to be healed, shall say,

THE Almighty Lord, who is a most strong tower to all them that put their trust in him, to whom all things in heaven, in earth, and under the earth, do bow and obey, be now and evermore thy defence; and make you know and feel, that there is none other Name under heaven given to man, in whom, and through whom, thou mayest receive health and salvation, but only the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

THE grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with us all evermore. Amen.

(As appended to the Book of Common Prayer during the reign of Queen Anne. The service was thus retained in a Prayer-Book printed in the fifth or sixth year of George I, though it is said that the queen was the last (de facto) sovereign to touch for the sure of the Evil.)

* * *

The practice of the Royal Healing seems to have reached its zenith during the reign of Charles II (evidently no fewer than ninety-two thousand persons availed themselves of His Majesty’s touch during the twenty years following the Restoration). After the Revolution, William of Orange, on being requested to touch, refused to do so, referring applicants instead to his exiled uncle at St. Germain. Anne touched frequently, one of her last patients being Dr. Samuel Johnson. Like William III, George I (and the succeeding Hanoverians) positively refused to touch, perhaps on account of the extravagance of the display, to which the monarch was temperamentally averse, or perhaps because the service seemed too Catholic, but the Stuarts continued the practice in exile — James III, Charles Edward Stuart, and finally by the Cardinal Duke, whose Diary contains a great many entries to this effect.

A Wretched Little Hovel of Earth

This entry in Boswell’s Diary is demonstrative of the abject poverty among the common folk of the Scottish Highlands after the final defeat of the Jacobites at Culloden in 1745 and the subsequent terrors and hardships placed on the people whose clans were all but destroyed as the Government tried to blot out even their very culture and distinctiveness.

* * *

Loch Ness.

It was a delightful day. Lochness, and the road upon the side of it, shaded with birch trees, and the hills above it, pleased us much. The scene was as sequestered and agreeably wild as could be desired, and for a time engrossed all our attention.

To see Dr Johnson in any new situation is always an interesting object to me; and, as I saw him now for the first time on horseback, jaunting about at his ease in quest of pleasure and novelty, the very different occupations of his former laborious life, his admirable productions, his London, his Rambler, &c. &c. immediately presented themselves to my mind, and the contrast made a strong impression on my imagination.

When we had advanced a good way by the side of Lochness, I perceived a little hut, with an old looking woman at the door of it. I thought here might be a scene that would amuse Dr Johnson: so I mentioned it to him. ‘Let’s go in,’ said he. We dismounted, and we and our guides entered the hut. It was a wretched little hovel of earth only, I think, and for a window had only a small hole, which was stopped with a piece of turf, that was taken out occasionally to let in light. In the middle of the room or space which we entered, was a fire of peat, the smoke going out at a hole in the roof. She had a pot upon it, with goat’s flesh, boiling. There was at one end under the same roof, but divided by a kind of partition made of wattles, a pen or fold in which we saw a good many kids.

Dr Johnson was curious to know where she slept. I asked one of the guides, who questioned her in Erse. She answered with a tone of emotion, saying (as he told us) she was afraid we wanted to go to bed to her. This coquetry, or whatever it may be called, of so wretched a being, was truly ludicrous. Dr Johnson and I afterwards were merry upon it. I said, it was he who alarmed the poor woman’s virtue. ‘No, sir,’ said he, ‘she’ll say, ‘”There came a wicked young fellow, a wild dog, who I believe would have ravished me, had there not been with him a grave old gentleman, who repressed him: but when he gets out of the sight of his tutor, I’ll warrant you he’ll spare no woman he meets, young or old.”‘ ‘No, sir,’ I replied, ‘she’ll say, “There was a terrible ruffian who would have forced me, had it not been for a civil decent young man who, I take it, was an angel sent from heaven to protect me.”‘

Dr Johnson would not hurt her delicacy, by insisting on ‘seeing her bedchamber’, like Archer in The Beaux’ Stratagem. But my curiosity was more ardent; I lighted a piece of paper, and went into the place where the bed was. There was a little partition of wicker, rather more neatly done than that for the fold, and close by the wall was a kind of bedstead of wood with heath upon it by way of bed; at the foot of which I saw some sort of blankets or covering rolled up in a heap. The woman’s name was Fraser; so was her husband’s. He was a man of eighty. Mr Fraser of Balnain allows him to live in this hut, and keep sixty goats, for taking care of his woods, where he then was. They had five children, the eldest only thirteen. Two were gone to Inverness to buy meal; the rest were looking after the goats. This contented family had four stacks of barley, twenty-four sheaves in each. They had a few fowls. We were informed that they lived all the spring without meal, upon milk and curds and whey alone. What they get for their goats, kids, and fowls, maintains them during the rest of the year.

She asked us to sit down and take a dram. I saw one chair. She said she was as happy as any woman in Scotland. She could hardly speak any English except a few detached words. Dr Johnson was pleased at seeing, for the first time, such a state of human life. She asked for snuff. It is her luxury, and she uses a great deal. We had none; but gave her six pence a piece. She then brought out her whisky bottle. I tasted it; as did Joseph and our guides: so I gave her sixpence more. She sent us away with many prayers in Erse.

— The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides by James Boswell; Monday, 30th August 1773: Inverness, Fort Augustus.

 

The Total Defiance of Expence

Armoury Hall in Inveraray Castle.

My acquaintance, the Reverend Mr John M’Aulay, one of the ministers of Inveraray, and brother to our good friend at Calder, came to us this morning, and accompanied us to the castle, where I presented Dr Johnson to the Duke of Argyle. We were shewn through the house; and I never shall forget the impression made upon my fancy by some of the ladies’ maids tripping about in neat morning dresses. After seeing for a long time little but rusticity, their lively manner, and gay inviting appearance, pleased me so much, that I thought, for the moment, I could have been a knight-errant for them. [Footnote: On reflection, at the distance of several years, I wonder that my venerable fellow-traveller should have read this passage without censuring my levity.]

We then got into a low one-horse chair, ordered for us by the duke, in which we drove about the place. Dr Johnson was much struck by the grandeur and elegance of this princely seat. He thought, however, the castle too low, and wished it had been a story higher. He said, ‘What I admire here, is the total defiance of expence.’ I had a particular pride in shewing him a great number of fine old trees, to compensate for the nakedness which had made such an impression on him on the eastern coast of Scotland.

When we came in, before dinner, we found the duke and some gentlemen in the hall. Dr Johnson took much notice of the large collection of arms, which are excellently disposed there. I told what he had said to Sir Alexander McDonald, of his ancestors not suffering their arms to rust. ‘Well,’ said the doctor, ‘but let us be glad we live in times when arms MAY rust. We can sit to-day at his grace’s table, without any risk of being attacked, and perhaps sitting down again wounded or maimed.’

The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides by James Boswell;
Monday, 25th October 1773: Inveraray.

I Believe You Are a Campbell

St. Columba’s Bay, Iona.

Being desirous to visit the opposite shore of the island, where Saint Columba is said to have landed, I procured a horse from one M’Ginnis, who ran along as my guide. The M’Ginnises are said to be a branch of the clan of M’Lean. Sir Allan had been told that this man had refused to send him some rum, at which the knight was in great indignation. ‘You rascal!’ said he. ‘Don’t you know that I can hang you, if I please?’ Not averting to the chieftain’s power over his clan, I imagined that Sir Allan had known of some capital crime that the fellow had committed, which he could discover, and so get him condemned; and said, ‘How so?’ ‘Why,’ said Sir Allan, ‘are they not all my people?’ Sensible in my inadvertency, and most willing to contribute what I could towards the continuation of feudal authority, ‘Very true,’ said I. Sir Allan went on: ‘Refuse to send rum to me, you rascal! Don’t you know that, if I order you to go and cut a man’s throat, you are to do it?’ ‘Yes, an’t please your honour! and my own too, and hang myself too.’ The poor fellow denied that he had refused to send the rum. His making these professions was not merely a pretence in presence of his chief; for after he and I were out of Sir Allan’s hearing, he told me, ‘Had he sent his dog for the rum, I would have given it: I would cut my bones for him.’ It was very remarkable to find such an attachment to a chief, though he had then no connection with the island, and had not been there for fourteen years. Sir Allan, by way of upbraiding the fellow, said, ‘I believe you are a CAMPBELL.’

– The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides by James Boswell;
Wednesday, 20th October 1773: Icolmkill (Iona).