Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland - Samuel Johnson - ebook

Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland ebook

Samuel Johnson

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Titel: Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland

von William Shakespeare, H. G. Wells, Henry Van Dyke, Thomas Carlyle, Oscar Wilde, Joseph Conrad, Henry James, Anthony Hope, Henry Fielding, Giraldus Cambrensis, Daniel Defoe, Grammaticus Saxo, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Hugh Lofting, Agatha Christie, Sinclair Lewis, Eugène Brieux, Upton Sinclair, Booth Tarkington, Sax Rohmer, Jack London, Anna Katharine Green, Sara Jeannette Duncan, Xenophon, Alexandre Dumas père, John William Draper, Alice Christiana Thompson Meynell, Bram Stoker, Honoré de Balzac, William Congreve, Louis de Rougemont, Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol, Rolf Boldrewood, François Rabelais, Lysander Spooner, B. M. Bower, Henry Rider Haggard, William Hickling Prescott, Lafcadio Hearn, Robert Herrick, Jane Austen, Mark Twain, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Charles Babbage, Kate Douglas Smith Wiggin, Frank L. Packard, George Meredith, John Merle Coulter, Irvin S. Cobb, Edwin Mims, John Tyndall, Various, Charles Darwin, Sidney Lanier, Henry Lawson, Niccolò Machiavelli, George W. Crile, Théophile Gautier, Noah Brooks, James Thomson, Zane Grey, J. M. Synge, Virginia Woolf, Conrad Aiken, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Helen Cody Wetmore, Ayn Rand, Sir Thomas Malory, Gustave Flaubert, Edmond Rostand, Charlotte Brontë, Edith Wharton, Giles Lytton Strachey, Myrtle Reed, Ernest Bramah, Jules Verne, H. L. Mencken, H. Stanley Redgrove, Victor Lefebure, Edna Lyall, John Masefield, Charles Kingsley, Robert Burns, Edgar Lee Masters, Victor [pseud.] Appleton, Ellis Parker Butler, Mary Lamb, Charles Lamb, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Kenneth Grahame, Charles Dickens, John Ruskin, John Galt, James J. Davis, Owen Wister, William Blades, Sir Hall Caine, Sir Max Beerbohm, Baron Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett Dunsany, Bret Harte, E. Phillips Oppenheim, Thomas Henry Huxley, A. B. Paterson, John N. Reynolds, Walter Dill Scott, Hans Gustav Adolf Gross, T. S. Eliot, Walt Whitman, Arthur Ransome, Jane Addams, Elizabeth, David Lindsay, Helen Bannerman, Charles A. Oliver, J. M. Barrie, Robert F. Murray, Andrew Lang, Jerome K. Jerome, Francis Thompson, Sydney Waterlow, Andrew Dickson White, Benjamin N. Cardozo, Karl Marx, Edouard Louis Emmanuel Julien Le Roy, Margaret Hill McCarter, Sir Donald Mackenzie Wallace, Howard Trueman, L. M. Montgomery, Frank T. Bullen, Baron Alfred Tennyson Tennyson, Jonathan Nield, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Charles Reade, Ouida, Washington Irving, Benjamin Louis Eulalie de Bonneville, Sir Walter Scott, Stewart Edward White, Arthur Hugh Clough, Baron Edward Bulwer Lytton Lytton, C.-F. Volney, T. Troward, graf Leo Tolstoy, Christopher Morley, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Gilbert White, Percival Lowell, Frederick Marryat, Robert Graves, Thomas Holmes, Wilkie Collins, Maria Edgeworth, Katherine Mansfield, E. Nesbit, Olive Schreiner, Jeronimo Lobo, O. Henry, James Slough Zerbe, Donald Ogden Stewart, Johanna Spyri, Eleanor H. Porter, William Tatem Tilden, Sol Plaatje, Rafael Sabatini, William Makepeace Thackeray, George Gissing, Maksim Gorky, Baron Thomas Babington Macaulay Macaulay, H. G. Keene, Saki, R. B. Cunninghame Graham, Thomas Hughes, David Nunes Carvalho, Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, Carry Amelia Nation, John Fiske, Bernard Shaw, Elbridge Streeter Brooks, William Holmes McGuffey, Edward Everett Hale, Louis Ginzberg, Chester K. Steele, Christopher Marlowe, Plato, John Lord, Shakespeare, Martin Luther, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Howard Pyle, Charles Morris, Edward Carpenter, Maurice Leblanc, James Boswell, William Osler, William Ernest Henley, Theron Q. Dumont, Horatio Alger, Abraham Myerson, Joel Benton, Eden Phillpotts, Anonymous, Robert Louis Stevenson, Lloyd Osbourne, Cleland Boyd McAfee, Robert Williams Wood, H. C. Andersen, Edna Ferber, James Stephens, John Jacob Astor, Alexandre Dumas fils, Hilda Conkling, J. Storer Clouston, Julian Hawthorne, Ernest Albert Savage, Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman, Fernando de Rojas, Richard Harding Davis, Charles Whibley, Thomas Dixon, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, George MacDonald, Thomas H. Burgoyne, Belle M. Wagner, Émile Gaboriau, à Kempis Thomas, United States. Central Intelligence Agency, Herbert Darling Foster, John Chipman Farrar, Lucius Apuleius, Olive Gilbert, Sojourner Truth, Arthur Judson Brown, Burbank L. Todd, Gaston Leroux, Margaret Sanger, Jr. Martin Luther King, Mary Johnston, S. A. Reilly, G. K. Chesterton, Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, George Iles, E. W. Hornung, Edward Huntington Williams, Henry Smith Williams, Nathaniel W. Stephenson, Ellen Marriage, Homer, Anton Pavlovich Chekhov, J. F. C. Hecker, John Milton, Natalie Sumner Lincoln, Baroness Emmuska Orczy Orczy, Thomas Bailey Aldrich, Mary Esther Miller MacGregor, William MacLeod Raine, Earl Derr Biggers, Helen Nicolay, Ruth Ogden, Thornton W. Burgess, Mary Murdoch Mason, Auguste Groner, John Lawson, Emma Wolf, Theodore Dreiser, Roger Ascham, John Charles McNeill, Owen Meredith, L. Adams Beck, Rudyard Kipling, Alphonse Daudet, Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge, Anthony Trollope, A. A. Milne, Elia Wilkinson Peattie, J. Fitzgerald Molloy, James Fenimore Cooper, Alexander Whyte, Jean-Henri Fabre, E. R. Punshon, Neltje Blanchan, Porter Lander MacClintock, William Darnall MacClintock, Ida Pfeiffer, Stanley John Weyman, Max Brand, Herman Melville, William Joseph Long, William Cotton, Dorothy Kilner, Sarah Fielding, Samuel Butler, A. C. Seward, Harold MacGrath, Nathaniel Hawthorne, William J. Kountz, Arthur B. Reeve, Susan Fenimore Cooper, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Anatole France, William Blake, Elizabeth Davis Bancroft, Carl von Clausewitz, Gildas, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Melvin Linwood Severy, E. H. Chapin, Sir Philip Sidney, John Buchan, fl. 796 Nennius, Aristotle, Jean Baptiste Racine, Ellen Robena Field, Mitzi Perdue, Richard M. Stallman, John Bunyan, Andy Adams, Gideon Wurdz, Sir Robert Naunton, Paul Hentzner, Dante Alighieri, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, Aldous Huxley, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, C. S. Lewis, P. G. Wodehouse, ca. 1824-1874 George W. Sands, Frank Richard Stockton, Freeman Wills Crofts, Marie Belloc Lowndes, Avery Hopwood, Jeffery Farnol, August Niemann, Molière, J. Breckenridge Ellis, L. W. King, Eleanor Farjeon, Maurice Maeterlinck, Sir Samuel White Baker, Thomas De Quincey, Henry Adams, Chauncey M. Depew, William Wells Brown, William Hazlitt, Walter Hawkins, Orestes Augustus Brownson, Richard Henry Dana, George Smith, Brian Oswald Donn-Byrne, John Fox, William Beckford, John Dryden, Samuel Johnson

ISBN 978-3-7429-1998-4

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A Journey to the Western Isles of Scotland, by Samuel Johnson

Transcribed from the 1775 edition with the corrections noted in the 1785 errata by David Price, email [email protected]

A JOURNEY TO THE WESTERN ISLANDS OF SCOTLAND

INCH KEITH

I had desired to visit the Hebrides, or Western Islands of Scotland, so long, that I scarcely remember how the wish was originally excited; and was in the Autumn of the year 1773 induced to undertake the journey, by finding in Mr. Boswell a companion, whose acuteness would help my inquiry, and whose gaiety of conversation and civility of manners are sufficient to counteract the inconveniences of travel, in countries less hospitable than we have passed.

On the eighteenth of August we left Edinburgh, a city too well known to admit description, and directed our course northward, along the eastern coast of Scotland, accompanied the first day by another gentleman, who could stay with us only long enough to shew us how much we lost at separation.

As we crossed the Frith of Forth, our curiosity was attracted by Inch Keith, a small island, which neither of my companions had ever visited, though, lying within their view, it had all their lives solicited their notice.  Here, by climbing with some difficulty over shattered crags, we made the first experiment of unfrequented coasts.  Inch Keith is nothing more than a rock covered with a thin layer of earth, not wholly bare of grass, and very fertile of thistles.  A small herd of cows grazes annually upon it in the summer.  It seems never to have afforded to man or beast a permanent habitation.

We found only the ruins of a small fort, not so injured by time but that it might be easily restored to its former state.  It seems never to have been intended as a place of strength, nor was built to endure a siege, but merely to afford cover to a few soldiers, who perhaps had the charge of a battery, or were stationed to give signals of approaching danger.  There is therefore no provision of water within the walls, though the spring is so near, that it might have been easily enclosed.  One of the stones had this inscription: ‘Maria Reg. 1564.’  It has probably been neglected from the time that the whole island had the same king.

We left this little island with our thoughts employed awhile on the different appearance that it would have made, if it had been placed at the same distance from London, with the same facility of approach; with what emulation of price a few rocky acres would have been purchased, and with what expensive industry they would have been cultivated and adorned.

When we landed, we found our chaise ready, and passed through Kinghorn, Kirkaldy, and Cowpar, places not unlike the small or straggling market-towns in those parts of England where commerce and manufactures have not yet produced opulence.

Though we were yet in the most populous part of Scotland, and at so small a distance from the capital, we met few passengers.

The roads are neither rough nor dirty; and it affords a southern stranger a new kind of pleasure to travel so commodiously without the interruption of toll-gates.  Where the bottom is rocky, as it seems commonly to be in Scotland, a smooth way is made indeed with great labour, but it never wants repairs; and in those parts where adventitious materials are necessary, the ground once consolidated is rarely broken; for the inland commerce is not great, nor are heavy commodities often transported otherwise than by water.  The carriages in common use are small carts, drawn each by one little horse; and a man seems to derive some degree of dignity and importance from the reputation of possessing a two-horse cart.

ST. ANDREWS

At an hour somewhat late we came to St. Andrews, a city once archiepiscopal; where that university still subsists in which philosophy was formerly taught by Buchanan, whose name has as fair a claim to immortality as can be conferred by modern latinity, and perhaps a fairer than the instability of vernacular languages admits.

We found, that by the interposition of some invisible friend, lodgings had been provided for us at the house of one of the professors, whose easy civility quickly made us forget that we were strangers; and in the whole time of our stay we were gratified by every mode of kindness, and entertained with all the elegance of lettered hospitality.

In the morning we rose to perambulate a city, which only history shews to have once flourished, and surveyed the ruins of ancient magnificence, of which even the ruins cannot long be visible, unless some care be taken to preserve them; and where is the pleasure of preserving such mournful memorials?  They have been till very lately so much neglected, that every man carried away the stones who fancied that he wanted them.

The cathedral, of which the foundations may be still traced, and a small part of the wall is standing, appears to have been a spacious and majestick building, not unsuitable to the primacy of the kingdom.  Of the architecture, the poor remains can hardly exhibit, even to an artist, a sufficient specimen.  It was demolished, as is well known, in the tumult and violence of Knox’s reformation.

Not far from the cathedral, on the margin of the water, stands a fragment of the castle, in which the archbishop anciently resided.  It was never very large, and was built with more attention to security than pleasure.  Cardinal Beatoun is said to have had workmen employed in improving its fortifications at the time when he was murdered by the ruffians of reformation, in the manner of which Knox has given what he himself calls a merry narrative.

The change of religion in Scotland, eager and vehement as it was, raised an epidemical enthusiasm, compounded of sullen scrupulousness and warlike ferocity, which, in a people whom idleness resigned to their own thoughts, and who, conversing only with each other, suffered no dilution of their zeal from the gradual influx of new opinions, was long transmitted in its full strength from the old to the young, but by trade and intercourse with England, is now visibly abating, and giving way too fast to that laxity of practice and indifference of opinion, in which men, not sufficiently instructed to find the middle point, too easily shelter themselves from rigour and constraint.

The city of St. Andrews, when it had lost its archiepiscopal pre-eminence, gradually decayed: One of its streets is now lost; and in those that remain, there is silence and solitude of inactive indigence and gloomy depopulation.

The university, within a few years, consisted of three colleges, but is now reduced to two; the college of St. Leonard being lately dissolved by the sale of its buildings and the appropriation of its revenues to the professors of the two others.  The chapel of the alienated college is yet standing, a fabrick not inelegant of external structure; but I was always, by some civil excuse, hindred from entering it.  A decent attempt, as I was since told, has been made to convert it into a kind of green-house, by planting its area with shrubs.  This new method of gardening is unsuccessful; the plants do not hitherto prosper.  To what use it will next be put I have no pleasure in conjecturing.  It is something that its present state is at least not ostentatiously displayed.  Where there is yet shame, there may in time be virtue.

The dissolution of St. Leonard’s college was doubtless necessary; but of that necessity there is reason to complain.  It is surely not without just reproach, that a nation, of which the commerce is hourly extending, and the wealth encreasing, denies any participation of its prosperity to its literary societies; and while its merchants or its nobles are raising palaces, suffers its universities to moulder into dust.

Of the two colleges yet standing, one is by the institution of its founder appropriated to Divinity.  It is said to be capable of containing fifty students; but more than one must occupy a chamber.  The library, which is of late erection, is not very spacious, but elegant and luminous.

The doctor, by whom it was shewn, hoped to irritate or subdue my English vanity by telling me, that we had no such repository of books in England.

Saint Andrews seems to be a place eminently adapted to study and education, being situated in a populous, yet a cheap country, and exposing the minds and manners of young men neither to the levity and dissoluteness of a capital city, nor to the gross luxury of a town of commerce, places naturally unpropitious to learning; in one the desire of knowledge easily gives way to the love of pleasure, and in the other, is in danger of yielding to the love of money.

The students however are represented as at this time not exceeding a hundred.  Perhaps it may be some obstruction to their increase that there is no episcopal chapel in the place.  I saw no reason for imputing their paucity to the present professors; nor can the expence of an academical education be very reasonably objected.  A student of the highest class may keep his annual session, or as the English call it, his term, which lasts seven months, for about fifteen pounds, and one of lower rank for less than ten; in which board, lodging, and instruction are all included.

The chief magistrate resident in the university, answering to our vice-chancellor, and to the rector magnificus on the continent, had commonly the title of Lord Rector; but being addressed only as Mr. Rector in an inauguratory speech by the present chancellor, he has fallen from his former dignity of style.  Lordship was very liberally annexed by our ancestors to any station or character of dignity: They said, the Lord General, and Lord Ambassador; so we still say, my Lord, to the judge upon the circuit, and yet retain in our Liturgy the Lords of the Council.

In walking among the ruins of religious buildings, we came to two vaults over which had formerly stood the house of the sub-prior.  One of the vaults was inhabited by an old woman, who claimed the right of abode there, as the widow of a man whose ancestors had possessed the same gloomy mansion for no less than four generations.  The right, however it began, was considered as established by legal prescription, and the old woman lives undisturbed.  She thinks however that she has a claim to something more than sufferance; for as her husband’s name was Bruce, she is allied to royalty, and told Mr. Boswell that when there were persons of quality in the place, she was distinguished by some notice; that indeed she is now neglected, but she spins a thread, has the company of her cat, and is troublesome to nobody.

Having now seen whatever this ancient city offered to our curiosity, we left it with good wishes, having reason to be highly pleased with the attention that was paid us.  But whoever surveys the world must see many things that give him pain.  The kindness of the professors did not contribute to abate the uneasy remembrance of an university declining, a college alienated, and a church profaned and hastening to the ground.

St. Andrews indeed has formerly suffered more atrocious ravages and more extensive destruction, but recent evils affect with greater force.  We were reconciled to the sight of archiepiscopal ruins.  The distance of a calamity from the present time seems to preclude the mind from contact or sympathy.  Events long past are barely known; they are not considered.  We read with as little emotion the violence of Knox and his followers, as the irruptions of Alaric and the Goths.  Had the university been destroyed two centuries ago, we should not have regretted it; but to see it pining in decay and struggling for life, fills the mind with mournful images and ineffectual wishes.

ABERBROTHICK

As we knew sorrow and wishes to be vain, it was now our business to mind our way.  The roads of Scotland afford little diversion to the traveller, who seldom sees himself either encountered or overtaken, and who has nothing to contemplate but grounds that have no visible boundaries, or are separated by walls of loose stone.  From the bank of the Tweed to St. Andrews I had never seen a single tree, which I did not believe to have grown up far within the present century.  Now and then about a gentleman’s house stands a small plantation, which in Scotch is called a policy, but of these there are few, and those few all very young.  The variety of sun and shade is here utterly unknown.  There is no tree for either shelter or timber.  The oak and the thorn is equally a stranger, and the whole country is extended in uniform nakedness, except that in the road between Kirkaldy and Cowpar, I passed for a few yards between two hedges.  A tree might be a show in Scotland as a horse in Venice.  At St. Andrews Mr. Boswell found only one, and recommended it to my notice; I told him that it was rough and low, or looked as if I thought so.  This, said he, is nothing to another a few miles off.  I was still less delighted to hear that another tree was not to be seen nearer.  Nay, said a gentleman that stood by, I know but of this and that tree in the county.

The Lowlands of Scotland had once undoubtedly an equal portion of woods with other countries.  Forests are every where gradually diminished, as architecture and cultivation prevail by the increase of people and the introduction of arts.  But I believe few regions have been denuded like this, where many centuries must have passed in waste without the least thought of future supply.  Davies observes in his account of Ireland, that no Irishman had ever planted an orchard.  For that negligence some excuse might be drawn from an unsettled state of life, and the instability of property; but in Scotland possession has long been secure, and inheritance regular, yet it may be doubted whether before the Union any man between Edinburgh and England had ever set a tree.

Of this improvidence no other account can be given than that it probably began in times of tumult, and continued because it had begun.  Established custom is not easily broken, till some great event shakes the whole system of things, and life seems to recommence upon new principles.  That before the Union the Scots had little trade and little money, is no valid apology; for plantation is the least expensive of all methods of improvement.  To drop a seed into the ground can cost nothing, and the trouble is not great of protecting the young plant, till it is out of danger; though it must be allowed to have some difficulty in places like these, where they have neither wood for palisades, nor thorns for hedges.

Our way was over the Firth of Tay, where, though the water was not wide, we paid four shillings for ferrying the chaise.  In Scotland the necessaries of life are easily procured, but superfluities and elegancies are of the same price at least as in England, and therefore may be considered as much dearer.

We stopped a while at Dundee, where I remember nothing remarkable, and mounting our chaise again, came about the close of the day to Aberbrothick.

The monastery of Aberbrothick is of great renown in the history of Scotland.  Its ruins afford ample testimony of its ancient magnificence: Its extent might, I suppose, easily be found by following the walls among the grass and weeds, and its height is known by some parts yet standing.  The arch of one of the gates is entire, and of another only so far dilapidated as to diversify the appearance.  A square apartment of great loftiness is yet standing; its use I could not conjecture, as its elevation was very disproportionate to its area.  Two corner towers, particularly attracted our attention.  Mr. Boswell, whose inquisitiveness is seconded by great activity, scrambled in at a high window, but found the stairs within broken, and could not reach the top.  Of the other tower we were told that the inhabitants sometimes climbed it, but we did not immediately discern the entrance, and as the night was gathering upon us, thought proper to desist.  Men skilled in architecture might do what we did not attempt: They might probably form an exact ground-plot of this venerable edifice.  They may from some parts yet standing conjecture its general form, and perhaps by comparing it with other buildings of the same kind and the same age, attain an idea very near to truth.  I should scarcely have regretted my journey, had it afforded nothing more than the sight of Aberbrothick.

MONTROSE

Leaving these fragments of magnificence, we travelled on to Montrose, which we surveyed in the morning, and found it well built, airy, and clean.  The townhouse is a handsome fabrick with a portico.  We then went to view the English chapel, and found a small church, clean to a degree unknown in any other part of Scotland, with commodious galleries, and what was yet less expected, with an organ.

At our inn we did not find a reception such as we thought proportionate to the commercial opulence of the place; but Mr. Boswell desired me to observe that the innkeeper was an Englishman, and I then defended him as well as I could.

When I had proceeded thus far, I had opportunities of observing what I had never heard, that there are many beggars in Scotland.  In Edinburgh the proportion is, I think, not less than in London, and in the smaller places it is far greater than in English towns of the same extent.  It must, however, be allowed that they are not importunate, nor clamorous.  They solicit silently, or very modestly, and therefore though their behaviour may strike with more force the heart of a stranger, they are certainly in danger of missing the attention of their countrymen.  Novelty has always some power, an unaccustomed mode of begging excites an unaccustomed degree of pity.  But the force of novelty is by its own nature soon at an end; the efficacy of outcry and perseverance is permanent and certain.

The road from Montrose exhibited a continuation of the same appearances.  The country is still naked, the hedges are of stone, and the fields so generally plowed that it is hard to imagine where grass is found for the horses that till them.  The harvest, which was almost ripe, appeared very plentiful.

Early in the afternoon Mr. Boswell observed that we were at no great distance from the house of lord Monboddo.  The magnetism of his conversation easily drew us out of our way, and the entertainment which we received would have been a sufficient recompense for a much greater deviation.

The roads beyond Edinburgh, as they are less frequented, must be expected to grow gradually rougher; but they were hitherto by no means incommodious.  We travelled on with the gentle pace of a Scotch driver, who having no rivals in expedition, neither gives himself nor his horses unnecessary trouble.  We did not affect the impatience we did not feel, but were satisfied with the company of each other as well riding in the chaise, as sitting at an inn.  The night and the day are equally solitary and equally safe; for where there are so few travellers, why should there be robbers.

ABERDEEN

We came somewhat late to Aberdeen, and found the inn so full, that we had some difficulty in obtaining admission, till Mr. Boswell made himself known: His name overpowered all objection, and we found a very good house and civil treatment.

I received the next day a very kind letter from Sir Alexander Gordon, whom I had formerly known in London, and after a cessation of all intercourse for near twenty years met here professor of physic in the King’s College.  Such unexpected renewals of acquaintance may be numbered among the most pleasing incidents of life.

The knowledge of one professor soon procured me the notice of the rest, and I did not want any token of regard, being conducted wherever there was any thing which I desired to see, and entertained at once with the novelty of the place, and the kindness of communication.

To write of the cities of our own island with the solemnity of geographical description, as if we had been cast upon a newly discovered coast, has the appearance of very frivolous ostentation; yet as Scotland is little known to the greater part of those who may read these observations, it is not superfluous to relate, that under the name of Aberdeen are comprised two towns standing about a mile distant from each other, but governed, I think, by the same magistrates.

Old Aberdeen is the ancient episcopal city, in which are still to be seen the remains of the cathedral.  It has the appearance of a town in decay, having been situated in times when commerce was yet unstudied, with very little attention to the commodities of the harbour.

New Aberdeen has all the bustle of prosperous trade, and all the shew of increasing opulence.  It is built by the water-side.  The houses are large and lofty, and the streets spacious and clean.  They build almost wholly with the granite used in the new pavement of the streets of London, which is well known not to want hardness, yet they shape it easily.  It is beautiful and must be very lasting.

What particular parts of commerce are chiefly exercised by the merchants of Aberdeen, I have not inquired.  The manufacture which forces itself upon a stranger’s eye is that of knit-stockings, on which the women of the lower class are visibly employed.

In each of these towns there is a college, or in stricter language, an university; for in both there are professors of the same parts of learning, and the colleges hold their sessions and confer degrees separately, with total independence of one on the other.

In old Aberdeen stands the King’s College, of which the first president was Hector Boece, or Boethius, who may be justly reverenced as one of the revivers of elegant learning.  When he studied at Paris, he was acquainted with Erasmus, who afterwards gave him a public testimony of his esteem, by inscribing to him a catalogue of his works.  The stile of Boethius, though, perhaps, not always rigorously pure, is formed with great diligence upon ancient models, and wholly uninfected with monastic barbarity.  His history is written with elegance and vigour, but his fabulousness and credulity are justly blamed.  His fabulousness, if he was the author of the fictions, is a fault for which no apology can be made; but his credulity may be excused in an age, when all men were credulous.  Learning was then rising on the world; but ages so long accustomed to darkness, were too much dazzled with its light to see any thing distinctly.  The first race of scholars, in the fifteenth century, and some time after, were, for the most part, learning to speak, rather than to think, and were therefore more studious of elegance than of truth.  The contemporaries of Boethius thought it sufficient to know what the ancients had delivered.  The examination of tenets and of facts was reserved for another generation.

* * * * *

Boethius, as president of the university, enjoyed a revenue of forty Scottish marks, about two pounds four shillings and sixpence of sterling money.  In the present age of trade and taxes, it is difficult even for the imagination so to raise the value of money, or so to diminish the demands of life, as to suppose four and forty shillings a year, an honourable stipend; yet it was probably equal, not only to the needs, but to the rank of Boethius.  The wealth of England was undoubtedly to that of Scotland more than five to one, and it is known that Henry the eighth, among whose faults avarice was never reckoned, granted to Roger Ascham, as a reward of his learning, a pension of ten pounds a year.

The other, called the Marischal College, is in the new town.  The hall is large and well lighted.  One of its ornaments is the picture of Arthur Johnston, who was principal of the college, and who holds among the Latin poets of Scotland the next place to the elegant Buchanan.

In the library I was shewn some curiosities; a Hebrew manuscript of exquisite penmanship, and a Latin translation of Aristotle’s Politicks by Leonardus Aretinus, written in the Roman character with nicety and beauty, which, as the art of printing has made them no longer necessary, are not now to be found.  This was one of the latest performances of the transcribers, for Aretinus died but about twenty years before typography was invented.  This version has been printed, and may be found in libraries, but is little read; for the same books have been since translated both by Victorius and Lambinus, who lived in an age more cultivated, but perhaps owed in part to Aretinus that they were able to excel him.  Much is due to those who first broke the way to knowledge, and left only to their successors the task of smoothing it.

In both these colleges the methods of instruction are nearly the same; the lectures differing only by the accidental difference of diligence, or ability in the professors.  The students wear scarlet gowns and the professors black, which is, I believe, the academical dress in all the Scottish universities, except that of Edinburgh, where the scholars are not distinguished by any particular habit.  In the King’s College there is kept a public table, but the scholars of the Marischal College are boarded in the town.  The expence of living is here, according to the information that I could obtain, somewhat more than at St. Andrews.

The course of education is extended to four years, at the end of which those who take a degree, who are not many, become masters of arts, and whoever is a master may, if he pleases, immediately commence doctor.  The title of doctor, however, was for a considerable time bestowed only on physicians.  The advocates are examined and approved by their own body; the ministers were not ambitious of titles, or were afraid of being censured for ambition; and the doctorate in every faculty was commonly given or sold into other countries.  The ministers are now reconciled to distinction, and as it must always happen that some will excel others, have thought graduation a proper testimony of uncommon abilities or acquisitions.

The indiscriminate collation of degrees has justly taken away that respect which they originally claimed as stamps, by which the literary value of men so distinguished was authoritatively denoted.  That academical honours, or any others should be conferred with exact proportion to merit, is more than human judgment or human integrity have given reason to expect.  Perhaps degrees in universities cannot be better adjusted by any general rule than by the length of time passed in the public profession of learning.  An English or Irish doctorate cannot be obtained by a very young man, and it is reasonable to suppose, what is likewise by experience commonly found true, that he who is by age qualified to be a doctor, has in so much time gained learning sufficient not to disgrace the title, or wit sufficient not to desire it.

The Scotch universities hold but one term or session in the year.  That of St. Andrews continues eight months, that of Aberdeen only five, from the first of November to the first of April.

In Aberdeen there is an English Chapel, in which the congregation was numerous and splendid.  The form of public worship used by the church of England is in Scotland legally practised in licensed chapels served by clergymen of English or Irish ordination, and by tacit connivance quietly permitted in separate congregations supplied with ministers by the successors of the bishops who were deprived at the Revolution.

We came to Aberdeen on Saturday August 21.  On Monday we were invited into the town-hall, where I had the freedom of the city given me by the Lord Provost.  The honour conferred had all the decorations that politeness could add, and what I am afraid I should not have had to say of any city south of the Tweed, I found no petty officer bowing for a fee.

The parchment containing the record of admission is, with the seal appending, fastened to a riband and worn for one day by the new citizen in his hat.

By a lady who saw us at the chapel, the Earl of Errol was informed of our arrival, and we had the honour of an invitation to his seat, called Slanes Castle, as I am told, improperly, from the castle of that name, which once stood at a place not far distant.