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Description os the Iflet <>s Skie- and Raarla.
$oon lose that tenderness of look and the benevolence of mind which arose Cora the participation of unmingled pleasure, and successive amusement. A woman, we arc sure, will not be always fair; we are not sure (he will always be virtuous ; and man cannot retain through life that respect and assiduity by which he pleases for a day or for a month. 1 do not, however, pretend to have discovered that life has any thing more to be desired than a
Sirudent and virtuous marriage ; thcrebre know not what counsel to give you.
If you can quit your imagination of love and greatness, and leave your hopes of preferment and bridal raptures, to try once more the fortune of literature and industry, the way thro' France is now open. We flatter ourselves that we shall cultivate with great diligence the arts of peace; and every man will be welcome among us who can teach us any thing we do not know. For your part, you will find all your old friends willing to receive you.
Reynolds still continues to increase in reputation and in riches. Miss Williams, who very much loves you, goes on in the old way. Miss Cottetel is still with Mrs Porter. Miss Charlotte is married to Dean Lewis, and has three children. Mr Levet has married a street-walker. But the gazette of my narration must now arrive to tell you, that Bathurst went physician to the army, and died at the Havannah.
1 know not whether I have not sent you word that Huggins and Richardson are both dead. When we see our enemies and friends gliding away before us, let us not forget that we are subject to the general law of mortality ; and shall soon be where our doom will be fixed for ever.
I pray God to bless you, and am,
Al Sign. Giuseppe Baretti,
Description os the IJles ^"Skie and Raarfa. By Dr Johnson. Extrailcd front hit Letters to Mrs Fiozzi.
Skie, Sept. 6, 1773. Dearest Madam,
I Am now looking on the sea from a house of Sir Alexander Macdonald in the I He of Skie. Little did I once think of seeing this region of obscurity, and little did you once expect a salutation from this verge of European life. I have now the pleasure of going where nobody goes, and seeing what nobody sees. Our design is to visit several of the smaller illands, and then pass over to the South West
I have been several days in the island of Raarfa, and am now again in the isle os Skie, but at the other end of it.
. JSkie is almost equally divided he- , j.-.. . 1 >
tween the two great families of Macdonald and Macleod, other proprietors' having only small districts. The two great lords do not know within twenty square miles the contents of their own territories.
kept up but ill the reputation of Highland hospitality; we are now witli Macleod, quite at the other end of the island, where there is a fine young gentleman and sine ladies. The ladies are studying Earse. I have a cold, and am miserably deaf, and am troublesome to Lady Macleod ; 1 force her to speak loud, but she will seldom speak loud enough.
Raaisa is an island about fifteen miles long and two broad, under the dominion of one gentleman, who has 2 three
three sons and ten daughters ; the eldest is the beauty of this purt of the world, and has been polished at Edinburgh: they sing and dance, and without expence have upon their table most of what sea, air, or earth can afford.
Boswell, with some os his troublesome kindness, has informed this family aud reminded me that the iSth of September is my birth-day. The return of my birth-day, if I remember it, fills me with thoughts which it seems to be the general care of humanity to escape. I can now look back upon threescore and sour years, in which little has been done, and little has been enjoyed; a life diversified by.misery, spent part in the sluggishness of penury, and part under the violence of pain, in gloomy discontent or importuuate distress. But perhaps I am better than I should have been if I had been less afflicted. With this I Will try to be content.
In proportion as there is less pleasure in retrospective considerations, the mind is more disposed to wander forward into futurity; but at sixty-sour what promises, however liberal, of imaginary. good can futurity venture to make? yet something will be always promised, and some promises will always be credited. I am hoping-and I am praying that I may live better in the time to come, whether long or snort, than I have yet lived, and in the iblacc of that hope endeavour to repose. Dear Qijeeney's day is next, I hope (he at sixty-four will hare less to regret.
Lady Macleod is very good to me, and the place at which we now are, is equal in strength of situation, in the -wildness of the adjacent country, and in the plenty and elegance of the domestic entertainment, to a castle in Gothic romances. The sea with a little Island is before us ; cascades play within view. Close to the house is the formidable skeleton of an old castia probably Danish, and the whole
mass of building stands upon a protuberance of rock, inacceslible till of late but by a pair of stairs on the sea-side, and secure in ancient times against any enemy that was likely to invade the kingdom of Skie.
Macleod has offered me an island; if it were not too far off Isliould hardly refuse it: my island would be plca1.niter than Brighthelinstone, if you and my master could conic to it; but I cannot think it pleasant to live quite alone. Oblitusque meorum.obliviscenduset tills.
You will now expect that I should give you some aeount of the isle of Skie, of which, though I have been twelve days upon it, I have little to fay. It is an island perhaps fifty miles long, so much indented by inlets of the sea that there is no pait of it removed from the water more than six miles. No part that I have seen is plain; you are always climbing or descending, and every step is upon rock or mire. A walk upon ploughed ground in England is a dance upon carpets, compared to the toilsome drudgery of wandering in Skie. There is neither town nor village in the island, nor have I seen any house but Macleod's, that is not much below your habitation at Brighthelmstone. In the mountains there are stags and roebucks, but no hares, and few rabbits; nor have I seen any thing that interested me as a zoologist, except an otter, bigger than I thought an otter could have been.
You are perhaps imagining that I am withdrawn from the gay and the busy world into regions of peace and pastoral felicity, and am enjoying the rcliques of the golden age; that I ant surveying nature's magnificence from a mountain, or remarking her minuter beauties on the flowery bank of a winding rivulet; that I am invigorating myself in the sunshine, or delighting ray imagination with being hidden from die invasion.os human cviU and
human passions in the darkness of a thicket; that I am busy in gathering shells and pebbles on the shore, or contemplative on a rock, from which I look upon the water, and consider bow many waves are rolling between m< and Streatham.
The use of travelling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are. Here are mountains which I should once have climbed, but to climb steeps is now very laborious, and to descend them dangerous; and I am now content with knowing, that by scrambling up a rock, I shall only see other rocks, and a wider circuit of barren desolation. Of streams, we have here a sufficient number, but they murmur not upon pebbles, but upon rocks. Of flowers, if Chloris herself were here, I could present her only with the bloom os heath. Of lawns and thickets, he must read that would know them, for here is little fun and no shade. On the sea I look from my window, but am not much tempted to the shore ; for since I came to this island, almost every breath of air has been a storm, and what is worse, a storm with all its severity, but without its magnificence, for the sea is here so broken into channels that there is not a sufficient volume of water either for lofty surges or a loud roar.
On Sept. 6th, we left to
visit Raarta, the island which I have already mentioned. We were received on the sea-side, and after clambering with some difficulty ovef the rocks, a labour which the traveller, wherever he reposes himself on land, must in these islands be contented to endure; We were introduced into the house, which one of the company called the Court of Raarfa, with politeness which not the Court of Versailles could have thought defective. The house is not large, though we were told in our passage that it had eleven fine rooms, not magnificently furnish
ed, but our utensils were most com' monly silver. We went up into a dining room, about as large as your blue room, where we had something given us to eat, and tea and cofsee.
Raaisu himself is a man of no inelegant appearance, and of manners uncommonly refined. Lady Raatsa makes no very sublime appearance for a sovereign, but is a good housewife, and a very prudent and diligent conductress of her family. Miss Flora Macleod is a celebrated beauty ; has been admired at Edinburgh; dresses her head very high ; and has manners so lady-like, that I wish her head-dress was lower. The rest of the nine girls are all pretty; the youngest is between Quecney and Lucy. The youngest boy, of four years old, runs barefoot, and wandered with us over the rocks to fee a mill. I believe he would walk on that rough ground without shoes ten miles in a day.
Raarfa and its provinces have descended to its present possessor through a succession of four hundred years, without any increase or diminution. It was indeed lately in danger of forfeiture, but the old Laird joined some prudence with his zeal, and when Prince Charles landed in Scotland, made over his estate to his son, the present Laird, and led one hundred men of Raarfa into the field, with officers of his own family. Eighty-six only came back after the last battle. The Prince was hidden, in his distress, two nights at Raarfa, and the king's troops burnt the whole country, and killed some of the cattle.
You may guess at the opinions that prevail in this country ; they are, however, content with fighting for their king ; they do not drink for him. We had no foolish healths. At night, unexpectedly to us who were strangers, the carpet was taken up; the fiddler of the family came up, and a very vigorous and general dance was begun. We were two-and-thirty at supper'; there, were full as many dancsis; 'for
though though all who supped did not dance, some danced of the young people who did not sup. Raarsa himself danced with his children, and old Malcolm, in his filibeg, was as nimble as when he led the Prince over the mountains. When they had danced themselves weaiy, two tables were spread, and I suppose at least twenty dimes were upon them. In this country some preparations of milk are always served up at supper, and sometimes in the place df tarts at dinner. The: table was not coarsely heaped, but at once plentiful and elegant. They do not pretend to make a loaf; there are only cakes, commonly of oats or barley, but they made me very nice cakes of wheat flour. I always fat at die left hand of Lady Raarsa, and young Macleod of Skie, the chieftain of the clan, fat on the right.
Description of tEc IJla $f Skie and Raarsa,
After supper a young lady who was visiting fung Earse songs, in which Lady Raarsa joined prettily enough, but not gracefully; the young ladies sustained the chorus better. They are very little used to be allied questions, and not well prepared with answers. When one of the songs was over, I asked the princess that fat next me, What is that about? I question if she conceived that I did not understand it. For the entertainment of the company, said she. But, Madam, what is the meaning of it? It is a love song. This was all the intelligence that I could obtain; nor have I been able to procure the translation of a single line of Earse.
At twelve it was bed time. I had a chamber to myself, which, in eleven rooms to forty people, was more than my share. How the company and the family were distributed is not easy to tell. Macleod the chieftain, nnd Boswell, and I, had all single chambers on the first floor. There remained eight rooms only for at least sevenand-thirty lodger s. I suppose they put up temporary beds in the dining-room, -where they stowed all the young la
dies. There" was a room above stairs with six beds, in which they put ten men.
Sept. 9th, Having passed the night as is usual, I rose, and sound the dining-room full of company; we feasted and talked, and when the evening came it brought music and dancing. Young Macleod, the great proprietor of Skie, was very distinguishable; a young man of nineteen ; bred a while at St Andrews, and afterwards at Oxford; a pupil of G. Strahan. He is a young man of a mind as much ad- ■ vanced as I have ever known; very elegant of manners, and very graceful in his person. He has the full spirit of a feudal chief; and 1 was very ready to accept his invitation to Dunvegan. All Raarsa's children are beautiful. The ladies all, except the eldest, arc in the morning dressed in their hair. The true Highlander never wears more than a ribband on her head till she is married.
On the third day Boswell went out with old Malcolm to see a ruined castle, which he found more entire than was promised, but he saw the country. I did not go, for the castle was perhaps ten miles oss, and there is no riding at Raarsa, the whole island being rock or mountain, from which the cattle often fall and are destroyed. It is very barren, and maintains, as near as I could collect, about seven hundred inhabitants, perhaps ten to a squaie mile. In these countries you are not to suppose that you shall find villages or inclosures. The traveller wanders through a naked defait, gratified sometimes, but rarely, with the sight of cows, and now and then finds a heap of loose stones and turf in a cavity between rocks, where a being, bora with all those powers which eduear tion expands, and all those sensation* which culture refines, is condemned to shelter itself from the wind and rain. Philosophers there are who try to make themselves believe that this life is happy, but they beheve it «nty
while they are" saying it, and never yet produced conviction in a single mind: he, whom want of words or images fun!; into silence, Hill thought, as he thought before, that privation of pleasure can never please, and that content is not to be much envied, when it has no other principle than ignorance of good.
This gloomy tranquillity, which some may call soititudc, and others wisdom, was, I believe, for a long time to be very frequently found in these dens of poverty: every man was content to live like his neighbours, and never wandering from home, saw no mode of life preferable to his own, except at the house of the laird, or the laird's nearest relations, whom he considered as a superior order of beings, to whose luxuries or honours he had no pretensions. But the end of this reverence and submission seems now approaching; the Highlanders have learned that there are countries less Weak and barren than their own, where, instead of working for the laird, every man may till his own ground, and eat the produce of his own labour. Great numbers have been induced by this discovery to go every year for some time past to America. Macdonald and Macleod of Skie have lost many tenants and many labourers, but Raarsa has not yet been forsaken by a single inhabitant.
Rona is yet more rocky and barren than Raarsa, and though it contains perhaps four thousand acres, is possessed only by a herd of cattle and the keepers.
I find myself not very able to walk upon the mountains, but one day I went out to fee the walls yet standing of an ancient chapel. In almost every island the superstitious votaries of the Romish church erected places of worship, in which the drones of convents or cathedrals performed the holy offices, but by the active zeal of Protestant devotion, almost all of them have funk into ruin. The chapel at JUarsa is now only considered as the
burying-place of the family, and I suppose of the whole island.
We would now have gone away and left room for others to enjoy th» pleasures of this little court, but the wind detained us till the 12th, when, though it was Sunday, we thought it proper to snatch the opportunity of a calm day. Raarsa accompanied us in his (ix-oared boat, which he said was his coach and six. It is indeed the; vehicle in which the ladies take the air and pay their visits, but they have taken very little care for accommodations. There is no way in or out of die boat for a woman, but by being carried; and in the boat thus dignified with a pompous name, there is no feat but an occasional bundle of straw. Thus we left Raarsa; the seat of plenty, civility, and chearfulness.
We dined at a public house at Porr Re ; so called because one os the Scottish kings landed there, in a progress through the western isles. Raarsa paid the reckoning privately. We then got on horseback, and by a stiort but very tedious journey came to Kingfburgh, at which the fame king lodged after he landed. Here I had the honour of saluting the far-famed Miss Flora Macdonald, who conducted the Prince, dressed as her maid, through the Englilh forces from the island of Lewes j and, when she came to Skie, dined with the English officers, and left her maid below. She must then have been a very young lady; she is now not old; of a pleasing person, and elegant behaviour. She told me that she thought herself honoured by my visit; and I am sure that whatever regard she bestowed on me was liber-' ally repaid. "If thou likest her opi-. "nions, thou wilt praise her virtue." She was carried to London, but dismissed without a trial, and came down with Malcolm Macleod, against whom sufficient evidence could not be procured. She and her husband are poor, and are going to try their fortune in . America. .
Sic rerum volvitur orbis.