« ElőzőTovább »
poverty: cvery 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 his reverence and submission seems now approaching; the Highlanders have learned that there are countries less bleak and barren than their own, where, instead of working for the laird, every man will 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 see 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 sunk into ruin. The chapel at Raarsa 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 the 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 six-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 the boat for a woman, but by being carried; and in the boat thus dignified with a pompous name, there is no seat but an occasional bundle of straw. Thus we left Raarsa; the seat of plenty, civility, and cheerfulness. We dined at a publick house at Port Re; so called because one of 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 short but very tedious journey came to Kingsburgh, at which the same king lodged after he landed. Here I had the honour of saluting the farfamed Miss Flora Macdonald, who conducted the Prince, dressed as her maid, through the English forces from the island of Lewes ; 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 liberally repaid. “If thou likest her opinions, 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.
At Kingsburgh we were very liberally feasted, and I slept in the bed in which the Prince reposed in his distress; the sheets which he used were never put to any meaner offices, but were wrapped up by the lady of the house, and at last, according to her desire, were laid round her in her grave. These are not Whigs.
On the 13th, travelling partly on horseback where we could not row, and partly on foot where we could not ride, we came to Dunvegan, which I have described already. Here, though poor Macleod had been left by his grandfather overwhelmed with debts, we had another exhibition of feudal hospitality. There were two stags in the house, and venison came to the table every day in its various forms. Macleod, besides his estate in Skie, larger I suppose than some English counties, is proprietor of nine inhabited isles: and of his islands uninhabited I doubt if he very exactly knows the number. I told him that he was a mighty monarch. Such dominions fill an Englishman with envious wonder; but when he surveys the naked mountain, and treads the quaking moor; and wanders over the wild regions of gloomy barrenness, his wonder may continue, but his envy ceases. The unprofitableness of these vast domains can be conceived only by the means of positive instances. The heir of Col, an island not far distant, has lately told me how wealthy he should be if he could let Rum, another of his islands, for two-pence halfpenny an acre; and Macleod has an estate, which the surveyor reports to contain eighty thousand acres, rented at six hundred pounds a year.
While we were at Dunvegan, the wind was high, and the rain violent, so that we were not able to put forth a boat to fish in the sea, or to visit the adjacent islands, which may be seen from the house; but we filled up the time as we could, sometimes by talk, sometimes by reading. I have never wanted books in the Isle of Skie. We were invited one day by the Laird and Lady of Muck, one of the Western islands, two miles long and three quarters of a mile high. He has half his island in his own culture, and upon the other half live one hundred and fifty dependants, who not only live upon the product, but export corn sufficient for the payment of their rent. Lady Macleod has a son and four daughters; they have lived long in England, and have the language and manners of English ladies. We lived with them very easily. The hospitality of this remote region is like that of the golden age. We have found ourselves treated at every house as if we came to confer a benefit. We were eight days at Dunvegan, but we took the first opportunity which the weather afforded, after the first days, of going away, and, on the 21st, went to Ulinish, where we were well entertained, and wandered a little after curiosities. In the afternoon an interval of calm sunshine courted us out to see a cave on the shore famous for its echo. When we went into the boat, one of our companions was asked in Erse, by the boatmen, who they were that came with him 2 He gave us characters, I suppose, to our advantage, and was asked, in the spirit of the Highlands, whether I could recite a long series of ancestors? The boatmen said, as I perceived afterwards, that they heard the cry of an English ghost. This, Boswell says, disturbed him. We came to the cave, and clambering up the rocks, came to an arch, open at one end, one hundred and eighty feet long, thirty broad in the broadest part, and about thirty high. There was no echo; such is the fidelity of report; but I saw what I had never seen before, muscles and whilks in their natural state. There was another arch in the rock, open at both ends.
Sept. 23d, We removed to Talisker, a house occupied by Mr. Macleod, a lieutenant-colonel in the Dutch service. Talisker has been long in the possession of gentlemen, and therefore has a garden well cultivated : and, what is here very rare, is shaded by trees: a place where the imagination is more amused cannot easily be found. The mountains about it are of great height, with waterfalls succeeding one another so fast, that as one ceases to be heard another begins. Between the mountains there is a small valley extending to the sea, which is not far off, beating upon a coast very difficult of access.
Two nights before our arrival two boats were driven upon this coast by the tempest, one of them had a pilot that knew the passage, the second followed, but a third missed the true course, and was driven forward with great danger of being forced into the vast ocean, but however gained at last some other island. The crews crept to Talisker, almost lifeless with wet, cold, fatigue, and terror, but the lady took care of them. She is a woman of more than common qualifications; having travelled with her husband, she speaks four languages.