while the old walls gave " a solemn echo " to their steps and to Johnson's strong voice, he talked about retirement from the world. For such a discourse there could not easily have been found a more fitting scene.
" I never read of an hermit (he said) but in imagination I kiss his feet : never of a monastery, but I could fall on my knees and kiss the pavement. But I think putting young people there, who know nothing of life, nothing of retirement, is dangerous and wicked. It is a saying as old as Hesiod
"Kpya v'ttav, fiovXai <5e fittrwi', filial de ytpuvTW,' '
That is a very noble line : not that young men should not pray, or old men not give counsel, but that every season of life has its proper duties. I have thought of retiring, and have talked of it to a friend ; but I find my vocation is rather to active life."
Here, too, it was a different scene upon which he looked from that which meets our view. The gravestones which are now set against the walls of the cloisters were then buried beneath the rubbish of the cathedral. On the other side of this wall, in the grounds of the priory, were situated those " two vaults or cellars " where our travellers found a strange inmate.
" In one of them (writes Johnson) lives an old woman, who claims an hereditary residence in it, boasting that her husband was the sixth tenant of this gloomy mansion in a lineal descent, and claims by her marriage with this lord of the cavern an alliance with the Bruces. Mr. Boswell staid a while to interrogate her, because he understood her language; she told him that she and her cat lived together; that she had two sons somewhere, who might perhaps be dead ; that when there were quality in the town notice was taken of her, and that now she was neglected, but did not trouble them. Her habitation contained all that she had ; her turf for fire was laid in one place and her balls of coal dust in another, but her bed seemed to be clean. Boswell asked her if she never heard any noises, but she could tell him of nothing supernatural, though she often wandered in the night among the graves and ruins ; only she had sometimes notice by dreams of the death of her relations."
I made as diligent an inquiry as I could after this kinswoman of the royal family of Scotland, but all in vain.
" The glories of our blood and state Are shadows, not substantial things."
The memory has been preserved of "some cellar-looking places," but no tradition of human habitation has come down to our time.
" Dr. Johnson wanted to mount the steeples (writes Boswell), but it could not be done. One of them, which he was told was in danger, he wished not to be taken down ; ' for (said he) it may fall on some of the posterity of John Knox ; and no great matter.' "
1 Translated by Boswell :
" Let youth in deeds, in counsel man engage ; Prayer is the proper duty of old age. '