Open main menu

Page:Footsteps of Dr. Johnson.djvu/242

This page needs to be proofread.


exceeded even this feat in tea-drinking. Lady Eldon used to relate that one evening at Oxford she had helped him to fifteen. Cumberland, who was not famed for accuracy, did not go beyond a dozen as the number supplied to the great man by Mrs. Cumberland. Short even of this Johnson might very well "have turned his cup," as he had done at Aberbrothick, and muttered, "claudite jam rivos, pueri."

Lady Macleod was discontented with the barrenness of Dunvegan, and longed to move the seat of the family to a spot about five miles off, "where she could make gardens and other ornaments. She insisted that the rock was very inconvenient; that there was no place near it where a good garden could be made; that it must always be a rude place; that it was a Herculean labour to make a dinner here." "I was vexed," writes Boswell, "to find the alloy of modern refinement in a lady who had so much old family spirit. 'Have all the comforts and conveniences of life upon it,' I said, 'but never leave Rorie More's cascade.' 'It is very well for you,' she replied, 'who have a fine place, and everything easy, to talk thus, and think of chaining honest folks to a rock. You would not live upon it yourself.' 'Yes, Madam,' said I, 'I would live upon it, were I Laird of Macleod, and should be unhappy if I were not upon it.' Johnson (with a strong voice and most determined manner). 'Madam, rather than quit the old rock, Boswell would live in the pit; he would make his bed in the dungeon.' The lady was puzzled a little. She still returned to her pretty farm rich ground fine garden. 'Madam,' said Dr. Johnson, 'were they in Asia, I would not leave the rock.'"

Her visitors were in the right. The scene was too noble a one to be lightly deserted. There was no need to go five miles for trees and gardens. The reproaches which Johnson cast on the Scotch for their carelessness in adorning their homes did not here fall on deaf ears. His host and his host's son planted largely, and the fruit of his advice and of their judicious labours is seen in the beautiful woods and shrubberies which surround the Castle. Rorie More's Cascade is almost hidden by trees. A Dutch garden has been formed, where, under the shelter of the thick beech hedge which encloses it, the roses bloom. Close to the ruins of an ancient chapel, with glimpses through the trees of the waters of the Loch, a conservatory has been built. Had Johnson seen the beautiful and rare flowers which grow in it, he would surely never have main-