M'NICOL'S SCURRILOUS VOLUME. n
Finding both too tough, lie supped on a lemon and a piece of bread.
The attacks of the angry critics, published as they were in fugi- tive pieces, might have been forgotten had they not been revived three or four years later in " a scurrilous volume," as Boswell justly describes it, " larger than Johnson's own, filled with malignant abuse under a name real or fictitious of some low man in an obscure corner of Scotland, though supposed to be the work of another Scotchman, who has found means to make himself well known both in Scotland and England." The " low man " was the Rev. Donald M'Nicol, and the "obscure corner" that long and pleasant island of Lismore which the steamers skirt every summer day as they pass with their load of tourists between Oban and the entrance of the Caledonian Canal. M'Nicol's predecessor in the manse was the Rev. John Macaulay, whose famous grandson, Lord Macaulay, was to rebuke those " foolish and ignorant Scotchmen, who moved to anger by a little unpalatable truth which was mingled with much eulogy in $RK.Joumtey to the Western Islands, assailed him whom they chose to consider as the enemy of their country with libels much more dishonourable to their country than anything that he had ever said or written. '" J When Johnson was shown M'Nicol's book he said : " This fellow must be a blockhead. They don't know how to go about their abuse. Who will read a five shilling book against me ? No, Sir, if they had wit, they should have kept pelting me with pamphlets." The book, however, seems to have been widely read, and in the year 1817 was reprinted at Glasgow in a fine large type. A Scotch gentleman recently told me that he fears that to many of his countrymen Johnson's tour is only known through M'Nicol's attack.
It was Macpherson at whom Boswell aimed a blow when he wrote of the " other Scotchman whose work it was supposed to be." If Ossian had no hand in it himself, it was certainly written by someone fired with all his hatred of the man who had branded him as a forger. Johnson is described as " a man of some reputation for letters, whose master-passion was hatred of Scotland. When the Poems of Ossian were published, and became the delight and admiration of the learned over all Europe, his cynical disposition instantly took the alarm." 3 It was from this time that " we may
1 Boswell \John son, ii. 308. 3 Remarks on Dr. Johnson's Journey to the
- Macaulay's Miscellaneous Writings, eu. Hebrides, pp. 263-7.
1871, p. 390.