Open main menu

Page:Footsteps of Dr. Johnson.djvu/68

This page needs to be proofread.


V S INTRODUCTION.

of ignoble office as Prime Minister and Kind's Friend, the mischief which he had done to the whole country, and the favour which he had shown to his North Britons, a few years earlier had raised a storm against the Scotch which had not yet subsided. " All the windows of all the inns northwards," wrote Smollett, "are scrawled with doggrel rhymes in abuse of the Scotch nation." ' With great art he takes that fine old humorist, Matthew Bramble, from his squire's house in Gloucestershire on a tour to the southern part of Scotland, and makes him and his family send to their various correspondents lively and pleasant descriptions of all that they saw. At the very time that he was writing his Humphry Clinker a child was born in one of the narrow Wynds of Edinburgh who was to take up the work which he had begun, and as the mighty Wizard of the North, as if by an enchanter's wand, to lift up the mist which had long hung over the land which he loved so well, and to throw over Highlands and Lowlands alike the beauty of romance and the kindliness of feeling which springs from the associations given by poetry and fiction.

While the English as yet knew little of Scotland, the Scotch were not equally ignorant of England. From the days of the Union they had pressed southwards in the pursuit of wealth, of fame, and of position. Their migration was such that it afforded some foundation for Johnson's saying that " the noblest prospect which a Scotchman ever sees is the high road that leads him to England." 1 England was swiftly moving along the road to Empire, sometimes with silent foot, sometimes with the tramp of war. In America and in the East Indies her boundaries were year by year pushed farther and farther on. Her agriculture, her manufactures, her trade and her commerce were advancing by leaps and bounds. There was a great stir of life and energy. Into such a world the young Scotchmen entered with no slight advan- tages. In their common schools everywhere an education was given such as in England was only to be had in a few highly favoured spots. In their universities even the neediest scholar had a share. The hard fare, the coarse clothing, and the poor lodgings with which their students were contented, could be provided by the labours of the vacation. In their homes they had been trained in

Humphry Clinker, ii. 176. See my edition pp. 56-64, for tlie violence of feeling between of Letters of David Hume to William Stra/ian, the English and Scotch at this time.

w, i. 425.

�� �