boswell and johnson: road show

“Who can like the Highlands?” asked Dr. Samuel Johnson in 1773. James Boswell. The James Boswell had persuaded Johnson to embark on this tour and proceeded to drag him from Edinburgh to Inverness to Sky and back to the Lowlands. Boswell could, and soon set about immortalizing the tour…

—Picturesque Beauties of Boswell [Rowlandson's Caricature Etchings].
Rowlandson, Thomas.—Read More:

Apart from this oddity, there was nothing about Raasay with which the travelers could find fault. The day often ended in a little ball, the whole house resounding to the strains of Highland music. On September 10, Boswell records ,”…I exerted myself in an extraordinary degree in dancing tonight, drinking porter heartily at intervals, and thinking that I was fit to lead on Highlanders.” On the eleventh, “And where there was such a numerous company, mostly young people, there was such a flow of familiar talk, so much noise and so much singing and dancing, that there was not much opportunity for his majestic conversation. He seemed sensible of this; for when I told him how happy they were at
having him there, he said, “Yet we have not been able to entertain them much… was apt to be fretted with irritability of nerves on account of McCruslick’s loud rattling, romping, etc. I complained of it to Mr. Johnson and said we would be better if he was gone. “No ? sir said he. “He puts something into the company, and takes nothing out of it. Mr. Johnson, however, had several opportunities of instructing the company; and they were made sensible of his powers….Mr. Johnson said they were the best-bred children he ever saw; that he did not believe there was such another family between hereĀ  and London; that he had never seen a family where there was such airiness and gaiety. Not one of the family ever had the toothache. They dance every night all the year round. There seemed to be no jealousy, no discontent among them.

On the twelfth, however, although it was a Sunday and neither Johnson nor Boswell approved of Sunday traveling, they “resolved to set out” and sailed back to Skye, where, at Kingsburgh, they met the famous Flora Macdonald, the Jacobite heroine who had once smuggled Prince Charles disguised as her maid, thorugh the watchful English army. “A little woman…mild and genteel…mighty soft and well bred,” she was now married to the local laird, and to watch “Mr. Samuel Johnson salute Miss Flora Macdonald” Boswell considered ” a wonderful romantic scene…” At Kingburgh they also consumed an “excellent roasted turkey, porter to drink at table, and after supper claret and punch”; and the evening concluded with a “jovial bout.”

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