“Who can like the Highlands?” asked Dr. Samuel Johnson after James Boswell had dragged him from Edinburgh to Inverness to Skye and back to the Lowlands. Boswell could, and soon set about immortalizing the tour…
…he had been “quite hurt,” Boswell adds, “with the meanness and unsuitable appearance of everything,” and thereafter the relations between host and guests steadily deteriorated. Always a tactless man, Boswell could not refrain from taking Sir Alexander Macdonald to task about his shabby treatment of his people: “I fell upon him with perhaps too great violence,” criticizing not only his own behavior but “my lady’s neither having a maid, nor being dressed better than one. In short, I gave him a volley. He was thrown into a violent passion…”
Boswell’s bad behavior may perhaps be excused by the fact that it had rained heavily throughout the day, but Johnson had developed a strong dislike for his foolish and pretentious, though unquestionably good-looking hostess. Some days later, when they had at length escaped from the Macdonalds, he summoned Boswell “to his bed-side… and to my astonishment he took off Lady Macdonald leaning forward with a hand on each cheek and her mouth open…To see a beauty represented by Mr. Johnson was excessively high. I told him it was a masterpiece…”
Lady Macdonald’s vapid appearance seems to have haunted Johnson’s memory. “She was as bad as negative badness could be,” he added on September 20; “…insipid beauty would not go a great way…such a woman might be cut out of cabbage, if there was a skilful artificer.”
After their disagreeable experiences at Armadale, their next stopping place, a farmhouse called Coirechatachan, the home of Mr. Mackinnon, “a jolly big man,” proved a very pleasant refuge, for the house was simple, but trimly and comfortably furnished, and Mrs. Mackinnon, “a decent well-behaved old gentlewoman in a black silk gown,” served them an abundant supper:
September 6: We had for supper a large dish of minced beef collops, a large dish of fricassee of fowl, I believe a dish called fried chicken (ed: probably “friars chicken”, a chicken broth with eggs dropped in), a dish of ham or tongue, some excellent haddocks, some herrings, a large bowl of rich milk, frothed, as good as bread pudding as I ever tasted, full of raisins and lemon or orange peel, and sillabubs made with port wine. (ed: this meal is at an aristocrats home)
September 7: Dinner.. roast mutton, a chicken-pie….