boswell: poonch and the holy resolutions

James Boswell’s major coup was the one that he achieved during August 1773 when he induced Samuel Johnson, who pretended that he detested Scotsmen and despised their barren country, to venture across the Scottish border and, not only to spend some days in Edinburgh, but penetrate the barbaric Highlands and undertake a tour around the Hebrides…

In the ruined cathedral of Iona, Boswell, a naturally religious- at least a profoundly superstitious- man, had fallen on his knees and “offered up my adorations to GOD,” besides addressing ” a few words to Saint Columbus,” and had there “warmed my soul with religious resolutions…I hoped that ever after having been in this holy place, I should maintain an exemplary conduct.” Perhaps it was his sense of relief at escaping from the Hebrides that later undermined his resolutions.

— Three lines of text below caption and above imprint statement: Mr. Johnson was pleas’d with my daughter Veronica, then a child of about four-months old she had the appearance of listening to him …—Read More:

Their host, Lochbuie, “a bluff,hearty, rosy old gentleman, of a strong voice and no great depth of understanding,” furnished an indifferent dinner. “I think a sort of stewed mutton was the principal dish.” But the port he produced was admirable:

Boswell:He had admirable port. Sir Allan and he and I drank each a bottle of it. Then we drank a bowl of punch. I was seized with an avidity for drinking, and Lochbuie and I became mighty social. Another bowl was made. Mr. Johnson had gone to bed as the first was finished, and had admonished me, “Don’t drink any more poonch”* I must own that I was resolved to drink more, for I was by this time a good deal intoxicated; and I gave no answer, but slunk away from him, with a consciousness of my being brutish and yet a determination to go somewhat deeper. What I might have done I know not. But luckily before I had tasted the second bowl, I grew very sick, and was forced to perform the operation that Antony did in the Senate house, if Cicero is to be credited; so that Mr. Johnson’s admonition to drink no more punch had its effect, though not from any merit of mine. I went to bed in the dining-room, which was my chamber; and my stomach being clear, I fell asleep immediately, while Sir Allan and Lochbuie finished the bowl beside me….

When he awoke the next day, Boswell was “humbled…to find that my holy resolutions…had been so ineffectual.” They then embarked on the ferry to the mainland, and after a night at Oban, arrived the next night at Invernay. The Duke of Argyll, to whom Boswell hastened to pay his respects, gave them dinner at the castle. He himself revealed an “obliging complacency.” The Duchess’s attitude toward Boswell, however- they had chosen different sides in the famous “Douglas Cause,” a lengthy lawsuit concerning the alleged illegitimacy of the heir to the Douglas estates- was extremely cold and supercilious. This hurt his pride; but, as they were shown through the castle, “I never shall forget ( he writes) the enchanting impression made upon my fancy by some of the ladies’ maids tripping about in neat morning dresses.” (to be continued)…

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