Early in the afternoon we came to Anoch, a village
in Glenmollison of three huts, one of which is distinguished by a chimney. Here we were to
dine and lodge, and were conducted through the first room, that had the chimney, into
another lighted by a small glass window.
The landlord attended
us with great civility, and told us what he could give us to eat and drink. I found some
books on a shelf, among which were a volume or more of Prideaux's Connection.
This I mentioned as something unexpected, and perceived that I did
not please him. I praised the propriety of his language, and was answered that I need not
wonder, for he had learned it by grammar.
By subsequent opportunities of observation, I found that my host's
diction had nothing peculiar. Those Highlanders that can speak English, commonly speak it
well, with few of the words, and little of the tone by which a Scotchman is distinguished.
Their language seems to have been learned in the army or the navy, or by some
communication with those who could give them good examples of accent and pronunciation. By
their Lowland neighbours they would not willingly be taught; for they have long considered
them as a mean and degenerate race. These prejudices are wearing fast away; but so much of
them still remains, that when I asked a very learned minister in the islands, which they
considered as their most savage clans: 'Those,' said he, 'that live next the Lowlands.'
As we came hither early in the day, we had time sufficient to survey
the place. The house was built like other huts of loose stones, but the part in which we
dined and slept was lined with turf and wattled with twigs, which kept the earth from
Near it was a garden of turnips and a field of potatoes. It stands
in a glen, or valley, pleasantly watered by a winding river. But this country, however it
may delight the gazer or amuse the naturalist, is of no great advantage to its owners. Our
landlord told us of a gentleman, who possesses lands, eighteen Scotch miles in length, and
three in breadth; a space containing at least a hundred square English miles. He has
raised his rents, to the danger of depopulating his farms, and he fells his timber, and by
exerting every art of augmentation, has obtained an yearly revenue of four hundred pounds,
which for a hundred square miles is three halfpence an acre.
Some time after dinner we were surprised by the entrance of a young
woman, not inelegant either in mien or dress, who asked us whether we would have tea. We
found that she was the daughter of our host, and desired her to make it. Her conversation,
like her appearance, was gentle and pleasing. We knew that the girls of the Highlands are
all gentlewomen, and treated her with great respect, which she received as customary and
due, and was neither elated by it, nor confused, but repaid my civilities without
embarassment, and told me how much I honoured her country by coming to survey it.
She had been at Inverness to gain the common female qualifications,
and had, like her father, the English pronunciation. I presented her with a book, which I
happened to have about me, and should not be pleased to think that she forgets me.
In the evening the soldiers, whom we had passed on the road, came to
spend at our inn the little money that we had given them. They had the true military
impatience of coin in their pockets, and had marched at least six miles to find the first
place where liquor could be bought. Having never been before in a place so wild and
unfrequented, I was glad of their arrival, because I knew that we had made them friends,
and to gain still more of their good will, we went to them, where they were carousing in
the barn, and added something to our former gift. All that we gave was not much, but it
detained them in the barn, either merry or quarrelling, the whole night, and in the
morning they went back to their work, with great indignation at the bad qualities of
We had gained so much the favour of our host, that, when we left his
house in the morning, he walked by us a great way, and entertained us with conversation
both on his own condition, and that of the country. His life seemed to be merely pastoral,
except that he differed from some of the ancient Nomades in having a settled dwelling. His
wealth consists of one hundred sheep, as many goats, twelve milk-cows, and twenty-eight
beeves ready for the drover.
From him we first heard of the general dissatisfaction, which is now
driving the Highlanders into the other hemisphere; and when I asked him whether they would
stay at home, if they were well treated, he answered with indignation, that no man
willingly left his native country. Of the farm, which he himself occupied, the rent had,
in twenty-five years, been advanced from five to twenty pounds, which he found himself so
little able to pay, that he would be glad to try his fortune in some other place. Yet he
owned the reasonableness of raising the Highland rents in a certain degree, and declared
himself willing to pay ten pounds for the ground which he had formerly had for five.
Our host having amused us for a time, resigned us to our guides. The
journey of this day was long, not that the distance was great, but that the way was
difficult. We were now in the bosom of the Highlands, with full leisure to contemplate the
appearance and properties of mountainous regions, such as have been, in many countries,
the last shelters of national distress, and are every where the scenes of adventures,
stratagems, surprises and escapes.
Mountainous countries are not passed but with difficulty, not merely
from the labour of climbing; for to climb is not always necessary: but because that which
is not mountain is commonly bog, through which the way must be picked with caution. Where
there are hills, there is much rain, and the torrents pouring down into the intermediate
spaces, seldom find so ready an outlet, as not to stagnate, till they have broken the
texture of the ground.
Of the hills, which our journey offered to the view on either side,
we did not take the height, nor did we see any that astonished us with their loftiness.
Towards the summit of one, there was a white spot, which I should have called a naked
rock, but the guides, who had better eyes, and were acquainted with the phenomena of the
country, declared it to be snow. It had already lasted to the end of August, and was
likely to maintain its contest with the sun, till it should be reinforced by winter.
The height of mountains philosophically considered is properly
computed from the surface of the next sea; but as it affects the eye or imagination of the
passenger, as it makes either a spectacle or an obstruction, it must be reckoned from the
place where the rise begins to make a considerable angle with the plain. In extensive
continents the land may, by gradual elevation, attain great height, without any other
appearance than that of a plane gently inclined, and if a hill placed upon such raised
ground be described, as having its altitude equal to the whole space above the sea, the
representation will be fallacious.
These mountains may be properly enough measured from the inland
base; for it is not much above the sea. As we advanced at evening towards the western
coast, I did not observe the declivity to be greater than is necessary for the discharge
of the inland waters.
We passed many rivers and rivulets, which commonly ran with a clear
shallow stream over a hard pebbly bottom. These channels, which seem so much wider than
the water that they convey would naturally require, are formed by the violence of wintry
floods, produced by the accumulation of innumerable streams that fall in rainy weather
from the hills, and bursting away with resistless impetuosity, make themselves a passage
proportionate to their mass.
Such capricious and temporary waters cannot be expected to produce
many fish. The rapidity of the wintry deluge sweeps them away, and the scantiness of the
summer stream would hardly sustain them above the ground. This is the reason why in
fording the northern rivers, no fishes are seen, as in England, wandering in the water.
Of the hills many may be called with Homer's Ida 'abundant in
springs', but few can deserve the epithet which he bestows upon Pelion by 'waving their
leaves.' They exhibit very little variety; being almost wholly covered with dark heath,
and even that seems to be checked in its growth. What is not heath is nakedness, a little
diversified by now and then a stream rushing down the steep. An eye accustomed to flowery
pastures and waving harvests is astonished and repelled by this wide extent of hopeless
sterility. The appearance is that of matter incapable of form or usefulness, dismissed by
nature from her care and disinherited of her favours, left in its original elemental
state, or quickened only with one sullen power of useless vegetation.
It will very readily occur, that this uniformity of barrenness can
afford very little amusement to the traveller; that it is easy to sit at home and conceive
rocks and heath, and waterfalls; and that these journeys are useless labours, which
neither impregnate the imagination, nor enlarge the understanding. It is true that of far
the greater part of things, we must content ourselves with such knowledge as description
may exhibit, or analogy supply; but it is true likewise, that these ideas are always
incomplete, and that at least, till we have compared them with realities, we do not know
them to be just. As we see more, we become possessed of more certainties, and consequently
gain more principles of reasoning, and found a wider basis of analogy.
Regions mountainous and wild, thinly inhabited, and little
cultivated, make a great part of the earth, and he that has never seen them, must live
unacquainted with much of the face of nature, and with one of the great scenes of human
As the day advanced towards noon, we entered a narrow valley not
very flowery, but sufficiently verdant. Our guides told us, that the horses could not
travel all day without rest or meat, and intreated us to stop here, because no grass would
be found in any other place. The request was reasonable and the argument cogent.
We therefore willingly dismounted and diverted ourselves as the
place gave us opportunity.
I sat down on a bank, such as a writer of Romance might have
delighted to feign. I had indeed no trees to whisper over my head, but a clear rivulet
streamed at my feet. The day was calm, the air soft, and all was rudeness, silence, and
solitude. Before me, and on either side, were high hills, which by hindering the eye from
ranging, forced the mind to find entertainment for itself. Whether I spent the hour well I
know not; for here I first conceived the thought of this narration.
We were in this place at ease and by choice, and had no evils to
suffer or to fear; yet the imaginations excited by the view of an unknown and untravelled
wilderness are not such as arise in the artificial solitude of parks and gardens, a
flattering notion of self-sufficiency, a placid indulgence of voluntary delusions, a
secure expansion of the fancy, or a cool concentration of the mental powers. The phantoms
which haunt a desert are want, and misery, and danger; the evils of dereliction rush upon
the thoughts; man is made unwillingly acquainted with his own weakness, and meditation
shows him only how little he can sustain, and how little he can perform. There were no
traces of inhabitants, except perhaps a rude pile of clods called a summer hut, in which a
herdsman had rested in the favourable seasons. Whoever had been in the place where I then
sat, unprovided with provisions and ignorant of the country, might, at least before the
roads were made, have wandered among the rocks, till he had perished with hardship, before
he could have found either food or shelter. Yet what are these hillocks to the ridges of
Taurus, or these spots of wildness to the desarts of America?
It was not long before we were invited to mount, and continued our
journey along the side of a lough, kept full by many streams, which with more or less
rapidity and noise, crossed the road from the hills on the other hand. These currents, in
their diminished state, after several dry months, afford, to one who has always lived in
level countries, an unusual and delightful spectacle; but in the rainy season, such as
every winter may be expected to bring, must precipitate an impetuous and tremendous flood.
I suppose the way by which we went, is at that time impassable.