A JOURNEY TO THE WESTERN ISLANDS OF SCOTLAND by Samuel Johnson
Leaving these fragments of magnificence, we
travelled on to Montrose, which we surveyed in the morning, and found it well built, airy,
and clean. The townhouse is a handsome fabrick with a portico. We then went to view the
English chapel, and found a small church, clean to a degree unknown in any other part of
Scotland, with commodious galleries, and what was yet less expected, with an organ.
At our inn we did not find a reception such as we thought proportionate to
the commercial opulence of the place; but Mr. Boswell desired me to observe that the
innkeeper was an Englishman, and I then defended him as well as I could.
When I had proceeded thus far, I had opportunities of observing what
I had never heard, that there are many beggars in Scotland. In Edinburgh the proportion
is, I think, not less than in London, and in the smaller places it is far greater than in
English towns of the same extent. It must, however, be allowed that they are not
importunate, nor clamorous. They solicit silently, or very modestly, and therefore though
their behaviour may strike with more force the heart of a stranger, they are certainly in
danger of missing the attention of their countrymen. Novelty has always some power, an
unaccustomed mode of begging excites an unaccustomed degree of pity. But the force of
novelty is by its own nature soon at an end; the efficacy of outcry and perseverance is
permanent and certain.
The road from Montrose exhibited a continuation of the same
appearances. The country is still naked, the hedges are of stone, and the fields so
generally plowed that it is hard to imagine where grass is found for the horses that till
them. The harvest, which was almost ripe, appeared very plentiful.
Early in the afternoon Mr. Boswell observed that we were at no great
distance from the house of lord Monboddo. The magnetism of his conversation easily drew us
out of our way, and the entertainment which we received would have been a sufficient
recompense for a much greater deviation.
The roads beyond Edinburgh, as they are less frequented, must be
expected to grow gradually rougher; but they were hitherto by no means incommodious. We
travelled on with the gentle pace of a Scotch driver, who having no rivals in expedition,
neither gives himself nor his horses unnecessary trouble. We did not affect the impatience
we did not feel, but were satisfied with the company of each other as well riding in the
chaise, as sitting at an inn. The night and the day are equally solitary and equally safe;
for where there are so few travellers, why should there be robbers.