Inverness is the tenth chapter of Samuel Johnson's book Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland, about a trip he took in 1773. The previous chapter was Fores, Calder and Fort George and the next is Lough Ness.
Inverness was the last place which had a regular communication
s with the southern counties. All the ways beyond it
have, I believe, been made by the soldiers in this century
Inverness therefore Cromwell
, when he subdued Scotland
, stationed a
, as at the boundary
of the Highlands
. The soldiers seem
to have incorporated
afterwards with the inhabitants, and to have
peopled the place with an English
race; for the language of this
town has been long considered as peculiarly elegant
Here is a castle, called the castle of Macbeth, the walls of which
are yet standing. It was no very capacious edifice, but stands
upon a rock so high and steep, that I think it was once not
accessible, but by the help of ladders, or a bridge. Over against
it, on another hill, was a fort built by Cromwell, now totally
demolished; for no faction of Scotland loved the name of Cromwell,
or had any desire to continue his memory.
Yet what the Romans did to other nations, was in a great degree
done by Cromwell to the Scots; he civilized them by conquest, and
introduced by useful violence the arts of peace. I was told at
Aberdeen that the people learned from Cromwell's soldiers to make
shoes and to plant kail.
How they lived without kail, it is not easy to guess: They
cultivate hardly any other plant for common tables, and when they
had not kail they probably had nothing. The numbers that go
barefoot are still sufficient to show that shoes may be spared:
They are not yet considered as necessaries of life; for tall boys,
not otherwise meanly dressed, run without them in the streets; and
in the islands the sons of gentlemen pass several of their first
years with naked feet.
I know not whether it be not peculiar to the Scots to have attained
the liberal, without the manual arts, to have excelled in
ornamental knowledge, and to have wanted not only the elegancies,
but the conveniences of common life. Literature soon after its
revival found its way to Scotland, and from the middle of the
sixteenth century, almost to the middle of the seventeenth, the
politer studies were very diligently pursued. The Latin poetry of
Deliciae Poetarum Scotorum would have done honour to any nation, at
least till the publication of May's Supplement the English had very
little to oppose.
Yet men thus ingenious and inquisitive were content to live in
total ignorance of the trades by which human wants are supplied,
and to supply them by the grossest means. Till the Union made them
acquainted with English manners, the culture of their lands was
unskilful, and their domestick life unformed; their tables were
coarse as the feasts of Eskimeaux, and their houses filthy as the
cottages of Hottentots.
Since they have known that their condition was capable of
improvement, their progress in useful knowledge has been rapid and
uniform. What remains to be done they will quickly do, and then
wonder, like me, why that which was so necessary and so easy was so
long delayed. But they must be for ever content to owe to the
English that elegance and culture, which, if they had been vigilant
and active, perhaps the English might have owed to them.
Here the appearance of life began to alter. I had seen a few women
with plaids at Aberdeen; but at Inverness the Highland manners are
common. There is I think a kirk, in which only the Erse language
is used. There is likewise an English chapel, but meanly built,
where on Sunday we saw a very decent congregation.
We were now to bid farewell to the luxury of travelling, and to
enter a country upon which perhaps no wheel has ever rolled. We
could indeed have used our post-chaise one day longer, along the
military road to Fort Augustus, but we could have hired no horses
beyond Inverness, and we were not so sparing of ourselves, as to
lead them, merely that we might have one day longer the indulgence
of a carriage.
At Inverness therefore we procured three horses for ourselves and a
servant, and one more for our baggage, which was no very heavy
load. We found in the course of our journey the convenience of
having disencumbered ourselves, by laying aside whatever we could
spare; for it is not to be imagined without experience, how in
climbing crags, and treading bogs, and winding through narrow and
obstructed passages, a little bulk will hinder, and a little weight
will burthen; or how often a man that has pleased himself at home
with his own resolution, will, in the hour of darkness and fatigue,
be content to leave behind him every thing but himself.