Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker: Ch. 59

[+] | [-] | reset

The most effectual method I know to weaken, and at length destroy this influence, is to employ the commonalty in such a manner as to give them a taste of property and independence. In vain the government grants them advantageous leases on the forfeited estates, if they have no property to prosecute the means of improvement — The sea is an inexhaustible fund of riches; but the fishery cannot be carried on without vessels, casks, salt, lines, nets, and other tackle. I conversed with a sensible man of this country, who, from a real spirit of patriotism had set up a fishery on the coast, and a manufacture of coarse linen, for the employment of the poor Highlanders. Cod is here in such plenty, that he told me he had seen several hundred taken on one line, at one hawl — It must be observed, however, that the line was of immense length, and had two thousand hooks, baited with muscles; but the fish was so superior to the cod caught on the banks of Newfoundland, that his correspondent at Lisbon sold them immediately at his own price, although Lent was just over when they arrived, and the people might be supposed quite cloyed with this kind of diet — His linen manufacture was likewise in a prosperous way, when the late war intervening, all his best hands were pressed into the service.

It cannot be expected, that the gentlemen of this country should execute commercial schemes to render their vassals independent; nor, indeed, are such schemes suited to their way of life and inclination; but a company of merchants might, with proper management, turn to good account a fishery established in this part of Scotland — Our people have a strange itch to colonize America, when the uncultivated parts of our own island might be settled to greater advantage.

After having rambled through the mountains and glens of Argyle, we visited the adjacent islands of Ila, Jura, Mull, and Icomkill. In the first, we saw the remains of a castle, built in a lake, where Macdonald, lord or king of the isles, formerly resided. Jura is famous for having given birth to one Mackcrain, who lived one hundred and eighty years in one house, and died in the reign of Charles the Second. Mull affords several bays, where there is safe anchorage: in one of which, the Florida, a ship of the Spanish armada, was blown up by one of Mr Smollett's ancestors — About forty years ago, John duke of Argyle is said to have consulted the Spanish registers, by which it appeared, that this ship had the military chest on board — He employed experienced divers to examine the wreck; and they found the hull of the vessel still entire, but so covered with sand, that they could not make their way between decks; however, they picked up several pieces of plate, that were scattered about in the bay, and a couple of fine brass cannon.

Icolmkill, or Iona, is a small island which St Columba chose for his habitation — It was respected for its sanctity, and college or seminary of ecclesiastics — Part of its church is still standing, with the tombs of several Scottish, Irish, and Danish sovereigns, who were here interred — These islanders are very bold and dexterous watermen, consequently the better adapted to the fishery: in their manners they are less savage and impetuous than their countrymen on the continent; and they speak the Erse or Gaelick in its greatest purity.

Having sent round our horses by land, we embarked in the distinct of Cowal, for Greenock, which is a neat little town, on the other side of the Frith, with a curious harbour formed by three stone jetties, carried out a good way into the sea — Newport-Glasgow is such another place, about two miles higher up. Both have a face of business and plenty, and are supported entirely by the shipping of Glasgow, of which I counted sixty large vessels in these harbours — Taking boat again at Newport, we were in less than an hour landed on the other side, within two short miles of our head-quarters, where we found our women in good health and spirits. They had been two days before joined by Mr. Smollett and his lady, to whom we have such obligations as I cannot mention, even to you, without blushing.

To-morrow we shall bid adieu to the Scotch Arcadia, and begin our progress to the southward, taking our way by Lanerk and Nithsdale, to the west borders of England. I have received so much advantage and satisfaction from this tour, that if my health suffers no revolution in the winter, I believe I shall be tempted to undertake another expedition to the Northern extremity of Caithness, unencumbered by those impediments which now clog the heels of,

CAMERON, Sept. 6.