This journal is a record of our journey to the Western Isles, guided by 
Boswell & Johnson.

During the Summer of 2013 we will visit some of the landmarks they 
describe; we will read, write, and select books that update the themes 
that they mused upon.

'He this day, when we were by ourselves, observed, how common it was 
for people to talk from books; to retail the sentiments of others, and not
their own; in short, to converse without any originality of thinking. He 
was pleased to say, “You and I do not talk from books."'

   – Boswell, Journal, 3 XI 1773

'When I was at Ferney, in 1764, I mentioned our design to Voltaire. He 
looked at me, as if I had talked of going to the North Pole, and said, "You 
do not insist on my accompanying you?" "No, sir." "Then I am very 
willing you should go.'''

   – Boswell, Peter Davidson, The Idea of North

Basho, Johnson
Boswell, Sora

their own ex-

perience so ex-
cites us

   – AF

…he carried in his hand a large English oak stick … I remember Dr. Adam 
Smith … told us he was glad to know that Milton wore latchets in his shoes, 
instead of buckles. When I mention the oak stick, it is but letting Hercules 
have his club; and, by-and-by, my readers will find this stick will bud, and 
produce a good joke.

   – Boswell

a window to walk away


   – Aram Saroyan

a book to walk out


   – AF

                 A RIVER OF THOUGHT
                   HEMMED BY HILLS


                   – AF (after Johnson)

a city

too well known
to admit description

   – KC (after Boswell)

the finest prospect in Europe

   – KC
 (after Boswell)




needs a

   – AF (after Johnson)



   – AF

'I told him the port here was the mouth of the river or water of Leith. Not LETHE,' 
said Mr Nairne. 'Why, sir,' said Dr Johnson, 'when a Scotchman sets out from this
port for England, he forgets his native country.' NAIRNE: 'I hope, sir, you will for-
get England here.' JOHNSON: 'Then 'twill be still more Lethe.'

   – Boswell

‘In crossing the Frith, Dr Johnson determined that we should land upon Inch
Keith. On approaching it, we first observed a high rocky shore. We coasted about,
and put into a little bay on the north-west. We clambered up a very steep
ascent, on which was very good grass, but rather a profusion of thistles.
There were sixteen head of black cattle grazing upon the island. Lord Hailes
observed to me, that Brantome calls it L'isle des Chevaux, and that it was
probably 'a SAFER stable' than many others in his time. The fort, with an
inscription on it'


– Boswell

Invitus, regina, tuo de littore cessi

                                           'Uhappy queen!
Unwilling I forsook your friendly state.'

– trans. John Dryden, Virgil, Aeneid, Bk 6, l.460; Boswell

for Dido
read Mary

for Mary
read Diana

– AF (after Dryden, and IHF, Errata of Ovid)

'Non illic urbes, non
tu mirabere silvas: Una est injusti caerula forma maris.'

   – Ovid. Amor. II. line xi.

'Nor groves nor towns the ruthless ocean shows;
Unvaried still its azure surface flows'

   – Boswell

the tug

of vague

   – AF (after Ovid)

the Frith 

with fretted


   – AF
 (after Boswell)

Alexander’s fall

before Mary’s Isle

on the day
that Margaret fell

Alexander III fell from the cliffs at Kinghorn; the site of his accident faces 
Inch Keith, where Boswell & Johnson reminisced on the tragic fate of Mary 
Queen of Scots; Margaret Thatcher died this day, 9 IV 13, to general rejoicing.

   – AF