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P R E F A CE.
It is not the least evil of modern prefaces, that they
para tial attention of my reader, during the course of
my work, I must crave his patience, whilst I endeavour to trace its outline, and general principles.
Tours are the mushroom produce of every summer, and Scotland has had her share : but without wishing to detract from the just merit of my predecessors, and, indeed, abhorring the petty envy, which would pluck a garland from the head, that wears it with applause, I may presume to say, that as my notions and feelings at setting out were peculiar, and as the occurrences of my way were modified by them, it is probable that the sketch of my recollections will also have its peculiar character. Within the limits of idleness and observation, there is surely much to be gleaned, which may serve as palatable and nutritious food for the mind ; at least, as no unwholesome substitute for the clear intellect, and powerful feeling of our forgotten writers.
In fact, tours are read, as much as any other ephemeral productions ; and some of them live. This vitality is not founded on trite notices, or trivial occurrences. Neither author nor reader usually looks with much complacency on the enumeration of milestones, and public-houses, or on the “ moving accidents” by broken chaise and sandy road ; nor, indeed, do we much care to hear, what travellers are sometimes anxious to tell, that they were “ clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously
These incidents have their weight; some such information is, in its way, useful ; and no book of travels can be complete without .it. I may add, that the squeamishness of modern taste is too readily disgusted with detail, and feels too little the importance of tracing Nature in her minuter operations,
A work, however, which aspires to any permanence, must rest on more solid merits ; it must contain either a communication of important physical facts, and discoveries, or an accurate tracing, and novel illustration of human feelings. Natural phiosophers of late have not unfrequently been travellers. They have displayed great talents and industry, they have accumulated much valuable matter, and their labour has richly deserved its reward but high merit in this, as in all other lines, is rare : it demands a peculiar combination of favourable circumstances, a predisposition toward, and a long pursuit of the requisite studies, a ready eye for observing facts of a particular class, and a well-furnished judgment, to serve at once as their standard, and storehouse. To such merit I cannot lay claim. Little versed in physical science, I have considered with caution, and shall mention with diffidence,
whatever appeared to me, in this point of view, novel or interesting.
If there be any value in the following pages (and it would be an insult on the public, not to express my hope, that they will contain something valuable), it will be confined to the “ humbler field” of taste,
investigating the springs, and tracing the courses” of its association with sensible objects, and with inward sentiments. These last grow up into general and abstract forms, from the exercise of particular socialities. They are strengthened by comparison with the principles, which have acquired
a local habitation and a name,” by being embodied in the great works of Art—so far the process may be carried on (as it is carried on, by the most numerous classes of civilized society), in the midst of cities ; but the highest perfection and polish cannot be given, unless we escape, now and then, to the fresher air, and freer space, the lovelier forms, and livelier colours of the country; where the soul is aided, in her self-collecting efforts, by ease, and quietness, and solitude. Feeling is no where so largely fed, no where spreads so widely, and vegetates so luxuriantly, as where Nature displays her operations on a vast scale, and in a beauteous variety.
This I had forcibly experienced on a visit long since to the delightful scenery of the Westmoreland lakes—and I promised myself a still higher gratification from carrying my more ripened feelings to the noble landscapes of Scotland. I was not disappointed in
my expectations of pleasure ; but during my tour, I did not confine myself to the mere observation of Nature. I opened my mind to all the diversity of impressions—from general character, and particular association from ancient tradition, and recent celebrity—from customs and manners, dress and dialect, form and appearance—from all that was appropriate to the scene, and all that was accidental to the traveller. Thus the general mass of feelings, recollectable and unrecollectable, was at once augmented and improved ; and whilst I pursued the varieties of Nature and Chance, I strengthened the uniformities of sentiment and reflection. I persuaded myself, that if a just delineation were given of my feelings, together with the actual events, the local scenes, and the personal characters, which are essential to truth of description, it would create no unpleasing interest in the minds of a certain class of readers.
The chief features of delineation are those of landscape and of manners. The former, considered in