James Boswell

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Boswell, James,

1740–95, Scottish author, b. Edinburgh; son of a distinguished judge. At his father's insistence the young Boswell reluctantly studied law. Admitted to the bar in 1766, he practiced throughout his life, but his true interest was in a literary career and in associating with the great men of his day. Boswell first met Samuel JohnsonJohnson, Samuel,
1709–84, English author, b. Lichfield. The leading literary scholar and critic of his time, Johnson helped to shape and define the Augustan Age. He was equally celebrated for his brilliant and witty conversation.
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 on a trip to London in 1763. The same year he traveled about the Continent, where he made the acquaintance of Rousseau and Voltaire. He achieved literary fame with his Account of Corsica (1768), based on his visit to that island and on his acquaintance with the Corsican patriot Pasquale Paoli. Boswell married his cousin Margaret Montgomerie in 1769.

In 1773 Boswell became a member of Johnson's club, to which Burke, Garrick, Reynolds, Goldsmith, and other 18th-century luminaries also belonged. Later that year he and Johnson toured Scotland, a visit Boswell described in The Journal of a Tour of the Hebrides with Samuel Johnson, LL.D. (1785; complete edition from manuscript, 1936). His great work, The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D., appeared in 1791. In it Boswell recorded Johnson's conversation minutely, but with a fine sense of critical judgment. So skillful was his work that Johnson is perhaps better remembered today for his sayings in the biography than for his own works. The curious combination of Boswell's own character (he was vainglorious, a heavy drinker, and a libertine) and his genius at biography have intrigued later critics, many of whom conclude that he is the greatest biographer in Western literature. Misconduct led to poverty and ill health in his final years.

In the 20th cent. great masses of Boswell manuscripts—journals, letters, and other papers—were discovered, most of them at Malahide Castle, Ireland. Lt. Col. Ralph H. Isham purchased the first in 1927 and sold these and later finds to Yale Univ. Publication of these "Yale Editions of the Private Papers," under the editorship of Frederick A. Pottle and others, reached many volumes. The recent findings, most particularly his voluminous journals, have enhanced Boswell's literary reputation. Always lively and, at times, even exciting, the journals portray Boswell's daily life in extraordinary detail. They are written in an easy, colloquial style, which resembles the style of many 20th-century authors.


See F. A. Pottle, James Boswell: The Earlier Years, 1740–1769 (2d ed. 1984), F. Brady, James Boswell: The Later Years, 1769–95 (1984), and P. Martin, A Life of James Boswell (2000); studies by J. L. Clifford (1970), D. L. Passler (1971), H. Pearson (1958, repr. 1972), W. R. Siebenschuh (1972), and A. Sisman (2001).

Boswell, James

(1740–1793) Scottish author and devoted biographer of Samuel Johnson. [Br. Hist.: NCE, 341]
References in periodicals archive ?
In 1773, James Boswell and Samuel Johnson set off on one of the most celebrated trips of all time: a journey around Scotland that they later published in a pair of journals.
To justify messing about on boats on the licence fee, they use the 18th century travels of writers Samuel Johnston and James Boswell for guidance.
Published in 1791, the Life of Samuel Johnson became famous at once, but left everyone baffled that such a tremendous masterpiece could have been produced by James Boswell.
We started Care Network to provide a better managed care alternative for Employers Insurance Company of Nevada as well as other payers and self-insured employers who are also frustrated with managed care organizations that lack expertise in workers' compensation," says James Boswell, D.
THE colourful life of Scots writer James Boswell is to be turned into a Hollywood movie.
Samuel Johnson and his youthful ward James Boswell put in an appearance late in the proceedings as well, and even a squinty mariner with a weakness for spinach rates a cameo.
James Bowell, the subject and author of much of John Wain's fine The Journals of James Boswell 1762-1795, travelled for afl of these reasons; to Leyden for education, to Paris for recreation, and to Corsica for adventure and exploration.
Consider the rich heritage that has been left by Samuel Pepys and James Boswell, hero Captain Scott, politician Alan Clark, the monster Joseph Goebbels, the tragic Ann Frank, the highly erotic Anais Nin and the outrageous "Composing Kenneth Williams.
The first half of the book discusses individuals, from those who kept their Scottish identity while adopting some English customs to men like James Boswell, who was intensely embarrassed by his Scottish accent and tried to hide his origins.
The friendship between the rather fawning but clearly affable James Boswell and the alarming (and pungent in a physical sense) Dr Johnson needs no outlining here.
As well as walking in the footsteps of knights and monks of old, the old inn nearby, open from 1660 until the 19th century, served Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, Dr Johnson, James Boswell and William Wordsworth.
There's also James Boswell, biographer to his friend Samuel Johnson.