Few major authors have generated such wildly fluctuating estimates over the years as James Boswell. Both as a writer and as a man, he has stirred debate for more than two centuries. Scholars and critics have differed as to whether his Life of Samuel Johnson, published in 1791, is the finest biography in English or just "a pretty book" of questionable accuracy. One commentator recently argued that his published journals are "the greatest English autobiographical epic," while another has dismissed it as the "diary of a nobody." Boswell has been acclaimed the greatest of modern biographers, but also attacked as a mere sycophant and fool. In this collection drawn from letters, diaries, memoirs, book reviews, and newspaper articles, we learn how contemporaries responded to the same issues that puzzle and divide critics today. From that we see how estimates of James Boswell fluctuated just as wildly in his day as in ours. Lyle Larsen teaches English at Santa Monica College.
Edinburgh-born James Boswell, at twenty-two, kept a daily diary of his eventful second stay in London from 1762 to 1763. This journal, not discovered for more than 150 years, is a deft, frank and artful record of adventures ranging from his vividly recounted love affair with a Covent Garden actress to his first amusingly bruising meeting with Samuel Johnson, to whom Boswell would later become both friend and biographer. The London Journal 1762-63 is a witty, incisive and compellingly candid testament to Boswell's prolific talents.
Book by Samuel Johnson, published in 1775. The Journey was the result of a three-month trip to Scotland that Johnson took with James Boswell in 1773. It contains Johnson's descriptions of the customs, religion, education, trade, and agriculture of a society that was new to him. The account in Boswell's diary, published after Johnson's death as The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, with Samuel Johnson, LL.D. (1785), offers an intimate personal record of Johnson's behavior and conversation during the trip.