Boswell (Magill's Literary Annual 1978)
James Boswell was a constant embarrassment to his family, and, when he died in 1795, so the story went, the family burned all of his papers so that he could cast no further disgrace on the family honor. The early twentieth century view of Boswell was essentially that of his family, reinforced by the sneering Victorian estimation of Macauley: that James Boswell had been a vain, loose, superficial, foolish social climber who had, by some process not well understood, ingratiated himself with the great Dr. Samuel Johnson and had stumbled onto the writing of the world’s greatest biography, The Life of Samuel Johnson. Then in the third decade of the present century, through a series of remarkable accidents, discoveries, and manipulations, the fact that the Boswell papers had not been burned came to light. Then the papers themselves were acquired from the Boswell descendants through some devious financial operations, and, by the combined efforts of Yale University and McGraw-Hill publishers, these papers began to appear in well-edited and annotated form to an eager audience. The present volume is the ninth in a series presenting Boswell’s private diaries and journals for our examination.
Boswell was just twenty-two when, in 1762, he left his native Edinburgh behind and set out to see the world, especially that great and wonderful center of British...
(The entire section is 2331 words.)
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