James Boswell Criticism - Essay

Paul K. Alkon (essay date 1969)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Boswell's Control of Aesthetic Distance," University of Toronto Quarterly, Vol. XXXVIII, No. 2, January, 1969, pp. 174-91.

[In the following essay, Alkon discusses devices Boswell uses in the Life of Johnson in order to control the aesthetic distance between author and subject and author and reader.]


Proper control of aesthetic distance was so highly regarded by Johnson that he was sometimes inclined to undervalue biography. Thus in the Idler, No. 84, he argues that autobiography is more useful because "he that recounts the life of another, commonly dwells most upon conspicuous events, lessens the familiarity of his...

(The entire section is 7937 words.)

Robert H. Bell (essay date 1977)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Boswell's Notes toward a Supreme Fiction: From London Journal to Life of Johnson," in Dr. Samuel Johnson and James Boswell, edited by Harold Bloom, pp. 149-63. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986.

[In the essay that follows, Bell considers Boswell's London Journal to be a groundbreaking work in the development of the first-person factual narrative. He commends in particular Boswell's use of personal experience as a means of establishing his literary persona.]

Boswell's London Journal, 1762-1763 reveals a great deal about the author's youthful struggles and tumultuous season in the city. As a vivid, intimate...

(The entire section is 6522 words.)

David Daiches (essay date 1991)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Introduction," in New Light on Boswell: Critical and Historical Essays on the Occasion of the Bicentenary of "The Life of Johnson," edited by Greg Clingham, pp. 1-8. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

[In the following introduction to a collection of essays about Boswell as a biographer, Daiches describes the paradoxes between Boswell's life and character, and his literary style and portrayal of himself.]

James Boswell remains one of the most fascinating and puzzling figures in literary history. Regarded at one time as a shallow egoist who succeeded by some kind of naive mimetic ability in producing one of the greatest of biographies, thus becoming...

(The entire section is 4061 words.)

Marlies K. Danziger (essay date 1991)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Self-Restraint and Self-Display in the Authorial Comments in the Life of Jonson," in New Light on Boswell: Critical and Historical Essays on the Occasion of the Bicentenary of "The Life of Jonson," edited by Greg Clingham, pp. 162-73. Cambridge University Press, 1991.

[In the following essay, Danziger explores the authorial comments of Boswell in the Life of Johnson. In an effort to counteract their typically negative critical reception, Danziger argues that "these comments have their own interest in revealing an older, sadder Boswell trying to come to terms with personal loss, professional disappointment, and his feelings as a displaced Scotsman."]


(The entire section is 5733 words.)

William Paul Yarrow (essay date 1995)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "'Casts a Kind of Glory Round It': Metaphor and The Life of Johnson," in Boswell: Citizen of the World, Man of Letters, edited by Irma S. Lustig, pp. 158-83. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1995.

[In this essay, Yarrow analyzes Boswell's use of metaphor in the Life of Johnson, claiming that it reveals Boswell's effort to originate metaphors and maximize their use.]

The greatest thing in style is to have a command of metaphor. This power cannot be acquired; it is a mark of genius, for to make good metaphors implies an eye for resemblances.

Aristotle, The Poetics


(The entire section is 10061 words.)