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Boswell, James (1778-1822) (DNB00)


BOSWELL, JAMES, the younger (1778–1822), barrister-at-law, second surviving son of the biographer of Johnson [see Boswell, James], was born in 1778. He received his early education at an academy in Soho Square and at Westminster School, and is spoken of by the elder Roswell as ‘an extraordinary boy, very much of his father,' who destined him for the bar. Entered at Brasenose College, Oxford, in 1797, he took his B.A. degree in 1801, proceeding M.A. in 1806, and was elected a fellow on the Vinerian foundation. While a student at Brasenose he contributed notes signed ‘J. B. O.’ to the third edition of his father's life of Johnson, and afterwards carefully revised and corrected the text for the sixth edition (see Malone's Prefaces). Called to the bar of the Inner Temple, 24 May 1805, he was afterwards appointed a commissioner of bankrupts. He was intimate from an early age with his father’s friend Malone [see Malone, Edmund, whom he assisted in collecting and arranging the materials for a second edition of his Shakespeare, and was requested by him in his last illness to complete it, a task which he duly performed. He contributed to the 'Gentleman's Magazine’ for June 1813 a memoir of Malone, which in 1814 he reprinted for private circulation. One of the earliest members of the Roxhurghe Club, he presented to it in 1816 a facsimile reprint of the poems of Richard Barnfield, and in 1817 ‘A Roxburgh Garland,‘ which consists of a few bacchanalian songs by seventeenth-century poets, and of which ‘L’Envoi,’ a convivial lyric in honour of the club, was composed by himself. In 1821 appeared under his editorship what is known as the third variorum Shakespeare, ‘The Plays and Poems of William Shakespeare, with the corrections and illustrations of various commentators, comprehending a life of the poet and an enlarged history of the stage, by the late Edmund Malone, with a new glossarial index,’ 21 vols. Boswell contributed a long preliminary ‘advertisement,’ various readings and notes of no great importance, with the completion of Ma1one's ‘Essay on the Phraseology and Metre of Shakespeare’ and the Glossarial Index. The collection of old English literature which Malone left him to be used in the preparation of this edition was presented to the Bodleian by Malone’s brother after Boswell’s death. He died suddenly at his chambers in the Temple, unmarried and apparently in embarrassed circumstances, on 24 Feb. 1822, a few weeks before the death, in a duel, of his brother Sir Alexander [q. v.], who in a poetical tribute to his memory said of him that he had ‘never lost one friend or found one foe.' Lockhart in his ‘Life of Scott’ (edition of 1845, p. 477, note) describes Boswell as ‘a man of considerable learning, and of admirable social qualities,' to whom, as to his brother Sir Alexander, Scott was ‘warmly attached’ He belonged to the Albemarle Street circle of John Murray the publisher, who thought Boswell's favourable opinion of the first series of Tales of my Lanrhord ‘worth quoting to Scott, with those of Hallam and Hookham Frere Lockhart's Scott, p. 338).

[Gent. Mag. for March 1822; Letters James Boswell addressed to the Rev. W. J. Temple, 1857; Boswelliana, the Commonplace Book of James Boswell, 1871 ; Catalogue of Oxford Graduates; Catalogue of Early English Poem, collected by E. Malone and now preserved in the Bodleian Library, 1836 ; MS. Registers of Inner Temple.]

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