Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Boswell, James (1740-1795)
BOSWELL, JAMES, the elder (1740–1795), biographer of Johnson, was the descendant of an old Scotch family. One of his ancestors, Thomas Boswell, killed at Flodden (1513), had obtained from James IV the estate of Auchinleck in Ayrshire. His father, Alexander Boswell (1706-1782), is noticed in a separate article. James was educated by a private tutor, John Dun (who became minister of Auchinleck on Lord Auchinleck’s presentation in 1752), then at a school kept by James Mundell at Edinburgh, and afterwards at the Edinburgh High School. In childhood he professed to be a Jacobite, his father being a thorough whig, and prayed for King James till an uncle gave him a shilling to pray for King George (Life of Johnson, 14 July 1763). Boswell entered the university of Edinburgh, where he began a lifelong friendship with William Johnson Temple, afterwards rector of Mamhead, Devon, vicar of St. Gluvias, Cornwall, and a friend of Gray. Temple went to Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and Boswell, writing to him there in 1758, says that he has been introduced to David Hume, and describes his desperate love ‘for Miss W—t.’ The only other confidant of his passion is Mr. Love, an actor from Drury Lane, who taught elocution at Edinburgh. In 1758 Boswell also went the northern circuit with his father, travelling in the same post-chaise with Sir David Dalrymple, advocate-depute, afterwards Lord Hailes, and by Love's advice already keeping an ‘exact journal.’ He had also begun to publish trifles in the magazines. In November 1759 Boswell went to Glasgow as a student of civil law, and heard Adam Smith's lectures. He made the acquaintance of Francis Gentleman, then acting at the Glasgow theatre, who in 1760 dedicated to him an edition of Sonthern's ‘Oroonoko.’ Meeting some catholics in Glasgow he straightway resolved to become a Romish priest. The distress of his parents induced him to abandon this plan on condition of being allowed to exchange the law for the army. In March 1760 his father took him to London, and asked the Duke of Argyll to et him a commission in the guards. The duke replied, according to Boswell: ‘I like your son; that boy must not be shot at for three-and-sixpence a day.' Boswe11's military ardour meant a love of society. There was, he said long afterwards (to Temple, 4 Jan. 1780), an animation and relish of existence 'amongst soldiers only to be found elsewhere amongst players, an he loved both varieties of life. e was eager (Letters, p. 14) to ‘ enjoy the happiness of the beau monde and the company of men of genius,' and he stayed in London for a year, where he never managed to see Dr. Jortin, who was to have removed his religious heresies, but did see Lord Eglinton, who took him to Newmarket and introduced him to the Duke of York, Boswell ‘wrote a poem called ‘The Cub of Newmarket,' with a dedicatory epistle to the duke, describing himself as a ‘ curious cub ’ from Scotland. Lord Eglinton grew tired of the vagaries of his young friend, who had to return to Edinburgh and law studies in April 1761.
Boswell groaned under the necessity of exchanging London gaieties for legal studies in the family of a strict father. He sought all the distinctions possible in Edinburgh society. He wrote some notes on London life, which gained him the acquaintance of Lord Somerville. He was admitted to the society of Kames, Dalrymple, Hume, and Robertson. He became intimate with an actor, David Ross, who was now giving private entertainments in Edinburgh, and who afterwards (December 1767) obtained permission to open the first theatre there, on which occasion Boswell contributed a prologue. Meanwhile his chief associate was Andrew Erskine, captain in the 71st regiment, and son of the fifth Earl of Kellie, with whom he carried on a correspondence from August 1761 to November 1762. The young men did their best to be vivacious in prose and verse, and published their letters in 1763. Erskine had edited in 1760 the first volume of ‘A Collection of Original Poems by the Rev. Mr. Blacklock and other Scotch gentlemen,’ published by Donaldson, an Edinburgh bookseller; a second, partly edited by Boswell, followed in February 1762, but the reception was not such as to encourage an intended third. From one of the twenty-eight poems contributed by Boswell we learn that he was the founder of a ‘jovial society called the Soaping Club,’ from the proverbial phrase, ‘Let every man soap his own beard.' Boswell gives one of his numerous self-portraitures, calls himself king of the soapers, boasts of his volatility, his comic singing, and conversational charms,and ends by declaring that ‘there is no better fellow alive.’ In December 1761 he published an anonymous ‘Ode to Tragedy,' gravely dedicated to himself as to one we could ‘relish the productions of a serious muse' in spite of his apparent volatility. These amusements had not extinguished his love of London, for which he has ‘as violent an affection as the most romantic lover ever had for his mistress’ (Letters to Erskine, p. 101), and he had persuaded his father to let him return thither, still with a view to a commission in the guards. He reached it in November 1762, and immediately plunged into the pleasures of the town.
Lord Hailes had impressed upon Boswell a veneration for Johnson. Gentleman had mimicked ‘Dictionary Johnson’ in Glasgow. Boswell had made acquaintance on his first visit to London with Derrick, afterwards Nash's successor at Bath, who promised an introduction, but did not find an opportunity. In 1761 the elder Sheridan had lectured in Edinburgh and made the same offer. When Boswell reached London, Derrick was at Bath, and a coolness had separated Sheridan from Johnson. Boswell, however, made the acquaintance of Davies, the actor, who now kept a bookseller's shop at 8 Russell Street, Covent Garden. And here, 16 May 1763, the famous introduction of his future biographer to Johnson took place. The friendship rapidly ripened. Boswell had evenings alone with Johnson at the Mitre, was taken to see his library by Levett, saw him in company with Goldsmith, introduced his friend Temple and another friend, Dempster, whose freethinking principles were sternly rebuked by Johnson (Letters to Temple, p. 33); made notes of the great man's conversation from the first interview, and received from him much good advice. Johnson encouraged Boswell to keep a full journal, and said that he would some day go with his new friend to the Hebrides.
Lord Auchinleck was meanwhile threatening to disinherit his son (Rogers, Boswell, p. 35), and in June Boswell had agreed to pacify his father by going to study civil law at Utrecht. Johnson exhorted Boswell to he steady, and accompanied him to Harwich in the stage-coach, leaving London 5 Aug. 1765, Boswell started with an allowance of 240l, a year from his father (Letters to Temple, p. 37), with plenty of letters of recommendation, and with a resolution to study the civil law and to transcribe Erskine’s ‘Institutes.’ He studied through the winter, and became intimate with Trotz, a distinguished professor of civil law, and with William Brown, pastor of the English congregation, and afterwards professor at St. Andrews; but he could not stay out the intended two years. In July 1764 he was at Berlin, whither he probably travelled in company with the Earl Marischal, who was at the same time returning to Berlin from a visit to Scotland (Streckeisen-Moulton, Rousseau, i. 103–11). Boswell attached himself to the British ambassador Mitchell. He wrote to his father, asking for supplies for a voyage to Italy. The reply ordered a return to Utrecht, though it permitted a visit to Paris. Boswell complained to Mitchell in a long letter full of sage rellections upon his own character. Mitchell advised implicit compliance with paternal authority. Boswell meanwhile had gone to Geneva, where he visited Voltaire at Ferney, and went to Rousseau at Motiers, with an introduction from the Earl Marischal, who, as governor of Neufchatel, had protected Rousseau (Bisset, Memoirs or Mitchell, ii. 381).
Marischal tells Rousseau that Boswell is a hypochondriac visionary who often sees spirits. On 26 Dec, 1764 Boswell (writing from Geneva) triumphantly tells Mitchell that his father has now consented to let him travel in Italy. He sneers at the ambassador's previous counsels of submission, and in the same breath proposes to him a little job. By getting a place in the customs for the now bankrupt father of Temple and doing something for Temple’s younger brother, ‘you will oblige a worthy fellow, for such I am’ (Bisset, Memoirs of Sir A. Mitchell, ii. 351–358). In Italy Boswell added Wilkes to his list of friends. He wrote from Rome in April to remind Rousseau-just now expecting to be the Solon of Corsica, of a promised introduction to Paoli (Tour in Corsica, p. 264). If it did not come, said Boswell, he should still go, and probably be hanged as a spy. The letter reached Boswell, however, at Florence in August. He crossed from Leghorn to Corsica; saw the great Paoli; talked politics to him and declared himself a kind of Hamlet, a man given to melancholy, bewildered by fruitless metaphysical wanderings, and ‘for ever incapable of taking a part in active life.’ He also took the liberty of asking Paoli ‘a thousand questions with regard to the most minute and private circumstances of his life.’ He rode out on Paoli's own horse, with ‘furniture of crimson velvet’ and ‘broad gold lace;’ he exulted in being taken for an English ambassador; he played Scotch airs and sang ‘Hearts of Oak’ to the Corsican peasantry; quoted Johnson's best sayings to the cultivated; and announces, in a letter to Rousseau. ‘Ce voyage m'a fait un bien merveilleux. Il m'a rendu comme si toutes les vies de Plutarque fussent fondues dans mon esprit’ (Musset-Pathay, Œuvres inédites de Rousseau, i. 410). Rousseau, meanwhile, was on his way to England. Hume announces (12 Jan. 1766) that Thérèse Levasseur, Rousseau’s mistress, is to be escorted to England ‘by a friend of mine—very good-humoured, very agreeable, and very mad.' This was Boswell, who reached England in February 1766, and, after a short stay in London and some interviews with Johnson, proceeded to Scotland, where his mother was just dead. He was admitted advocate 26 July 1766, and resolved to set to work seriously. His head, indeed, was full of Corsica, and, though Johnson advised him not to write a history, he resolved to turn his experience to account. His father's position brought him, it seems (Letters to Temple, p. 95), some legal business, and in March 1767 he announces that he has made eight guineas. He tried to attract notice by publishing in November 1767 a pamphlet on the famous Douglas case. Boswell considered that he had rendered a service to the claimant, Archibald Douglas ; explained upon that ground the coolness with which he was treated by the Duchess of Argyll on his visit to Inverary with Johnson; and seems to have appeared as counsel in the last litigation before the House of Lords in 1778 (Letter to Johnson, 26 Feb. 1778). In 1767 he was also employed upon writing his ‘Account of Corsica.’ He sold it to Dilly for one hundred guineas (Letters to Temple, p. 103), and it appeared in the spring of 1768. The book consists of a commonplace historical account of Corsica, followed by a short and very lively description of his tour. A second edition followed in a few months, and a third in 1769. In the spring of 1769 he also published a volume of ‘Essays in favour of the brave Corsicans.' The tour excited a good deal of not altogether flattering interest. Johnson, indeed, did not give his opinion till directly charged with unkindness for his silence by the author. He then said (9 Sept. 1769) that the history was ‘like other histories,' but the journal ‘in a very high degree delightful and curious.’ Walpole (who says that Boswell ‘forced himself upon me in spite of my teeth’) and Gray laughed over it, Gray saying that the journal was ‘a dialogue between a green goose and a hero.‘ Boswell asked Temple for an introduction to Gray, but the poet apparently escaped. Already acquainted with Voltaire, Rousscau, Paoli, Johnson, Goldsmith, Hume, Wilkes, and other eminent men, Boswell had tried to make his Corsican experience a stepping-stone to acquaintance with English statesmen. He called upon Chatham in Corsican costume to plead the cause of Paoli (‘Johnsoniana’ in Croker's Boswell, No. 6758); he was elated by a note from the statesman in February 1766; and some months later Chatham wrote him a letter of three pages applauding his generous warmth. On 8 April 1767 he tells Lord Chatham that he has communicated the contents of this letter to Paoli, and asks ‘ Could your lordship find time to honour me now and then with a letter? To correspond with a Paoli and with a Chatham is enough to keep a young man ever ardent in the pursuit of virtuous fame’ (Chatham Correspondence, iii. 159, 244).
On the publication of his book Boswell went to London to enjoy his fame. ‘I am really the great man now,’ he exclaims to Temple (14 May 1768); he bugs of his good dinners, of the great men who share them, and declares that he is about to set up his chariot. The pressure of such engagements probably explains the brevity of his account of Johnson in this visit. Boswell was indeed distracted by other interests. His appetite for enjoyment was excessive and not delicate. He lost money at play, though not, it would seem, to a serious extent (Letters to Temple, p. 153). He indulged in occasional drinking bouts, and in spite of vows, virtuous resolutions, and a promise made to Temple ‘under a solemn yew tree' (Letters to Temple, pp. 199, 209), he never overcame the weakness. In 1776 he tells Temple that he was ‘really growing a drunkard,’ and that Paoli had made him promise total abstinence for a year (Letters to Temple, p. 233). At this period love was more potent than wine. In February 1767 he begins a letter to Temple, who had just taken orders, by some edifying reflections upon his friend’s sacred profession and exhortations to marriage. He proceeds to explain that he cannot himself marry during his father's lifetime, and that he ‘looks with horror on adultery.' He has, however, taken a house for a ‘sweet little mistress' who has been deserted by her husband and three children; who is ‘ill-bred’ and ‘rompish,‘ and of doubtful fidelity, but handsome and lively. This entanglement lasted till the end of 1768 (Letters to Temple, p. 162). It is not surprising to find that Boswell was ’a good deal in debt’ (ib.) Meanwhile the statement that he cannot marry is the prologue to an intricate history of half a dozen matrimonial speculations, which occupy all the energy not devoted to law, literature, or dissipation. There are references to an ‘Italian angel,' apparently of Siena, who writes a letter which makes him cry (Letters to Temple, pp. 85, 95, 102). He has for a time thoughts of a Dutch lady called Zelide (probably the Mlle. de Zuyl of ‘Boswelliana'), whom he had known at Utrecht. In March 1767 he is thinking of a Miss Bosville in Yorkshire. She, however, is supplanted by a Miss Blair, a ‘neighbouring princess,’ with a landed estate of 200l. or 300l. a year, and whose alliance is favoured by his father. Throughout 1767 this flirtation goes on, with quarrels and reconciliations. In June he gets Temple (who happens to be in the north) to pay her a visit, and instructs his friend to speak to the lady of his good qualities, and also to mention his oddness, inconstancy, and impetuosity, and to ask her whether she does not think 'there is something of madness in that family' (Letters to Temple, p. 99). The effect of these remarkable instructions does not appear. In August all is well; but she tells him in December that she wishes that she liked him as well as Auchinleck. In February 1768 he is jealous of a Sir A. Gilmour, and amuses himself by getting his rival to frank a letter to her. Then he and a Mr. Fullerton agree to make her offers on the same morning, and are both refused in favour, as they suppose, of Gilmour. In April, after temporary thoughts of a 'fine, healthy, young, amiable Miss Dick,' he returns for a time to Zelide, and begs his father's leave to go to Utrecht, but is deterred by Temple's advice. In August he feels 'quite a Sicilian swain' under the influence of 'sixteen, innocence, and gaiety,' united in the person of Mary Anne, called also la belle Irlandaise (a Miss Montgomery, see Notes and Queries, 2nd series, iii. 381). Finding, however, that Miss Blair has broken with Sir A. Gilmour, his passion for her is awakened for a time; she is cold, and 'all the charms of sweet Mary Anne' revive. In May 1769 he visited Ireland in order to see this lady, who only laughed at him. He complained to his cousin, Margaret Montgomerie, who sympathised and consoled him by accepting his hand (Rogers, Boswell, p. 79). The marriage to a sensible and amiable woman took plnce 26 Nov. 1769. On the same day, to Boswell's great disgust, his father married his cousin, Elizabeth, daughter of Robert Boswell of Balmuto. Boswell's open expressions of dislike increased his domestic difficulties, but no family rupture resulted, and after his father's death he was 'on decent terms' with his stepmother, who was 'exceedingly good' to his daughter (Letters to Temple, p. 313). In August 1768 Boswell sent 700l. of ordnance, raised by private subscription, from Carron to Paoli. In June 1769 Paoli, overwhelmed by the French, had left Corsica and retired to London. Boswell came to town in the autumn to attend him. On his way he attended the Shakespeiire jubilee at Stratford (August 1769), and appeared in a masquerade in the dress of an armed Corsican chief with 'Viva la Libertà' embroidered in gold letters on his hat. He contributed a minute account of his appearance and his dancing with a very pretty Irish lady to the 'London Magazine,' of which he 'was a proprietor' (see Nichols, Illustrations, vii. 365, and Letters to Temple, p. 184), of September 1769. His portrait in costume is given as an illustration. In London he saw Johnson and tried to extract advice upon marriage from his master. He renewed an acquaintance, formed in the previous year, with Mrs. Thrale, and brought about a meeting between Johnson and Paoli. In latter visits to London Boswell stayed at Paoli's handsome house (Life of Johnson, 11 April 1776; Letters, p. 200), and the general tried to break him of his drinking habits.
After Boswell's marriage, a cessation of eighteen months took place in the correspondence between him and Johnson, and they did not again meet until Boswell's return to London in March 1772. The intercourse with Johnson, upon which Boswell's title to fame chiefly rests, was kept up during the remaining years of Johnson's life, who died 13 Dec. 1784. Boswell spent about a couple of months during the spring vacation of the Scotch courts (which at this period (1751–1790) lasted from 12 March to 12 June) in visits to Johnson, chiefly in London. He paid such visits in 1772, 1773, 1775, 1776, 1778, 1779, 1781, 1783, and 1784. Johnson's letters show that he was kept away by pecuniary difficulties in 1774, 1780, and 1782. In 1777 the death of a son seems to have prevented his annual journey (Letter to Johnson, 4 April 1777). Besides these visits, Boswell met Johnson at Ashbourne (Taylor's living) in September 1777, and saw him in October 1779 during a tour with Colonel James Stuart. The journey to the Hebrides took place in 1773, Johnson reaching Scotland 8 Aug. and leaving 22 Nov. According to Croker (preface to Life of Johnson, 1831), Boswell met Johnson on 180 days, or 276 including the Scotch tour. The details of the intercourse between the two men are set forth with incomparable skill in the most popular biography in the language. It is enough to mention here that Boswell was elected a member of the Literary Club 30 April 1773, owing, as it seems, to his own active canvassing as well as Jolinson's influence, and against the wishes of several members. After his election they were reconciled, Burke saying that he had so much good humour naturally, that it was scarcely a virtue (Tour to the Hebrides, 21 Aug. 1773).
During this period Boswell was suffering various domestic troubles. Neither his wife nor his father sympathised with his enthusiasm for Johnson. The wife was a sensible woman, who, unlike her husband, preferred staying at home. When Johnson took Boswell on his tour, she remarked that though she had seen many 'a bear led by a man, she had never before seen a man led by a bear,' Johnson perceived, and frequently notices, the dislike which she endeavoured to conceal by studious politeness (Letter to Boswell, 27 Nov. 17/3, and note). His father 'harped' on his 'going over Scotland with a brute (think how shockingly erroneous!) 'and wandering to London. As Scott tells us (note on Tour to Hebrides, 6 Nov. 1773), Lord Auchinleck pronounced Jamie to be ' clean gyte ' for 'pinning himself to the tail of an auld Dominie.' Serious difficulties lay behind. Boswell seems in the main to have behaved well to his wife, though he maintained that he could 'unite little fondnesses [for other persons] with perfect conjugal love' (Letters to Temple, p. 197). But his relations to Lord Auchinleck were often strained, and Boswell complains that his father is cold to his wife, and is estranged by the stepmother's influence. His professional prospects did not improve, as Boswell was the last man to impress clients with his businesslike capacity. He tells Temple in 1775 that he had made 124l. in the last session, and he frequently consults Johnson upon legal cases in which he was concerned. But he finds the Scotch bar uncongenial (Letters to Temple, p. 198). He began in 1775 to keep terms at the Inner Temple (ib. p. 193), and in 1780 he complains that he cannot support his family (ib. p. 255). His father allowed him 300l. a year. In 1775 his father also paid off a debt of 1,000l. and threatened (though the threat was not carried out) to reduce the allowance to 200l. In 1780 Boswell had incurred another debt of 700l. or 800l. by advances to his wife's family, and was afraid to inform his father. He had by this time five children : Veronica, b. 1773; Euphemia, b. 1774; Alexander, b. 1775 ; James, b. 1778, and Elizabeth, b. 1780 ; besides two sons who died in infancy. With such demands and difficulties due to his occasional escapades, and loans to Temple, he had some grounds for the hypochondria of which — as of all his personal peculiarities — he was much given to boast. He endeavoured to be conciliatory to his father even at the cost of drinking 'a large quantity of strong beer to dull his faculties' (Letters to Temple, p. 216), but is vexed by the thought that he had given to his father 'a renunciation of his birthright,' and is thus entirely dependent on his pleasure. After a long discussion, however, in which Boswell consulted Johnson and Lord Hailes, Lord Auchinleck entailed his estate upon him, 7 Aug. 1776. (The preamble to the instrument is printed in Roger's 'Boswell,' p. 207.) Boswell wished that heirs male should be preferred, however remote ; though he graciously observes that he holds that daughters should always be treated with affection and tenderness (note upon letter from Johnson. 15 Feb. 1776). During his father's life his difficulties did not diminish, and Johnson had to protest against his borrowing money to visit London in the spring of 1782. In the autumn of the same year he came into an estate of 1,600l. a year by the death of his father, 30 Aug. 1782, and proposed to set up as a country gentleman. In December 1783 he writhes to Johnson asking for advice about resisting the unconstitutional influence of Scotch peers, and the treatment of old horses, and expressing his exultation at having been twice elected prcenea at public meetings by the gentlemen of the county. He entertained some hopes of patronage from Pitt, now coming into power, and tried to bring himself into notice by a 'Letter to the People of Scotland on the Present State of the Nation.' He attacks Fox's India Bill and celebrates the virtue of Sir John, an ancestor of Lord Lowther (created Lord Lonsdale May 1784), from whom he had some hopes of support. He sends a copy to Johnson 8 Jan. 1784, and on 17 March put out an address to the freeholders or Ayrshire (printed in Rogers's 'Boswell,' p. 133). On his way to London he heard of the dissolution of parliament, and returned to contest the county, but retired on finding that the old member would stand again. On reaching London, Boswell found Johnson in precarious health, and took an eager part in trying to obtain such an addition to his friend's pension as would enable him to pass a winter in Italy. The last meeting of the two was at a dinner at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, where the plan was discussed. Boswell startled next day for Scotland. Upon the death of Johnson, Boswell set about printing his 'Journal of the Tour to the Hebrides,' which had been frequently read by Johnson himself during their journey. Johnson had objected to the publication of this as an appendix to his own narrative, being, as Boswell thought, jealous of a partnership in fame (Letters to Temple, p. 192), or more probably fearing the ridicule which it was certain to provoke. Whilst it was going through the press, a sheet was seen by Malone, who thereupon asked for an introduction to the writer, and who revised it throughout, as he afterwards did the life of Johnson. It appeared in the spring of 1786 and reached a third edition in the same year, when Rowlandson published a series of caricatures, and Peter Pindar satirised him in caustic rhymes. A reference to the meanness of Sir A. Macdonald, who had entertained the travellers in Skye, was softened in the second edition. A ‘contemptible scribbler’ having ‘impudently and falsely asserted’ that the omission was compulsory, Boswell emphatically denied that he had ever received any application from Macdonald (Gent. Mag. for 1786, p. 285). The scandal is repeated by Peter Pindar and by Dr. Rogers, but apparently without foundation. Meanwhile he proceeded with his life of Johnson, which was announced as in preparation at the end of the first edition of the ‘Tour.’ Many distractions interfered with his labours. He issued in 1786 another letter to the people of Scotland, protesting against a bill for reconstructing the court of session. He boasts of his previous achievements, and calls upon Lord Lonsdale, ‘to come over and help us.’ With Lonsdale's help he hoped to represent Ayrshire; and, though he conceived himself still to have claims upon Pitt—whose ‘utter folly’ for not rewarding a ‘man of my popular and pleasant talents’ he denounces in 1789 (Letters to Temple, pp. 275, 289)—and upon Dundas, he looks to Lord Lonsdale as his patron. He still has hopes of getting in for Ayrshire by a compromise between the opposed parties. Boswell had been called to the English bar in Hilary term 1786, and in 1788 (Nichols, Illustrations, vii. 309) obtained through Lonsdale's influence the recordership of Carlisle. In 1788 he was in London with his wife; and in 1789 he took a house in Queen Anne Street West for 50l. a year, his wife remaining at Auchinleck in bad health. He is looking out for chambers in the Temple, but admits that he gets no practice. He resolves to ‘keep hovering as an English lawyer,’ but he speaks of the ‘rough unpleasant company’ on circuit, and complains of the ‘roaring bantering’ society. A legal tradition tells, not very credibly, how Boswell was found drunk one night on the street and instructed to move for a sham writ of ‘quare adhæsit pavimento’ (Twiss, Life of Eldon, vol. i. c. 6). He was in fact treated as a butt for the horseplay of his companions. His wife's health was breaking. During his last visit to his home he got drunk and was injured by a fall from his horse. He was summoned next morning to Lord Lonsdale, and his wife encouraged him to leave her. He heard soon afterwards in London that her position was dangerous, and posted to Auchinleck with his boys in sixty-four hours and a quarter only to find her dead. He was somewhat comforted by the nineteen carriages which followed her hearse; but his grief was sincere and his position full of discomfort. His brother David advised him in vain to settle in Scotland. He resolved to stay in London, sending his son Alexander to Eton, James to a school in Soho, and afterwards Westminster, and boarding his three daughters in London, Edinburgh, and Ayr. His connection with Lord Lonsdale came to a bad end. On 23 Aug. 1789 he notices what seems to have been a practical joke at Lowther Castle, some one having stolen his wig. In June 1790 Lord Lonsdale insulted him grossly, in ‘a most shocking conversation,’ and Boswell resigned his recordership, and hoped to get rid of all communication with ‘this brutal fellow.’ His income of 1,600l. was reduced by various outgoings to 850l., and allowing 500l. for his five children, he had only 350l. for himself, which was insufficient to keep him from difficulties. He took chambers in the Temple, went the home circuit, which was an improvement on the northern, though he did not get a single brief (Letters to Temple, p. 341), and cherished the illusion that some ‘lucky chance’ might bring him a prize from ‘the great wheel of the metropolis’ (ib. pp. 268, 279). At intervals matrimonial schemes amused him. But he was mainly ‘kept up’ by the ‘Life of Johnson’ (ib. p. 304), at which he was labouring whenever he could find time, with the help of Malone, and of which he announced in February 1788 that it would be ‘more of a life than any work that has ever yet appeared.’ Mrs. Piozzi's ‘Anecdotes’ appeared in 1785, and Hawkins's ‘Life’ in 1787. He was deeply injured, according to Miss Hawkins, by finding himself described in this as ‘Mr. James Boswell’ instead of ‘The Boswell.’ Boswell met Hawkins on friendly terms in 1788–9, but tells Temple (5 March 1789) that his rival is ‘very malevolent. Observe how he talks of me as quite unknown.’ In 1790 Boswell published two specimens of his work—Johnson's letter to Chesterfield and the conversation with George III—at half a guinea apiece, perhaps to secure the copyright. The trouble of writing made him, as he says, often think of giving it up. He had nearly finished the rough draft in January 1789, but the revision and printing proceeded slowly. Pecuniary difficulties, owing partly to a sanguine purchase of an estate for 2,500l., made him think of selling the copyright for 1,000l., and he tried to avoid this by borrowing the money from Malone and Reynolds. They declined; but he succeeded in raising the money elsewhere and retained the copyright of his book (Letters to Malone, published in Croker's Johnsoniana), and the magnum opus at last appeared in two 4to volumes for two guinea on 16 May 1791. The success was immediate. He tells Temple on 22 Aug. that 1,200 out of 1,700 copies were sold, and that the remainder might be gone before Christmas. The second edition, with eight sheets of additional matter, appeared in three 8vo volumes in July 1793. In July 1791 Boswell was elected secretary of foreign correspondence to the Royal Academy (Leslie and Tarloy, Reynolds, ii. 640). The sucoess of his book must have cheered Boswell, but he still complains, and not without cause, of great depression. His drinking habits seenr to have grown upon him. After a melancholy visit to Auchinleck in the sprin of 1793 he was knocked down and robbed of a small sum in June, when in a state of intoxication; and he says (for the last time) that he will be henceforth a sober, regular man. In the spring of 1795 he came home ‘ weak and languid ' from a meeting of the Literary Club. His illness rapidly proved dangerous, and he died in his house at Great Portland Street on 19 May 1795. His will (dated 28 May 1785) is printed in Rogers’s ‘Boswell’ (p. 183), and is remarkable for the care taken to secure kind treatment of his tenants. His manuscripts, it is said, were immediately destroyed. [For his sons Alexander and James see Boswell, Alexander and James] His daughter Veronica died of consumption on 26 Sept. 1795. Euphenria showed her father's eccentricity in an exaggerated form. She left her family, proposed to support herself by writing operas, and made appeals for charity, being under the delusion that her relatives neglected her. She died at the age of about 60, Elizabeth married her cousin William Boswell in 1799, and died on 1 Jan. 1814. The entail, upon which Boswell had been so much interested, was upset by his grandson, Sir James, son of Sir Alexander, in 1850.
The unique character of Boswell is impressed upon all his works. The many foibles which ruined his career are conspicuous but never offensive; the vanity which makes him proud of his hypochondria and his supposed madness is redeemed by his touching confidence in the sympathy of his fellows; his absolute good-nature, his hearty appreciation of the excellence of his eminent contemporaries, though pushed to absurdity, is equalled by the real vivacity of his observations and the dramatic power of his narrative. Macaulay’s graphic description of his absurdities, and Car1yle's more penetrating appreciation of his higher qua ities, contain all that can be said.
The most vivid account of Boswell’s manner when in company with Johnson is given in Mme. d‘Arblay‘s ‘Memoirs of Dr. Burney,’ and there are some excellent descriptions in later years in her ‘Diary’ (v. 136, 260). In spite of her perception of his absurdities and her irritation at the indiscreet exposures in the ‘Life,' Miss Bumey confesses that his good-humour was irresistible. Burke and Reynolds retained their friendship for him through life. Reynolds wrote a curious paper in which he defended the taste for seeing executions, which he shared to some degree with Boswell. Boswell’s presence at such scenes is noted in his ‘Life of Jolinson,’ and an account from the ‘St. James’s Chronicle’ (April 1779) of his riding in the cart to Tyburn with the murderer Hickman may be found in the third series of ‘Notes and Queries' (iv. 232).
A full-length sketch by Laugton, engraved in the ‘Works,‘ gives a good idea of his appearance. There is also a pencil sketch by Sir T. Lawrence engraved in Croker (vol. iv.) A profile by Dance is engraved in Nichols's ‘ lllustratinns ' (vii. 300). A portrait of Kit-Kat size was painted by Re nolds in pursuance of a ba ain proposedv by Boswell (7 June 1785), who undertakes to pay for it from his first fees at the English bar. It has been engraved ten times, and was exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery, 1884 (Leslie and Taylor, Life and Times of Reynolds, ii. 477; and Croker's Preface).
Boswell’s works are as follows: 1. ‘Ode to Tragedy' 1701. 2. ‘Elegy upon the Death of a Young Lady, with Commendatory Letters from A. E[rskine], G. D[empster], and J. B[oswell],' 1761. 3. Contributions to ‘Collections of Original Poems by Mr. Blacklock and other Scotch Gentlemen,' vol. ii., 1762. 4. ‘The Cub at Newmarket,' 1762. 5. ‘Letters between the Honourable Andrew Erskine and James Boswell, Esq.,’ 1763. 6. ‘Critical Strictures on Mallet's “Elvira"’ (by Erskine and Boswell). 7. ‘An Account of Corsica; the Journal of a Tour to that Island; and Memoirs of Pascal Paoli,’ by James Boswell, 1763. 8. Prologue to ‘The Coquettes,’ at the opening of the Edinburgh Theatre. December 1767. 9. ‘British Essays in favour of the brave Corsicans, by several hands, collected and published by James Boswell,’ 17 69. 10. ‘The Essence of the Douglas Cause,‘ 1767. 11. Contributions to the ‘London Magazine,’ including an account of the Shakespeare Jubilee, September 1769, ‘Remarks on the Profession of a Player,’ 1770 (reprinted in Nichols's ‘Illustrations,’ vii. 368), and ‘The Hypochondriack,’ a series of twenty-seven articles in the ‘London Magazine’ from October 1777 to December 1779. 12. ‘Doraneto' (a story founded on the Douglas cause), 1767. 13. ‘Decision upon the Question of Literary Property in the Cause of Hunter v. Donaldson,’ 1774. 14. ‘A Letter to the People of Scotland on the Present State of the Nation,’ 1783. 15. ‘The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides with Samuel Johnson, LL.D., by James Boswell, Esq., containing some Poetioal Pieces by Dr. Johnson relative to the tour, and never before published: a series of his Conversations, Literary Anecdotes, and Opinions of Men and Books, with an authentick account of the Distresses and Escape of the Grandson of King James II in the year 1746’ (three editions in 1786). 16. ‘A Letter to the People of Scotland on the alarming Attempt to infringe the Articles of Union and introduce a most pernicious innovation by diminishing the number of the Lords of Session,' 1786. 17. ‘The Celebrated Letter from Samuel Johnson, LL.D., to Philip Damer Stanh e, Earl of Chesterfield, now first published, with notes by James Bose well, Esq.;' and ‘A Conversation between His Most Sacred Majesty George III and Samuel Johnson, LL.D., illustrated with observations by James Boswell, Esq.,’ both in 1790. 18. ‘The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D., comprehending an Account of his Studies and numerous Works, in chronological order; a series of his Epistolary Correspondence and Conversations with many Eminent Persons; and various original pieces of his composition never before published. The whole exhibiting a view of literature and literary men in Great Britain for more than half ac entury during which he flourished, in two volumes, by James Boswell,' 1791. The principal corrections and additions to the second edition were published separately in 1793.
He also mentions as published in 1791 (Roger's, Boswell, 173; and Letters to Temple, p. 337) a poem upon the ‘Slave Trade,’ which has disappeared.
Boswell died while preparing a third edition of the life of Johnson; the revision of this edition was completed by Malone, who superintended also the next three editions, the last of which (the sixth of the work) appeared in 1811. He introduced various notes, distinguishing them from Boswell's own work, and revised the text. In 1831 Croker published the eleventh edition, in which many useful, together with many impertinent notes, were added, and a great deal of matter from Piozzi, Ilawkins, and others interpolated in the text. The whole arrangement wss severely criticised by Carliyle and Macaulay in well-known essays. he arrangement was altered in subsequent editions ; in an edition published in 1835, revised and enlarged under Mr. Crolaer’s direction by John Wright, the passages interpolated by Croker were removed to the ninth and tent volumes (fcap. 8vo), with the exce tion of the ‘Tour to the Hebrides,’ which still remained in the body of the work. This edition and the reprints were, till lately, the most convenient form of the life. In 1874 Mr. Percy Fitzgerald republished the original text of the first edition (without the division into chapters afterwards introduced), with an indication of the various changes made by Boswell in the second edition. The ‘Tour to the Hebrides' forms the last part of the third (and concluding) volume. liii 1884 an edition edited by the Rev. Alexander Napier was published by Bell in live volumes, the fourt containing the ‘Tour to the Hebrides;’ the fifth, the ‘Collectanea Johnsoniana,' with the journal of Dr. Campbell, not previously published in England. An edition in four volumes, edited by Mr. Birkbeck Hill, is now (1885) advertised.
[A short memoir of Boswell by Malone is given in Nichols’s Literary Anecdotes, ii. 400, reprinted in the later editions of Johnson. The fullest information about his life is given in his works as above, and in the following: Letters of James Boswell to the Rev. W. J. Temple, now first published from the original manuscripts, with an introduction and notes, Bentley, 1857. This consists of a series of letters, accidentally discovered in a parcel of waste paper at Boulogne. They had been in the possession of Temple's son-in-law, who had settled in France (Notes and Queries, ind ser. iii. 381), and are undoubtedly genuine; Boswelliana, the Commonplace Book of James Boswell, with a memoir and annotations by the Rev. Charles Rogers, LL.D., and introductory remarks by Lord Houghton, published for the Grampian Club. The Commonplace Book was sold with Boswell’s library at London, and came into the possession of Lord Houghton. In the accompanying biography Dr. Rogers has made use of some unpublished materials. Part of the Boswelliana had been published in the second volume of the Miscellanies of the Philobiblon Society.]