James Boswell | First Editions

1740 - 1795

James Boswell, 9th Laird of Auchinleck (29 October 1740 – 19 May 1795), was a Scottish biographer and diarist, born in Edinburgh. Boswell is best remembered for the biography he wrote of one of his contemporaries, the English literary figure Samuel Johnson; indeed, modern Johnsonian critic Harold Bloom has described Boswell's work as "the greatest biography written in the English language". Such is his reputation, that Boswell's surname (in the form BoswellBoswellianBoswellism) has come to signal a constant companion and observer, especially one who records those observations in wriitng. An example can be found in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's A Scandal in Bohemia, as Sherlock Holmes (upon the absence of Dr. Watson) cries "I am lost without my Boswell."

In the 1920s, many of Boswell's private papers - including his own intimate journals - were discovered at Malahide Castle, north of Dublin. They were sold to the American collector Ralph H. Isham and are now in the custody of Yale University. Yale have since published general and scholarly editions of his journals and correspondence. Boswell's journals include detailed notes on the Grand Tour of Europe, that was a staple of the upper-class European young man's development, as well as his tour of Scotland with Samuel Johnson.

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