James Boswell Essay

1548 words - 6 pages

James Boswell is a unique figure in English literature: a classic by virtue of the three masterpieces he published, he is also, in one sense, a contemporary (Collins 7). Much of his best work has been published only in the last thirty years, and some still awaits publication, so that our ideas of the man and his art are still being continuously modified (Collins 7). James Boswell was born in Edinburgh on October 29, 1740 (Collins 6). He is the son of Alexander Boswell, Lord Auchinleck, who was a judge in the Scotland supreme courts ("James Boswell (1740-1795)"). Boswell's mother, Euphemia Erskire, was descended from a minor branch of Scottish royalty ("James Boswell (1740-1795)"). James was the eldest child in the family ("James Boswell: Biographer, Diarist & Travel Writer 1740-1795"). Boswell attended the University of Edenburgh where he studied arts and law. He was already keeping a journal at age 18 ("James Boswell (1740-1795)"). In 1759, Boswell's father sent him to the University of Glaskow to separate his son from an actress ("James Boswell (1740-1795)"). James ran away to London in 1759 and embraced Roman Catholicism, planning to become a monk ("James Boswell (1740-1795)"). In 1762, Boswell was permitted another trip to London, where he made full use of his freedom, overindulging in drink and sex ("James Boswell: Biographer, Diarist & Travel Writer 1740-1795"). In 1763, he was sent to study law at Utrecht and then traveled widely over the continent ("James Boswell: Biographer, Diarist & Travel Writer 1740-1795"). In Davies's Bookshop in May 1763, Boswell met the man who was to become the central figure in his life, Dr. Samuel Jackson ("James Boswell: Biographer, Diarist & Travel Writer 1740-1795"). Moving back to Scotland in 1766, James was admitted to the bar and he practiced law in Edinburgh for 20 years ("James Boswell (1740-1795)"). Then he visited Corsica, meeting the Corsica leader General Paoli and in 1768 he published An Account of Corsica, which won him an international reputation ("James Boswell: Biographer, Diarist & Travel Writer 1740-1795"). In 1769, Boswell married Margaret Montgomerie, his cousin; and they had 7 children together ("James Boswell (1740-1795)"). Though his visits to London were restricted to the vacations of the Court of Session, Boswell kept his contacts to Johnson, and was elected to the Literary Club in 1773 ("James Boswell (1740-1795)"). In 1773, Boswell and Johnson made an extensive tour of the Scottish Highlands. Both men wrote account of this journey, Boswell's Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides appearing in 1784 ("James Boswell: Biographer, Diarist & Travel Writer 1740-1795"). In 1791, Boswell published his masterpiece- the Life of Samuel Johnson- generally considered as the greatest English-language biography ("James Boswell: Biographer, Diarist & Travel Writer 1740-1795"). Much of his life Boswell was plagued by his mother's suffocating Calvinism...

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