Boswell: Citizen of the World, Man of Letters

Copyright Date: 1995
Edition: 1
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    These eleven original essays by well-known eighteenth-century scholars, five of them editors of James Boswell's journal or letters, commemorate the bicentenary of Boswell's death on May 19, 1795. The volume illuminates both the life and the work of one of the most important literary figures of the age and contributes significantly to the scholarship on this rich period. In the introduction, Irma S. Lustig sets the tone for the volume. She reveals that the essays examining Boswell as "Citizen of the World" are deliberately paired with those that analyze his artistic skills, to emphasize that "Boswell's sophistication as a writer is inseparable from his cosmopolitanism." The essays in Part I focus on the relationship of the Enlightenment, at home and abroad, to Boswell's personal development. Marlies K. Danziger restores to significant life the continental philosophers and theologians Boswell consulted in his search for religious certainty. Peter Perreten examines Boswell's enraptured study of Italian antiquity and his responses to the European landscape. Richard B. Sher and Perreten document the personal and aesthetic influence of Henry Home, Lord Kames, Scottish jurist and leading Enlightenment figure, on Boswell. Michael Fry discusses Boswell's relationship with Henry Dundas, political manager for Scotland, and Thomas Crawford examines Boswell's long-standing interest in the volatile political issues of the period, including the French Revolution, through his correspondence with William Johnson Temple. In evaluation Boswell's performance as Laird of Auchinleck, John Strawhorn documents his efforts to improve the estate by use of new agricultural methods. The essays in Part II study aspects of Boswell's artistry in Life of Johnson, the magnum opus that set a standard for biography. Carey McIntosh examines Boswell's use of rhetoric, and William P. Yarrow offers a close scrutiny of metaphor. Isobel Grundy invokes Virginia Woolf in demonstrating Boswell's acceptance of uncertainty as a biographer. John B. Radner reveals Boswell's self-assertive strategies in his visit with Johnson at Ashbourne in September 1777, and, finally, Lustig examines as a "subplot" of the biography Johnson's patient efforts to win the friendship of Margaret Montgomerie Boswell. An appendix by Hitoshi Suwabe serves scholars by providing the most exact account to date of Boswell's meetings with Johnson.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4948-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Cue Titles and Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-xvii)
  6. [Map]
    (pp. xviii-xx)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    James Boswell was not a vaunting youth but a recognized author forty-five years of age when he assumed inJournal of a Tour to the Hebridesthe lofty title “citizen of the world.” He had aspired from his early years to the urbanity, cosmopolitanism, and wide sympathy implicit in the title of Goldsmith’s well-known essays. Boswell, too, would be a “very universal man, quite a man of the world,” the praise he accorded Sir Joshua Reynolds (identified in the manuscript of theLife of Johnson) because he associated with persons of “very discordant principles and characters.” By the date of...

  8. Part I. Boswell and the Enlightenment
    • Boswell’s Travels through the German, Swiss, and French Enlightenment
      (pp. 13-36)

      Boswell and the continental Enlightenment? To link the two may, at first glance, seem far-fetched. Yet the journal Boswell wrote while traveling through Germany, Switzerland, and a little corner of France from June to December 1764 gives vivid accounts of several German and Swiss representatives of the Enlightenment, respected in their own day even if unfamiliar to British and American readers today. More importantly, Boswell provides a detailed record of his own intellectual development, revealing the impact of the Enlightenment on an eager, ambitious young man. And most significantly, his interviews with Rousseau and Voltaire, those key figures of the...

    • Boswell’s Response to the European Landscape
      (pp. 37-63)

      Boswell’s disparaging remarks about country life, especially frequent in his later years, color our perception of his feelings for the country and landscape. No doubt he was a city man, mostly interested in people; but, at least in his younger years, when he looked forward to becoming Laird of Auchinleck, and during his continental tour, one sees a Boswell whose reaction to landscape is as sophisticated as that of most young gentlemen on the tour. Boswell’s written notes on the landscape during his travels on the continent may be placed into three categories: a direct response, based on a deep...

    • “Something that Put Me in Mind of My Father”: Boswell and Lord Kames
      (pp. 64-86)

      Except for occasional jaunts, a brief period of schooling in Glasgow, and a youthful grand tour of the Continent during the early 1760s, the geography of James Boswell’s life took the form of a downward-pointing, elongated isosceles triangle. The southern point of the triangle was London, where Boswell most liked to be, but where he actually spent a relatively small proportion of his life. The other two points were situated far to the north, in Scotland. To the west was his family’s estate at Auchinleck in Ayrshire, where he passed part of his childhood and later returned as the landowner...

    • James Boswell, Henry Dundas, and Enlightened Politics
      (pp. 87-100)

      James Boswell’s obsession with the father-figure is familiar enough. Less heed has been paid to the role in his life of that other visitant from the depths of the Calvinist psyche, the Doppelganger, the alter ego who appears ever and anon as reproach and warning for things done or not done.

      The man who most nearly fulfilled this role was Henry Dundas. A contemporary, professional colleague, and—within limits—a friend of Boswell’s, he was also in their own time reckoned much the more successful of the two. He became the first home-based Scot since his country’s union with England...

    • Politics in the Boswell-Temple Correspondence
      (pp. 101-116)

      It is useful to remember the late Frank Brady’s experience as a biographer of Boswell, continually hearing in the background “a persistent grey murmur of sound, which pours forth advice, remonstrances, cries for help, and expressions of deep, unchanging affection. It is, of course, Temple’s voice, strident, monotonous, yet almost soothing in its repetitiousness over the years, like the sound of katydids in a New England August” (Later Years85). The owner of the voice, William Johnson Temple, scion of one of the leading trading families of Berwick upon Tweed, was Boswell’s “old and most intimate friend” (Life2: 316),...

    • Master of Ulubrae: Boswell as Enlightened Laird
      (pp. 117-134)

      On the front of the fine country mansion in Ayrshire which Alexander Boswell, Lord Auchinleck, erected in 1762, he had inscribed lines from Horace’s First Epistle: “Quod petis hic est, est Ulubris, animus si te non deficit aequus,” which may be rendered as “What thou seekest is here, it is in Ulubrae, unless equanimity is lacking.” Ulubrae, a small town now known as Cisterna, lay some thirty miles from Rome. C.B. Tinker, veritable founder of Boswell studies, suggested that as “Ulubrae, a town near the Pontine marshes of Latium, had been a byword among the Latin authors for its remoteness...

  9. Part II. The Life of Johnson
    • Rhetoric and Runts: Boswell’s Artistry
      (pp. 137-157)

      What proportion of the power of theLife of Johnsonderives from its prose style? We assume that some literary masterpieces are more self-consciously crafted thari others. We also assume (a slightly different thing) that style exerts itself more actively in some texts than in others—it plays a more varied and obtrusive role inUlysses, for example, than inMiddlemarch, inHumphry Clinkerthan inMoll Flanders. “Appropriateness” is one measure of the stylishness of a given work; variation and “foregroundedness” are others. Although Boswell’s prose style has had intelligent attention (from Pottle, Passier, Lustig, and Brady, among others),...

    • Illustrations
      (pp. None)
    • “Casts a Kind of Glory Round it”: Metaphor and the Life of Johnson
      (pp. 158-183)

      TheLife of Johnsonis a great sprawling masterpiece of biographical information and observation, unexpectedly engaging and lifelike. Critics, almost unanimous in their assessment of the work’s enduring value, have taken great pains to account for both its vividness and its longevity—the “life,” the “liveliness,” the “living quality” of theLife of Johnson. Boswell’s dramatic presentation of Johnson has been particularly praised, but his framing of Johnson’s conversation, his deliberate inclusion of competing levels of discourse, and his presentation of secondary characters, himself among them, have also elicited comment. What has received scant attention, however, is the role of...

    • “Over Him We Hang Vibrating”: Uncertainty in the Life of Johnson
      (pp. 184-202)

      Large in bulk, weighty in mass, definite in outline, such is by general assent Boswell’s Johnson. Nothing could be more different from the shimmering, evanescent glimpses proffered in place of the old biographical certainties by Virginia Woolf and other modernist challengers of the givens of life-writing. Yet it appears that Woolf picked up from Boswell her favorite image of the biographer as ceaselessly in motion, ceaselessly expectant before the ceaselessly elusive truth. Boswell, after judiciously weighing the case for and against Savage, concludes “that the world must vibrate in a state of uncertainty as to what was the truth.” Woolf,...

    • Pilgrimage and Autonomy: The Visit to Ashbourne
      (pp. 203-227)

      Between 14 September and 24 September in 1777, after months of advance planning in letters, James Boswell visited Samuel Johnson at John Taylor’s house in Ashbourne. Johnson wrote briefly about the visit in the nine letters he sent Mrs. Thrale between 8 and 29 September and in a few journal entries that collectively fill about one page. Boswell described his time with Johnson in the relatively full journal he wrote partly at Ash bourne but mostly the next month in Edinburgh and Auchinleck, and he also included some material on the visit in the separate notebook he began using in...

    • “My Dear Enemy”: Margaret Montgomerie Boswell in the Life of Johnson
      (pp. 228-245)

      The world has known of Margaret Montgomerie Boswell’s antipathy to Samuel Johnson since 1791, because for nine years Johnson insisted on it in letters to Boswell which he, in turn, published in theLife of Johnson. These letters, with a few responses from Mrs. Boswell and modest editorial links, constitute a forward-straining “sub-plot” not resolved until 1783. Johnson’s genius makes the interplay of personalities vivid even in a chiefly one-sided correspondence. But, except for one frank and yet elliptical footnote to the text, Margaret Boswell’s prolonged resistance to Johnson’s offers of friendship is largely unexplained. Intuition will serve the reader...

  10. Appendix: Boswell’s Meetings with Johnson, A New Count
    (pp. 246-258)
  11. Index
    (pp. 259-270)