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Boswell’s Bowels

Neal Ascherson

20 December 1984
James BoswellThe Later Years 1769-1795 
by Frank Brady.
Heinemann, 609 pp., £20, November 1984, 0 434 08530 8
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... JamesBoswell created the ‘Age of Johnson’, rescuing the late 18th century, above all, for the Victorians. The Boswell industry at Yale University has given an ‘Age of Boswell’ to the 20th century. This second volume of the grand Frederick Pottle-Frank Brady biography marks the climax of that long achievement. Climax, but not end: in some country-house loft or uncleared ...

Self-Hugging

Andrew O’Hagan: A Paean to Boswell

5 October 2000
Boswell's Presumptuous Task 
by Adam Sisman.
Hamish Hamilton, 352 pp., £17.99, November 2000, 0 241 13637 7
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James Boswell’s ‘Life of Johnson’: Research Edition: Vol. II 
edited by Bruce Redford and Elizabeth Goldring.
Edinburgh, 303 pp., £50, February 2000, 0 7486 0606 8
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Samuel Johnson: The Life of an Author 
by Lawrence Lipking.
Harvard, 372 pp., £11.50, March 2000, 0 674 00198 2
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Dr Johnson's London 
by Liza Picard.
Weidenfeld, 362 pp., £20, July 2000, 0 297 84218 8
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... and he was, for the greater part of his life, a great engine of self-admiration, as well as a copious begetter of admiration in other people. Yet none that loved him could easily match the love of JamesBoswell, who puttered along for many years, joyously, drunkenly, boisterously, earnestly, with his love of Dr Johnson both a wondrous act of worship and a curious kind of self-loving. Arm in arm on ...

Strutting

Linda Colley

21 September 1995
All the Sweets of Being: The Life of James​ Boswell 
by Roger Hutchinson.
Mainstream, 238 pp., £17.50, May 1995, 1 85158 702 0
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James Boswell’s ‘Life of Johnson’ 
edited by Marshall Waingrow.
Edinburgh, 518 pp., £75, March 1995, 0 7486 0471 5
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Johnson and BoswellThe Transit of Caledonia 
by Pat Rogers.
Oxford, 245 pp., £30, April 1995, 0 19 818259 7
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... companion descends smilingly to the ground, only to tumble back into the lascivious arms of another man. Altogether an appropriately ambivalent emblem, one might think, for the vicissitudes that JamesBoswell would experience throughout his life, and the turbulence of his reputation since his death. It was not just a case of the man’s temperament being volatile and manic, his daily memoranda to ...
5 March 1981
Precipitous City 
by Trevor Royle.
Mainstream, 210 pp., £6.95, May 1980, 0 906391 09 1
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RLS: A Life Study 
by Jenni Calder.
Hamish Hamilton, 362 pp., £9.95, June 1980, 0 241 10374 6
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Gillespie 
by J. MacDougall Hay.
Canongate, 450 pp., £4.95, November 1979, 0 903937 79 4
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Scottish Satirical Verse 
edited by Edwin Morgan.
Carcanet, 236 pp., £6.95, June 1980, 0 85635 183 0
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Collected Poems 
by Robert Garioch.
Carcanet, 208 pp., £3.95, July 1980, 0 85635 316 7
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... cultural and philosophic life lasted for a hundred years to the death of Scott and left its mark on Europe and America. An ancient city, a capital, with authors of all kinds, from Gavin Douglas to JamesBoswell to Annie S. Swan, Sir Compton Mackenzie and a thousand others: the subject is God’s own gift to the sifter of anecdotes and the historian of large-scale cultural change. Trevor Royle ...

Colonel Cundum’s Domain

Clare Bucknell: Nose, no nose

18 July 2019
Itch, Clap, Pox: Venereal Disease in the 18th-Century Imagination 
by Noelle Gallagher.
Yale, 288 pp., £55, March, 978 0 300 21705 6
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... When I came​ to Louisa’s, I felt myself stout and well, and most courageously did I plunge into the fount of love, and had vast pleasure,’ JamesBoswell wrote in his diary on a winter’s night in 1763, after an assignation with a beautiful Covent Garden actress. But the next day ‘came sorrow. Too, too plain was Signor Gonorrhoea.’ The arrival of ...

That sh—te Creech

James​ Buchan: The Scottish Enlightenment

5 April 2007
The Enlightenment and the Book: Scottish Authors and Their Publishers in 18th-Century Britain, Ireland and America 
by Richard Sher.
Chicago, 815 pp., £25.50, February 2007, 978 0 226 75252 5
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... In March 1776, JamesBoswell and Samuel Johnson visited Pembroke College, Oxford and called on the master, William Adams. According to Richard Sher, Boswell wrote in his journal how dismayed he had been to see in the master’s library a copy of the quarto edition of David Hume’s Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects of 1758, handsomely bound in ...
25 January 1990
BoswellThe Great Biographer. Journals: 1789-1795 
by James Boswell, edited by Marlies Danziger and Frank Brady.
Heinemann, 432 pp., £25, November 1989, 0 434 89729 9
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... Boswell’s life of Boswell has reached its conclusion, this being the 13th in the series of journals brought out by the team responsible for the Yale Editions of his Private Papers. It opens two hundred years ago in London ...
21 May 1981
A Lonely Business: A Self-Portrait of James​ Pope-Hennessy 
edited by Peter Quennell.
Weidenfeld, 278 pp., £12.50, April 1981, 0 297 77918 4
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... James Pope-Hennessy, who was murdered in 1974 when he was 58, will be remembered for several of his books, among them London Fabric, an architectural study made in the nick of time in 1939, a young man’s ...

Uppish

W.B. Carnochan

23 February 1995
Satire and Sentiment, 1660-1830 
by Claude Rawson.
Cambridge, 309 pp., £40, March 1994, 0 521 38395 1
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... Item: examining Oldham’s effort to replicate ‘the postures of the Rochesterian rakes’, Rawson detects in Oldham an occasional ‘note of hoity-toity tu quoque’. Item: and, examining Boswell’s habit of draining every rhetorical situation to the lees, Rawson likens the Boswellian manner to that of ‘a hyperactive puppy on a benzedrine diet’. I begin with this bill of particulars ...

Aversion Theory

Lord Goodman

20 May 1982
Clinging to the Wreckage 
by John Mortimer.
Weidenfeld, 200 pp., £8.50, March 1982, 0 297 78010 7
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... of these institutions – indeed, the absence of social criticism throughout the book is worthy of comment. He developed an interest in writing and the theatre and planned to become a writer. Like JamesBoswell, he was persuaded by his father to practise the Law but, unlike Boswell, he became a successful lawyer, initially specialising in divorce but later emerging as the champion of any literary ...

At least that was the idea

Thomas Keymer: Johnson and Boswell’s Club

10 October 2019
The Club: Johnson, Boswell​ and the Friends who Shaped an Age 
by Leo Damrosch.
Yale, 488 pp., £20, April, 978 0 300 21790 2
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... political orator and thinker was yet to take off. Other heavyweights joined a few years later: Edward Gibbon was made a member in 1774 and Adam Smith in 1775. The importance of other members, such as JamesBoswell and the pioneering linguistician William Jones, was recognised only posthumously. Alongside Johnson himself (and before one even gets to Garrick or Reynolds), their involvement supports Leo ...
4 February 1988
I know my own heart: The Diaries of Anne Lister, 1791-1840 
edited by Helena Whitbread.
Virago, 370 pp., £7.95, February 1988, 0 86068 840 2
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... The keeping of diaries prompts the question why, and for whom? JamesBoswell at 22, and going to London for the first time, piously hoped that keeping a diary might engender ‘a habit of application and improve me in expression’, possibly even ‘make me more careful to do ...

Dear Miss Boothby

Margaret Anne Doody

5 November 1992
The Letters of Samuel Johnson: Vol. I: 1731-1772, Vol. II: 1773-1776, Vol. III: 1777-1781 
edited by Bruce Redford.
Oxford, 431 pp., £25, February 1992, 0 19 811287 4
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... the attorney become the ‘Revd Dr’? We have to go back to the biographies to dig this material up. The editor very occasionally supplies material from published biography, but his usual source is James Clifford, and one can tire of Clifford’s editorialising – for instance, on Hester Thrale’s behaviour after the death of her husband: ‘Mrs Thrale’s usual reaction to death was to run away ...
5 December 1991
D.H. Lawrence: The Early Years 1885-1912 
by John Worthen.
Cambridge, 624 pp., £25, September 1991, 0 521 25419 1
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The Letters of D.H. Lawrence. Vol. VI: 1927-28 
edited by James​ Boulton, Margaret Boulton and Gerald Lacy.
Cambridge, 645 pp., £50, September 1991, 0 521 23115 9
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... different person; and it was the theme of their cheerfully Schopenhauerian creator that this was the most unchanging thing about them. (As it was, one might add, the most unchanging thing about poor JamesBoswell, another great vita nuova man, ever inclined to exhort himself: ‘Be Samuel Johnson! Be the rock of Gibraltar!’) All the same, despite Svevo’s rule, there have been a few people – ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: Valets

10 September 2009
... the arteries, not so clued up about the brown man. But then, it is hardly ever the natural habit of staff memoirs to show their boss to have been a font of everyday kindness and domestic ease. Even JamesBoswell, who wasn’t on Dr Johnson’s payroll but was on the staff as his quietly acknowledged biographer-elect, found time to draw attention to the great moralist’s horrible way of eating an ...

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