Talk:James Boswell

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I came to this page from the link at the bottom of this page - where there is a character is described as 'his Boswell'. The connection is not made either in the original page or this page. There needs to be some explanation of the term Boswell as a slang for a sidekick. Or should the link refer to an article in the Wikidictionary perhaps? - LC

Well, there is a sort of explanation in the first section which reads "His name has passed into the English language as a term (Boswell, Boswellian, Boswellism) for a constant companion and observer". But it probably should have it's own entry instead of being in the actual bio of Boswell. --Thf1977 07:44, 12 May 2006 (UTC)
a more thorough explanation in this article is warranted. one can allude to the origin of this term as from his circle of elite friends: johnson, monboddo, goldsmith, kames etc and his role as a steadfast friend and companion within this circle, among the others of whom there was considerable intellectual friction and rivalry. i can add this text somewhere, since it is an important attribute he earned within his intellectual circle. cheers Anlace 13:24, 12 May 2006 (UTC)

Johnson quote and opinions[edit]

The chapter about Boswell's early life reads:

The first conversation between Johnson and Boswell is frequently quoted:

Boswell: "Mr. Johnson, I do indeed come from Scotland, but I cannot help it."

Johnson: "That, Sir, I find, is what a very great many of your countrymen cannot help."

It is widely believed that Johnson despised the Scots; however, careful reading of Boswell and of Johnson shows that, while Johnson disliked the conditions under which most Scots lived (the rain and the poverty), he actually liked the people. He undertook lengthy walking tours of Scotland and spent much of his life in Boswell's company.

IMO, the first part belongs in WikiQuote, and the second part is more about Johnson than about Boswell, and should (if at all) be included in the former's article rather than the latter's. --Thf1977 13:49, 21 January 2007 (UTC)

Boswell and the Slave Trade[edit]

I put up links showing Boswell supported the barbaric slave trade and yet these have been deleted - why? Surely things like this are a matter of historical record - what is the point of denying them?

I am guessing that they were removed because the additions were not particularly encyclopedic, and brushed are neutral point of view policy. I have been planning to rewrite this section, but have not had the time. I'll do it this afternoon. Rje 14:01, 1 April 2007 (UTC)
Indeed, it should remain NPOV. Personally, I don't much mind the slavery section being here, but the it really isn't very important in the context of Boswell, and his views were hardly unusual for the time. Arthur Markham 13:02, 14 April 2007 (UTC)
Perhaps the discussion in Life of Johnson on the subject might be added. Johnson was as strongly opposed to slavery as Boswell was in favour of it.Vexari (talk) 17:51, 22 May 2008 (UTC)

Cite, and cite correctly![edit]

Spotting the sentence, "When the Life of Johnson was published in 1791 it at once commanded the admiration that Boswell had sought for so long, and it has suffered no diminution since," I immediately suspected that this might not be the original writing of a Wikipedia editor. Google seems to indicate that it is from A Short Biographical Dictionary of English at . The site says "Thousands of Free-Text Books", but gives no other copyright information. The Dictionary and other works on this site seem to be in the public domain. Can anyone (A) verify this, (B) check whether anything else in this article should be attributed to this source, and (C) check whether anything else in this article should be attributed to other sources. -- Writtenonsand (talk) 16:18, 17 November 2007 (UTC)

Much worse than that:
  • "The former had rather more success than his successor: he versed his charge in the joys of literature (not least of all the Spectator essays) and opened his eyes to the pleasances of religion." (Revision as of 17:38, 12 December 2008)
This would not be the original writing of any Wikipedia editor. If a quote isn't properly cited, it's plagiarism.
—But on second thought I may have been too hasty in my judgment. The editor in question seems to have a predilection for fancy language, not really appropriate for a general-purpose encyclopedia – and is habitually averse to providing citations. Milkunderwood (talk) 02:14, 23 April 2017 (UTC)
- My opinion is that the archaic phrasing of the text (e.g., "nervous illness", which no self-respecting clinician or psychiatrist would use today - I am an M.D.) indicates verbatim lifting from a pre-20th century source .Prakash Nadkarni (talk) 16:22, 28 October 2017 (UTC) 28 Oct 2017.

Certainly not a Lord[edit]

"These included voluminous notes on the grand tour of Europe that he took as a young nobleman and, subsequently"

His father was called Lord Auchinleck, being a Scottish Supreme court judge, but was not thereby noble. Young Jamey was, at best, Laird #9 of Auchinleck in waiting, certainly not noble. (talk) 21:30, 26 February 2009 (UTC)

I have changed this. You are right that "Laird" is not the same as "Lord" in the sense of indicating nobility in this period. Boswell was a member of the gentry. Rje (talk) 16:01, 28 February 2009 (UTC)


The current statement about Boswell's nervous condition is meaningless, but I do not know how to edit it as to correct it, as I do not know the original intent of the writer. From the footnote, I'm guessing the nervous condition is suspected to be genetic and "inherited"? But I can't be sure: "inherent" is not used like this in standard English (American, anyway). Please clarify (talk) 07:11, 20 June 2009 (UTC)

I may add that the entire section on his Early life seems rife with minutia you do not find in the lives of more significant people on Wikipedia, seems highly speculative, lacks citation, and seems cribbed from what might well be non-open sources (the remarks on "boswell" being "swarthy" and "tending to plumpness" set off Google Books searches, but the material is not searchable from there). If the writing is not copied from an earlier era, it reads as if it were translated from another language by someone not entirely fluent in modern English. It is a disaster. (talk) 07:28, 20 June 2009 (UTC)

I have cited Kay Redfield Jamison (Prof. of Psychiatry, Johns Hopkins), who, in her 1996 book "Touched by Fire", identifies Boswell (among many other writers) as likely suffering from manic-depressive (bipolar) disorder. His known episodes of depression and occasional hypomania (for which he sought "calming" therapy) make this diagnosis very likely. Also, bipolar disorder has an extremely strong genetic/familiar component, and is one of the psychiatrist conditions that responds very well to pharmacotherapy - lithium carbonate for the manic phase and for maintenance, anti-depressants for depressive episodes. Prakash Nadkarni (talk) 16:30, 28 October 2017 (UTC) 28 Oc 2017.

Tour dates[edit]

This article gives precious little dating of Boswell's tours, which is fairly fundamental information. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:36, 25 August 2010 (UTC)

'Boswell’s Scottish dictionary discovered in Oxford after 200 years'[edit]

By Lindsay McIntosh, The Times, 2 May 2011:

... now a dictionary written by James Boswell himself has been found after 200 years. And, significantly for a writer criticised for forsaking his Scottish heritage in favour of England, it is a Scots language dictionary. The unsigned manuscript, confirmed by Boswell scholars as being in his writing, consists of 39 pages including about 800 Scots words and phrases... Although the existence of the dictionary was known of through the journals, held at Yale University, its whereabouts were a mystery until Susan Rennie, a Scots language expert, stumbled on it while researching John Jamieson, the 19th-century Scots lexicographer. She uncovered the manuscript in the Bodleian Library in Oxford and compared the handwriting with Boswell’s letters in the National Library of Scotland. The Bodleian had bought it as part of Jamieson’s papers in 1927... More details about the Boswell manuscript are available on the internet at --Mais oui! (talk) 06:35, 2 May 2011 (UTC)

Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson[edit]

This section seems manifestly biased to me. It also seems to be an instance of original research, citing no authority whatsoever for its allusion to Macaulay being unfavourably disposed towards Boswell due to political or family concerns. By his own account, Macaulay adored the book, as he adored the character of Johnson. At any rate, I propose to rewrite the section properly and forewarn any powers who would object to the operation that they might safely have occasion to do so. Let us say, 8 hours or so.
I,E Wouldst thou speak? 04:14, 11 December 2011 (UTC)

Assessment comment[edit]

The comment(s) below were originally left at Talk:James Boswell/Comments, and are posted here for posterity. Following several discussions in past years, these subpages are now deprecated. The comments may be irrelevant or outdated; if so, please feel free to remove this section.

I have added this to WPSI, on account of Boswell & Johnson's famous visit to the Western Isles. However, this article is particularly weak on this aspect of Boswell's life. --MacRusgail 19:56, 31 October 2007 (UTC)

Last edited at 19:56, 31 October 2007 (UTC). Substituted at 19:23, 29 April 2016 (UTC)

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