For almost one hundred and fifty years after his death, James Boswell (1740-1795) was known chiefly as the author of one of the supreme achievements in biography, The Life of Samuel Johnson (1791). During that time 'Bozzy' was also denigrated as a moral reprobate and his great biography grudgingly allowed to be an accidental work of genius ...
For almost one hundred and fifty years after his death, James Boswell (1740-1795) was known chiefly as the author of one of the supreme achievements in biography, The Life of Samuel Johnson (1791). During that time 'Bozzy' was also denigrated as a moral reprobate and his great biography grudgingly allowed to be an accidental work of genius written by a buffoon and fool. Then in the 1920s and '30s in Ireland and Scotland came sensational discoveries of masses of his papers, including the copious personal journals he kept for most of his life, long thought to have been destroyed. With their publication, he has emerged as not only one of the most knowable human beings but also a writer of the highest order. They reveal him as the rarest and most complex of human beings: a man of eternal boyhood, loved and admired for his geniality and high spirits, yet also mocked and chastened by people who could or would not understand him. His life traced violent conflicts and grotesque juxtapositions; he was a study in volatility, a loose cannon to be kept at arm's length, a 'singular' man who could both endear and repel. In this moving biography, Peter Martin assesses Boswell's literary achievements and uncovers the pulsating and dynamic world he thrived in, from the royal courts and the drawing rooms of fashionable ladies and gentlemen to the fleshpots of London's unsavoury underworld and the chambers of the insane. He also poignantly reveals a man in agony, easily misunderstood, relentlessly plagued by hypochondria or melancholia, buffeted like a straw in the wind by a multitude of anxieties and 'horrible imaginings'.
Publishers Weekly, 2000-10-30 Martin quotes his multi-flawed (but here, warmly limned) hero as confessing, smugly, at 23, "I am one of the most engaging men that ever lived." Despite such confidence, Boswell (1740-1798), author of the first modern biography, A Life of Dr. Samuel Johnson LL.D., was also tormented by bouts of black despair about his private and professional failings. He was never able to earn the respect of his rigid father, a Scot lawyer and laird, and never (despite marrying a paragon of a woman) able to satisfy his alcoholic or his sexual appetites, which left him almost always suffering from, or recovering from, drunkenness or gonorrhea. His two published journals on Corsica and the Hebrides, and his life of Johnson, have since been supplemented by 14 volumes of long-hidden journals and seven volumes of letters, and Martin, a professor of English at Principia College in Illinois, has had the good fortune of access to Yale's as-yet unpublished resources. The result (which Martin first published in England last year) is also the reader's good fortuneDa racy, readable and authoritative biography that sympathetically but unapologetically dramatizes what drove Boswell, almost in spite of himself, to produce some of the best writing in English. Writing his Life of Johnson, Boswell told himself, "I draw him in the style of a Flemish painter. I am not satisfied with hitting the large features. I must be exact as to every hair...." In Martin's pages, the reader lives at Boswell's elbowDimpatient at his failures, delighting in his successes ("I just sat and hugged myself in my own mind," Boswell once wrote). 12 pages b&w illus. (Nov. 15) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Alibris, the Alibris logo, and Alibris.com are registered trademarks of Alibris, Inc.
Copyright in bibliographic data and cover images is held by Nielsen Book Services Limited, Baker & Taylor, Inc., or by their respective licensors, or by the publishers, or by their respective licensors. For personal use only. All rights reserved. All rights in images of books or other publications are reserved by the original copyright holders.