Boswell's London Journal 1762-1763

by James Boswell

Other authorsFrederick A. Pottle (Introduction), Christopher Morley (Foreword)
Hardcover, 1950

Status

Available

Publication

McGraw-Hill (1950)

Description

Edinburgh-born James Boswell, at twenty-two, kept a daily diary of his eventful second stay in London from 1762 to 1763. This journal, not discovered for more than 150 years, is a deft, frank and artful record of adventures ranging from his vividly recounted love affair with a Covent Garden actress to his first amusingly bruising meeting with Samuel Johnson, to whom Boswell would later become both friend and biographer. The London Journal 1762-63 is a witty, incisive and compellingly candid testament to Boswell's prolific talents.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Osbaldistone
I read this for background on Boswell before I tackle his biography of Johnson, and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. The young Boswell's writing skills are on again/off again, but still the writer to come is evident. Boswell's London Journal outshines most any other journal you can read, and provides insight not only into the young (and maddeningly self-absorbed and trivial) Boswell, but also into a London culture that seems only remotely related to the 21st century western world.

A must read for any Boswell fan,and a good read for anyone interested in late 18th century London society.

Os.
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LibraryThing member thorold
This journal isn't quite the intimate personal record it pretends to be: Boswell wrote it as a kind of serial letter for one of his friends, and there is a certain amount of artfulness about it, and at times (e.g. in the "Louisa" story) it reads as if Boswell were casting himself as the hero of a novel by Smollett or someone. But that's a minor level of gloss on the surface. Bubbling away under it is all the lively energy of a twenty-two-year-old who's finally got away from his overbearing father. (Or rather been let out on a long leash: London is still full of powerful Scotsmen who don't want to offend a Judge of the Court of Session, and most of them evidently have their instructions from Auchinleck Castle...)
Boswell is, as always, gloriously human and delightfully inconsistent. He's one of the few people in English literature who could, without seeming either priggish or hypocritical, recall with one hand up a woman's skirt that it's Sunday afternoon and there's still time to get to church. His descriptions of his various sexual adventures (which ensured this book an unusually large print-run for a scholarly text when it appeared in 1950) have an element of youthful bravado about them: the cool way he dismisses an encounter with a prostitute as we might a dinner in an unmemorable restaurant is almost certainly assumed for the benefit of the friend for whom he's writing this. But the constant assertions that he's never going to do it again are pure Boswell.
Pottle points out in his introduction that it's pure chance that the journal has such a satisfying narrative arc to it: whilst we could expect that our hero arrives in London, has adventures, is frustrated in his ambitions, and eventually has to move on elsewhere, the Big Moment when Boswell meets Johnson might so easily never have happened, or have happened too soon. As it is, they meet at a moment when Boswell's immediate future is already decided, and their friendship is only just beginning when they have to part for a considerable time. Exactly the point where you feel Volume 1 should end...
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LibraryThing member thf1977
This is the best known, but by no means the only, published journal of James Boswell. It is an excellent look into the mind of a slightly excentric, facetious and sometimes immature young man in the midst of London Society in the 1760s. Boswell was shockingly honest in his journals, but of course, they were never meant for actual publication.

The journal is of some psychological interest, in as much as it gives a comprehensive picture of Boswell's mental state, but most of all it is entertaining and of immense historical value as we get first hand descriptions of famous historical characters and events.

I really can't recommend this book enough...
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LibraryThing member xenchu
Boswell is one of my favorite authors because of his great work Life of Johnson. Reading the London journal provides a glimpse of the work to come much later. He can be vain and silly but he recognizes it in himself and at least he tries to improve. The journal is a good look at London life and London people from high to low. His descriptions are sharp and clear and his evaluations are good.

I can recommend this book to anyone who likes history or Life of Johnson. It is worth your time.
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LibraryThing member MrsLee
I only read as far as February 1763. At first it was interesting, some of his ramblings were amusing. But it soon descended into the egotistical spouting of an adolescent male. He tries on personalities and opinions like he would try on outfits. He is inordinately pleased with his "sexual prowess" and a big jerk towards the woman he uses.
I enjoyed the insights into the culture and life of London during that period of time. Also enjoyed the introduction notes which explained who the people are and some of the more obscure phrases, and the mentions of the various famous individuals who crossed paths with him. I adore the end pages which are a map of London in the 1760s. This would probably be great for someone who is very interested the times or the people of the times, but I couldn't handle the vanity and self-satisfied conceit which oozed through it all.
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LibraryThing member Osbaldistone
I read this for background on Boswell before I tackle his biography of Johnson, and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. The young Boswell's writing skills are on again/off again, but still the writer to come is evident. Boswell's London Journal outshines most any other journal you can read, and provides insight not only into the young (and maddeningly self-absorbed and trivial) Boswell, but also into a London culture that seems only remotely related to the 21st century western world.

A must read for any Boswell fan,and a good read for anyone interested in late 18th century London society.

Os.
… (more)
LibraryThing member fedka
An intimate look into the day-to-day life of an 18th Century gentleman. A surprisingly fast, enjoyable and captivating read.
LibraryThing member stillatim
Glorious stuff if you're into the 18th century, probably quite impenetrable if not, though Boswell is surely one of the greatest characters in literary history. Here we have him in all his youthful folly, living through what Sheridan quotes Fielding calling "a trifling age," (50), and doing a good deal of trifling himself. He flits between deep piety and evenings with prostitutes. He records: "I see too far into the system of things, to be much in earnest. I consider Mankind in general & therefore cannot take a part in their quarrels when divided into particular states and nations. I can see that after a war is over and a great quantity of cold & hunger & want of Sleep and torment endured by mortals, things are upon the whole, just as they were." He inquires into his own personality and realizes that "altho' the judgment may know that all is vanity, yet Passion may ardently pursue." "The pleasure of gratifying whim is very great. It is known only by whose who are whimsical."

He suggests to a friend that the world would be much better is "venereal delight" were permitted only to the virtuous, because priests could then "incite the Audience to Goodness by warmly and lusciously setting before their imaginations the transports of amorous Joy." That is right. Boswell thinks all would be well if only priests were also pornographers.

He fails to go out when his barber is sick, apparently being incapable of shaving himself. He sees another prostitute and describes her. He eats out. His friends are witty. And then he meets Jonson--which gives birth to a great book, of course. But after reading just the first volume of his journal, I'm pretty convinced that Boswell was both a more enjoyable man than Jonson, and, dare I say it, a vastly superior writer.
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LibraryThing member deckla
I read this for a Samuel Johnson course in college, and it was my favorite reading of the course. Boswell is funny, lively, contradictory, adventuresome, flirtatious, remorseful, religious (and yes, misogynistic)--just as any 22-yr-old male embarked from home to the big city. Samuel Johnson was lucky to meet Boswell during the time covered by this journal. (And I was a lucky girl to have such a wonderful professor, Dr. Helen Louise McGuffie, noted Johnson scholar and generous soul, for the course.)… (more)

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