James Boswell: As His Contemporaries Saw Him

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1st Edition

240 x 160 mm. 256pp Illustrated.... [In stock in Australia, for immediate delivery]

This book draws upon letters, diaries, memoirs, book reviews, and newspaper articles to present a picture of James Boswell from the vantage point of those who knew him best. We hear what family, friends, rivals, critics, and satirists thought of the man who produced such notable works as An Account of Corsica, The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides with Samuel Johnson, and The Lift of Samuel Johnson.

Few major authors have generated such wildly fluctuating estimates over the years as Boswell. Both as a writer and as a man, he has stirred debate for more than two centuries. Scholars and critics have long differed, for instance, as to whether his Life of Johnson, published in 1791, is the finest biography in English or just 'a pretty book' of questionable accuracy.

One commentator recently maintained that his published journals are 'the greatest English autobiographical epic', while another has dismissed them as the 'diary of a nobody'. Boswell has been acclaimed the greatest of modern biographers, but also attacked as a mere sycophant and fool.

In this collection we see how contemporaries responded to the same issues that puzzle and divide critics today. We see, furthermore, that consensus seems unlikely, given Boswell's erratic nature, a personality so diverse and contradictory that not even he knew what to make of himself. He admitted to having the most inconstant mind in the world, at times feeling he was a man of genius and at other times thinking himself a blockhead who was good for nothing.

Raised in a strict Presbyterian environment by a stern father and a pious, yet indulgent mother, young James turned out a pampered but shy and fearful boy. Later attempting to counteract his childhood timidity, he developed into a boisterous and morally lax adult. Proud by nature, he nevertheless remained insecure his entire life.

Described by those who knew him as continually good-humoured, he privately experienced fits of deep depression and uncertainty. The companion of great men, but the patron of prostitutes; a solid friend, but an unreliable husband; a bon vivant, but a sad drunk; an engaging writer, yet a vain egotist - so many contradictory traits make up the subject of this book.

James Boswell: As His Contemporaries Saw Him reveals how contemporaries responded to the man's multifaceted talents and personality, and it reveals how estimates of James Boswell fluctuated just as wildly in his day as in ours.

Lyle Larsen teaches English at Santa Monica College.
^ Biography & Autobiography ^

(9780838641712)

SKU 9780838641712
Barcode # 9780838641712
Artist / Author Lyle LARSEN (editor)

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