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Foto: Engraving by S. Freeman from a painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds


Dorando (1767) An Account of Corsica (1768) The Hypochondriack (1777-1783) The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides (1773) The Life of Samuel Johnson (1791) No abolition of slavery (1791) Boswell's London Journal (1762-1763) Boswell in Holland (1763-1764) Boswell on the Grand Tour: Germany and Switzerland (1764) Boswell on the Grand Tour: Italy, Corsica, and France (1765-1766) Boswell in Search of a Wife (1766-1769) Boswell for the Defence (1769-1774) Boswell: the Ominous Years (1774-1776) Boswell in Extremes (1776-1778) Boswell: Laird of Auchinleck (1778-1782) Boswell, the Applause of the Jury (1782-1785) Boswell, the English Experiment (1785-1789) Boswell: The Great Biographer (1789-1795)


64. James Boswell


James Boswell (Edinburgh, 1740 – Londen, 1795) was een beroemde Britse auteur en advocaat die enige tijd in Utrecht studeerde en daar een hilarisch dagboek bijhield, dat ook in het Nederlands is vertaald.

Boswell haatte de school waar hij heen moest en kreeg daarom van zijn achtste tot dertiende levensjaar privélessen thuis. Van 1753 tot 1758 ging hij naar de Universiteit van Edinburgh, waar hij zich als student verdiepte in het theaterleven, vrouwen, het leger en religie. Hij schreef al op jonge leeftijd gedichten en toneelstukken. In Londen ontmoette hij Samuel Johnson, waar hij een hechte vriendschap mee ontwikkelde. Tijdens zijn studie rechten aan de Universiteit van Utrecht, in de periode van 1763-1764, werd hij verliefd op Belle van Zuylen.

In zijn boek ‘Boswell en Holland’ (1763-1764) vermeldt hij het volgende over zijn eerste dagen in Utrecht: “Elk uur speelden de klokken van de grote toren een sombere psalmenmelodie. Bij de gedachte de hele winter in zo’n vreselijke oord te moeten wonen, kreunde ik. Ik voelde me oud, ongelukkig en moederziel alleen.”

De publicatie van zijn boek ‘An Account of Corsica’ (1768) maakte hem beroemd. In het jaar 1769 huwde hij zijn nicht Margaret Montgomery. In 1785 kwam zijn boek ‘The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides’ uit, dat hij naar aanleiding van zijn reis naar de Hebriden in 1773 schreef. Na het overlijden van zijn vrouw in 1789 raakte hij aan de drank en kreeg hierdoor geldproblemen. Na enkele weken ernstig ziek te zijn geweest, overleed Boswell in 1795 in Londen.



Tuesday 14 December uit ‘Boswell’s London Journal‘ (1762-1763)

“It is very curious to think that I have now been in London several weeks without ever enjoying the delightful sex, although I am surrounded with numbers of free-hearted ladies of all kinds: from the splendid Madam at fifty guineas a night, down to the civil nymph with white-thread stockings who tramps along the Strand and will resign her engaging person to your honour for a pint of wine and a shilling. Manifold are the reasons for this my present wonderful continence. I am upon a plan of economy, and therefore cannot be at the expense of first-rate dames. I have suffered severely from the loathsome distemper, and therefore shudder at the thoughts of running any risk of having it again. Besides, the surgeons’ fees in this city come very high. But the greatest reason of all is that fortune, or rather benignant Venus, has smiled upon me and favoured me so far that I have had the most delicious intrigues with women of beauty, sentiment, and spirit, perfectly suited to my romantic genius.

Indeed, in my mind, there cannot be higher felicity on earth enjoyed by man than the participation of genuine reciprocal amorous affection with an amiable woman. There he has a full indulgence of all the delicate feelings and pleasures both of body and mind, while at the same time in this enchanting union he exults with a consciousness that he is the superior person. The dignity of his sex is kept up. These paradisial scenes of gallantry have exalted my ideas and refined my taste, so that I really cannot think of stooping so far as to make a most intimate companion of a groveling-minded, ill-bred, worthless creature, nor can my delicacy be pleased with the gross voluptuousness of the stews. I am therefore walking about with a healthful stout body and a cheerful mind, in search of a woman worthy of my love, and who thinks me worthy of hers, without any interested views, which is the only sure way to find out if a woman really loves a man. If I should be a single man for the whole winter, I will be satisfied. I have had as much elegant pleasure as I could have expected would come to my share in many years.

However, I hope to be more successful. In this view, I had now called several times for a handsome actress of Covent Garden Theatre, whom I was a little acquainted with, and whom I shall distinguish in this my journal by the name of LOUISA. This lady had been indisposed and saw no company, but today I was admitted. She was in a pleasing undress and looked very pretty. She received me with great politeness. We chatted on the common topics. We were not easy — there was a constraint upon us — we did not sit right on our chairs, and we were unwilling to look at one another. I talked to her on the advantage of having an agreeable acquaintance, and hoped I might see her now and then. She desired me to call in whenever I came that way, without ceremony. “And pray,” said she, “when shall I have the pleasure of your company at tea?” I fixed Thursday, and left her, very well satisfied with my first visit.”