These eleven original essays by well-known eighteenth-century scholars, five of them editors of James Boswell's journal or letters, commemorate the bicentenary of Boswell's death on May 19, 1795. The volume illuminates both the life and the work of one of the most important literary figures of the age and contributes significantly to the scholarship on this rich period.
In the introduction, Irma S. Lustig sets the tone for the volume. She reveals that the essays examining Boswell as "Citizen of the World" are deliberately paired with those that analyze his artistic skills, to emphasize that "Boswell's sophistication as a writer is inseparable from his cosmopolitanism." The essays in Part I focus on the relationship of the Enlightenment, at home and abroad, to Boswell's personal development. Marlies K. Danziger restores to significant life the continental philosophers and theologians Boswell consulted in his search for religious certainty. Peter Perreten examines Boswell's enraptured study of Italian antiquity and his responses to the European landscape. Richard B. Sher and Perreten document the personal and aesthetic influence of Henry Home, Lord Kames, Scottish jurist and leading Enlightenment figure, on Boswell. Michael Fry discusses Boswell's relationship with Henry Dundas, political manager for Scotland, and Thomas Crawford examines Boswell's long-standing interest in the volatile political issues of the period, including the French Revolution, through his correspondence with William Johnson Temple. In evaluation Boswell's performance as Laird of Auchinleck, John Strawhorn documents his efforts to improve the estate by use of new agricultural methods.
The essays in Part II study aspects of Boswell's artistry in Life of Johnson, the magnum opus that set a standard for biography. Carey McIntosh examines Boswell's use of rhetoric, and William P. Yarrow offers a close scrutiny of metaphor. Isobel Grundy invokes Virginia Woolf in demonstrating Boswell's acceptance of uncertainty as a biographer. John B. Radner reveals Boswell's self-assertive strategies in his visit with Johnson at Ashbourne in September 1777, and, finally, Lustig examines as a "subplot" of the biography Johnson's patient efforts to win the friendship of Margaret Montgomerie Boswell. An appendix by Hitoshi Suwabe serves scholars by providing the most exact account to date of Boswell's meetings with Johnson.