Boswell’s London Journal, 1762-1763

Publisher / date: McGraw-Hill, 1950
pages: 370
Hardcover {but many later editions}
genre: diary

Casting my mind back, I’m really not sure how I first found this book. Library? I certainly had seen it time and again in used bookstores; but purchased the copy I have (it is really a first edition, as it claims?) in a no-longer-extant bookstore in Rutland, Vermont — Tuttle’s Antiquarian.

From the first, I was enthralled with James Boswell’s intimate (in all senses of that word) thoughts on his early trip to London. I’ve a couple of the later books (I buy when I find a VG+ copy, which means, complete with dust jacket) — Boswell in Search of a Wife, Boswell on the Grand Tour: Germany and Switzerland — yet none have the freshness of this first book. Read the introduction section of Peter Martin’s Life of Boswell to understand the task Frederick Pottle undertook! So many letters turning up where least expected; more and more diaries. Makes me salivate just thinking about all the “finds,” located at just a couple estates. The first “find”? Letters used as wrappers: they had been sold en masse as scrap paper!

I must confess that I wish the likes of the BBC and/or Masterpiece Theatre would film something based on this book. Can’t you see Boswell strolling around Georgian London???


The next in the series, Boswell in Holland, features Zélide — a young woman Boswell was enamored enough with to contemplate asking her to marry him. He thought long and hard about it… and did nothing. Isabelle de Charrière (Belle du Zuylen), as she is known, has a bit of her own fame; her stories are available in English (the most widely-known is Caliste, or Letters written from Lausanne and also Letters of Mistress Henley); a fine (and stout!) biography by C.P. Courtney is perhaps best found through libraries; and her correspondence with Constant d’Hermenches has been translated by Janet and Malcolm Whatley as There are no letters like yours.

boswellVisit the Yale Boswell Editions


7 comments on “Boswell’s London Journal, 1762-1763

  1. THIS is a book I would love to read! Eighteenth century people I find so interesting!

    • BTW, this Boswell diary is probably the easiest to find – even paperback copies surface. Boswell wrote a lot, so you potentially could start with other diaries or even a biography — but hearty recommendations for this London Journal. It starts you at the “beginning”, as it were. And there’s nothing better than letter people speak for themselves. Boswell has a LOT to say!


      • Thanks, I will look out for it!

        We don’t seem to have the same demand or supply of old history books in Australia, but I have found that searching online, ebay etc… has produced a quantity of scanned and republished originals, which is handy!

        The thought of having an extant bookstore fills me with glee!

      • I once bought a biography of Queen Charlotte from Australia! that’s what I love about internet searching.

        We’ve a BIG (dusty) used bookstore in nearby New Hampshire. It’s a 3-hour drive, though. I tend to find some “finds” there. Must confess that I LOVE old and original printings (hard cover over paperback), though you will see a couple reprints on my list. At the same time, I love the “complete” editions that sometimes only a newly-edited book offers. Sometimes it’s a tradeoff. I have reprints (paperbacks) of Memoirs of a Highland Lady — so it’s “complete” (even got two volumes in one) — but there are no photographs, which the “original” published c1900 had. Found that one online! Yeah!!

  2. Just ordered “Boswell’s London Diary” online! Yay! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s