More Boswell

pottleHave been, this weekend, much immersed in the book Pride & Negligence: The History of the Boswell Papers. What a convoluted tale, of siblings, inheritance, misplaced manuscripts, and dedicated collectors and editors.

Poor Boswell! having read much about his own proclivities (he might have saved his relations must angst if he had used cypher – like Pepys, Dudley, Lister did – for some of his more ‘delicate’ adventures!), he was a man battling several demons at various times in his life. His children didn’t exactly have an easy time of it either. They lost their mother fairly early (and what she had to put up with, doesn’t bare thinking); Veronica died of consumption; Euphemia was decades in an asylum; Sir Alexander, his father’s heir, was shot in a dual.

Then there were the scholars who hoped for a peep at the papers, only to be rebuffed – by having no answer given to queries. Oh, a tough place indeed to be.

And then the sales… and ensuing litigation.

boswellI’ve Buchanan’s Treasure of Auchinleck coming too. While I’ve found Frederick Pottle’s account well written, there is a whiff of the “too close to the trees to see the woods”. Interesting, though, to read about R.W. Chapman — yes, he plays a role in the Boswell papers, just as he was making a name for himself in Austen circles (among the letters of others that he brought forth at The Clarendon Press).



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