anxious and ambitious outsider, Boswellrnnevertheless had a genius for friendship.rnHe successfully courted two notoriousrnintellectual celebrities, Voltaire andrnRousseau, whose lives and thought werernantithetical to those of his moral hero,rnSamuel Johnson. Forced by his father intorna law career, he lost several clients to therngallows and witnessed their executions.rnHis adventurous trip to the wilds of banditriddenrnCorsica, then ruled by Genoa, ledrnto his passionate support for revolutionaryrnhero Pasquale Paoli. BoswelFs Account ofrnCorsica established his reputation in Europernand influenced British and Frenchrnpolicy toward the island.rnBoswell had an intense, volatile relationshiprnwith Johnson, who shared hisrnmelancholia and was one of the mostrntroubled and fascinating men who everrnlived. Boswell’s fanatical devotion to hisrnsubject (Johnson exclaimed: “You havernbut two topics, yourself and me, and I’mrnsick of both”), compulsive searching outrnof original documents, denigration ofrncompetitors and rivals, attention to anecdoternand minute detail, his creation of arn”Flemish picture” and dramatization ofrncrucial episodes in the life of his subjectrn—all established the technique andrnform of modern biography.rnBoswell suffered throughout his lifernfrom religious crises, alcoholism, andrnmanic-depression. He had an uneasyrnmarriage with a wife who died early ofrnconsumption. Obsessed by low life andrnfilthy prostitutes, he craved a harem, saying,rn”I ought to be a Turk,” and sufferedrn20 bouts of gonorrhea. Like Pepys andrnCasanova, Boswell was passionately introspective;rnhis journals expose, with brutalrnhonesty, his sexual philandering andrnillegitimate children. Boswell tells usrnmore about himself, and all his faults,rnthan any writer ever has.rnhi the 1920’s, the dramatic discoveryrnof his papers (now at Yale) in an ancientrnIrish castie revealed a treasure trove of information.rnYet Boswell has been sterilizedrnby his academic biographers. FrederickrnPottle’s James Boswell: The EarlierrnYears (1966) and Frank Brady’s JamesrnBoswell: The Later Years (1984) are scholarly,rnleaden, and desperately dull. Thernpath is wide open for a one-volume lifernintended for the general reader. PeterrnMartin’s life is clearly written and solidlyrnresearched. But since the best parts ofrnthe story are all too familiar, it lacks a vitalrnspark and isn’t nearly as good as the livesrnof Johnson by John Wain, W.J. Bate, andrnLawrence Lipking. Martin quotes, butrndoesn’t analyze, the letters, concentratesrnon events themselves rather than on theirrnmeaning, and produces many superfluouslyrndetailed sentences —such asrn’Young Coll was leading them to Sir AllanrnMaclean’s cottage on the island ofrnInehkenneth, just off the coast next to thernisland of Ulva at the mouth of Loch NarnKeal” —which, to most readers, arernmeaningless. He has nothing original tornsay about The Life of Johnson.rnMartin gives repetitive accounts ofrnBoswell’s boredom, depression, gambling,rnalcoholism, sexual escapades,rnvenereal disease, and obsession with publicrnexecutions, but doesn’t explain thisrnpsychopathology. The boredom camernfrom the dour life in provincial, PresbyterianrnScotland; the depression was arnfamily curse that had turned his brotherrninto a raving maniac. Boswell tookrnrefuge in self-destructive gaming andrndrinking (“I grew monstrously drunk . . .rnmingled frenzy and stupefaction”) and inrnthat state was sometimes beaten, robbed,rnand thrown into the gutter. He burst intornromantic raptures about women of hisrnown class (“how happy should I be if shernconsented . . . to make me blest!”) and devisedrnspecious arguments to justify fornicationrnand adultery (“irregular coitionrnw a s . . . no dreadful crime”). His “whoringrnrage” was particularly rabid when herntoured Italy, pursuing married womenrndespite the danger of instant death if discoveredrnby their husbands. As GeoffreyrnScott elegantly put it: “he was pedantic inrnHolland, princely in Germany, philosophicrnin Switzerland, and amorous inrnItaly.” In one ardent encounter, his mistressrnis “undressed by the maid, too modestrnto do so in front of Boswell, who withrncandle in hand paces impatiently outsidernin the dark and cold courtyard.” In anotherrnassignation, tiiis one with the pregnantrnwife of a soldier, his telegraphic stylernforeshadows Leopold Bloom’s stream ofrnconsciousness in the “Nighttown” scenernof U/ysses: “Oho! a safe piece. In my closernt . . . To be directiy. In a minute—over.rnI rose cool and astonished, half angry,rnhalf laughing. I sent her off.”rnThese guilt-ridden depravities demandedrnself-punishment in the form ofrnvenereal disease. (Despite the manifestrndanger with prostitutes, Boswell was usuallyrnwithout “armour.”) These encountersrnsometimes led to genital abscessesrnthat made it difficult to walk and took fivernmonths to heal. His obsession with executions,rnsometimes viewed from the toprnof the hearse that would carry away thernvictims, provided a terrifying warning (oftenrnaccompanied by nightmares) for sinnersrn— like himself—who were surelyrndestined for damnation. Boswell’s attractionrnto condemned criminals was closelyrnconnected to his sympathy for the oppressedrnand for underdogs of all sorts,rnfrom his feudal tenants to the Americanrnrevolutionaries. When his first cousinrnand future wife hesitated about committingrnherself to such a mercurial character,rnBoswell threatened to set sail forrnAmerica and become “a wild Indian.”rnThough his sexual guilt continued withrnhis wife, he constantly betrayed her (insteadrnof confessing, he left his journalsrnaround for her to read); his “voluptuous”rndemands when she was pregnant and tubercularrnmade her cough up blood.rnBoswell’s character was a mass of contradictions.rnExuberant and spontaneous,rnunguarded and familiar, he was good naturedrnand high spirited, agreeable andrnlikeable, with a genius for pleasing: “onernof those people,” a friend observed, “withrnwhom one instantly feels acquainted.”rnBoswell could also be fatuously proud ofrnhis ancestral lineage (though his wife remindedrnhim that they were “no betterrnthan any other gentleman’s family”) andrnabsurd in his self-complacent posturing.rnHe dedicated an anonymous ode to himself,rnthanking “James Boswell Esq . . . forrnthe profound respect with which yournhave always treated me.” He toldrnRousseau that he fully deserved hisrnfriendship, called himself “one of thernmost engaging men that ever lived,” andrnwhen especially pleased with himselfrn”just sat and hugged myself in my ownrnmind.” But Boswell could also be selfcritical.rnHe admitted tliflt his knowledgernwas restricted, his self-esteem excessive,rnhis avarice extreme. His journals were arnbrilliant register of his follies and triumphs.rnBoswell’s friendship with Johnson wasrnthe central event of his life. Although hernsometimes rebuked his friend (always impatientrnwith human folly) for his severerntongue-lashings, he deliberately drewrnJohnson’s fire in order to create memorablernscenes. The two men’s arduousrnjourney through the wilds of Scotlandrn(where “no wheel had ever rolled”)rnproved that Johnson’s feelings for Boswellrnwere greater than his prejudice againstrnhis native land and inspired Boswell’srnsecond masterpiece. The Journal of arnTour to the Hebrides. Although theyrncould sit silenriy together for a “long timernin a sort of languid, grave state, like menrn34/CHRONICLESrnrnrn