Marlies K. Danziger
James Bos well was brought up in two cultures, the Scottish and the English, and became acquainted with still other cultures during his three-year stay on the European continent. After receiving a classical education and studying law in Scotland without enthusiasm, he greatly enjoyed London, where he was befriended by Samuel Johnson. Not finding a suitable occupation, Boswell was pleased when his father, a prominent judge and Ayrshire landowner, allowed him to travel abroad.
In Holland (1763) he heard lectures on law but spent more time on learning French. He then chose to visit various German principalities, where he could “acquire French and polite manners” in societies closer to his own than the artificial society of France (Journal, 27 September 1764, Boswell on the Grand Tour, Germany and Switzerland, 1764 [hereafter cited as Germany and Switzerland], 112-13). At every stage he cultivated interesting acquaintances, most notably Rousseau and Voltaire. He proceeded to Italy and then took the unusual step of visiting Corsica, which he found so interesting that he described its history and topography as well as his experiences there in his first major publication, An Account of Corsica (1768).
Back in Scotland (1766) he practiced law in Edinburgh. On his father's death in 1782 he inherited the family estate and took seriously his position as “laird of Auchinleck.” Annual visits to London enabled him to continue his friendship with Johnson. On the latter's death in 1784 Boswell published the Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides (1785), based on the journals he had written while taking Johnson to Scotland in 1773. He then mined his other journals to complete his monumental The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. (1791), his first claim to fame until his private papers (journals, letters, and verses) were discovered in modern times.