Boswell's own publications

Observations, Good or Bad

Long title: 

Observations, Good or Bad, Stupid or Clever, Serious or Jocular, on Squire Foote’s Dramatic Entertainment intitled The Minor. By a Genius.

Book description: 

 

Like Boswell's other early writings, this three-penny pamphlet was published anonymously in 1760.

The pamphlet was a critical comment by Boswell to Samuel Foote's (1720-1777) play The Minor, which Boswell had presumably seen at Drury Lane during his 1760 London stay.

The Monthly Review, Dec 1760 described Boswell's pamphlet with the following words: "All the humour of this lies in the title-page.” (C. E. Vulliamy's James Boswell (1932), p. 6)

This work is very difficult to come by today. A few copies exist at the British Library.

Literature: 

A View of the Edinburgh Theatre (1760)

Long title: 

A View of the Edinburgh Theatre during the Summer Season, 1759. By a Society of Gentlemen.

Book description: 

Published anonymously, there is still some doubt as to whether it was actually written by Boswell.

This small pamphlet was first ascribed to Boswell by Pottle in his 1929 book The Literary Career of James Boswell, and most scholars seems to agree with this. Other candidates for authorship are Lord Somerville and Francis Gentleman.

Pottle ruled out Gentleman upon examination of some of Boswell's personal papers. Somerville, on the other hand, is still a possibility, as one of the reviews (The Rehearsal) refers to a review from 1753-4, which was probably written by Somerville. However, it is not unlikely that Boswell tried to copy Lord Somerville's style, having read the 1753-4 reviews. A View of the Edinburgh Theatre is dedicated to Boswell's idol, the actor West Digges, and in one review the author of the pamphlet declares his love for an actress, Mrs. Cowper, about whom little is known apart from the fact that Boswell had an affair with her at the time.

The pamphlet consists of 22 reviews of plays performed in the summer season of 1759. As a sign of his regard for Mrs. Cowper the author of the review writes in the review of The Consicous Lovers, performed on July 28, 1759:

"Indiana, Mrs. Cowper. Here we had the Pleasure of beholding this Lady an Object worthy of the Love, Esteem and Admiration of the generous Bevil. There was such an Elegance of Dejection, and something so tenderly pathetic in her Bahaviour, when reducded to the moving Dilemma, so nicely wrought up by the delicate Pen of Sir Richard Steele, that our Bosoms beat with Anxiety, while, from our inmost Hearts, we sympathised with the beauteous Sufferer."

A facsimile edition of the 50 page pamphlet was published in 1976 by The Augustan Reprint Society, with an introduction by David W. Tarbet. 

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Literature: 

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