James Boswell died in 1795 believing he had touched and kissed a cache of Shakespeare's original letters and papers discovered by a Mr. Ireland. His friend, Edmond Malone, publicly exposed the lot as a forgery just a year later.
One main objective of the author of this site is to publish articles, however brief, of every single person mentioned in the papers and writings of James Boswell (1740-1795). This is a huge task, and work has been on-going since the site was originally launched.
The site is the work of an amateur scholar, and when it was begun in 2004 few considerations were made concerning methodology. Time, however, has taught me that some choices has to be made with regards to selection criteria, quality of sources, the naming of individuals in the context of this site, etc.
When the site was ported to a new system in the summer of 2009, some effort was therefore made to heighten the quality of older articles, and to make certain aspects of the numerous biographies more stringent.
Methodology-wise the following can be said:
Selection criteria: Each and every person mentioned by Boswell in his papers is entitled to an entry. The biographies are not meant to be comprehensive, but to contribute to a better understanding of Boswell's relationship with the person, his regard or disregard, their merits, etc. The amount and type of information available in each biography is therefore chosen with that in mind. Whereever possible links to more comprehensive or supplementary sources are given.
Quality of sources: Wherever possible I will try to seek out the most authoritative sources available. In some cases, particularly with regards to persons of a lower social standing, very few sources are available, and in those cases less regard will be taken to the quality of source. In many cases the primary source for a biography is Boswell's own journals. As the dates when a particular person is mentioned in the journal is often explicitly mentioned, his journal won't always be given as sources. Other sources will most often be given, but unfortunately I did not always make a note of these sources for the first years of this site, and therefore the correct sources are not always mentioned, especially in the older of the biographies.
Naming of individuals: Boswell's spelling of names is frequently incorrect, and during his stay in Holland and on his European tour he was not consistent in using the English, French or otherwise local names of persons. In connection with the re-launch of this site, I have tried to make this more stringent. Specifically, I have decided, that this being a English-language site, all names where an accepted English version of a name is available, this will be used - this particularly applies to royalty and nobility. However, the native spelling of such names will often be given in the list of individual aliases. Royalty is often named by their first name only, but it is a matter of judgement how far removed from the senior branch one individual should be in order for him or her to be considered as such - f.ex. the brother of a monarch is usually a prince in his own right, and should therefore be referred to as f.ex. Diederic, Prince of Anhalt-Dessau, whereas illegitimate children or children of cadet branches should be referred to as f.ex. Wilhelmine von Anhalt, "von Anhalt" being considered the family name, despite these individuals being sometimes refererred to as prince or princess.
The family names of married women have posed slightly more difficulties. Some women were themselves known, sometimes under their original family names, sometimes under those of their husbands. If a woman is fairly universaly known by her married name, this is the one I use. If Boswell is himself consistent in referring to a woman under her married or her birth name, I will try to follow Boswell's choice, thus making it easier for the readers of his journals to actually find the relevant persons.
As the site grows it will be increasingly difficult and time consuming to change any of these decisions. Still, if you think any of these choices un-sound you are welcome to send me a mail, and I'll consider you arguments.