Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides (1785)

Long title: 

Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides with Samuel Johnson, LL. D. (1785)

Year of 1st publication: 


Book description: 

Based on the personal journal of James Boswell, for which he became so famous almost two centuries later, this volume details the journey to the Hebrides in the late summer and autumn of 1773 of Boswell and his friend (Dr.) Samuel Johnson.

Following some initial remarks by Boswell about the setup and the preparations for the journey, the story begins on August 14, 1773 with Dr. Johnson's arrival at Boyd's Inn, Edinburgh, and ends with their taking leave of each other at the inn at Blackshiels about 15 miles south-east of Edinburgh on November 22, 1773.

Johnson published his own account of the journey as "A Journey to the Western Isles of Scotland" as early as 1775 - no mention of Boswell in the title - and it is interesting to compare the very different accounts the travelling companions gave of the same journey. Not that they contradict each other to any significant extent, but rather because it tells us a lot about the authors themselves. Johnson's account is in the style of the travellers' accounts so popular in those days, detailing historical facts and descriptions of the environment of the places visited. Boswell's account, on the other hand, is in the style of a journal - a personal account, detailing his thoughts and the social events and conservations he and Johnson had during the three months they spend together in Scotland. As such the two books complement each other beautifully.

Boswell narrowly avoided fighting a duel with Sir Alexander Macdonald, Bt. because of the account he gave of his and Johnson's reception at Armadale on Skye, and his personal observations on Sir Alexander and Lady Macdonald. His reputation was also somewhat tarnished because of the indiscretion he showed by printing sometimes verbatim accounts of personal conversations by or about people still living at the time of publication.


This is probably Boswell's most widely available work second only to his Life of Johnson. It has been reprinted numerous times since its initial publication in 1785.

Most useful to Boswell enthusiasts are probably the two William Heinemann editions published in 1936 and 1961 respectively. The 1936 was the first edition of a Boswell text based on the discovery of his manuscript notes discovered in the 1920s and 1930s which was made available to a wider audience. The 1961 edition is a reprint of the 1936 edition with a new introduction and numerous endnotes added to fully take advantage of the huge progress in research that had taken place since 1936. The first edition was edited by Charles Bennett and Frederick Pottle, while the last was completed by Pottle alone following Bennett's death in 1957.


Literally hundreds of copies, new and old, are available from