Pride and Negligence

Long title: 

Pride and Negligence: The History of the Boswell Papers


Year of 1st publication: 


Book description: 

Pride and Negligence is the fascinating account, not only of the gradual discovery and assembling of the great trove of manuscripts, letters, proofs, and related Boswellian materials intermittently from 1925 to 1950 - many of which turned up in Malahide Castle in Ireland and at Fettercairn Castle in Scotland, in such unlikely storage places as a croquet box and a stable loft - but of the evolution of a significant literary concept: the intent to fully disclose and make available to all the material at hand, which has as its practical expression the fullest possible publication of a "great coherent human document".

"this leisurely narrative--published as introductory material in the 1950s but now expanded and offered as a separate book for the first time--reconstructs, with scholarly yet un-stuffy precision, just how all those Boswell papers (including the now-famous Journals) were lost, forgotten, suppressed, discovered, fought over. . . and ultimately brought together after 150 years."1

As part of the book, Pottle also documents the invaluable and fascinating efforts of Colonel Ralph Isham, without who the Boswell papers would probably never have been collected in one place.


First published my McGraw-Hill on December 1, 1981, Pride and Negligence was originally supposed to supplement the Catalogue of the Papers of James Boswell, which was being prepared by Frederick Pottle's wife Marion. However, for various reasons - one of them was funding - Pride and Negligence was eventually published a massive 11 years before the publication of the work it was meant to supplement.

Pride and Negligence is nominally a part of the Yale Research Series of Boswell papers, but is unusual in that it is the only one in that series that does not publish or reproduce original material, but rather tells the story of that material.


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