What is James Boswell famous for?

Question: 

What is James Boswell famous for?

Answer: 

Since the late 18th century James Boswell has been famous for writing "The Life of Johnson", an epic biography of his friend Samuel Johnson (1709-1784). The biography, published in 1791, set new standards for biography writing, and drew heavily on Boswell's own amazing memory and notes, benefiting from his long habit of keeping a detailed journal, as well as on meticulous research, collection of material, correspondence with Johnson's friends and acquaintances, etc.

In the 1920s and 1930s researchers discovered large amounts of Boswell's own letters, journals and notes otherwise thought to have been destroyed within a few decades of Boswell's death in 1795. Most of these papers found their way to Yale University, which began publishing these them in 1950. This led to Boswell becoming famous for something other than the biography of his friend, namely his frank and detailed journals. The most famous of these is the journal of his 9 month long stay in London at the age of 22, published in 1950 by Yale as "Boswell's London Journal". Most of his journal has since then been published in 12 volumes in all, the last one, covering the years 1789-1795, being published in 1989.

Less known to most people today is it, that Boswell became a well-known name as early as 1768, when he wrote his "Account of Corsica", a description of the island and a journal of his visit there in 1765, at a time when few Englishmen had been there, let alone travelled to the mountaneous interior of the island. Boswell had travelled to the island as a part of his grand tour, and he there met and befriended the rebel general Paoli who was to become his life-long friend.

Ladies and Gentlemen, your most devoted!

Long title: 

Ladies and Gentlemen, your most devoted!

Year: 

1760

Original text: 

Ladies and Gentlemen, your most devoted!
Since beards have wisdom evermore denoted,
I now ambitious to obtain esteem
Have fall'n upon this useful stratagem.
Behold me, then, a man not light or airy,
You view a most profound apothecary.

But hark! - I Hear a formidable groan;
Some dreadful critic with a surly tone
Exclaims: 'What can the idiot mean by this?
'Tis sure his own poor stuff - come, let us hiss;
For one thing's sure - I have said nought amiss.
Well, thank my stars - 'tis lucky - I'll go on;
I beg you'll hear me out, I'll soon be done.
All I intended, then, to say - d'ye see? -
Was only this: t'inform the house that we
Propose tonight, by comical narration,
To strike your tympanums with such vibration
That ev'ry gloomy count'nance shall be mended,
While ev'ry feature is with mirth distended.
Pardon the formal chillness of my story -
Indeed, I'm quite abash'd t'appear before ye.
How cam I hither? Pox upon these feet!
I wish I saw the door - I'd soon retreat.
O, here it is! I go de tout mon cæur.
Ladies and Gentlemen, votre serviteur!

Source: 

Notes: 

Probably written by James Boswell ca. 1760 as an address to the "Soaping Club" of which he was a founding member.

Original sources: 

Edinburgh

Location in Boswell's time: 

For the first three decades of James Boswell's life, Edinburgh consisted mainly of what is now known as the "Old Town". In 1766 a competition to design the "New Town" was held, to overcome the problems of the increasingly overcrowded Old Town, which at the time probably had around 80,000 inhabitants.

The location today: 

Still the capital of Scotland, and according to a recent 2009 YouGov poll "most desirable city in which to live in the UK".

Association with Boswell: 

Most people acquainted with Boswell's works know of his passion for London and his love for Auchinleck. However, it was in Edinburgh that he was born, grew up, and spend most of his adult life, and his journals clearly shows a clear emotional attachment to the city.

Locations: 

Russell Street, London

Location in Boswell's time: 

Russell Street was built in the 1630s, named after the Russells, Earls and Dukes of Bedford, and it soon became popular due to it's vicinity to Drury Lane, the Covent Garden piazza and later the Theatre Royal at Covent Garden built in 1732.

In 1763 Mortimer's Universal Director of Trades listed nine residents in the street: an engraver, a music-master, a printer, a clockmaker, a distiller, a metal-button maker, two apothecaries and a grocer. On the street was also Tom's (at No. 17) and the Turk's Head (at or near No. 20), both popular coffee houses. The latter should not be confused with the Turk's Head at Gerrard Street, the regular meeting place of the literary club.

It was in No. 8, in Thomas Davies bookshop, that Boswell and Johnson met for the first time on May 16, 1763. Thomas Davies had lived there since 1760 and would continue to do so until his death in 1785.

The location today: 

The very building that was in the 1760s the site of Thomas Davies old bookshop at no. 8 is today home to Balthazar Boulangerie, a trendy patisserie serving cakes, sweets and sandwiches all day (http://balthazarlondon.com/boulangerie/), which should not be confused with it's "mother" the Balthazar Restaurant on the actual corner of Russell Street and Covent Garden. On the street is also the Fortune Theatre (built 1924 on the site of the old Albion Tavern). On the corner of Russell Street and Catherine Street is also the third reincarnation of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.

Association with Boswell: 

Boswell knew Thomas Davies since 1760, and visited his bookshop occasionally during his stay in London 1762-63. It was here that he met Robert Dodsley, Oliver Goldsmith and Samuel Johnson for the first time.

Locations: 

Downing Street, London

Location in Boswell's time: 

Downing Street, adjacent to Whitehall, was built in the 1680s by Sir George Downing (1623-1684), 1st Baronet of East Hatley. It soon became a center of power and Downing Street no. 10 has been the official residence of the British Prime Minister since 1735.

In the 1760s, when Boswell lived there,  it was home to the Office of Plantations and to some private housing, accomodating among others civil servants from the various government offices in the vicinity.

The location today: 

Access to Downing Street by the general public was restricted in the 1970s and further tightened in 1982 and 1989.

The street itself bears little resemblence to how it looked in the 1760s.The houses between Number 10 and Whitehall were taken over by the government and demolished in 1824 to allow the construction of the Privy Council Office, Board of Trade and Treasury offices.

In 1861 the houses on the west side of Downing Street gave way to new purpose-build government offices for the Foreign Office, India Office, Colonial Office and the Home Office. 

Association with Boswell: 

Boswell rented a room in the house of Thomas Terrie in Downing Street from November 26, 1762 until July 7, 1763.

Locations: 

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