Boswell in fiction

Submitted by thf1977 on Sun, 06/27/2010 - 11:34

I would like to compile a list of Boswell in fiction, and I need your help.

There are numerous references to Boswell in works of fiction, and you are very welcome to write about those, but my main interest just now is to learn more about actual fictionalized accounts of James Boswell. 

Some of the best known, to me, are:

  • Lillian de la Torre's books about Sam. Johnson, detector, in which Boswell takes on the role of Watson to Johnson's Holmes.

  • Boswell & Johnson's Tour of the Western Isles, the 1993 TV production starring Robbie Coltrane as Johnson and John Sessions as Boswell in an entirely fictional account of their journey to the Hebrides, based very loosely on the accounts both of them published after their journey in 1773. Somehow I think John Sessions might actually have made a decent Boswell, but the manuscript and the director clearly wouldn't let him.

  • Boswell for the Defence, the 1989 play starring Leo McKern as Boswell in a wholly fictionalized story taking place in (as I recall it) 1793. 

Do write if you know of any others, even if Boswell isn't among the main characters.

Looking forward to hearing from you all.

Best wishes to you all,


Anonymous (not verified)

Fri, 04/29/2011 - 01:46

Try (if you haven't already) April De Angelis' A Laughing Matter which was put on by the National Theatre in 2003.  Boswell is part of the tapestry of characters from the Club.

Julian Griffin

Anonymous (not verified)

Mon, 07/16/2012 - 16:32

This thread is a few years old, but still available, so some may be interested in in these titles.
Bery Bainbridge, 'According to Queeney'.  This novel is about Dr Johnson and Hester Thrale.  Boswell only appears fleetingly, because, according to the blurb, the novel 'allows us into a world unknown to James Boswell'.
I haven't read the following novels yet, but they seem relevant:
Philip Baruth, 'The Brothers Boswell'.  It's about James and his jealous brother.
Andrew Miller, 'Casanova in Love'.  This is about Casanova in England.  He meets Dr. Johnson.  Does he meet Boswell too?
Also, the author David Dabydeen is currently writing a novel about Francis Barber, Dr. Johnson's black servant and heir.  Boswell may well appear in this novel.