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Today is biographer's day, the 247th anniversary of James Boswell and Samuel Johnson's first meeting, which took place on this day in 1763 at Thomas Davies' bookshop near Covent Garden, London.

Had the two never met each other it is safe to assume that both would have been far less famous than they are today. Johnson might still have been known as one of the major critics and, to a lesser extent, authors of the 18th century, but his unique character would be unknown to the masses. Boswell might have found some other person of notability whose life he could describe - indeed he even started working on a biography of Lord Kames, and considered writing the life of David Hume and his old friend and mentor Alexander Montgomerie, Earl of Eglinton - but no one could have supplied Boswell with better raw material for the type of biography that he would become famous for having written than Samuel Johnson.

So on this, the 247th anniversary of their first meeting, a big congratulations and, not least, a huge thank you to them both.

In the style of Boswell himself, I have written these lines at a place I know held some meaning and memories to him - though probably nowhere near as significant as the tomb of Melanchthon was to Johnson - and despite it also being one of the places where he experienced one of his perhaps greatest disappointments: Potsdam, the seat of Frederick II whom Boswell wanted to meet so badly, but never did, despite his best efforts. Boswell found the place beautiful, especially Sans Souci, the small but much-loved country retreat of Frederick II, and its impressive gallery.


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