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Book Details
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    Cover of Boswell's London Journal, published 1950, edited by Frederick A. Pottle
Long title
Boswell's London Journal 1762-1763
Year of 1st publication
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Book description

Boswell's London Journal was the first volume of Boswell's journals that was made available to a larger audience, except for edited excerpts published by Boswell himself as parts of his Life of Johnson and the Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides

The London Journal covers the time from November 15, 1762, to August 4, 1763, beginning with Boswell's departure from Edinburgh, and ending with his last day in London before leaving for the continent, not to return until 1766.

We follow Boswell's attempt to secure a commission in the guards, his affair with Covent Garden actress Louisa Lewis, his (declining) relationship with actor and elocutionist Thomas and playwright Frances Sheridan, his reunion with old chum William Johnson Temple and the beginning of his friendship with Samuel Johnson. We also hear of gay life in London with Boswell's fellow scots Andrew Erskine, George Dempster and the 10th Earl of Eglinton, as well as his occasional depressions and a visit from Signor Gonorrhea.

The book is amusing and educating, and a unique glimpse of life in society circles in 18th century London.


Boswell's London Journal was originally published by William Heinemann Ltd. in 1950. In addition to the standard hardback edition, a deluxe edition was printed with a stronger cover, better print and even a casing. A special deluxe version printed in just 1,050 numbered copies was also published, to which was prefixed Boswell's Journal of my Jaunt, Harvest 1762. The Harvest journal begins on September 14, 1762, and ends on November 14, 1762, covering Boswell's tour of southern Scotland to visit friends and family. This first journal is not available anywhere else.

The 1950 edition has been re-issued several times but did not undergo any significant revisions until the 2010 Penguin Classics edition edited by Dr Gordon Turnbull. The notes to the 2010 edition are thoroughly updated based on the 60 years of research that has been done since 1950. It also includes Boswell's almost daily "memos", which was basically his "notes to self" on what to do and how to compose himself during the day to come. As such, the 2010 edition is to be considered the present authoritative version of the London Journal. 


The London Journal was translated into several different languages very early on, including in Danish as "Boswell's London Dagbog" (1951), in French as "Les papiers de Boswell: Amours à Londres 1762 - 1763" (1952) and in German as "Londoner Tagebuch 1762-1763" (1953).


The London Journal itself has been reprinted (and republished) several times and is very easy to find. A paperback edition with forewords by Peter Ackroyd was published by Yale in 2004. The numbered deluxe edition (with the Journal of my Jaunt) has, of course, not been republished, but is still fairly easy to acquire. Several copies are usually available from online used books search engines such as AbeBooks, with prices ranging from £40 to £160. Search for Journal of my Jaunt to exclude all the ordinary copies of the London Journal. Also, be aware that only the *numbered* deluxe edition contains the Journal of the Jaunt, whereas the un-numbered deluxe edition is really just a slightly better version of the standard edition.

James Caudle (not verified) Thu, 12/13/2012 - 22:01

The most authoritative edition of the London Journal, as of the end of 2012, is that edited by Gordon Turnbull for Penguin Classics. (2010). The Journal itself (presented for the first time almost completely un-modernized in its spellings and punctuation), is a newly-prepared and carefully checked text, which corrects some flaws in the 1950 transcription which had been reprinted 1950-1954, almost always with no modification and usually just from camera-copies of the 1950 text. In addition, Turnbull includes the Memoranda, the "Minc'd Pye' journal-letter, the 'History' of the publication of Boswell's letters with Erskine, and the 'Scheme of Living' Boswell wrote as his budget for London. The edition is one of the most lavishly-annotated Penguin Classics, and it is the best edition for assignment in university courses studying the *Journal*, or for scholars wishing to cite the text in books or articles.