Joseph Ritter - Boswell's Servant

Personal data
Joseph Ritter

According to Boswell, Ritter was "a Bohemian, a fine stately fellow above six feet high, who had been over a great part of Europe, and spoke many languages."1 He served for several years as James Boswell's manservant before opening the Abercorn Arms, a large inn in Paisley.2

The opening of the Abercorn Arms was advertised as follows on October 13, 1783:3

Joseph Ritter begs leave to inform the nobility, gentry, and the public in general, that he has taken that large and commodious inn, in Newtown Of Paisley (just now built by the Earl of Abercorn), which is furnished and fitted up in the neatest and genteelest
manner; and will be Opened on Monday, the 13th current, for the reception of those who please to favour him with their c ompany, where they may depend on the best usage,
and every article charged on the most reasonable terms

Ritter is the fictional author of a series of love letters to Boswell's wife, Margaret, printed in Boswell's Bus Pass (2011) by Stuart Campbell.

  • 1In Boswell's Tour of the Hebrides, entry: August 18, 1773
  • 2According to a note attributed to Sir Walter Scott printed in some editions of the Life of Johnson since at least Croker's 1831 edition
  • 3Cf. Robert Brown's The History of Paisley (1886), vol. II, p. 95
Life with Boswell

Ritter served as Boswell's manservant for several years, and Boswell, in his Tour of the Hebrides, described him as "the best servant I ever saw".