JAMES BOSWELL: The Earlier Years 1740-1769 by Frederick A. Pottle

JAMES BOSWELL: The Earlier Years 1740-1769

Email this review


Report repeated from p.1223, 1965, when scheduled for earlier publication, as follows: ""Frederick Pottle, the Yale professor who holds a virtual patent on James Boswell material, here gives a long, precise and quite readable account of his fatuous, fascinating subject's ""earlier years"" (1740-1769). The 915-page book (first of a projected series) traces Boswell's growth from the priggish scion of an ancient Scottish family to his marriage to his first cousin. Pottle believes Boswell was more than the generally supposed fawning nonentity who was dragged into fame on Samuel Johnson's coattails. The author gives us familiar scenes of Boswell womanizing by night and hanging on epigrams of Goldsmith and Garrick by day. But Pottle also shows his subject to have been an energetic and successful writer and a hardworking Edinburgh lawyer who would have become well-known whether or not he had written The Life of Johnson. Boswell, Pottle argues, had a remarkable journalistic ability to ""tune in"" on such diverse and demanding personalities as Voltaire, Rousseau and the brilliant, moody Dr. Johnson himself. Pottle also musters considerable evidence of Boswell's imaginative power--from his exploitation of Paoli's struggle to free Corsica to his rave critique of a winsome actress of whom he was enamored. The professor's careful scholarship and eye for lively, telling detail makes this an excellent companion to the several volumes of Boswell journals and letters he has edited and provides a fine introduction to one of literature's most amusing figures.

Publisher: McGraw-Hill