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James Boswell

(1740-1795), Biographer of Dr Johnson

Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue Entry

Sitter associated with 16 portraits
Born in Edinburgh in 1740. He was the son of the Laird of Auchinleck, a title he later inherited. In 1762, having qualified as a lawyer, he travelled to London hoping to rub shoulders with 'men of genius' and in particular his literary hero, Samuel Johnson. He realised this ambition the following year when he met Johnson in a Covent Garden bookshop. The two men became close and remained friends until Johnson's death. Boswell is chiefly remembered for his acclaimed Life of Samuel Johnson published in 1791. The use of colloquial language, conversation and short sentences, considered at the time to be characteristic of 'low' forms of literature, helped to bring Johnson's character to life.

Watch a film clip on the sitter from the BBC Archive in the Media section below

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