~ Book Review: Boswell’s London Journal ~
I’m no historian. I am rubbish with dates and events and kings and queens and such. And let’s not get started on wars and battles and strategies lest my eyeballs cross themselves and stay that way forever.
The only history teacher who ever got through to me was the one who believed students only care about stories of the past if they involve sex, drugs or violence. Even better if you can find all three. It’s a philosophy I stand by to this day. Luckily, London history is dripping with tales of these vices, which is probably why I am so curious to learn more about it.
Perhaps this is why I so thoroughly enjoyed reading Boswell’s London Journal.
This fabulously bawdy, mischievous, arrogant journal is the pride and joy of its author, James Boswell (future biographer of Samuel Johnson, but for now an immature youth). We enter his life just after his 22nd birthday, on the brink of his move to London. He’s visited before and was intrigued (even after his little bout of VD from a lady of the night under Waterloo Bridge). He moves to London and sets up his life among society’s most elite.
Boswell’s life is the perfect mix of high-society boredom delayers (the Society of Beefsteaks, cheese adventures, and tea – oh so much tea) and hormonally-induced rebellion (seedy bars, prostitutes and moping – oh so much moping). All that in the most fantastic, 18th century language you could hope to find.
MY RECOMMENDATION TO YOU
1. Go get this book now. Here’s a link to Amazon to eliminate all your excuses.
2. On November 15th read Bowell’s first entry. Don’t read the preface and don’t read any introduction other than Boswell’s. No one likes spoilers. History people, read all that stuff on August 4th next year.
3. Keep it by your bed and read it every single night, one day at a time, on the day it was written (yes, he actually does manage to write every day) until you are done (August 3rd).
4. Don’t skip ahead! This is one of the best immersive London experiences you can have. Don’t cheat yourself.
It might take a few days to get into his style of writing, and even more time to look past the fact that he’s a spoiled kid who thinks the sun shines out of his own ass.
WHY CARE ABOUT HIM THEN
Boswell is a true lover of London (in every way) and, for all the walkers out there, he paints a fantastic picture of London from the streets. Savour the details of his rambles through Covent Garden, of the Thames frozen over in January, of hackney coaches on Fleet Street. Allow him to bring you into his London (Just be careful not to fall for his wily charms. This guy gets around, if you know what I mean!).
You’ll soon stop getting annoyed with him bemoaning his oh so difficult life, and actually start to have a soft spot for him. You may even be proud of him as he shows signs of growing up. Let’s not get to far ahead of our selves though.
In case I haven’t given you good enough reason to read this journal, let me ask my dear friend James to speak for himself:
I think there is a blossom about me of something more distinguished than the generality of mankind…I have such an opinion of myself as to imagine that nobody can be more agreeable company.