Johnson Without Boswell

$2.50 Edited by Hugh KingsmillKNOPF

BOSWELL’S volume may be, as Macaulay said, ‘the most interesting biographical work in the world,’ but the Johnson who emerges from it is not a pleasing figure; a great figure, interesting, dynamic, admirable, but not an amiable figure. One does not see how such a man as Boswell makes him could manage to attract and hold the sincere affection of so many unlikely people. Other contemporaries left memoranda which clear up this puzzle. An edition of Boswell, published in 1835, carries these memoranda as a supplement, and the total impression of Johnson conveyed by this parallel is quite different from that conveyed by Boswell alone, and much more satisfying. It is most unfortunate that modern reprints of Boswell have not followed this pattern. Mr. Kingsmill, however, has gathered up these contemporary views and estimates of Johnson, and now publishes them in a separate volume. His work is an overdue act of justice to the memory of a great man whose talent for making himself loved was quite equal to his talent for making himself respected. A. J. N.