Since forever I have been reading the journals of James Boswell.
I had heard of him, had even heard of his bio of Samual Johnson, but didn't know anything about either of them, or really of the 18th century in which they lived and died. I knew about George III being mad and losing the Americas, had heard of Bonnie Prince, and in fact visited, Culloden, had some inkling of the following clearances. The names of Reynolds, Goldsmith and Garrick had been picked up from somewhere...
Then in a bookshop I picked up 'Boswells London journal-1762-1763'. I was hooked.
Here was man completely sharing himself. He didn't hang back on what he thought of himself, those around him, the age he lived in, being 'Scottish'...( he hated it!!) It covers the time from November 15, 1762 to August 4, 1763, beginning with Boswell's departure from Edinburgh, and ending with his last day in London before leaving for the continent, not to return until 1766.
He writes about his attempt to secure a commission in the guards, his affair with Covent Garden actress Louisa Lewis, his (declining) relationship with actor and elocutionist Thomas and playwright Frances Sheridan, his reunion with old chum William Johnson Temple and the beginning of his friendship with Samuel Johnson.
We also hear of the gay life in London with his fellow scots Andrew Erskine, George Dempster and the 10th Earl of Eglinton, as well as his occasional depressions and a visit from Signor Gonorrhea.
What follows is a library of journals edited and published by Yale University, using his journals and letters, written right up until nearly his death, and all with the same viewpoint ...his.
He was shallow, self centred, egotistic, alcoholic at times, a bully, a mysinogist, lecher, unfaithful (often!), not very good at his job but thought himself the bees knees and often looked for positions way above his ability.
For the past 15/16 years I have lived his life with him. I have empathised with him, hated him, been revolted by him, surprised by him. He has led me through the second half of the 18th century, ignited my interest in the places he lived, visited, the people he met, wrote about, gossiped about, moaned about.t
He was abused emotionally by his father, people who had the power over him ( power because of his ego - looking for something he was never going to get)...he put it all down. I have walked over the places he walked in London, tried to eat and drink in places he may have visited, found Goldsmiths grave near The Temple church because of him ( and discovered that wonderful spot as a consequence...). I have learned more about the man he hero worshipped ( Samuel Johnson) and delved back farther into the first half of the 18th century.
Then this week he died. I came to the end - May 19th 1795, he was 54. Here's a drink to you Jamie...
(he like a bit of hot cider...and claret..and brandy...and, well, you get the drift!)