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James Boswell

Boswell longed to live in London and in 1760 he deserted the family home to live in the great city for a few months. It was during his second stay in 1762-63 that Boswell met his literary hero and model, the poet, essayist and dictionary maker Dr. Samuel Johnson.  In August 1763 Boswell embarked upon a 2½ year Grand Tour of Europe, during which he met many notable men and women, including Voltaire and Rousseau.  On returning to Scotland he practised law as an advocate.  In 1769 he married his cousin Margaret Montgomerie of Lainshaw and they had 5 children. Margaret died in 1789.

During this time he made occasional visits London to spend time with Dr Johnson and others of his circle, including Oliver Goldsmith, Sir Joshua Reynolds and Edmund Burke.  He was also on familiar terms with David Hume, Adam Smith and other leading figures. He later persuaded Samuel Johnson to make a tour of Scotland with him. The two men visited Auchinleck in 1773 on their return from their Hebridean Tour.

On the death of his father in 1782 Boswell inherited the estate of Auchinleck and became a capable and well-liked Laird, but the attractions of city life proved too strong. In 1785 Boswell moved to London in what proved to be an unsuccessful attempt to make a career as a lawyer there. In the same year he published his ‘Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides’ and began work on his biography of Dr Johnson, which was published to great acclaim in 1791. James Boswell died in London in 1795 and his body was brought back to Auchinleck for interment.

The discovery and publication in the 20th century of a large amount of Boswells’ journals and letters led to a revaluation of his literary skills and his personality. He is now regarded as one of the major creative talents of his era.

Contact Information

East Ayrshire Leisure Trust
Telephone: 01563 554300