James Boswell, 9th Laird of Auchinleck (1740 – 1795), was a Scottish biographer, diarist, and lawyer, born in Edinburgh. He is best known for his biography of his friend and older contemporary, the English writer Samuel Johnson, which is commonly said to be the greatest biography written in the English language. A great mass of Boswell’s diaries, letters and private papers were recovered from the 1920s to the 1950s, and their ongoing publication has transformed his reputation.
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“We cannot tell the precise moment when friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over. So in a series of acts of kindness there is, at last, one which makes the heart run over.”
“I am so fond of tea that I could write a whole dissertation on its virtues. It comforts and enlivens without the risks attendant on spirituous liquors. Gentle herb! Let the florid grape yield to thee. Thy soft influence is a more safe inspirer of social joy.”
“My definition of man is a cooking animal. The beasts have memory, judgement, and the faculties and passions of our minds in a certain degree; but no beast is a cook.”
“Everything about his character and manners was forcible and violent; there never was any moderation; many a day did he fast, many a year did he refrain from wine; but when he did eat, it was voraciously; when he did drink wine, it was copiously. He could practice abstinence, but not temperance.”
“I have tried too in my time to be a philosopher; but cheerfulness was always breaking in.”
“Yet he found an excuse for drunkenness which few men but he could have found. Stockdale (Memoirs, ii. 189) says that he heard Mrs. Williams ’ wonder what pleasure men can take in making beasts of themselves '. “I wonder, Madam,” replied Johnson, “that you have not perception enough to see the strong inducement to this excess; for he who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.”'
on Dr. Johnson;
“He made two or three peculiar observations; as when shewn the botanical garden, 'Is not EVERY garden a botanical garden?”