Edinburgh-born James Boswell, the 18th century biographer and diarist, will be receiving a rather belated birthday present this Saturday as a new stone is unveiled at Makars' Court to commemorate his life and work.
To mark the occasion, the ceremony will be attended by his five times great-granddaughter, Margaret Boswell Elliot who is thrilled to see her ancestor commemorated in the city that he loved, she hints, a little too much:
His Journals record his life at the heart of the Scottish Enlightenment, his work as a lawyer - and more. He also had his adventures in the capital, some of them highly disreputable!
Above all, he was a great diarist equal only to Pepys and the inventor of modern biography with his remarkable Life of Samuel Johnson that has never been out of print. It is brilliant that he is getting some fresh air again on the streets of Edinburgh.
Boswell, born in 1740, is perhaps most famous for being Samuel Johnson's biographer. Boswell travelled widely and lead a coloruful life and his stone will be joining others dedicated to Scottish literary titans such as Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson and Naomi Mitchison in what is becoming Edinburgh's literary ‘hall of fame' which forms part of the Writers' Museum in Ladystair's Close just off the Royal Mile.
Boswell enthusiast, artist, playwright and all-round cultural icon, John Byrne, will also be in attendance. Byrne wrote and directed the BBC's Boswell and Johnson's Tour of the Western Isles and feels something of an affinity with the writer:
Back in the early 1990s, when John Sessions suggested I write a play on Boswell and Johnson's tour of the Hebrides, I leapt at the chance. Boswell was a longstanding hero of mine. His love of the theatre (and actresses) was first sparked in Edinburgh; and his sympathy for writers, artists and dramatists has always endeared him to me.
Dr William Zachs, an 18th century scholar, expert on Scottish literary figures and Trustee of the Boswell Museum and Mausoleum Trust confirms Boswell's trailblazing spirit:
He travelled far and wide not to conquer lands but to hunt down the geniuses of Britain and the Continent to see what might rub off. The record he left of this mission in his published works and in his private journal are unique in the annals of the written word, delighting and shocking then and now in equal measure.
The new stone is sponsored by the recently formed Boswell Museum and Mausoleum Trust and features a suitably buoyant inscription from his Journal:
I rattled down the High Street in high elevation of spirits.
Join the high spirits at the ceremony in Makars' Court by the Writers' Museum at 11am on Saturday 29 October 2011. Open to all.
Brush Up On Your Boswell
If you want to brush up on your Boswell, you can watch a snippet of a BBC Four dramatisation of his work starring Robbie Coltrane, read about his life, download A Journey To The Western Islands of Scotland A Tour To The Hebrides e-book for free or buy a paperback version online or borrow a copy at your local library. The man even has his very own literary festival: Boswell Book Festival.