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New Light on Boswell: Critical and Historical Essays on the Occasion of the Bicentenary of the “Life of Johnson”
Cambridge University Press. 1991. 2nd impression  1993. 255 pages. ISBN: 0-521-38047-2. $75.

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Boswell's Life of Johnson is established as one of the foremost literary biographies in the English language. This collection of new essays, commemorating its bicentenary, investigates Boswell's achievements and limitations in both literary and personal contexts, and goes beyond the Life to examine the full range of Boswell's writings and interests (in legal, social, theological, political, and linguistic fields). Drawing Boswell out of Johnson's shadow, the volume places him in a wider context, juxtaposing Boswell with other contemporaries and compatriots in the Scottish enlightenment, such as Hume, Robertson and Blair. In addition it investigates some of the critical and theoretical questions surrounding the notion of biographical representation in the Life itself. Boswell emerges as a writer engaged throughout his literary career in constructing a self or series of selves out of his divided Scottish identity. This collection


  1. Introduction: Boswell’s ambiguities. David Daiches
  2. combines new archival research with fresh critical perspectives and constitutes a timely review of Boswell's current status in eighteenth-century literary studies.


  3. Boswell and the rhetoric of friendship. Thomas Crawford
  4. Scottish divines and legal lairds: Boswell’s Scots Presbyterian identity. Richard B. Sher
  5. Boswell and the Scotticism. Pat Rogers
  6. Boswell as critic. Joan H. Pittock
  7. Boswell’s liberty-loving Account of Corsica and the art of travel literature. Thomas M. Curley
  8. Boswell and sympathy: the trial and execution of John Reid. Gordon Turnbull
  9. Boswell and Hume: the deathbed interview. Richard B. Schwartz
  10. “This Philosophical Melancholy:” style and self in Boswell and Hume. Susan Manning
  11. The originality of Boswell’s version of Johnson’s quarrel with Lord Chesterfield. John J. Burke, Jr.
  12. Self-restraint and the self-display in the authorial comments in the Life of Johnson. Marlies K. Danziger
  13. Johnson’s conversation in Boswell’s Life of Johnson. John J. Korshin
  14. Remembering the hero in Boswell’s Life of Johnson. Donna Heiland
  15. Truth and artifice in Boswell’s Life of Johnson. Greg Clingham


“Clingham has produced an exemplary, or nearly exemplary, selection of valuable contributions to our understanding of the man who, two hundred years ago, brought a totally new dimension to the art of biography.”

James Gray in the Dalhousie Review

“Clingham deserves special tribute as editor of New Light on Boswell…. Generally useful and often illuminating … this collection will stimulate much discussion and start new ways of thinking about Boswell’s major achievement.”

Irma S. Lustig in The Age of Johnson

“Anyone interested in the art of biography … or indeed in the relation of narrative to history will emerge from the final section instructed about both issues and techniques.”

Patricia B. Craddock in SEL

“Clingham has assembled an excellent collection that will prove useful to graduate students and seasoned scholars alike… Highly recommended.”

P.D. McGlynn in Choice

“This collection is distinguished by its consistently broad, original, and serious scholarship. On Boswell as man and writer there is much here that is provocative, convincing, and exciting: Essential reading not only for Boswellians and Johnsonians, but for all of us who are concerned with the theoretical, historical, and practical questions of writing lives in general, as those questions arise in travel-writing and fiction as well as in biography and autobiography.”

Marcus Walsh in Review of English Studies

“Clingham, in his closing essay, proposes a unified field theory of Boswellian studies whereby even detractors like Greene can be seen to share, with Rader, Dowling, Bogel (admirers of Boswell’s art), and Pottle, Waingrow, and Clifford (advocates of his accuracy), a fundamental Boswellian conviction as to the radical separation between “art” and “truth,” rather than a Johnsonian vision which treats the two as separate but potentially continuous, even symbiotic…. His essay, easier to recommend than to abstract, has much to offer all Boswell’s readers because it takes attentive, sympathetic account of so many of their perspectives. Clingham manages to do triumphantly what his collection by its nature can accomplish only fitfully: to synthesize much of what has come before, and so to say the next important thing.”

Stuart Sherman in The Johnsonian Newsletter

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