Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) and James Boswell (1740-1795)

Samuel Johnson Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland, published 1775 and James Boswell Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, published 1785

"…we came thither too late to see what we expected, a people of peculiar appearance, and a system of antiquated life…Of what [the clans] had before the late conquest of their country, there remain only their language and their poverty. Their language is attacked on every side."

Samuel Johnson
English writer and author of one of the most famous English dictionaries, Dr Samuel Johnson is among the greatest literary figures of the 18th century. He first met 22-year-old Scottish advocate and journalist James Boswell in London in 1763. The friendship that ensued led Johnson and Boswell to concoct a tour of the Highlands and Western Isles. Often rugged and at times dangerous, it took place over seven weeks and was punctuated by periods of gracious hospitality from the “great, the learned, and the elegant” as Boswell later put it (Boswell, Life, 2.269). Johnson's account of his Journey was published in 1775. It caused a storm of protest in Scotland with its attacks on Ossian, its Anglocentric perspective and its description of Highland landscape as a “wide extent of hopeless sterility”. Today, it remains the best-known Scottish tour ever written. Boswell's Journal, published a decade later, provided a chatty gloss to Johnson's sparer account. It was intended partly as an exercise in 'damage limitation' addressed to his fellow Scots, partly as a prequel to his pioneering biography of Johnson.
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