Boswell struts on. The English Experiment is the twelfth volume of his private papers to appear in the Yale Edition in the 37 years since the so-called London Journal 1762-1763 created its naughty little sensation. Only one more is due in the present series (there is a Research Edition too, but that is another and longer story), which will take us to his death, aged 54, in 1795. Perhaps the strut is becoming a waddle. The self-absorption and mediocrity of mind remain unabated, but he says that he's 'not so greedy of great people as I used to be'. This didn't mean passing up the particular social opportunity then on offer, and later, when Mr Ramus the King's page invited him to St James's, he noted: 'Formerly I should have jumped at such an opening. I am now too far advanced. Yet I may go.' It's like Crusoe feeling he can't use the ship-wrecked money but then deciding to keep it, accelerated to the tempo of farce. One isn't sure whether the social climbing has abated or whether a need to say so has developed: the distinction may be a fine one. Sometimes flagging energies merely take the form of talking about flagging energies.
LRB 7 May 1987 | PDF Download