Boswell's Life


James Heath, after Sir Joshua Reynolds. Portrait of Samuel Johnson, 1st and 2nd states. 1791. Engravings. MS Hyde 51 (25)

Boswell commissioned James Heath (1757-1834) to engrave the frontispiece portrait of Johnson for the Life, after a Reynolds painting begun in 1756 but at that time still unfinished. He brought Heath's first attempt for Reynolds to critique, and Sir Joshua pronounced the likeness "too young and not thoughtful enough." Heath produced a second version incorporating Reynolds's suggestions, and this, with very slight changes, found its way into the published book, as documented here by Boswell's notes.