Boswell's Life


James Boswell. The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. London: John Murray, 1831. *2003J-JBL40

The Tory politician John Wilson Croker (1780-1857) was the first to attempt a comprehensive new edition of Boswell's Life in the nineteenth century, and to this end he accumulated masses of unpublished archival materials, added scores of explanatory footnotes, and augmented Boswell's text with extracts from a myriad of other biographies of Johnson. The resulting publication was a noble but overambitious failure. It was memorably if perhaps excessively savaged in a review by Croker's bitter political opponent, the historian Thomas Macaulay, who called it "ill compiled, ill arranged, ill written, and ill printed." The publisher Murray brought in a new editor for the second edition of 1835, and stripped Croker's name from the title page, but in 1848 Croker produced a third edition based on this heavily annotated copy of the first. Although Croker's work as an editor has been supplanted by modern, more rigorous editions of the Life, this working copy provides a fascinating insight into his methods.