'In this way I shall preserve many things that would otherwise be lost in oblivion. I shall find daily employment for myself, which will save me from indolence and help to keep off the spleen, and I shall lay up a store of entertainment for my after life.'

For James Boswell posts please follow the labels on the right.

This blog mainly contains reviews from the Edinburgh Festivals from 2008 to 2010 which I wrote for the Edinburgh Festivals Magazine. These reviews cover everything from comedy to contemporary dance; children's theatre to Handel.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011


I seem to remember scoffing at the very idea several years ago. Surely this is just a form of literary self-psychiatry, for public display? A haven for the bored and opinionated?  Who would want to be exposed to my fluctuating opinions and thoughts? Employers - apparently - who like the idea of bright technology savvy youths, in touch with 'community' and 'innovation' on the net, rather than just porn. 

I have kept a diary, on-and-off, for a few years now and have always considered it a good way to spend ten minutes. It's a useful reminder of what I've actually done; something which keeps my writing sharp and brain active, and a potential source of later amusement. 'It would be a very good exercise, and would yield me infinite satisfaction when the ideas were faded from my remembrance.' There also seems to be a connection between writing a diary and gaining perspective on events. Often, however, it becomes less about zeitgeist and Events, and more about petty meetings, vacuous theories and silly romances.

Boswell by Willison: The owl could mean wisdom. Or 
that he enjoyed 'night-time activities', like 
boozing and chasing women. 
Blogs, which are public, have less in common with the above. Written with publication or a reader in mind, they share similarities with Boswell's London Journal, which was meant for Samuel Johnson's consumption. A balance needs struck between personal opinions and emotions - which can become tiring, preachy and self-important  - and news worthy issues - too many of which can lack intimacy. All the time anything public should be entertaining first and fore most. Boswell's London Journal is generally seen to get this balance right; a happy medium between the impersonal statesman-like Pepys and the introspective and emotionally volatile Rousseau. Ideally it's what all blogs should aim for. 

This comes warts and all, and Boswell displays many human fallibilities. Indeed, so do most good diarists. Think of the political diaries of the philandering Alan Clarke or the depression prone Alistair Campbell. When it comes to diaries, or personal accounts generally, we just don't seem to connect with a Porcelain white literary tale of innocence. Boswell, then, sometimes can't be bothered writing entries at all, catching up by writing days at a time. Entries are often almost non-existent:  'We had a very good day of it and got at night to Doncaster', suffices for November 17th 1762. No mention of the Seven Years' War; no sense of a wider picture; no evocative scenes of North England in the mid-eighteenth-century. I cannot begin to compete with Boswell; expect days, maybe weeks of silence. But then it's human, and perhaps appealing because of it. 

1 comment:

  1. I found this post through a link on Wikipedia's Boswell page. Thanks for the Blogswell portmanteau. I used it in my post on Journal Tour to the Hebrides at http://stansgreatbooksblog.blogspot.com/2011/04/another-obstacle-to-boswellian-ideal.html