Scotland as seen by Johnson and Boswell

Two travel books researched in the autumn of 1773 seem timely as Scotland’s decision day approaches in 2014. One is A Journey to the Western Isles of Scotland, by Samuel Johnson, the other The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides by James Boswell. A generation after the Jacobite Rising of 1745, with the Highland clan system destroyed and large-scale emigration under way, Boswell, a patriotic Scot, and his literary hero (the supposed embodiment of anti-Scottish prejudice) indulged Johnson’s “very romantick  fantasy” that they visit the islands. While Johnson observed Scotland, Boswell observed Johnson, inventing, in the process, the modern biography. An edition published by Canongate, with an introduction by Ian McGowan, includes both men’s accounts of the tour.

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