Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I haven't seen the grandchildren since last Thursday so am pining for them. The (lovely) other grandparents were visiting last weekend and they were all busy; and then Grandson has Things To Do in the mornings at the beginning of the week and nursery in the afternoons. However, I'm hoping to see them briefly tomorrow. They live half an hour away, which is not something I'm really complaining about since if my other children ever have children, we'll not be able to see much of them at all; but even half an hour away means that going there to pick them up and bring them back here is an hour's journey, which takes up a lot of a morning when we have to return the lad, lunched, for nursery at 12.35.

While pining, I've been reading James Boswell's Edinburgh Journals 1767-1786, which are really fascinating. Boswell (the Scottish chap who wrote the life of Samuel Johnson) was extremely candid in his diary, detailing all (at least, one hopes it's all) his encounters with very naughty ladies and the diseases that he catches from them, as well as discussing his general feelings at length. He kept getting drunk and then swearing that it was the last time he was going to do this. He suffered from frequent depression, or "hypochondria", as he calls it, when he felt very dark and as if life wasn't worth living, but somehow managed to maintain a career as a lawyer - it helped that his father gave him an allowance so that he didn't have to live on his earnings alone. At other times, his mood lifted and he felt very happy and sociable.

His wife was a saint. Maybe she didn't have much choice; but still, she seemed to manage to forgive him all his transgressions - or at least he thought so. He did realise how lucky he was, which is something.

For example:
28 June: Hard drinking. Home sadly intoxicated, even insane. Vexed most valuable spouse. Was almost unconscious.
29 June: Awaked miserably vexed and ill. Saw myself a depraved creature. Lay till four. Wife had kindly made soup and chicken for me.
2 July: Ill from drinking. Very low and desponding.
4 July: Very wet. Drank too much. Drunk. Slept town. Felt Miss Montgomerie.
9 July: Night wandered and had handkerchief stolen.
11 July: Marriage of Betty Montgomerie. Supped at Montcrieff's. Drank too much. Wandered. James's Court. Dolly.
12 July: Awaked very ill. Wife had sat up late for me. She the worse of it. Had been alarmed with her bad health.
13 July: Was made very serious by my wife's bad health. Felt a kind of amazement when I viewed the possibility of losing her.
15 July: Wandered evening. Wife waiting at entry. Sad vexation.

And so on. And yet he's so repentant and so determined to be a better man that I can't help quite liking him sometimes. He was a very fond father and was often hurt because his own father didn't seem to take much interest in him. I imagine that Boswell senior was somewhat fed up with James. Edinburgh was a small place and I'm sure that his father, the Laird of Auchinleck, heard only too much about James's exploits and probably just wanted to pretend that it wasn't happening.  Still, this doesn't excuse the father asking one day what James's youngest son was called - bad enough - and then forgetting that the child had recently died!

What he says about Edinburgh and Edinburgh society is also very interesting, at least to an Edinburgh person. The New Town was just being built and he had a "country house" beside the Meadows - a park which is now in the middle of town. He was a bit scathing about people like David Hume, Adam Smith and Adam Ferguson - now thought of as huge figures of the Enlightenment. Meeting them over a meal, he noticed when they were a bit vague or had what seem like dangerously radical ideas. I suppose it's difficult to regard someone that you see pootling around the place as historically important.

Anyway, I'm now going to read all the other published Boswelliana - which is quite a lot. Such fun.

This is what the Meadows look like now. We drove though them the other day and I thought about Boswell.

He'd have been surprised.

 He did write his diaries with a thought of posterity

but I don't suppose he expected posterity to have cars. 


  1. Speaking as a (former) lawyer, I can say with some authority that the "hypochondria" often comes with the job!!

  2. Cars would have been quite a surprise to Boswell - it would be interesting to read what he wrote about them!

  3. It must be nearly time for you to go pick up your grandchildren or grandson. Enjoy your time together, every minute of it...

  4. Isabelle! I'm shocked LOL!!! I hope you get to see the grandchildren soon -- look what you've turned to in their absence!!!

    "Felt Miss Montgomerie." And then, 7 days later, she marries. I must get this book. It sounds like it must've been a banned book at some time or other.