Boswell, James, 1740-1795

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1740-10-29
Death 1795-05-19
GB
English

Biographical notes:

James Boswell (1740-1795) was the author of one of the most influential biographies in the English language, The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. He also wrote two successful travel books: An Account of Corsica, and The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides. He worked intermittently as a lawyer, and in 1782 succeeded his father as Laird of Auchinleck in Scotland.

From the description of James Boswell letters, 1762-1795. (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 612839330

Boswell was an English writer, as well as friend and biographer of Samuel Johnson.

From the guide to the James Boswell papers, 1756-1799., (Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University)

Scottish author and biographer of Samuel Johnson.

From the description of Letter 1791 January 4. (Denver Public Library). WorldCat record id: 43470470

James Boswell (1740-1795) was the author of one of the most influential biographies in the English language, The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. He also wrote two successful travel books: An Account of Corsica, and The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides. In 1782, he succeeded his father as Laird of Auchinleck in Scotland. He worked intermittently as a lawyer, and served as Recorder of Carlisle (England) from 1788 to 1790.

From the description of James Boswell manuscripts, 1772-1795. (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 612841072

From the guide to the James Boswell manuscripts, 1772-1795., (Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University)

Scottish author.

From the description of Autograph letter signed & autograph note initialled : London, to Sir Alexander Dick, 1768 Aug. 18 & n.d. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270515065

Biographer of Samuel Johnson.

From the description of ALS (initials) : London, to Margaret Montgomerie Boswell, 1789 Jan. 28. (Rosenbach Museum & Library). WorldCat record id: 122586055

From the description of ALS (initials) : London, to Margaret Montgomerie Boswell, 1789 Feb. 9. (Rosenbach Museum & Library). WorldCat record id: 122475434

From the description of ALS (initials) : London, to Reverend Jones, 1794 Feb. 10. (Rosenbach Museum & Library). WorldCat record id: 122541887

James Boswell, journalist and biographer, was born in Edinburgh and studied law early in life. In London Boswell became friends with Thomas Sheridan, David Garrick, and most importantly Samuel Johnson. Boswell travelled the continent from 1763-1766 and completed his legal studies in Utrecht. In 1766 Boswell returned to England and in 1791 Boswell published his most famous work, "The Life of Samuel Johnson."

From the description of Letters, 1768-1785. (Temple University Libraries). WorldCat record id: 727944272

James Boswell (1740-1795) was the author of one of the most influential biographies in the English language, The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. He also wrote two successful travel books: An Account of Corsica, and The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides . He worked intermittently as a lawyer, and in 1782 succeeded his father as Laird of Auchinleck in Scotland.

From the guide to the James Boswell letters, 1762-1795., (Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University)

James Boswell (1740-1795), Scottish lawyer, diarist, and author of the Life of Johnson (1791).

From the description of Boswell Collection, 1428-1936 (bulk 1700-1795). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 702134006

Boswell took an active interest in politics and for many years hoped to become an MP himself. In 1783 he attempted to gain influence by publishing "A Letter to the People of Scotland on the Present State of the Nation, " which supported George III and Pitt in their opposition to Fox's East India bill. A superiority inherited from his father gave Boswell a vote in Fife, but he was in fact unable to exercise it in the election of April 18, 1784, when Skene was re-elected. [from dealer description].

Robert Skene (1719-1787), of Hallyards, Fife: army officer and politician; Major-General, 1777, Lieutenant-General, 1782; MP for Fife, 1779-1780 and 1780-1787; a supporter of the Fox-North Coalition and an opponent of Pitt, Skene voted for the East India bill.

From the description of Autograph letter signed from James Boswell to 'My Dear Sir', [Robert Skene, MP for Fife], Edinburgh, January 6, 1784. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 754865887

The charts on the following pages trace the main family of the Boswells of Auchinleck. Lairds of Auchinleck is a brief reference list of the lairds and their wives only, while the following chart includes all children of lairds. For charts of several branches of the family and related families, see Appendix I .

The names of the lairds and their wives are underlined in all charts except the first. An asterisk preceding an entry indicates that additional information can be found on another chart.

The information contained in the charts, as in the biographical sketches, has been drawn from a variety of published and unpublished sources, including the Dictionary of National Biography, several volumes of the Yale Edition of the Private Papers of James Boswell, and Jasper John Boswell's History and Genealogical Tables of the Boswells (Vol 1, privately printed, 1906; Vol 2, unpublished manuscript photocopy in the files of the Boswell Editorial Project). When information obtained from the papers in the Boswell Collection contradicted the published sources, the primary source was preferred.

I. Thomas Boswell (d. 1513) m. Annabella Campbell

II. David Boswell (d. 1562?) m. 1531? Janet Hamilton

III. John Boswell (d. 1609) m. ca. 1562 Christian Dalzell

-----------------------------------1580? Katharine Stewart

IV. James Boswell (d. 1618) m. 1590 Marion Crauford

V. David Boswell (d. 1618) m. 1613? Isobel Wallace

----------------------------------2m. Margaret Stewart

VI. David Boswell (1640-1712) m. 1667? Anna Hamilton (d. 1711)

VII. James Boswell (1672-1749) m. 1704 Lady Elizabeth Bruce (1673-1734)

VIII. Alexander Boswell, Lord Auchinleck (1707-1782) m. 1738 Euphemia Erskine

------------------------------------------------------------(1718?-1766)

----------------------------------------------------2m. 1769 Elizabeth

-------------------------------------------------------------Boswell (d. 1799)

IX. James Boswell (1740-1795) m. 1769 Margaret Montgomerie (1738?-1789)

X. Sir Alexander Boswell (1775-1822) m. 1799 Grizel (Grace) Cuming

-----------------------------------------------(d. 1864)

XI. Sir James Boswell (1807-1857) m. Jessie Jane Montgomerie Cuninghame

--------------------------------------------(d. 1884)

----- Thomas Boswell (d. 1513) m. Annabella Campbell

----------David Boswell (d. 1562?)

----------Alexander Boswell of Kilvermouth (d. 1586) m. Janet Boswell of

-------------------------------------------------------------Balmuto

--------------------------------------2m. 1525 John Cuningham of Caprington

----- David Boswell (d. 1562?) m. 1531? Lady Janet Hamilton

-----------------------------------------(d. after 1573)

----------John Boswell (1532?-ca. 1609)

----- John Boswell (1532?-ca. 1609) m. ca. 1562 Christian Dalzell

----------James Boswell (1567?-1618)

----------*John Boswell of Duncanziemore

----------Robert Boswell

-----------------------------------2m. Katharine Stewart

----------*William Boswell of Knockroon m. Margaret Inglis

----- James Boswell (1567?-1618) m. 1590? Marion Crauford

----------David Boswell (d. 1661)

----------*James Boswell of the Hill m. 1638? Agnes Cuningham of Caprington

----------John Boswell (d. 1643?)

----------(Family genealogy mentions "other three sons with three of their

----------sisters went to Germany" and a "Davys" who "dyed in Scotland")

----- David Boswell (d. 1661) m. 1613? Isobell Wallace

----------Marion Boswell m. Alan, Lord Cathcart

----------Isobell Boswell (d. before 1662) m. ca. 1635 Quintagern Reid of

------------------------------------------------------------Drumfork

--------------------------------------------2m. 1657 John Schaw of Sornbegg

----------Jean Boswell m. Gordon of Carlstoun

----------Margaret Boswell m. David Blair of Adamstown

-------------------------------2m. Lady Margaret Stewart

--------------------------------------2m. Sir James Hamilton

----- David Boswell (1640-1712) m. 1667? Anna Hamilton (d. 1711)

----------James Boswell (1672-1749)

----------*John Boswell of Balmuto (d. 1749) m. 1726 Margaret Henderson

------------------------------------------------------(d. 1790)

----------Jean Boswell (d. 1698?) m. 1697? Lieut. John Campbell

----------Margaret Boswell m. 1702 Hugh Campbell of Barquharrie

----------*Ann Boswell m. 1708 George Campbell of Treesbank

----- James Boswell (1672-1749) m. 1704 Lady Elizabeth Bruce

-----------------------------------------(1673-1734)

----------*Veronica Boswell (1704-ca. 1742) m. 1729 David Montgomerie of

------------------------------------------------------Lainshaw

----------David Boswell (1706-1709)

----------Alexander Boswell (1707-1782)

----------John Boswell (1710-1780) m. Anne Cramond

----------James Boswell (b. 1710) m. ----

----------David Boswell (1711-1712)

-----* Alexander Boswell, Lord Auchinleck (1707-1782) m. 1738 Euphemia Erskine

----------------------------------------------------------------(1718-1766)

----------Euphemia Boswell (1739-1741)

----------James Boswell (1740-1795)

----------John Boswell (1743-ca. 1798)

----------Elizabeth Boswell (1746-1751)

----------(Thomas) David Boswell (1748-1826) m. 1783 Anne Catherine Green

----------------------------------------------------*2m. 1769 Elizabeth Boswell

-----------------------------------------------------------------(d. 1799)

-----* James Boswell (1740-1795) m. 1769 Margaret Montgomerie (1738-1789)

--------------Boswell (1770-1770)

----------Veronica Boswell (1773-1795)

----------Euphemia Boswell (1774-1837)

----------Alexander Boswell (1775-1822)

----------David Boswell (1776-1777)

----------James Boswell (1778-1822)

----------*Elizabeth Boswell (1780-1814) m. 1799 William Boswell

----- Sir Alexander Boswell (1775-1822) m. 1799 Grizel (Grace) Cuming (d. 1864)

----------Sir James Boswell (1807-1857)

----------Janet Teresa Boswell (d. 1836) m. 1826 Sir William Francis

----------------------------------------------------Elliott

----------Grace Jane Boswell (d. 1890) m. 1843 Gen. Rawdon Vassall of

------------------------------------------------Balhary (d. 1884)

----------Margaret Emily Boswell (1814-1817)

-----* Sir James Boswell (1807-1857) m. 1830 Jessie Jane Montgomerie

---------------------------------------------- Cuninghame (d. 1884)

----------Julia Grace Jessie Jane Boswell (d. 1905) m. 1867 George Mounsey

----------Louisa Boswell (d. young)

----------Emily Harriet Boswell (d. 1898) m. 1873 Richard Wogan Talbot, 5th B.

-----------------------------------------------Talbot de Malahide (1846-1921)

-----Emily Harriet Boswell (d. 1898) m. Richard Wogan Talbot, 5th B.

------------------------------------------Talbot de Malahide (1846-1921)

----------James Boswell Talbot, 6th B. Talbot de Malahide (1874-1948)

---------------------------------------2m. Isobel Charlotte Gurney (d. 1932)

-----James Boswell Talbot, 6th B. Talbot de Malahide (1874-1948) m. 1924

--------------------------------------Joyce Gunning Kerr (ca. 1900-1980)

David Boswell was born in 1640, the eldest son of James Boswell of the Hill and Agnes Cuningham. He attended the local grammar school and studied for a short time in Edinburgh, but his lack of grounding in Latin prevented further study. His uncle David Boswell disponed the barony of Auchinleck to him shortly before his death in 1661. According to the family memoirs, "at his comeing to the estate he found it very low and almost sunk," burdened with life-rents, dowries, and numerous other debts. In addition, the daughters of the fifth laird brought suit to be recognized as heirs of line, and David was forced to establish his legal right to Auchinleck.

The sixth laird's careful management effectively saved the barony. To reduce the burdens, in 1667 he sold "all of the barony north of the church" to William, Lord Cochrane. David kept his own rental books and accounts, pursued claims to the superiority of several lands, and enforced his right of collecting teinds. He sold some of the woods of Auchinleck to raise cash, but also began a system of planting which was followed and enlarged by his son and grandson.

David was a strong supporter of the Covenanters during the Restoration, and in 1678 he was summoned before the Privy Council on the charge of attending field conventicles. The outcome is not known, but ten years later he and his tenants signed an obligation not to attend such meetings. He was commissioned captain of the parish militia in 1689.

David married Anna Hamilton, daughter of Hamilton of Dalzell, in 1667. Five children survived to adulthood. David disponed the barony to his eldest son, James Boswell, in 1702. About that time he was "afflicted with a palsy" that impaired his memory, and he spent the last years of his life in seclusion at Auchinleck, where he died in 1712.

James Boswell was the eldest son of David Boswell and Anna Hamilton. He attended the University of Glasgow and was then apprenticed to Robert Crawfurd of Crawfurdstown as a writer. In 1695 he went to Leyden to read Civil Law, remaining there through 1697. He passed advocate on his return to Scotland, attracted the favorable notice of Lord Whitelaw, and began building what became a large and lucrative practice. After 1702, he assumed most of the responsibility for managing Auchinleck because of his father's increasing disability.

He married Lady Elizabeth Bruce in 1704. The youngest daughter of the second Earl of Kincardine, she is said to have had a portion of 20,000 marks. While Boswell pursued his legal career, staying in Edinburgh during term, she took charge of the estate business, keeping the accounts, collecting rents, and negotiating tacks and contracts. By these means they succeeded in clearing Auchinleck of debt, and they purchased additional lands, including the barony of Trabeoch. Boswell was interested in estate improvements, and he encouraged his tenants to use more advanced crop rotations, to remove their lands from runrig, and to establish the weaving of linen. Both Boswells were devout Presbyterians, and Boswell was an active patron of Auchinleck parish, contributing to and overseeing repairs to the church buildings as well as participating in the selection of ministers.

Four children of James and Elizabeth survived to adulthood. The eldest, Veronica Boswell, married David Montgomerie of Lainshaw in 1729. Alexander Boswell, the eldest son, was born in 1707. Three years later, twin sons, John and James, were born. Elizabeth died of dropsy in 1734, an event which left James prey to what his son called "a constant melancholy." This was increased by his physical sufferings from stranguary, and he withdrew from most activities, spending much time on religious pre-occupations. He died in 1749.

Alexander Boswell, born in 1707, was the eldest son and heir of James Boswell and Lady Elizabeth Bruce. After attending the University of Edinburgh, he read Civil Law at the University of Leyden and was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1727. After his mother's death in 1734, Alexander assumed most of the responsibility for the family estate, even purchasing most of the lands sold by his grandfather sixty-seven years previously. In 1738 Alexander married his cousin Euphemia Erskine, grand-daughter of Lady Mary Bruce Cochrane.

His first official position was as Sheriff of Wigtown (Galloway) in 1748. He resigned in 1750, shortly after inheriting Auchinleck, to attend to his "private affairs." With the support of Robert Douglas, Alexander was nominated to the Court of Sessions in 1754, receiving the additional appointment to the High Court of Justiciary in the following year. He acquired a reputation as a skilled and prudent judge whose decisions were admired by his colleagues.

Alexander's financial success enabled him to purchase much new land, including the regality of Templand. He built the present Adam-style Auchinleck House, which was completed in 1762, and designed the extensive landscape gardens that surrounded it. The Improvement movement interested him, and he carried out systematic plantings of trees, enclosed farms, and promoted the use of lime by his tenants. He established the first coalworks on barony land at Birkieknaw. Lord Auchinleck also amassed perhaps the most distinguished book collection in Scotland, particularly of Greek and Latin texts in early editions.

Euphemia Erskine Boswell died in 1766. The couple had three sons: James Boswell the biographer; John Boswell, whose brief career in the Army ended with his first attack of insanity in 1763; and Thomas David Boswell, who went into business and traded in Spain for many years before becoming head of the prize department of the Navy. Lord Auchinleck's second wife was his first cousin Elizabeth Boswell. They were married on Nov. 25, 1769, which was also the wedding day of James Boswell. There were no children of this second marriage.

Alexander's later years were marked by increasing ill-health, including a painful bladder condition. He resigned from the High Court of Justiciary in 1780, although he remained on the Court of Sessions until his death. He continued to be active in the management of his estate, which he entailed upon his eldest son in 1776, "in the hopes and belief that I have fallen on a method of preventing children from being independent of their parents," noting proudly that Auchinleck "has many uncommon beauties and conveniences." Alexander, Lord Auchinleck, died in Edinburgh on August 25, 1782.

A succinct account of James Boswell's life can be found in the Dictionary of National Biography . For more information, see Frederick A. Pottle's James Boswell: the Earlier Years 1740-1769 and Frank Brady's James Boswell: the Later Years 1770-1795 .

Sir Alexander Boswell was born at Auchinleck in October 1775, the third child of James Boswell and Margaret Montgomerie. He was educated at Eton and Oxford, and began a Tour on the Continent shortly after his father's death in 1795. He married Grizel (Grace) Cuming, of Edinburgh, in 1799.

James Boswell had left his estate in a confused and burdened condition, and it was over a decade before the inheritance questions were settled. Alexander and his family primarily resided at Auchinleck, and Alexander purchased much new property, including the neighboring barony of Ochiltree. He was magistrate and deputy-lieutenant of Argyleshire, and lieutenant-colonel of the Ayrshire cavalry. In 1816 and 1820 he was elected to Parliament from Plympton Erle in Devonshire. Alexander accepted the Chiltern Hundreds in 1821, and was created a baronet in that same year.

Sir Alexander was an antiquarian and author whose published pieces include Songs, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect (1803); "Clan-Alpin's Vow" (1817); and twelve contributions to George Thomson's Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs (1817). He founded a private press at Auchinleck in 1815, issuing his own works and reprints of rare 16th century editions, including the Roxburghe Club printing of the Poems of Richard Barnfield . In recognition of his bibliographic interests, Boswell was nominated to the Roxburghe Club in 1819. He was poet laureate of the Harveian Society of Edinburgh, as well as the main organizer of the public subscription to the Burns monument. He laid its foundation-stone on Burns's birthday in 1820.

Like his father, Sir Alexander frequently contributed anonymous articles and letters to newspapers. During 1821 he published a series of such lampoons and attacks on James Stuart of Duncarn in Tory papers. Stuart discovered the identity of his attacker early in 1822 through documents seized in a lawsuit against the Glasgow Sentinel . Sir Alexander had been called to London on the death of his brother James, but he received and accepted Stuart's challenge on his return to Edinburgh. They fought on March 26 at Balbarton. According to later testimony, neither man took aim, but Stuart's shot broke Sir Alexander's collarbone. He was carried to Balmuto, where he died the following day. He was survived by his wife, his son and heir Sir James Boswell, and two daughters, Janet Teresa Boswell and Margaret Amelia Boswell.

Alexander Bruce was the second son of Sir George Bruce of Carnock and Mary Preston of Valleyfield. He received an excellent education and developed interests in the classics, mathematics and the sciences. A Royalist, he was obliged to leave Scotland early in 1657 and traveled in Germany and Holland until the Restoration, often with the Stuart court. In Hamburg he worked with the Dutch mathematician Hugens de Zulichem (Eliezer) to perfect a method of making pendulum clocks accurate at sea. In 1659 he married Veronica van Aerssen van Sommelsdyck, daughter of Lord Sommelsdyck and Spyk and Lucia de Waltes. Although his eldest brother was still living at this time, Bruce is called the Earl of Kincardine in the marriage contract "through the weakness and innocency in which his elder bother is fallen."

Kincardine returned to Scotland at the Restoration and was named a Privy Councillor and Commissioner of Treasury, in addition to which he was awarded the salt-excise. His estate contained extensive coal-works and salt-works, and Kincardine took great interest in them. He also possessed quarries of superior stone and marble, some of which was used in the re-building of St. Paul's. His interest in fisheries was considerable, and he was an investor in the Greenland whaling industry.

His political involvements required most of his attention. In 1665 he was accused by James Sharp of attending an illegal communion service at Tullialoun, but his career was not damaged, and the following year he commanded a troop of horse during the Pentland Rebellion. He was appointed an Extraordinary Lord of Session and King's Commissioner in 1667. Kincardine had begun his political career as an ally of the Duke of Lauderdale, and served as his deputy at Whitehall for a short time in 1674. He consistently opposed the government's persecution of conventiclers, however, which led to his being ordered to retire to Scotland in 1674. Two years later, he and the Duke of Hamilton were dismissed from the Privy Council.

Kincardine had five children who lived to adulthood. The eldest son, Charles, Lord Bruce, died on the Continent in 1680, unmarried. The peerage was inherited by his second son, Alexander, along with the impoverished estate, which was further burdened by settlements on Lady Kincardine, who lived until 1701. According to the Scots Peerage, Alexander, 3rd Earl, "became blind, of weak intellect," and there were questions about his sanity. He died unmarried in 1705. His three sisters sued for the title to pass to the heir of line, Lady Mary Bruce Cochrane, but the suit failed.

Lady Mary Bruce married William Cochrane of Ochiltree in 1684. His second daughter Anne married Sir David Murray of Stanhope. The youngest, Lady Elizabeth Bruce, cared for her elder brother until her marriage to James Boswell of Auchinleck in 1704.

From the guide to the Boswell Collection, 1428-1936, 1700-1795, (Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)

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Subjects:

  • Plantation life--India
  • English literature--18th century
  • Quietism--Scotland
  • Landlord and tenant--Scotland
  • Church lands
  • Slavery--Jamaica
  • Land tenure--Scotland
  • Religious poetry, English--Scotland
  • Authors, Scottish--18th century--Correspondence
  • Families--Archives
  • Slaveholders--Jamaica
  • Inheritance and succession--Scotland
  • Administration of estates
  • Women--Social conditions
  • British--India
  • Ballads, English
  • Marriage--Scotland
  • Agriculture--Economic aspects
  • Family archives--Scotland
  • Women--Legal status, laws, etc
  • English literature--Scottish authors
  • Entail
  • Landlord and tenant
  • Law--Great Britain
  • Agriculture--Economic aspects--Scotland
  • Manors
  • Farm management--Scotland--Correspondence and records
  • Dissenters, Religious
  • Entail--Scotland
  • Presbyterian Church
  • Patronage, Political--Great Britain
  • Biographers--Great Britain
  • Authors, English--Biography
  • Consanguinity
  • Literature--18th century
  • Marriage
  • Law--Scotland
  • Farm tenancy--Economic aspects--Scotland
  • Church lands--Scotland
  • Women--Scotland--Social conditions
  • Family farms--Scotland
  • Women--Legal status, laws, etc.--Scotland
  • Quietism
  • Law
  • Presbyterian Church--Scotland
  • Authors, Scottish--18th century
  • Inheritance and succession
  • Manors--Scotland
  • Literature--History and criticism
  • Plantation life--Jamaica--History
  • Patronage, Political
  • Land tenure
  • Napoleonic Wars, 1800-1815
  • Farm management--Correspondence and records
  • Religious poetry, English
  • Administration of estates--Scotland

Occupations:

  • Biographers
  • Authors, Scottish
  • Lawyers
  • Authors
  • Biographers--Correspondence.--Great Britain
  • Compilers

Places:

  • England (as recorded)
  • Great Britain (as recorded)
  • Scotland (as recorded)
  • Great Britain (as recorded)
  • Ayrshire (Scotland) (as recorded)
  • India (as recorded)
  • Great Britain (as recorded)
  • Auchinleck (Scotland) (as recorded)
  • Ayrshire (Scotland) (as recorded)
  • Great Britain (as recorded)
  • Ayrshire (Scotland) (as recorded)
  • Carlisle (England) (as recorded)
  • Great Britain (as recorded)
  • Scotland (as recorded)
  • Scotland (as recorded)
  • Great Britain (as recorded)
  • Scotland (as recorded)
  • Jamaica (as recorded)