Professor Emeritus of English.
University of Northumbria at Newcastle.
Representation of mental healths in the eighteenth century; James Boswell; Swift; Pope.
For much of the eighteenth century, conditions inside London’s premier public hospital for the insane were appalling, so much so that a major parliamentary inquiry in 1815 led to the dismissal of some of its principal officers.
After a restricted childhood, Boswell as a young man broke out to become a hard-drinking womaniser and dedicated socialiser. He also devoted considerable time to seeking out the company of great men, not least the famous Samuel Johnson.
While melancholy was essentially a solitary affliction, one that traditionally shunned society and regarded its activities as sham and a waste of time, or else sought out seclusion in order to indulge in self-pleasing fantasy, sociability was widely seen as a potential cure.
Johnson was one of the foremost and most controversial literary men of his age, and a leading figure of intellectual and conversational life in London. He loved the activities of intelligent society, and was instrumental in forming clubs for the opportunities to engage in them.