Professor Emeritus of English.
University of Northumbria at Newcastle.
Representation of mental healths in the eighteenth century; James Boswell; Swift; Pope.
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.
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.