That Scrub Boswell

The indomitable Stephen Maturin on Johnson:

“‘It is a standing wonder to me that Johnson should have borne with that scrub Boswell, and that the scrub should have written such a capital book. I remember a passage where the Doctor grew outrageous about the revolting colonials and called them ‘a race of convicts, that ought to be thankful for anything we allow them short of hanging’, and another where he said ‘I am willing to love all mankind, except an American‘ [sic] and called them ‘Rascals–robbers–pirates’, exclaiming he’d ‘burn and destroy them’. But then the intrepid Miss Seward said ‘Sir, this is an instance that we are always the most violent against those whom we have injured.’ Perhaps the same violence is now in action against the Irish. Will you join me in a bowl of punch?”

Patrick O’Brian, The Nutmeg of Consolation (1991)

For more on the intrepid Miss Seward, see the Beinecke’s Osborn MSS Files, items 13341 – 13378, a small collection of her correspondence and verse. The papers of that scrub Boswell can be found in Beinecke’s Boswell Collection, Gen MSS 89.

1 Response to “That Scrub Boswell”


  1. 1 Chris November 14, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    Maturin has to be my favorite literary character: a man who, in the course his experiments and explorations, becomes variously addicted to laudanum, coffee, coca, khat and tobacco. As well as bad habits, Maturin is an avid collector of natural specimens, many of which go on to reek havoc on Jack Aubrey’s ships (one such incident leads to one of my favorite Maturin quotes, upon finding Aubrey feeding rum to his latest acquisition: “Jack, you have debauched my sloth.”)


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