James Boswell
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"I am lost without my Boswell"
— Sherlock Holmes; "A Scandal in Bohemia"

Basic Information

Many fictional characters have sidekicks, but James Boswell is perhaps the most famous real-life sidekick in the world of letters. He was best friends with the noted 18th Century literary figure Samuel Johnson and his book Life of Samuel Johnson has been called the greatest biography in the English language.

He was born on October 29. 1740 in Edinburgh, the eldest son of a prominent judge. As a young man he studied law at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Glasgow. After passing his oral exam, he spent some time living in London, where in 1763 he met and became friends with Johnson.

He traveled extensively through Europe and gained some literary recognition for his published journals. He had only moderate success as a lawyer and suffered from periodic bouts of depression accompanied by bouts of drinking, gambling and wenching. But he was an agreeable companion and cultivated a wide circle of influential friends.

In his later years, he wrote his Life of Johnson, based on notes of conversations he had recorded in his journals. It was published in 1791 and finally brought him the literary respect he had long desired. The fame of his book made his name synonymous with 'biographer'.

Boswell died in London on May 19, 1795 after years of failing health due to excess drinking and vices.


Game and Story Use

  • In a historical or time travel campaign set in the 18th Century, Boswell might be encountered in London coffee houses, aristocratic drawing rooms, and in the company of his buddy Dr. Johnson.
  • The PC's might have their own 'Boswell' in the form of an NPC who writes about their adventures in a journal which he hopes to publish someday.
    • A PC might do this himself. This Arcanist once ran a Wild West campaign in which one of his players decided to get rich writing dime novels about their adventures. The novels he wrote turned up later in another Victorian Era campaign.
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