Literary monument welcomes James Boswell on the anniversary of his birthday

It's already a firm fixture on the Royal Mile tourist trail, with 35 of Scotland's most illustrious authors, poets and playwrights commemorated in stone for posterity.

Now Makars' Court, an evolving national literary monument in Lady Stair's Close, right in the heart of Edinburgh's Old Town, is getting ready to welcome its newest incumbent - the world famous 18th century biographer and diarist James Boswell (1740 - 1795).

Son of a judge and a lawyer by training, Boswell is perhaps best known for his Life of Samuel Johnson; this work about the English essayist and lexicographer Dr Johnson is regarded as one of the most famous biographies ever written.

Boswell lived just a stone's throw from Makars' Court, around the corner in James Court, so Saturday's event is actually something of a homecoming.

A new stone, bearing an inscription from Boswell's Journal and sponsored by the Boswell Museum and Mausoleum Trust, will be formally unveiled on Saturday:

I rattled down the High Street in high elevation of spirits.
[from Journal, 15 November 1762] 

Presiding over the ceremony will be one of Boswell's direct descendants, Margaret Boswell Elliot, who is his five times great-granddaughter.

The occasion will also be lent a dash of contemporary literary sparkle with the presence of celebrated Scottish playwright and artist John Byrne.

Councillor Deidre Brock, Culture and Leisure Convener, said:  "The installation of this new stone to James Boswell marks the third new addition to Makars' Court in 2011. Scotland - and not least its capital city - has nurtured countless writers whose works are known and loved all over the world. Makars' Court is an extraordinary public monument paying tribute to their works and ensuring their memory lives on for generations to come." 

Margaret Boswell Elliot said: "It is entirely appropriate that an inscribed stone should be laid in Edinburgh for James Boswell.  His Journals record his life at the heart  of the Scottish Enlightenment, his work as a lawyer - and more. He also had his adventures in the capital, some of them highly disreputable!

"Above all, he was a great diarist equal only to Pepys and the inventor of modern biography with his remarkable Life of Samuel Johnson that has never been out of print. It is brilliant that he is getting some fresh air again on the streets of Edinburgh."

John Byrne, who wrote and directed BBC's Boswell and Johnson's Tour of the Western Isles (1993), said: "Back in the early 1990s, when John Sessions suggested I write a play on Boswell and Johnson's tour of the Hebrides, I leapt at the chance. Boswell was a longstanding hero of mine. His love of the theatre (and actresses) was first sparked in Edinburgh; and his sympathy for writers, artists and dramatists has always endeared him to me."

Dr William Zachs, scholar on 18th century Scottish literary figures and Trustee of the Boswell Museum and Mausoleum Trust, said: "Among a troupe of notable 18th century Scotsmen, James Boswell stands out for the truly original nature of his enterprise. Born in Edinburgh, he travelled far and wide not to conquer lands but to hunt down the geniuses of Britain and the Continent to see what might rub off. The record he left of this mission in his published works and in his private journal are unique in the annals of the written word, delighting and shocking then and now in equal measure."

The ceremony to unveil the new James Boswell inscribed stone in Makars' Court, outside the Writers' Museum, will take place at 11am on Saturday 29 October 2011. All welcome.

A brief biography of James Boswell (1740 - 1795)

James Boswell, biographer and diarist, was born in Edinburgh on 29 October 1740. The author of the most popular biography in the English language, The Life of Samuel Johnson (1791), Boswell arguably invented modern literary biography. In a unique, dramatic style, he represented the wise and witty conversation of Johnson (1709-1784), the great English lexicographer and author. Boswell also wrote a successful Account of Corsica in 1768 and the acclaimed Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides in 1785, along with numerous shorter works.

The discovery and subsequent publication of Boswell's journals and other private papers in the early 20th century changed the nature of his literary fame. Few writers revealed their thoughts and recorded their actions in such honest and engaging detail. Boswell's 'London Journal' of 1762-63, first published in 1950, became a worldwide bestseller.

Boswell lived in Edinburgh, where he worked as a lawyer, and in Ayrshire at his family estate, Auchinleck. He married his cousin Margaret Montgomerie in 1769 and produced five children. The eldest, Alexander, became an accomplished poet and James Jr. an editor of Shakespeare. James Boswell died in London on 19 May 1795, at the age of 54.

The Boswell Museum and Mausoleum Trust was established in 2010 to restore the Boswell Aisle and Mausoleum in Auchinleck Churchyard and turn them into a stimulating visitor experience which will make James Boswell and his world seem as alive to us today as in his own times. In its work to promote, heritage, literary arts and education, the Trust has established the Boswell Book Festival at James Boswell's home, Auchinleck House.

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