Historical Who is Who
1740 - 1795
His literary skills were developed during his Scottish university background and training in civil law, as was the discipline of diary keeping during this same period. Escaping to London his social confidence enabled him to engage with established figures of his day including Dr Samuel Johnson, and thence to continental Europe and encounters with Voltaire and Rousseau. His romantic entanglements even included dalliance with Rousseau’s mistress, before his return to England for marriage and family life. Along with his legal experience, his travels (extending to Germany, Holland, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Corsica) provided ingredients for his many publications. His Life of Johnson is commonly regarded as a model biography, as much for its verbal felicity as for its frank attention to intimate personal detail including his repeated infection with sexual diseases. The ambiguity of his confidence in what’s right is mirrored in his rhyming defence of slavery.