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A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland and The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides Paperback – Bargain Price, June 26, 2008

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Editorial Reviews


Book by Samuel Johnson, published in 1775. The Journey was the result of a three-month trip to Scotland that Johnson took with James Boswell in 1773. It contains Johnson's descriptions of the customs, religion, education, trade, and agriculture of a society that was new to him. The account in Boswell's diary, published after Johnson's death as The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, with Samuel Johnson, LL.D. (1785), offers an intimate personal record of Johnson's behavior and conversation during the trip. -- The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Samuel Johnson (1709 and died in 1784) lived long life, though one marred by depression and fear of death. His literary reputation rests on such a varied output that he defies easy description: poet, critic, lexicographer, travel writer, essayist, editor, and, with his good friend and fellow traveller James Boswell, a biographer. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications; Dover Ed edition (June 26, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486455548
  • ASIN: B005M4RKRU
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,147,042 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Frank Lynch on August 14, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Boswell persuaded Johnson, almost age 64, to visit the highlands of Scotland with him in August, 1773. Both Boswell and Johnson wrote small books about it. Johnson's view, both in his letters to Hester Thrale and in this book, was as a social scientist cum historian, taking a clinical examination of the changes that were occurring in Scotland after the Union. Where Boswell's volume (sometimes paired with Johnson's) tends to focus on dialogs with Johnson, Johnson discusses the decaying of the clan structure, emigration, assimilation into the Union... Johnson is very careful as he describes what he sees, carefully measuring distances and relating his observations to historical context.
This review may appear with other editions, but the Oxford edition, edited by Fleeman, is a very thorough and detailed edition for the specialist. For the specialist, it's worth the relatively high price. Fleeman provides detailed notes, and appendices on the the various early editions, cancelled sheets, clans structures, etc. If you are a serious reader of Johnson, as I am, this is the edition to have.
If you are -not- a serious reader, then you would do well to buy the penguin paperback, which combines Johnson's and Boswell's volumes. The two books are fascinating to read in tandem, and it's revealing about Boswell that Johnson doesn't even mention conversations which meant so much to Boswell. In addition, the notes in the Penguin edition (by Peter Levi) are also very helpful.
The -third- part of the story, however -- Johnson's letters to Hester Thrale while J & B were traveling -- are not included in any current edition that I know of. I suspect we will have to wait for an electronic version in order to be able to compare all three resources at once.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By "lexo-2" on July 17, 2000
Format: Paperback
An inspired combination - Johnson's celebrated travel book and Boswell's trial run at biography. Johnson and Boswell toured the Highlands of Scotland in 1773, when Johnson was the undisputed capo di tutti capi of English letters, and Johnson published his account of it two years later. Boswell published his in 1785, the year after Johnson's death, as a flexing of writerly muscles before taking on the enormous task of writing the famous biography.
The differences between the two books are manifold, not just in style and tone. Johnson is in his usual grave, polysyllabic manner, inspecting the houses, the landscape and the people with the eye of a moralist for whom pretty much everything reminds him of the hardship of highland life. Characteristically, after witnessing all this deprivation, he finishes the book not by speculating on how it happened or what could be done about it, but by musing that he thought he'd seen everything, but it's a big world, right enough, etc. Boswell is perkier, chattier, as anxious to shine as ever and much more prone to repeat conversations. Few things are as funny as Boswell in full social-climbing effect.
The real difference, of course, is that Johnson is looking at the Western Isles, and Boswell is looking at Johnson looking at the Western Isles. This doesn't prevent Johnson poking some deadpan fun at his companion, such as when he relates how he slept in a barn wrapped in his coat, while Boswell (the sissy) had to have _sheets_, for goodness' sake.
The only problem with this book is Peter Levi's self-regarding introduction and his deeply irritating refusal to translate odd bits of Latin. The Oxford University Press had a much better-annotated joint edition of these two books out years ago, but it seems to be out of print. Pity.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Mark David Dietz on April 22, 2002
Format: Paperback
Quite a while back I posted a review of the Oxford edition of Samuel Johnson's writings in which I included a short review of the Penguin edition of the Sctoland journey/journal. Reposting that review to the newest edition of the Oxford book, it occurred to me I ought to place this review where it belongs.
There is little with which one might compare these two wonderful pieces of writing today -- and yet to some extent they are, each in its own way, foundations upon which much of modern writing has been built. Johnson is here, if not at his finest, still nearing an apogee of clarity, lucidity and intellectual rigor. Boswell is making his initial foray into the published first-hand journal, written only half-a-thought out of the public eye, that would eventually lead him to write his enormous and enormously popular Life of Johnson.
Reading the two interlaced is an utter delight -- moving from the formality, grace and power of Johnson to the smaller, more intimate pleasures of Boswell gives one the feeling of having captured, in the adventurous peregrinations of these two inimitable characters, the very breadth and depth of eighteenth century English writing. (I must point out that the Penguin book does not print the two Journals in interlaced fashion, but with a little effort the reader can move between the two so as to get the efect of Johnson and Boswell speaking in turns on the same topology, if not always the same topic...)
To love and admire Johnson, but not appreciate the brilliant, even if much different, stylistic inventions of Boswell seems to me somewhat perverse.
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