Boswell’s manuscript journal for the Hebridean expedition, dating from August 18th to October 26th 1775 and containing 318 leaves, was one of the major documents found among his papers at Malahide Castle in Ireland. Until its discovery, the details of this remarkable journey were known chiefly through the highly edited version that he published 12 years after the tour. Samuel Johnson wrote and published his own travel narrative, A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland (1775), about the 83-day journey in the late summer and autumn of 1773.
Johnson came to Scotland as a critic of society and an amateur anthropologist. Boswell came as a devoted observer of Johnson, resulting in a personal, somewhat biased portrayal of the lexicographer rather than an objective one.
Allan Ramsay (1713-1784)
Portrait of Flora MacDonald (1722-1790), 18th century
Oil on canvas
74 x 61 cm
Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology
One of the highlights of Boswell and Johnson's time in Scotland was meeting Flora MacDonald. She became something of a folk hero after helping Charles Edward Stuart escape Scotland following his defeat in the Battle of Culloden in 1746. She was briefly jailed for this, as Stuart had been an ursurper in the Jacobite Rebellions, a series of uprisings in Great Britain and Ireland undertaken with the hope of restoring James II and VII, King of England, Ireland, and Scotland, to the throne. She was regarded as an emblem of bravery, loyalty, and patriotism by many.
A view of Case VI as displayed for the exhibition.
Scotland, depicted as experienced by Boswell and Johnson during their tour.
Johnson and Boswell with Flora MacDonald (19th Century)
Oil on canvas
81.5 x 93 cm
Dr. Johnson's House at 17 Gogh Square
In addition to the above publications, Case VI includes the map of Scotland pictured to the left and a scan of the Boswell, Johnson, and Fiona MacDonald portrait by an unknown artist. Another publication on display in Case VI is Virginia Maclean's Much Entertainment: A Visual and Culinary Record of Johnson and Boswell's Tour of Scotland in 1773 (TX717.3.M32 1973b), published in 1973, in which the author reports on the pair's dietary habits during the tour, using traditional Scottish recipes, 18th and 19th century prints, paintings, and drawings to illustrate the tour.