An Account of Corsica

Author’s presentation copy
BOSWELL, James (1740–1795): An Account of Corsica, the Journal of a Tour to that Island, and memoirs of Pascal Paoli . . . Illustrated with a new and accurate Map. London, Printed for Edward and Charles Dilly, 1769.

Octavo, pp. xx, [3] 34–400, nineteenth-century three-quarter red morocco, worn, spine in six compartments, gilt panels, two containing gilt title, marbled boards, worn. Portrait frontispiece by Pascal Paoli of the Corsicans, folding engraved map (from the same plate as in the first edition, but with a scale of miles added. Inscription by Boswell himself on blank preceding the portrait frontispiece: ‘To Andrew Lumisden Esq. as a mark of sincere regard from the Author’. Book label of Joseph Y. Jeanes, Philadelphia.

Third edition. The preface to this edition also includes for the first time a eulogistic letter from George Lyttelton to Boswell in praise of Paoli. Boswell, a Scottish lawyer, is mainly remembered as the biographer of Samuel Johnson. He was invited to visit Corsica by Paoli in August 1764 whilst he was travelling in Italy. Boswell was determined to get to Corsica and stated that had he not received a formal invitation, he should still go, and probably be hanged as a spy. ‘He crossed from Leghorn to Corsica; saw the great Paoli; talked politics to him . . . He also took the liberty of asking Paoli “a thousand questions with regard to the most minute and private circumstances of his life” ’ (DNB). He apparently played Scottish airs to the Corsican peasantry. He returned to London with his head full of Corsica, and against Johnson’s advice, resolved to write an account of his experiences. This is a refreshing contemporary observation of eighteenth-century Corsica and covers a number of aspects; the first chapter consists of a geographical analysis of the Island followed by a historical and political overview. The book concludes with Boswell’s journal of his tour of the Island and the memoirs of Pascal Paoli. However, the book did not receive general approval. Walpole laughed at it and Gray described the journal as a ‘dialogue between a green goose and a hero’. Boswell never ceased to champion the Corsican cause and published a volume of ‘Essays in favour of the Brave Corsicans’ in the spring of 1769.

Andrew Lumisden (1720–1801), an ‘active and accurate antiquary’, was a Scottish Jacobite with whom Boswell became acquainted in Rome in 1765. They became good friends and Lumisden later assisted Boswell when he was writing the Life of Dr Johnson, by deciphering place names in the diarists’ journal of a French tour in late 1775.
Rothschild 446, 447.s

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