By Allan Ingram
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Additional info for Boswell’s Creative Gloom: A Study of Imagery and Melancholy in the Writings of James Boswell
I shall have more to say about these essays elsewhere, but for the moment it is worth noting just how many of the papers were composed while Boswell suffered from low spirits. No. , p. 189); he gets no. 24, 'On Censure', finished though 'in sad low spirits' (Laird, p. 136); no. 29, 'On Pity', is delayed while Boswell, 'low-spirited and languid and fretful', sits 'moping by my fire' (Laird, p. 180); and nos 47, 'On the New Freezing Discovery', and 49, 'On Identification by Numbers', are old essays made to serve, Boswell finding himself 'languid and sauntering' and 'very insignificant' (Laird, pp.
Laird, pp. 386-7) Less than four weeks later Boswell is once more finding his thoughts straying to suicide. I was very low-spirited today; and during this late fit, there has come into my mind the horrible thought of suicide. It was most effectually checked by thinking what a triumph it would afford to my enemies, or rather enviers, and how it would hurt my children. I had some rationality therefore in store. (p. 392) Suddenly, however, he recovers. The entry continues, Dr. Dunbar's dining with me had appeared a heavy task.
270) Boswell's image conveys particularly well the mental suffocation of boredom, and is also very appropriate to an anecdote featuring the man who discovered oxygen. And, unlike several of his other attempts throughout his journals, it expresses a perfectly understood state of mind. What seems to happen in this use of imagery is that Boswell is able literally to fix his thoughts to something that is external to himself, that has its own independent rules of operation and its own momentum. If his mind is a machine, then he is partially relieved of the responsibility for its well-being, his mind is in other hands than his- either regulated by the requirements of its internal mechanism, or else under the care of the celestial mechanic.