Libertines Real and Fictional in Rochester, Shadwell, Wycherley, and Boswell Page: 84
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TORN BETWEEN LIBERTINISM AND VIRTUE:
JAMES BOSWELL'S LONDON JOURNAL, 1762-1763
In his London Journal, 1762-1763, James Boswell presents mutually supportive views
regarding libertinism and virtue. Although Boswell's journal is different from other works in
this study, he is also similar to the fictional libertines discussed. Boswell, while a real life
libertine, portrays himself both as a real person and as a novelistic alter ego throughout his
journal. London Journal functions as a picaresque novel featuring a libertine protagonist. This
novelistic alter-ego and libertine, presumably like the actual James Boswell, narrates his own
journal where he articulates his attempts at living as both a libertine and as a virtuous individual.
These attempts demonstrate Boswell's simultaneous advocacy of and opposition to both
libertinism and virtue during his stay in London and after his departure. Boswell's frequent
vacillation between libertinism and virtue makes him a libertine who constantly redefines
libertinism to fit his own agenda. Boswell demonstrates this vacillation between ideas in his
fluctuation between novelist and playwright within the composition of his journal. These
frequent fluctuations between libertinism and virtue represent a critique of a pseudo-Hobbesian
school of thought that entails sole obedience of nature or sense. In exhibiting these libertine
behaviors and a desire to assimilate, Boswell not only demonstrates his constant changes to the
definition of libertinism, but also shows his constant fluctuations between depictions of himself
as a fictional character and a human being.
Before analyzing libertinism and virtue as they manifest themselves in Boswell's London
Journal, 1762-1763, it is important to understand the structure of the journal and the generic
conventions Boswell incorporates into it. Boswell recorded the events he recollects in his
London Journal, 1762-1763 approximately two weeks after they occurred. Robert Bell asserts
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Smith, Victoria. Libertines Real and Fictional in Rochester, Shadwell, Wycherley, and Boswell, dissertation, May 2008; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc6051/m1/90/?q=rochester: accessed April 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .