Libertines Real and Fictional in Rochester, Shadwell, Wycherley, and Boswell Page: 89
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The Louisa Episode
Boswell grapples with balancing libertinism and virtue differently in his relationship with
Louisa Lewis, an actress with whom he had a brief affair and from whom he contracted
gonorrhea; in particular, he denounces his libertinism and only attempts to follow virtue when
left with no other alternative. Boswell records feelings of frustration and impatience in his
journal about delaying consummation with Louisa, and when they do consummate the
relationship, Boswell seems elated and even reflects upon it with fondness later in the journal.
He writes, "This conquest [was] completed to my highest satisfaction...with a manliness and
prudence that pleased me very much" (Boswell 140). On the day following his "conquest,"
Boswell does not even consider his own virtue or Louisa's virtue and continues engaging in his
libertine behavior. Boswell's "macho triumphalism"-certainly an essential trait for a
libertine-does not weaken and his mood reflects this during his tea with Louisa when he makes
a disparaging observation about their table companion (Carter 128). Boswell asserts his inherent
superiority over the man at the table when he describes him as "one of the least men I ever saw"
(Boswell 142). Boswell's physical appearance and gait reflect his hypermasculine triumph at a
subsequent reception he attends. Boswell records in his journal that he was "[strutting] up and
down, considering myself as a valiant man who could satisfy a lady's loving desires five times a
night" (142). His cheerful attitude and his smugness about consummating his romance with
Louisa make him appear to be a stereotypical, one-dimensional, fictional libertine without regret
Boswell does not consider Louisa's virtue or his own virtue important until he contracts
gonorrhea and reluctantly admits to himself that he caught it from her. His investment in his
meetings with Louisa is solely sexual prior to contracting the disease. Prior to his illness, he
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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/m1/95/?q=rochester: accessed June 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .