Libertines Real and Fictional in Rochester, Shadwell, Wycherley, and Boswell Page: 91
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other negative outcomes. Though he is sincere in his plans to live according to virtue, he only
refers to virtue and determines to apply it to his life when it is convenient for him-such as when
a sexual relationship ends and he must nurse the residual (physical and emotional) effects of it.
In the journal entry dated January 20, 1763, Boswell shifts from novelist to playwright
and describes his confrontation with Louisa about infecting him with gonorrhea. Generically,
this change mimics scenes typified by libertines featured in Restoration drama and emphasizes
the performative traits of libertines. In fact, Boswell uses theatrical terms to portray himself and
Louisa. Boswell's portrayal of his and Louisa's conversation includes his inner dialogue,
dramatic asides, and theatrical language reminiscent of Restoration plays. When Louisa tells the
Boswell character that she is "distressed with a thousand things," the playwright Boswell records
the following aside: "Cunning jade, her circumstances!" (Boswell 159). This aside hearkens to
William Wycherley's The Country Wife (1675) in which his character Harcourt criticizes his
future fiancee, Alithea, for choosing not to break her engagement with Sparkish. Harcourt says
in an aside, "Damned, senseless, impudent, virtuous jade!" (Wycherley II. i. 1. 289). Boswell's
decision to retell this conversation as a drama emphasizes the performative quality shared by
conventional libertines. The emphasis on performance continues in the prose entries of the
journal. For example, in the same journal entry and immediately following this scene, he
describes Louisa's visceral reaction to his accusations and his decision to end their affair as "pale
as ashes and trembled and faltered" (Boswelll160). These descriptions make Boswell's alter-ego
similar to his fictional Restoration libertine counterparts and libertine characters appearing in
However, Boswell actually does want to give up his libertinism and commit to living
virtuously. In fact, shortly after his affair with Louisa, Boswell decides to give up his attempts at
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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/m1/97/?q=rochester: accessed May 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .