Libertines Real and Fictional in Rochester, Shadwell, Wycherley, and Boswell Page: 92
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procuring a place in the Guard, continuing his writing projects, and engaging in debauchery
while embarking on excursions to various places in Europe. Robert Bell asserts that Boswell
does not learn from experience and presents, instead, a "series of self-consciously literary
flourishes without coherent assessment or perspective" (Bell 134). On the contrary, Boswell
does learn from his experiences and chooses to obey Lord Auchinleck, his father, and return to
Edinburgh to pursue a civil career. Boswell decides to "go immediately down to Edinburgh
and...be an advocate in the Parliament House, and so lead a comfortable life" (Boswell 165).
Though Boswell's commitment to virtue often wavers-he changes his mind and decides to stay
in London and pursue a position in the Guard-his perspective changes and his intentions to
change are honorable.
Boswell's Libertinism and Performance
Boswell's frequent decisions to switch loyalty from libertinism to virtue (and vice versa)
lend a performative aspect to the journal. He not only obeys libertinism or virtue, but he does so
exaggeratingly and with enthusiasm and gusto. In fact, Boswell actually harbors resentment and
feels irritated towards a few of his friends and acquaintances who visit him because his friends
and his new virtuous lifestyle conflict; that is, he will not allow others to interfere in his endeavor
to live according to virtue. He notes, "To tell the plain truth, I was vexed at their coming...I was
now upon a plan of studying polite reserved behavior, which is the only way to keep up dignity
of character" (Boswell 61). He continues his rant of sorts by mentioning that he has a "good
share of pride, which I think is very proper and even noble, I am hurt with the taunts of ridicule
and am unsatisfied if I do not feel myself something of a superior animal" (61). Boswell
portrays himself as a libertine attempting to reform, or at least appears to do so, and cannot waste
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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/m1/98/?q=rochester: accessed February 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .