Libertines Real and Fictional in Rochester, Shadwell, Wycherley, and Boswell Page: 93
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his time with people such as Lady Betty Macfarlane, Lady Anne Erskine, Captain Erskine, and
Miss Dempster who would possibly distract Boswell from his attempts at reform and tempt him
into continuing his libertine lifestyle. As a libertine, Boswell succeeds in terms of acquiring and
maintaining a smug, self-assured, superior disposition.
However, the fact that he chooses to study "polite reserved character"-he wants to learn
it without any clear indication that he plans to use his knowledge for his own advancement and
without questionable motives-renders him a libertine who needs to change the definition of
libertinism to accommodate his current agenda. Granted, Boswell's confidence is emblematic
of an archetypal libertine, but his need to learn virtuous traits, such as politeness and a reserved
personality, makes him a self-critical libertine who wants to assimilate with other members of
the upper class. Boswell vacillates between portraying his novelistic alter-ego as a one-
dimensional fictional character and a two-dimensional human being. 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.
Boswell, in his need to present himself as externally flawless, demonstrates his obsession
with his physical appearance and ensuring that others leave with favorable initial impressions of
him; his obsession with material objects enables him to compete with other libertines and assert
his superiority over them. He even decides to sacrifice living in more posh apartments so that he
can afford a fancier, more stylish wardrobe. He writes, "Sometimes I considered that a fine
lodging denoted a man of great fashion, but then I thought that few people would see it and
therefore the expense would be hid, whereas my business was to make as much show as I could
with my small allowance" (Boswell 58, my emphasis). Boswell's need to perform or "make as
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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/m1/99/?q=rochester: accessed October 19, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .