Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: MS Hyde 2

James Boswell letters


Letters written by biographer James Boswell to a variety of correspondents.


  • Creation: 1762-1795

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.

Conditions Governing Use

Images linked to this finding aid are intended for public access and educational use. This material is owned and/or held by the Houghton Library, and is provided solely for the purpose of teaching or individual research. Any other use, including commercial reuse, mounting on other systems, or other forms of redistribution requires the permission of the curator.


1 linear feet (2 boxes)

This collection consists of 74 letters and notes written by Boswell between 1762 and 1790, and two early manuscript transcripts of Boswell letters. Noteworthy correspondents include Horace Walpole, and much of Samuel Johnson's famous literary circle: David Garrick, Oliver Goldsmith, Bennet Langton, Edmond Malone, Thomas Percy, Hester Lynch Piozzi, and Johnson himself.

Biographical / Historical

James Boswell (1740-1795) was the author of one of the most influential biographies in the English language, The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. He also wrote two successful travel books: An Account of Corsica, and The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides. He worked intermittently as a lawyer, and in 1782 succeeded his father as Laird of Auchinleck in Scotland.

Physical Location


Custodial History

Most of this collection was gathered by collector Robert Borthwick Adam (1863-1940). The R.B. Adam collection was acquired by Donald and Mary Hyde in 1948. The Hydes collected some additional Boswell letters over the following decades. Mary Hyde, Viscountess Eccles, bequeathed the papers to the Houghton Library in 2003 as part of the Hyde Collection.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

*2003JM-56. Bequest of Mary Hyde Eccles, Four Oaks Farm, Somerville, New Jersey; received: 2004.

Related Materials

The bulk of the James Boswell papers are at Yale University.


Most of these letters were published in the two-volume Letters of James Boswell, Chauncey Brewster Tinker, ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924). Many of them have also appeared in the Yale Editions of the Private Papers of James Boswell, of which eight Research Edition volumes of correspondence have been released by various editors from 1966 to 1998, with more planned. Fourteen of the letters in this collection were not published in Tinker or in the first eight volumes of the Yale Editions, although some have been published in other sources.

Processing Information

Processed by: Rick Stattler

Boswell, James, 1740-1795. James Boswell letters: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, archives, and more. Houghton Library's collections represent the scope of human experience from ancient Egypt to twenty-first century Cambridge. With strengths primarily in North American and European history, literature, and culture, collections range in media from printed books and handwritten manuscripts to maps, drawings and paintings, prints, posters, photographs, film and audio recordings, and digital media, as well as costumes, theater props, and a wide range of other objects. Houghton Library has historically focused on collecting the written record of European and Eurocentric North American culture, yet it holds a large and diverse number of primary sources valuable for research on the languages, culture and history of indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Houghton Library’s Reading Room is free and open to all who wish to use the library’s collections.

Harvard Yard
Harvard University
Cambridge MA 02138 USA
(617) 495-2440