He had every bit as much reason to fear insanity as [Samuel] Johnson; he, too, had inherited a difficult temperament from his father and the dread finger of madness had been laid on several members of his immediate family. His twin uncles, James and John, were both unbalanced. James, after long periods of pathological indolence during which he mostly stayed in bed, went mad and had to be put in a straitjacket. John was never actually mad (clinically) , but he was a well-known eccentric. He belonged to a Christian sect who believed in salvation by faith and not by works (the Glassites), and to demonstrate his belief that the redemption of a man’s soul depended on what he believed and not at all on what he did, became a conspicuous frequenter of brothels.

John Wain, introduction to “The Journals of James Boswell, 1762-1795”.


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