Boswell, Rousseau and Voltaire

In 1764, writes Stuart Andrews, during his successful Grand Tour, James Boswell, then aged twenty-four, visited two great European thinkers, who were, he wrote, far more interesting to him ‘than most statues or pictures’.

Boswell disclosed his plan in a letter to William Johnson Temple written from Utrecht on April 17th 1764:

I shall make the tour of The Netherlands, from thence proceed to Germany, where I shall visit the Courts of Brunswick and Lüneburg, and about the end of August arrive at Berlin. I shall pass a month there. In the end of September I shall go to the Court of Baden- Durlach, from thence through Switzerland to Geneva. I shall visit Rousseau and Voltaire, and about the middle of November shall cross the Alps and get fairly into Italy. I shall there pass a delicious winter, and in April shall pass the Pyrenees and get into Spain, remain there a couple of months, and at last come to Paris.

Such was to be Boswell’s Grand Tour. At the end of August, when he had reached Berlin as planned, he wrote to Andrew Mitchell that he proposed to visit Voltaire and Rousseau and that ‘these two men are to me greater objects than most statues or pictures’.

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