Pasquale Paoli: Hero of Corsica

In the year 1765 Dr. Johnson’s future biographer set out on his journey to Corsica.

Two hundred years ago James Boswell was setting out on the journey that would produce his wholly delightful, but now strangely neglected, travel book An Account of Corsica.

His main object in making this expedition, which all his friends had warned him would probably be dangerous and certainly uncomfortable, was to meet General Filipino Pasquale Paoli, the patriot leader who had then nearly liberated his native island from the corrupt rule of the Genoese.

Unfriendly critics, who like to ascribe ignoble motives to almost everything that Boswell did, describe his plan as yet another piece of tuft-hunting. Boswell had secured the friendship of Samuel Johnson; he had visited and corresponded with Voltaire and Rousseau.

Why not add the famous General to his visiting list? Human motives are usually mixed; but I believe there was more goodness and generosity of spirit in Boswell’s desire to see and talk with the General than there was of social snobbery.

Boswell, we know, longed for a father figure whom he could admire and venerate. He had already found one in Johnson; but Paoli came a close second.

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