This article examines James Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson, his celebrated biography of his friend, the great 18th-century literary figure, Samuel Johnson. The book records their many conversations, much of which was concerned with madness and melancholy.
This is not surprising as both men experienced recurrent bouts of low spirits. They also lived in an era which has been called ‘The Age of Nerves’. This article will consider how they conceived of ‘nervous disease’ and how they tried to remedy it. It will also look at Johnson's role as a therapeutic mentor to Boswell.