On the 20th of July 1764 James Boswell decides to be himself.
He is in Berlin on his Grand Tour, 24 years of age. He does not longer try to be as his friends Johnston, Temple or the great Mr. Johnson – from now on he wants to be: Boswell.
His father, a Scottish judge and Laird of Auchinleck, expects his son to follow him up, to be his successor. In a few years James will take the exams and he will try to live the life of an honourable Scottish nobleman.
It will go absolutely wrong.
Scottland is boring, the marriage unsatisfactory, the work brainmelting. He will have escape in affairs and alcohol, finally to London only to ruin himself slowly but steadily. He will die working on the biography of his friend Samuel Johnson, 1795.
Boswell is a man of letters, an intellectual, an interviewer, curious, reckless, an unlimited narciss. He wants to know himself and he learns himself, writing. Blessed – or cursed – with a cast iron memory, short notices are sufficient for him to bring his journal up to the latest, to remember conversations and occurences even after longer breaks. On his Grand Tour he writes in the evening or in the night. He creates memoranda, short notes, requests to himself for the coming day – the most beautiful for 21st of July 1764:
“Be yourself. Be unique. Be happy!”
(I have only the German translation available (James Boswell: Journal. Ausgewählt, übersetzt und herausgegeben von Helmut Winter (Universal-Bibliothek Nr. 9429), Stuttgart 1996, S.92 und Anmerkung 10, S.431) and could not locate an English text on the web, so I hope I did him no harm.)