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To the Hebrides

Biography, History, Travel & Adventure, Travel Writing, Adventure & Guides
Publication Date
01 August 2011
Paperback (also available as an eBook)
Available for Sale
Birlinn Limited
16pp b/w plates; maps

To the Hebrides

Samuel Johnson's Journey to the Western Islands and James Boswell's Journal of a Tour
by Samuel Johnson and James Boswell - Find out more about the author


eBook also available from the iBookstore

'Do we really need another book about Boswell and Johnson’s Highland journey? Yes, when it’s this one' – The Scotsman

'It is always pleasurable when a reviewer can recommend a book unreservedly. Congratulations to Ronald Black and Birlinn, To the Hebrides is a stunning achievement  – Northwords Now

'Published in the late 18th century, Samuel Johnson's and James Boswell's two books about their trip through the Scottish Highlands and Islands have been cleverly edited into a single volume -- To the Hebrides:  Samuel Johnson's Journey to the Western Islands and James Boswell's Journal of a Tour, by Boswell, Johnson and Ronald Black -- that switches the narrative from one to the other as the expedition goes on.  Their shifting view of some events is often hilarious.  The story should be of particular interest to the many Canadians with Scots ancestry (as it is to this Welshman, who has none) and, best of all as a reminder of English as She Should be Writ, but Alas No Longer Is' – Toronto Globe and Mail

Samuel Johnson and James Boswell spent the autumn of 1773 touring through the Lowlands and Highlands of Scotland as far west as the islands of Skye, Raasay, Coll, Mull, Inchkenneth and Iona. Both kept detailed notes of their impressions, and later published separate accounts of their journey. These works contain some of the finest pieces of travel writing ever produced. They are also magnificent historical documents as well as portraits of two extraordinary men of letters. Together they paint a vivid picture of a society which was still almost unknown to the Europe of the Enlightenment. Entertaining, profound, and marvellously readable, they are a valuable chronicle of a lost age and a fascinating people.

Samuel Johnson became famous as a poet and a moral essayist before completing his most famous project, The Dictionary of the English Language. James Boswell met Samuel Johnson in 1763, when the two began their trip around the Hebrides, and is celebrated not only as Johnson’s biographer but also for the disarming honesty of his personal diaries.

For the first time, Ronald Black’s edition brings together Johnson’s and Boswell’s accounts of each of the six stages of the two men’s journey – Lowlands, Skye, Coll, Mull and back to the mainland. Illustrated with prints by Thomas Rowlandson, it includes a critical introduction, translations of the Latin texts and brief notes.

Formerly a lecturer in Celtic in Glasgow and Edinburgh universities, Ronald Black is Gaelic Editor of The Scotsman and a columnist in the West Highland Free Press. In addition to numerous academic articles he is author or editor of: Mac Mhaighstir Alasdair: The Ardnamurchan Years, An Tuil: Anthology of 20th Century Scottish Gaelic Verse, An Lasair: Anthology of 18th Century Scottish Gaelic Verse, Eilein na h-Òige: The Poems of Fr Allan McDonald and The Gaelic Otherworld.

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