England’s Greatest Biographer Was Relentless in His Pursuit of Hookers
James Boswell (1740 – 1795) was a diarist and friend of Samuel Johnson, the writer and poet who compiled the first comprehensive English dictionary. Boswell’s biography of Johnson, published in the 20th century, is considered one of the best biographies ever written. Indeed, so close had Boswell been to Johnson, that “Boswell” became a term for a close companion who observes and records the deeds of a great figure. Less known about Boswell is that he hankered after hookers nonstop.
Growing up, Boswell had a difficult relationship with his father, which caused him bouts of melancholy and depression. Intercourse cheered him up, and between ages 20 and 29, as gleaned from his diary, Boswell slept with three married gentlewomen, four actresses, kept three mistresses, and had a fling with Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s mistress. Those figures are eclipsed, however, by the more than 60 prostitutes he had physical acts with during that period. Prostitutes lifted his spirits, at least temporarily, and he chased after them wielding his “Armour” – a reusable prophylactic made of sheep guts, that had to be moistened with water before use.
A typical escapade from Boswell’s diary went thus: ” As I was coming home this night I felt carnal inclinations raging thro’ my frame. I determined to gratify them. I went to St. James’s Park and like Sir John Brute, picked up a Whore. For the first time did I engage in Armour which I found but a dull satisfaction. She who submitted to my lusty embraces was a young shropshire Girl only seventeen, very well-looked, her name Elizabeth Parker. Poor being. She has a sad time of it!”
Boswell felt bad about it every now and then, but was unable to help himself, and kept coming back. As he wrote in his diary entry of May 10th, 1763: ” At the bottom of the Hay-market I picked up a strong jolly young damsel, and taking her under the Arm I conducted her to Westminster-Bridge, and then in armour compleat did I engage her upon this noble Edifice. The whim of doing it there with the Thames rolling below us amused me much. Yet after the brutish appetite was sated I could not but despise myself for being so closely united with such a low Wretch.”
The “Armour”, which Boswell also referred to in his diary as a “cundum”, was supposed to protect against venereal disease, but seems to have been ineffective. The fact that his first streetwalker, when he was 19, gave him gonorrhea, neither extinguished his faith in his “Armour”, nor dampened his enthusiasm for hookers. By the time he was 29, Boswell had been with at least 60 prostitutes, from whom he contracted gonorrhea an astonishing 19 times. His friends treated his frequent VD infections as a running joke, but considering the primitive medical care of the 18th century, the bouts were probably too painful for Boswell to appreciate the humor.