Scottish Cringe: James Boswell
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Portrait of James Boswell, noted Scottish biographer of English literary figure Samuel Johnson, after Joshua Reynolds’ portrait of 1785.
Boswell was a great admirer of Johnson. Aware of the contempt Johnson had for the Scots, his words upon meeting were:
“Mr. Johnson, I do indeed come from Scotland, but I cannot help it.”
James Boswell was born in 1740, thirty-three years after the Act of Union. In his lifetime Scotland underwent dramatic cultural changes. Boswell enjoyed the fruits of the British Empire, lived the life of Riley, and became an advocate of slavery (which Johnson was not).
The ‘Scottish cringe’ is a cultural inferiority complex supposedly afflicting the Scots. It can be a two-edged sword.