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From The CriticsOver the past two centuries, James Boswell has been regarded in a variety of unflattering ways. He was a self-seeking opportunist ready to ride anyone's coattails, an egotist who occasionally signed his work "A Genius," and a depressive whose mood swings often led to alcohol and prostitutes, resulting in countless hangovers and seventeen (yes, seventeen) episodes of gonorrhea. That this man wrote Life of Samuel Johnson, a groundbreaking biography still regarded as one of the greatest works in the English language, has often been dismissed, according to Sisman, as an accident. While Sisman calls Boswell "a fool in so many ways," he argues that the man's success was no fluke. Boswell's obsessively kept journal, parts of which were not discovered until this century, is used as a primary source; it reveals that Boswell was both a meticulous editor and a painstaking investigator who struggled for seven years to complete the book's final draft. According to Sisman, Boswell was neither a fool nor a genius—but he was, at least at one point in his life, a bona fide success.