Clare Bucknell at the LRB:
‘When I came to Louisa’s, I felt myself stout and well, and most courageously did I plunge into the fount of love, and had vast pleasure,’ James Boswell wrote in his diary on a winter’s night in 1763, after an assignation with a beautiful Covent Garden actress. But the next day ‘came sorrow. Too, too plain was Signor Gonorrhoea.’ The arrival of the Signor was heralded by ‘damned twinges’, ‘scalding heat’ and the excrescence of ‘deep-tinged loathsome matter’. ‘I rose very disconsolate, having rested very ill by the poisonous infection raging in my veins and anxiety and vexation boiling in my breast. What! thought I, can this beautiful, this sensible, and this agreeable woman be so sadly defiled?’ Louisa refused to apologise and even hinted that she might not be the guilty party. ‘Thus ended my intrigue with the fair Louisa,’ Boswell wrote, ‘from which I expected at least a winter’s safe copulation. It is indeed very hard.’ Within a few months he had encountered a ‘fresh, agreeable young girl’, again without the protection of his ‘armour’.