Boswell's Life of Boris Johnson

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Today I am bringing you an exclusive extract from a new, computer-generated, instant classic biography: "Boswell's Life Of Boris Johnson".

Today I am bringing you an exclusive extract from a new, computer-generated, instant classic biography: "Boswell's Life Of Boris Johnson".

It had long been my desire (writes Boswell) to meet the famous Boris Johnson, the Sage of Doughty Street. I had heard many reports of his knowledge, of his generosity of spirit, and of his rare ability to pursue at least three distinct paths of employment, but I failed always to engineer a meeting with this paragon, and it was Fate that at last brought us together.

One day, while passing a large bookshop in the West End of London, I spied a large crowd of bystanders gathered round a man at a table. Upon my enquiring who this might be, I was told that Boris Johnson was signing copies of his new book. Accordingly I pushed my way to the front of the throng and introduced myself as a young Scots writer, but newly arrived in the great city, and desirous of making a mark as a writer. Without raising his eyes, he said: "Why, sir, the best thing you can do is let me have 1,000 words on the scandal of the new Scottish Parliament and bring them to me at the Spectator office tomorrow! We pay badly but we will make you famous."

So began my acquaintance with the great man whose wisdom is known throughout the civilised world and also in parts of America. It was always a marvel to me that one man could be writer, Parliamentarian, editor, wit and television performer, and still have time left to sleep, but when I asked him for the secret of his prodigious activity, he merely said:-

"Why, sir, it is not what a man does, but what a man is thought to do that counts. What a man does outside his office always impresses those in the office more than anything he achieves while inside the office. When I am not present at the Spectator, my colleagues there imagine me to be in Parliament, or writing a book, or being a personality on the TV, and they marvel that one man can do so much. In truth, I am usually having lunch with important people."

In person, Mr Johnson was large, with strikingly blond hair. He was not handsome in a conventional manner, nor in an unconventional manner either, yet I have known women who felt themselves strangely drawn to him.

"That may be so, but I fear no scandal," he liked to say. "Depend on it, sir, a man who pursues so many activities as I do will not be deemed, even by Fleet Street, to have the time and energy to pursue the art of dalliance as well."

Many people were puzzled as to why the great man had espoused the cause of the Tory Party, at a time when their fortunes were so low, but he saw no mystery in this at all.

"Why, sir, are we not taught to buy shares when they are low in price, not high? Is it not wise to invest in a painting when the artist is out of fashion and therefore affordable? For the same reason, I perceived that the Tories, presently down in the dumps, would surely rise again taking me with them upwards. Be assured that the worst time to ally yourself to a party is when it is at its height. I would earnestly enjoin all allies of Blair and Brown to wear a parachute at all times."

And he laughed heartily, in that manner which persuaded some that he was naught but a buffoon, though for myself I could see it was but a façade to conceal the quick mind beneath. Mr Johnson once confessed to me that he had planned it thus all along.

"To be smart is nothing," he said. "Why, sir, today everyone is smart. But to be thought an idiot savant - why, that takes real smartness! I am like the man in the street who is taken to be drunk, but who, when attacked by ruffians, throws off the pretence of insobriety and turns out to have a black belt in the sport of karate. Depend upon it, sir, I shall have 'em!"

More of this classic biography some other time, I hope.

Comments