Dr Johnson's House

Dr Johnson's House Quirky historic house tucked away in the City with 18th-century interiors & a healthy supply of dictionaries. Once home to Dr Johnson & his pet cat, Hodge.

Operating as usual

Today commemorates the death of poet, translator and good friend of Johnson, Anna Williams.  She was born in Rosemarket,...
06/09/2021

Today commemorates the death of poet, translator and good friend of Johnson, Anna Williams. She was born in Rosemarket, Pembrokeshire to scientist Zachariah Williams and his wife, Martha, in 1706. Despite her failing sight in the 1740s, she was still able to sew and publish her translation of a French life of the emperor Julian.

Johnson arranged for Samuel Sharp to operate on Anna’s cataracts in the 1750s, which unfortunately failed and left her blind. From then on she became a member of Johnson’s household, with the exception of 1759-65 when he moved from Gough Square to the Inner Temple. During this time she lodged in Bolt Court, Fleet Street, where Johnson drank tea with her ‘every night…before he went home, however late it might be, and she always sat up for him.’ In 1765 Williams moved back into Johnson’s household in Johnson’s Court, until her death, which left Johnson ‘very desolate’.

Knowing a variety of literary works, she could express herself well and, having lived with Johnson for a long time, knew his habits and how to draw him out into conversation. Meanwhile Johnson, who was not above playfulness with her, would ‘whirl her about on the steps’ when visiting. Despite being very intolerant towards other members of the household, particularly Francis Barber, Johnson did not alter his care for her. After her death he wrote: ‘Her curiosity was universal, her knowledge was very extensive, and she sustained forty years of misery with steady fortitude. Thirty years and more she has been my companion, and her death has left me very desolate.’

The House is open Fridays and Saturdays 11am-5pm for you to visit what was most likely Anna’s bedroom during Johnson’s time at the House.

Today commemorates the death of poet, translator and good friend of Johnson, Anna Williams. She was born in Rosemarket, Pembrokeshire to scientist Zachariah Williams and his wife, Martha, in 1706. Despite her failing sight in the 1740s, she was still able to sew and publish her translation of a French life of the emperor Julian.

Johnson arranged for Samuel Sharp to operate on Anna’s cataracts in the 1750s, which unfortunately failed and left her blind. From then on she became a member of Johnson’s household, with the exception of 1759-65 when he moved from Gough Square to the Inner Temple. During this time she lodged in Bolt Court, Fleet Street, where Johnson drank tea with her ‘every night…before he went home, however late it might be, and she always sat up for him.’ In 1765 Williams moved back into Johnson’s household in Johnson’s Court, until her death, which left Johnson ‘very desolate’.

Knowing a variety of literary works, she could express herself well and, having lived with Johnson for a long time, knew his habits and how to draw him out into conversation. Meanwhile Johnson, who was not above playfulness with her, would ‘whirl her about on the steps’ when visiting. Despite being very intolerant towards other members of the household, particularly Francis Barber, Johnson did not alter his care for her. After her death he wrote: ‘Her curiosity was universal, her knowledge was very extensive, and she sustained forty years of misery with steady fortitude. Thirty years and more she has been my companion, and her death has left me very desolate.’

The House is open Fridays and Saturdays 11am-5pm for you to visit what was most likely Anna’s bedroom during Johnson’s time at the House.

Today is another Rambler Saturday!  On this day 271 years ago, Johnson’s 49th article of Rambler was published, entitled...
04/09/2021

Today is another Rambler Saturday! On this day 271 years ago, Johnson’s 49th article of Rambler was published, entitled ‘A disquisition upon the value of fame’ (1750). In this article he states: ‘The love of fame is to be regulated rather than extinguished…men should be taught not to be wholly careless about their memory, but to endeavour that they be remembered chiefly for their virtues, since no other reputation will be able to transmit any pleasures beyond the grave.’

This desire to be remembered for his virtues more than anything else may be one of the reasons why he so strongly disliked satirical images that played up his bad eyesight or depicted him as squinting. In response to images like this he reportedly once growled ‘I will not be blinking Sam.’ An example of this is shown in the featured print by Gillray, entitled 'Old Wisdom Blinking at Stars'. Overall, however, Johnson apparently enjoyed being a target for satire, with Boswell stating that Johnson ‘enjoyed the perpetual shower of little hostile arrows, as evidence of his fame.’

The Gillray print is featured in the House’s exhibit on 18th-century satire, which can be viewed on Fridays and Saturdays 11am-5pm. Come visit the House today and walk the same floorboards as the famous man himself!

Today is another Rambler Saturday! On this day 271 years ago, Johnson’s 49th article of Rambler was published, entitled ‘A disquisition upon the value of fame’ (1750). In this article he states: ‘The love of fame is to be regulated rather than extinguished…men should be taught not to be wholly careless about their memory, but to endeavour that they be remembered chiefly for their virtues, since no other reputation will be able to transmit any pleasures beyond the grave.’

This desire to be remembered for his virtues more than anything else may be one of the reasons why he so strongly disliked satirical images that played up his bad eyesight or depicted him as squinting. In response to images like this he reportedly once growled ‘I will not be blinking Sam.’ An example of this is shown in the featured print by Gillray, entitled 'Old Wisdom Blinking at Stars'. Overall, however, Johnson apparently enjoyed being a target for satire, with Boswell stating that Johnson ‘enjoyed the perpetual shower of little hostile arrows, as evidence of his fame.’

The Gillray print is featured in the House’s exhibit on 18th-century satire, which can be viewed on Fridays and Saturdays 11am-5pm. Come visit the House today and walk the same floorboards as the famous man himself!

31/08/2021

On this day 270 years ago, Johnson's 152nd article of Rambler was published, entitled 'Criticism on epistolary writings' (1751). In this he states: "The purpose for which letters are written when no intelligence is communicated or business transacted, is to preserve in the minds of the absent either love or esteem; to excite love we must impart pleasure, and to raise esteem we must discover abilities. Pleasure will generally be given as abilities are displayed by scenes of imagery, points of conceit, unexpected sallies, and artful compliments. Trifles always require exuberance of ornament; the building which has no strength can be valued only for the grace of its decorations. The pebble must be polished with care, which hopes to be valued as a diamond; and words ought surely to be laboured, when they are intended to stand for things."

One famous collection of letters published after Johnson's death was Hester Thrale's 'Letters To and From the Late Samuel Johnson'. In the House's edition, there is a copy of a sketch by Sayers which depicts the angry ghost of Johnson chastising Hester for including false information and made-up letters in her collection.

While the House isn't open today, it is open Friday and Saturday 11am-5pm for you to bring your more honest friends to visit. The House's copy of the sketch can be seen in the flesh in the satire exhibit in the Will Room!

On this day 251 years ago, Johnson's 47th article of Rambler was published, entitled 'The proper means of regulating sor...
28/08/2021

On this day 251 years ago, Johnson's 47th article of Rambler was published, entitled 'The proper means of regulating sorrow' (1750). In this he states: "For sorrow there is no remedy provided by nature; it is often occasioned by accidents irreparable, and dwells upon objects that have lost or changed their existence; it requires what it cannot hope, that the laws of the universe should be repealed; that the dead should return, or the past should be recalled."

This article becomes particularly pertinent when considering the periodic bouts of 'melancholy' and depression that plagued Johnson throughout his life. One way Johnson tackled this in his later life was to spend time with the Thrales in their manor in Streatham.

If you don't have wealthy friends with a manor in Streatham, the House is open for you to walk on the same floorboards as Johnson did 251 years ago today (until 5pm)!

On this day 251 years ago, Johnson's 47th article of Rambler was published, entitled 'The proper means of regulating sorrow' (1750). In this he states: "For sorrow there is no remedy provided by nature; it is often occasioned by accidents irreparable, and dwells upon objects that have lost or changed their existence; it requires what it cannot hope, that the laws of the universe should be repealed; that the dead should return, or the past should be recalled."

This article becomes particularly pertinent when considering the periodic bouts of 'melancholy' and depression that plagued Johnson throughout his life. One way Johnson tackled this in his later life was to spend time with the Thrales in their manor in Streatham.

If you don't have wealthy friends with a manor in Streatham, the House is open for you to walk on the same floorboards as Johnson did 251 years ago today (until 5pm)!

23/08/2021

Today is the International Day for Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition. On the night of the 22nd and 23rd August 1791, men and women revolted against the slave system in Santo Domingo (now Haiti) to obtain freedom and independence. Today commemorates this, and memorialises the transatlantic slave trade.

Although Johnson died before the campaign to abolish slavery attracted wide attention and support, Johnson was a fierce and persistent opponent of slavery. Controversially, he named Francis Barber, his Jamaican servant and friend, his heir. He also wrote various pieces criticising slavery, something Boswell largely passed over this in his 'Life of Johnson'. One example of this is in his 11th article of Idler, entitled 'Discourses on the weather' (1758). In this, he states 'slavery is now no where more patiently endured, than in countries once inhabited by the zealots of liberty.'

Among his other literary projects, Johnson also created and wrote for three magazines whilst he lived at the House.  One...
21/08/2021

Among his other literary projects, Johnson also created and wrote for three magazines whilst he lived at the House. One of these, The Rambler, was published every Tuesday and Saturday from 1750 to 1752.

On this day 251 years ago (1750), Johnson published his 45th article entitled 'The causes of disagreement in marriage'. In this article he suggested that "Every man recounts the inconveniences of his own station, and thinks those of any other less, because he has not felt them. Thus the married praise the ease and freedom of a single state, and the single fly to marriage from the weariness of solitude."

Regardless of whether you are missing the 'single state' or are weary from solitude, the House is open for you to walk on the same floors as Johnson did 251 years ago today!

Among his other literary projects, Johnson also created and wrote for three magazines whilst he lived at the House. One of these, The Rambler, was published every Tuesday and Saturday from 1750 to 1752.

On this day 251 years ago (1750), Johnson published his 45th article entitled 'The causes of disagreement in marriage'. In this article he suggested that "Every man recounts the inconveniences of his own station, and thinks those of any other less, because he has not felt them. Thus the married praise the ease and freedom of a single state, and the single fly to marriage from the weariness of solitude."

Regardless of whether you are missing the 'single state' or are weary from solitude, the House is open for you to walk on the same floors as Johnson did 251 years ago today!

Today is Falklands Day, which commemorates the first sighting of the Falkland Islands by John Davis in 1592.  Just under...
14/08/2021

Today is Falklands Day, which commemorates the first sighting of the Falkland Islands by John Davis in 1592. Just under 200 years later, Johnson published his political pamphlet entitled ‘Thoughts on the Late Transactions Respecting Falkland’s Islands’, advising Britons not to go to war with Spain over the Falklands. His anti-war piece berates the abuse of power and greed of those in government proposing the conflict.

‘To proportion the eagerness of contest to its importance seems too hard a task for human wisdom. The pride of wit has kept ages busy in the discussion of useless questions, and the pride of power has destroyed armies, to gain or to keep unprofitable possessions.’ – Johnson, Thoughts on the Late Transactions Respecting Falkland’s Islands (1771).

12/08/2021

Today is International Youth Day! In one of his Rambler essays, Johnson suggests that ‘in youth we require something of the tardiness and frigidity of age; and in age we must labour to recall the fire and impetuosity of youth; in youth we must learn to respect, and in age to enjoy.’ Johnson befriended people of various ages. His close friend and biographer, James Boswell, was 30 years his junior, and his wife Tetty was 20 years his senior! The House is open Fridays and Saturdays 11am-5pm for you to keep the youths in your life busy and entertained during the summer holidays.

Today is Jamaican Independence Day!  Francis Barber, Johnson’s servant and friend, was born in Jamaica in c.1742.  Jamai...
06/08/2021

Today is Jamaican Independence Day! Francis Barber, Johnson’s servant and friend, was born in Jamaica in c.1742. Jamaica gained independence from the UK around 220 years later in 1962. As well as being Johnson’s heir, Francis later became the first Black schoolmaster in England.

Today is Jamaican Independence Day! Francis Barber, Johnson’s servant and friend, was born in Jamaica in c.1742. Jamaica gained independence from the UK around 220 years later in 1962. As well as being Johnson’s heir, Francis later became the first Black schoolmaster in England.

Happy Yorkshire Day!  Francis Barber, Johnson’s servant, friend and heir, spent his first year in England learning to re...
01/08/2021

Happy Yorkshire Day! Francis Barber, Johnson’s servant, friend and heir, spent his first year in England learning to read and write in Barton, north Yorkshire. The education of slaves in Britain was rare and it was after his schooling that he joined Johnson at Gough Square. Francis was also an important source for Boswell’s famous Life of Samuel Johnson, providing Boswell with his key account of Johnson’s life in London for the years before he knew him. While the House is not open today, we’ll be back drinking a cup of Yorkshire Tea in the parlour with the portrait of Francis on Friday.

Happy Yorkshire Day! Francis Barber, Johnson’s servant, friend and heir, spent his first year in England learning to read and write in Barton, north Yorkshire. The education of slaves in Britain was rare and it was after his schooling that he joined Johnson at Gough Square. Francis was also an important source for Boswell’s famous Life of Samuel Johnson, providing Boswell with his key account of Johnson’s life in London for the years before he knew him. While the House is not open today, we’ll be back drinking a cup of Yorkshire Tea in the parlour with the portrait of Francis on Friday.

Thank you to everyone who visited us on our first weekend open since March 2020, we absolutely loved seeing you all enjo...
09/07/2021
Dr Johnson's House - A self guided visit

Thank you to everyone who visited us on our first weekend open since March 2020, we absolutely loved seeing you all enjoying the House. We have tickets available for the coming weekend, so please do get booked in and come along:

Visit one of London's hidden gems - the atmospheric 18th century home of Dr Samuel Johnson - great wit and famous dictionary writer.

We're very pleased to tell you all that Dr Johnson's House will be open on Fridays and Saturdays from 2nd July.If you pr...
08/06/2021
Dr Johnson's House - A self guided visit

We're very pleased to tell you all that Dr Johnson's House will be open on Fridays and Saturdays from 2nd July.

If you previously booked with us last year and would like to transfer your ticket, we're more than happy to arrange this, please contact us here: http://www.drjohnsonshouse.org/contact.html

To help keep everyone safe, we're asking visitors to pre-book tickets, which you can do through the link below. We can't wait to welcome you back to Gough Square!

Visit one of London's hidden gems - the atmospheric 18th century home of Dr Samuel Johnson - great wit and famous dictionary writer.

We are sorry to announce that we have had to postpone reopening the House, due to the recent government announcements. T...
02/11/2020

We are sorry to announce that we have had to postpone reopening the House, due to the recent government announcements. Thank you to everybody who has supported us over the past few months, we can't wait to see you again!

We will update you on our plans as soon as is possible and look forward to welcoming you back to Gough Square.

Address

17 Gough Square
London
EC4A 3DE

Tube: Chancery Lane/Holborn (Central Line) Temple (District Line/Circle Lines) *Please note that Blackfriars tube station is currently closed. Rail: City Thameslink, Blackfriars and Farringdon stations are all nearby. Bus: All routes to Aldwych, Chancery Lane, Fleet Street or St. Paul's. Bus numbers 4, 11, 15, 23, 26, 76 and 172 run along Fleet Street. Please check www.tfl.gov.uk to plan your journey.

Opening Hours

Monday 11am - 5pm
Tuesday 11am - 5pm
Wednesday 11am - 5pm
Thursday 11am - 5pm
Friday 11am - 5pm
Saturday 11am - 5pm

Telephone

020 7353 3745

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