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Thread: Dr Johnson's House

  1. #1
    Registered User Ashurbanipal's Avatar
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    Nov 2008

    Dr Johnson's House

    I recently had the pleasure to visit Dr Johnson's house while in London. It lays in the part of London called "The City" a district now occupied with financial offices and international companies, tucked away in a courtyard off the main road is Gough Square (Dr. Johnson spelled it G-o-f-f). Gough Square is a plain place unadorned by the brilliant architecture that is present in London, but indicative of the more business minded area The City. The walls of office buildings loom on either side and, as you wined your way towards the mecca that is 17 Gough Square, through alleyways, passing the backs of restaurants with cooks gazing at you and your camera as you pass them, the smoke of their cigarettes obscuring your sight; it is in every way The City. Every way, save one.
    Gough Square is, as I said, like many other squares in this part of London, only there is in one corner a statue of a cat sitting on a book. Upon closer inspection this cat turned out to be Hodge, inscribed underneath the Dictionary that Hodge sits on are the words "A very fine cat indeed - Samuel Johnson".
    There is however, no statue of Johnson, instead the entire house serves as a monument to the great man. The house is a 4 story Georgian building with a fence running around the outside and a imposing door at the front. Upon entry (through the side door no less!) you are greeted by a small desk and a kindly old lady who informs you that the museum is free, but they would ask for a donation. Hardly free, but I gladly paid the 2 pounds and additionaly purchased several books on the house.

    From the guide book: "The House: Gough Square was built about 1700 by a city father whose name it bears. The timber used was American white and yellow pine, brought back as ballast by ships trading with the colonies. The rent was 30 pounds a year (about 3,000 in present purchasing power). After Dr. Johnson left, 17 Gough Square was occupied with declining status till 1911. It was then restored as far as possible to its original condition, nothing old being removed, and only essential modern additions being made. The Garret suffered severe damage in the air raids of 1940 and 1941, and by a flying bomb in 1944."

    The guide book is interesting but clinical. If anyone is interested the whole thing can be found

    The most interesting part of the house was the original dictionary. The feeling that almost overwhelmed me as I stood in that small room where the Dictionary was composed can only be described as reverence. Surly this, i thought, is the feeling that the Templars got when they took the Temple of Solomon. A feeling of gratitude, awe, and calm, then as I looked around the room that contained the great book I felt small, scared, and without a purpose. Johnson had survived his wife during this process, he had shunned his friends and lived on the most meager foods; and for good reason, I in my tiny life had done nothing to compare. As I left the room I was filled with a hint of purpose, not inspiration for what to do, but rather the idea that I needed to do something, had I been 30 it would have been a mid-life-crisis, but this, so early in life must be called, not a crisis, but an awakening. The feeling stayed with me as I walked out the house and back to my hotel, but later that night, filled with my grand purpose to achieve something; I drifted to sleep as I did any other night. Save for this moment, I have not felt it since.
    Last edited by Ashurbanipal; 11-06-2008 at 02:25 PM.

  2. #2
    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
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    Sep 2012
    Somewhere in the South East of England
    There's a nice statue in the square outside of Hodge, Dr Johnson's cat, sitting on a copy of the Dictionary with an empty oyster shell. Boswell says Johnson used personally to buy oysters for Hodge to ensure his servants didn't resent having to do work for a cat. Gough Square is a pedestrian precinct.
    Previously JonathanB

    The more I read, the more I shall covet to read. Robert Burton The Anatomy of Melancholy Partion3, Section 1, Member 1, Subsection 1

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