This wonderful house, built in 1700, is a rare surviving example of a Georgian city mansion. It has been preserved, as it was the home of the great Georgian wit Samuel Johnson, the author of the first serious dictionary of the English language and the man who proclaimed ‘When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life’.
Filled with antique furniture and artefacts from Johnson’s life, the house is an atmospheric and worthy place to visit. The numerous paintings of Dr Johnson and his associates, including his black manservant Francis Barber and his clerk and biographer James Boswell, are, sadly, not particularly revealing of the great minds who would have considered the building a home away from home. A more revealing object in the parlour is a chair from Johnson’s local pub, the Old Cock Tavern on Fleet St. On display in the 2nd-floor library is a copy of the first edition of the dictionary from 1755.
There are leaflets describing how the lexicographer and six clerks (Boswell wasn’t among them, yet) developed the first English dictionary in the house’s attic during the period he lived here from 1748 to 1759. Children will love the Georgian dress-up clothes on the top floor, and there are also temporary exhibits (mostly facsimile dictionaries) in the attic.
Out in Gogh Square fronting the house is a modern statue of Johnson's cat, Hodge, haughtily eating oysters. Below him is the full quote explaining why a man who is tired of London is also tired of life: ‘For there is in London all that life can afford’.