The most popular quote about London is attributed to Dr. Samuel Johnson: "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; (and let's not forget the next part) for there is in London all that life can afford." It inflates the chest with imperial superiority, as one's lapels are grasped.
He moved to this house in Gough Square in 1748, where he stayed until 1759, writing numerous books and biographies and most importantly - his 'Dictionary of the English Language. The first dictionary, in any language.
Johnson’s house is one of remarkably few Georgian examples left in the City. It was restored at the turn of the 20th century by Cecil Harmsworth, an MP who described it as: "At the time of my purchase of the house in April 1911, it presented every appearance of squalor and decay…It is doubtful whether in the whole of London there existed a more forlorn or dilapidated tenement."
The interior of the present building is authentically atmospheric, with restored furnishings and panelling. It has a repuation for being hard to find, but really is easy enough as long as you approach it from the right direction (check the map below, which is right. The tourist marker square on Google maps is umm... wrong). From Fleet Street heading east, on the north side there is a small alley - Wine Office Court. Fifty metres on the alley opens into a square - Gough Square - with Dr. Johnson's House in the NW corner.
Opposite the house, is a small statue dedicated to Johnson's cat - Hodge.
If you need to wet your whistle, there's the nearby 'Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese' - probably as famous as Johnson himself. He regularly drank there (it's a handy fifty paces away) with other literati of the day. 'Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese' was the journalist's pub until the whole printing industry decamped to Docklands, in a pocket-lining scheme cooked up by Maggie Thatcher and Rupert Murdoch.
If you've hankering for Samuel Johnson's aphorisms today - he has a tribute act (so to speak) - on Twitter (@DrSamuelJohnson) . Where he Tweets on contemporary issues of the day - recently featured in Time magazine. The Inside Guide to London can testify he's still 'informed and informative in eq'ual partes', 300 years on.
Open Mon-Sat 11am-5.30pm (5pm in winter)
Admission Adults £4.50, Senior Citizens and Students £3.50, Children £1.50, Family Ticket £10.00
17 Gough Square, EC4A 3DE.
Temple or Chancery Lane Tube.
Call: 020 7353 3745