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Dr. Johnson's House

Dr. Johnson's House (120)

At number 17 Gough Square, a quiet and small square, which is located very close to the bustling Fleet Street, you will find a discreet Georgian house with its characteristic red brick facade. Next to the gate, you will see a gold plaque with the inscription: "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life ." You are at the home of Dr Samuel Johnson, the famous English writer and lexicographer, who lived in this typical house from the late seventeenth century from 1748 to 1759. 

Modest in terms of size and proportions, Johnson surely chose it for its large and well-lit attic, where he worked with his five secretaries on the drafting of his famous Dictionary of the English Language, which was published in 1755. During the nineteenth century, this house was used as a hotel, printing house and warehouse. It was not until 1911, when it was purchased by the media mogul, Cecil Harmsworth, that it was restored, owing to its dilapidated and ramshackle state, and eventually opened to the public in 1914. 

At present, you can visit the home of the man who is considered to be one of the fathers of the English language. Here you will find eighteenth-century furniture, manuscripts and special editions of his works, among which you will see a copy of his famous dictionary, which was written in this very house. You will also be able to see a collection of memorabilia and objects belonging to Dr Johnson or relating to his time. A tea set of his girlfriend, Mrs Thrale, as well as portraits of Johnson and his contemporaries, are worth noting.  

If you look closely, while on the square, opposite Dr Johnson's house you will see a statue of a cat. It is Hodge, Samuel Johnson's cat, who he seems to have been very fond of. Be it as it may, read what his good friend, James Boswell, tells us in his work, The Life of Samuel Johnson: "I never shall forget the indulgence with which he treated Hodge, his cat: for whom he himself used to go out and buy oysters, lest the servants having that trouble should take a dislike to the poor creature." What a treat for a cat, do not you think? The truth is that oysters at the time Hodge and Dr Johnson lived were not expensive, quite the opposite, they were even considered a poor man's food. The twists and turns of life are indeed amazing. But let us go back to the sculpture. The bronze statue, which has immortalised Hodge, is the work of British sculptor, Jon Bickley, another lover of cats and other animals, and was inaugurated in 1997 by the Mayor of London. The statue shows Hodge sitting on a dictionary next to some empty oyster shells, his favourite dish. If you want to take a picture with such an endearing statue, the sculptor has made it easy for you, as Hodge's back should be at the height of your shoulder, so you can caress or hug him easily. Everything will depend on your height, of course! 

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