Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Visit to Dr. Johnson's in London


While in London I had the pleasure of dropping in at Dr. Johnson's pad, which I had never been to. I know based on the bloggings of Mrs. Woffitngton, who is based in Litchfield, that the famous author's birthplace is usually bubbling over with activity, especially with this year marking his 300th birthday. I had expected the same of Johnson's London home.

Although the house was impressive enough in being a fairly unchanged Georgian townhouse, it really had nothing more to boast of. As I walked through the creaky house I couldn't help but think about how incredibly empty it was. It was void of any signs of living, only a few chairs here or there. When I walk into historical homes I like to picture how its inhabitants lived there. A couch and tea table over here, a portrait they really liked there; Johnson's house did not have this. Rooms would have historical prints of Johnson's circle with information, or a few of his letters. One room even displayed a pair of glasses that were similar to what Johnson would have worn. Of course there was a campy video of Johnson giving a tour of his house which was on loop, and some Georgian clothes for children (or bored art historians) to try on, but not too much else. Did Johnson get rid of all his worldly possessions when he died? My advice is to walk by it if your on Fleet Street, but don't waste your money going in.

That money can be better speant here: The Olde Cock Pub. This was Sam's local pub, where he spent much of his time. Although we found this out at Johnson's house because they had the chair he always sat in while at the pub, we had an easier time picturing the man himself in this setting than at his own home.

12 comments:

Polonaise said...

I rather enjoyed his house, but it was several years ago and I am rather keen on houses. But I hope you saw the bronze statue of his cat outside---with the oysters. Classic!

I hate to ask (just in case you didn't make it and are feeling bitter), but did you get a chance to see the Wallace Collection?

Polonaise said...

Hodge! I was trying to remember the name of his cat.

I also would have thought that there'd be some interesting exhibit/memorabilia, considering 2009 and the 300th celebrations.

Heather Carroll said...

Yes! The Wallace is a must see. They aren't having any exhibitions on at this time because they're revamping some of their rooms, but the majority of the artwork is still on display. I was disappointed that the large Gainsborough of Perdita wasn't on display when were there, but luckily the smaller ones were!

Heather Carroll said...

Yes I was expecting there to be some sort of acknowledgment of it, but there was none!

Eliza Ward said...

That's where you and I differ. I love furniture, but I also love empty houses. It really depends on the quality of the interpretation, I suppose. There are a few study houses in the Boston and I love them. But then, I like the bare walls and saying "Ooh, those are seventeenthcentury bricks!" But if the guide/panels don't enlighten you at all, it isn't as fun. The Gedney House in Salem is great because all of the replacement beams from the restoration have been painted green, so you can tell right away which are older, and you can also see the original wall paint. In fact, the guide pointed out that the paint has a decorative pattern, which indicates, contrary to common opinion, that even middle-class Salemites in the 17th century would have not just painted but used paint patterns on their walls. Here is the Gedney House's site. Sorry to have gotten so off-subject!

Heather Carroll said...

No worries, it's not off topic! I like the idea of the restored beams being a different color, and I know I've seen something like that somewhere else, Greece I think. But I like being able to differentiate what is old and what is new.

Eliza Ward said...

Thanks! I tend to get a little over-excited when it comes to historic houses!

By the way, I've given you the Proximade Award! Congrats!

Judy said...

I had the same impression of emptiness when I visited Hogarth's house in Chiswick...not much there but some repros of his priceless print series. I didn't feel the presence of the great man. However, as I left and asked for a lunch recommendation in the neighborhood the attendant said "Please, just help yourself to the mulberries on the tree outside the entrance". Good advice since I couldn't find my way back to the high street!!

Thanks for the scoop on another historic London residence.

Very few can compare to Sir John Soane's House but then it was built as a a gallery wasn't it?

Heather Carroll said...

I loved Soan's House!! We also visited that one, and I was thinking of posting a review, but where to even begin!

Polonaise said...

Soan's house is unique and wonderful. Did you get a chance to see the Van Dyke show at the Tate? I ask, because you inspired me to take a jaunt of my own and I'm actually leaving in a few days. Yikes! I think it would be well worth the while, but with so little time and so much to do, I feel a real time squeeze.

Heather Carroll said...

Wow that's so exciting!! Good for you being spontaneous, if we all waited to be able to "afford" a trip, we'd never go anywhere! Lauren and I unfortunately did not make it to the Van Dyke exhibit, which would have been fabulous to see. Once again, there was so much to do (which we did!) in so little time. Curse our need for afternoon tea! When do you leave?

Polonaise said...

I leave on the 3rd, hence the yikes-ing. I'm not generally so spur of the moment. I'm a planner--so I can cram as much in as possible and walk my poor feet to bloody stumps. But I had a vacation due to me and the price sure was right. Plus, you've done most of my planning for me ;)

I have a fatal love for cream teas. I don't really need all the little sandwiches (though I just adore watercress), just give me scones and Devon cream and maybe some jam or lemon curd. I could eat it every day. And do, when I'm there.


Mmmm...clotted cream....