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INTRODUCTION

(BEING A CHAPTER ON JOHNSON'S LONDON HAUNTS

TH

AND HABITATIONS.)

HAT Dr. Johnson frequently began his sentences with "Sir" is a statement to be safely hazarded. But that he said—“Sir, let us take a walk down Fleet Street," is, it seems, a mere invention, unvouched for by Boswell.1 And yet, though uncanonical, it is not of necessity apocryphal. The Doctor, in all probability, did utter something of the sort, although his "faithful chronicler" has omitted to record it. For Fleet Street-that chronicler assures us-was his "favourite street," and there is abundant evidence that he would have preferred it even to the Vale of Tempé. If, by chance, his now-unsubstantial shade should

"anywhere linger,

Touching impalpable posts with an imperceptible finger"—

it must assuredly be between Temple Bar and Ludgate Hill,— Ludgate Hill, which, in his day, showed no obstructing viaduct to bar the prospect of St. Paul's. How that ghost must marvel at the

1 In Sala's Journal for 2nd July, 1892, the late Mr. G. A. Sala confessed that he had concocted this characteristic and highly-popular proposal as a motto for the magazine called Temple Bar, which he founded in December, 1860. Temple Bar still flourishes, but the counterfeit quotation has long since disappeared from its cover. Johnson did, however, say to Mr. Hoole in 1783,—“Let you and I, Sir, go together, and eat a beef-steak in Grub-street,"-where, strangely enough, and despite the definition in the Dictionary, he had never been before.

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almost daily vicissitudes of our vanishing London! Temple Bar itself, through which he was wont to pass with Goldsmith, has been translated to a park in Hertfordshire; and the famous clock of St. Dunstan's, audible of yore from his Gough Square garret, now strikes the half hours and quarters, without its group of admirers, in the garden of a suburban villa. No. 17, Gough Square, where he lived so long, still remains; but his Bolt Court house is gone, and huge buildings have effaced what was once " Dr. Johnson's Staircase in Inner Temple Lane. The "Cheshire Cheese" Tavern, which, oddly enough, is never mentioned by his biographer, continues to preserve his memory and his wonted seat; but the "Cock" has changed sides, and the "Devil" is no more. St. Bride's Church, where his friend Richardson lies buried, is much the same as ever; but one if not both of Richardson's houses in Salisbury Square have gone the way of bricks and mortar. These are only a few of the changes that have come to pass, and it may open a neglected page in a well-worn volume if, in this prefatory paper, an attempt is made to recall some of Johnson's London haunts and habitations, before they and their memories are "blotted from the things that be."

In such a survey, the places where he actually lived naturally claim our first attention; and of these, fortunately, he gave a list to Boswell in his seventieth year, when he was already occupying his last residence, No. 8, Bolt Court. Before he came to London in March, 1737, with Garrick and the historical twopence-halfpenny, he had apparently never visited it since, as a child of two and a half, he had been brought from Lichfield to town by his mother to be touched for the evil by her Majesty Queen Anne. At this date, he says in his own "Account of his Life," he stayed with Nicholson, "the famous bookseller in Little Britain,"-in all likelihood his father's friend. It was probably to the same bookish neighbourhood (where Dorset years before had bought an unsaleable work called Paradise Lost) that he gravitated in 1737, since Wilcox, who bade him buy a porter's knot, was also at one time a Little Britain bookseller. But his first definitely recorded lodging was in Exeter Street, Strand, at the house of Mr. Norris, a staymaker. Here, upon the lines laid down by an Irish painter he had known in Birmingham, he practised the art of living in a garret at eighteenpence a week; and here, too, according

to Murphy, he composed for the Gentleman's Magazine that speech of Pitt, which enthusiasts compared to the masterpieces of Demosthenes. How long he lived in Exeter Street, or whether he quitted and returned to it, is not known; but in July, 1737, he was lodging in Church Street, Greenwich, next door to the now non-existent Golden Heart. At Greenwich he proceeded with his play of Irene, three acts of which he had already completed; and he told Boswell that he used to work at it as he walked in the Park. At the end of 1737, he had rooms with Mrs. Johnson, who had then joined him, in "Woodstock Street, near Hanover Square" (it lies between New Bond Street and South Molton Street); and hence he moved to No. 6, Castle Street. Castle Street, then described as Castle Street, Cavendish Square, is now known as Castle Street East, Oxford Street and runs at the back of the Princess's Theatre. At No. 36, where there is a Society of Arts tablet, lived later Barry the painter; and No. 6 (which in December, 1900, was in process of demolition) stood on the same side as Barry's, but higher up, and next the Hotel York in Newman Street. It was from Castle Street that Johnson issued his proposals for the never fully-completed translation of the History of the Council of Trent of Sarpi, Macaulay's "favourite modern historian," which proposals, according to the Weekly Miscellany for 21st October, 1738, were to be had of (among others) "the Translator, at No. 6, in Castle-street, by Cavendish-square." Here, again, he wrote his poem of London; and from a letter he sent from the provinces to his wife, it seems that the landlady's name was Mrs. Crow. This letter, which belongs to Mr. W. R. Smith of Greatham Moor, West Liss, Hants, is the document where he styles Mrs. Johnson, who was within a few days of fifty-one, and twenty years older than himself, his "dear Girl," and tells her that Irene, which had been finished, was at last become "a kind of Favourite among the Players." At Castle Street he first made the acquaintance of Reynolds, whom he met at the house of his opposite neighbours, the two Miss Cotterells (daughters of Admiral Cotterell), to whom he had been introduced by Joseph Baretti.

For the next ten years the traces of Johnson's dwelling-places are

The No. 6 nearly opposite No. 36 is not No. 6 Castle Street, but No. 6 Winsley Street.

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few and far between. According to the list already quoted, he lived in the Strand, and then in Boswell Court,1 which, before the erection of the New Law Courts, ran from Carey Street to the back of St Clement Danes. In March, 1741, he had lodgings "at the Black Boy,' over against Durham Yard,"-a locality which has long since given place to the Adelphi; afterwards at Bow Street, and in Holborn. In his Prayers and Meditations he refers to "a good night's rest he once enjoyed in Fetter Lane, which comes next on the list. Then he is in Holborn again at another tavern, the "Golden Anchor," Holborn Bars. But of all these, there is no sufficient record; and the fullest particulars have been preserved in regard to a residence which is not in his own list, though, like the rest, it seems to have been only a passing home. This is a cottage at Hampstead, which, under the name of Priory Lodge, was still said to exist in an enlarged and altered form, as late as May, 1899. Johnson himself describes it as a "small house beyond the church," and Park, the local antiquary, who may be relied upon, as "the last in Frognall (southward)." Park says that in 1818 it was occupied by a Mr. Stephenson. Its name of Priory Lodge was probably derived from a sham-Gothic structure in its neighbourhood known as Frognal Priory, which disappeared in 1876. In Priory Lodge Johnson undoubtedly lived during part of 1748, and his wife much longer. Here he wrote the greatest part of the Vanity of Human Wishes; and Boswell dwells effusively on the "fervid rapidity" with which that performance was produced. "I have heard him say, that he composed seventy lines of it in one day, without putting one of them upon paper till they were finished." Compared with the five couplets of the Deserted Village, which Goldsmith thought "no bad morning's work," this is certainly a good deal. But nowadays we should not readily agree with Johnson's biographer in regarding it as "scarcely credible."

Early in 1749, Johnson went to live permanently at No. 17 Gough Square. This, which is in many respects the most interesting of his London residences, is still in existence, and it is marked by a Society of Arts tablet. Gough Square lies on the north side of Fleet Street, from which it is entered either through Hind Court or

1 Boswell Court was not named after James Boswell.

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