Samuel Johnson – London’s greatest cheerleader

By in Famous Londoners

Samuel Johnson

No self respecting blog about London can fail to include Dr Johnson, who was responsible for the most quoted ‘quote’ of all about our great city….

“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life, for there is in London all that life can afford”

Samuel Johnson was an English writer and critic, and one of the most famous literary figures of the 18th century. Next to William Shakespeare, he is probably the most quoted of all English writers.


Dr Johnsons dictionary








His best-known work is his ‘Dictionary of the English Language’ which took him 9 years to write, finally published in 1755. Some of the definitions used by Johnson in the dictionary give a clue to the man’s forthright and controversial personality.

DULL:  To make dictionaries is dull work

OATS:  A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland appears to support the people.

Johnson had moved to London in 1737 and it’s fair to say, promptly fell in love with the city. He was a regular at many of the drinking establishments in the area, including the well known Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub in Fleet Street. An evening there  must have been entertaining!

“By seeing London, I have seen as much of life as the world can shew.”


Dr Johnson's house

Samuel Johnson lived in a house just off Fleet Street, between 1748-1759, where he wrote his famous Dictionary. Though the success of the dictionary bought Johnson fame, he was always in trouble for money. At one time he was arrested for an outstanding debt of £5.16  In 1763, he met James Boswell, a young Scottish lawyer, who wrote the  ‘Life of Johnson’ (published in 1791) which did much to spread Johnson’s name.

“If you are idle, be not solitary. If you are solitary, be not idle”


Dr Johnson blue plaque







Who would be the equivalent of Samuel Johnson today? He was a Satirist & Diarist, quick witted and famous for his pithy quotes. Today he would probably be an author, broadcaster and blogger. His tweets would have been memorable!


“One of the disadvantages of wine, is that it makes a man mistake words for thoughts!”


See Samuel Johnson’s house on a Secret London, Love London Taxi Tour!

Or visit: 17 Gough Square, London EC4A 3DE. Tel 353 3745