In A Human Moment

Miscellany from the 19th century

The Ghosts of Gough Square






Every little court and alley in this part of London has its colony of ghosts, and wandering among them I would certainly, sooner or later, stumble upon Gough Square. It is not too easy to find. I usually enter it by Wine Office Court, in which is located the Cheshire Cheese, that famous eating-place which only became firmly identified with Dr. Johnson after his death, because I like to pass and frequently enter the one quaint old tavern which remains exactly as most London taverns were a century or two ago, and because tradition says that Goldsmith lived in this court when he wrote The Vicar of Wakefield.
Reaching the top of this narrow channel and turning sharply to the left, one faces the famous house, Number 17, the house in which Dr. Johnson lived for ten years from 1748 to 1759, during which he compiled  the greater part of the Dictionary and wrote innumerable “Ramblers” and “The Vanity of Human Wishes”; from which he dispatched his smashing letter to Lord Chesterfield, and to which he returned  “unshaken as the monument ” after the failure of his play, Irene. It is the house, too, in which his wife died and in which, in all likelihood, he wrote Rasselas. It is not an amusing fiction, but I quite agree with the judgment of Christopher North, that “it is a noble performance in design and in execution,” and that never were the expenses of a mother’s funeral more gloriously defrayed by a son than the funeral of Samuel Johnson’s mother by the price of Rasselas, written for the pious purpose of laying her head decently and honourably in the dust.”

The Graphic (London, England), Saturday, December 30, 1893; Issue 1257.

The Graphic (London, England), Saturday, December 30, 1893; Issue 1257.


Text from Newton, A. Edward. “The Ghosts of Gough Square in The Greatest Book in the World and other papers 1925


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