Usually I (we) don’t celebrate Valentine’s day. Our reasons? The usual, ‘It’s commercialised,’ ‘It’s a waste of money,’ ‘I don’t need one day to show you how much I love you,’ etc. etc…
But… but… this year was the exception. Mainly because there was something that sparked my interest that I really wanted to do we were feeling romantic. So, we did this candlelit tour because I wanted to do we love each other and wanted to express that love.
In all seriousness, when I saw the ‘Tales of Dr Johnson and Love’ twilight, candlelit tour advertised on Twitter I couldn’t resist. As soon as I could I booked two tickets for the 6pm slot.
Treat yourself or someone special this Valentine’s Day and join the Curator to explore Johnson’s complex views on love, bringing to light his relations with ‘the fairer sex’.
For those of you who don’t know, or think you don’t know (because you’ve most probably heard of him), Dr Samuel Johnson is famous for compiling the Dictionary of the English Language in nine years. When you put this into comparison with the forty academics in France working on a similar project, who it took forty years to complete – this is an impressive feat. Johnson also published essays, poetry and novellas.
We got there a little early and sat in the little courtyard which is still modelled on it’s Great Fire of London layout, although it had to be re-built after the Second World War. Next to the wooden benches is a statue of Hodge, Johnson’s cat who is famous for wandering around the area.
“Marriage has many pains, celibacy has no pleasures.”
I’m not sure how many people there were and to be honest, I was expecting it to be full of couples, which it wasn’t. It was nice. There was a mother with her two daughters, and a few people who had come on their own. I’m glad it was like that, not too lovey dovey and all.
The night’s theme was clearly love – but all forms of love (fourteen definitions of which can be found in Johnson’s dictionary) that Johnson felt towards the women in his life, ranging from his wife to close friends. Johnson’s wife was twenty years his senior and she died whilst Johnson lived in 17 Gough Square. She was the first woman spoken about on our tour. Elizabeth ‘Tetty’ Porter had been widowed and had three children before she married Johnson. Interestingly, it was assumed that Johnson would marry her daughter, who he was similarly aged with, however, he found her dull and lacking in conviction – he much preferred the confident Tetty.
“Marriage is the best state for man in general, and every man is a worst man in proportion to the level he is unfit for marriage.”
We learnt about Johnson’s relationship with Francis Barber, who became his family after Tetty’s death. This relationship, sheds light on how much Johnson should be respected historically as an individual and not just an intellectual (I’ll write more on that another day).
I really enjoyed the tour, and although this is quite a short post, there is a lot more to say about the man. I will definitely be going back during the day and having a look around – then I’ll be able to write a lot more about Dr Johnson and his amazing life.
Entrance for adults to the house is £6, it’s definitely worth it, you can buy tickets here. An upcoming special event is based on the house and two fires of London in 1666 and 1940.