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IN THE NEWS
TOUR OF THE MONTH
ON THIS DAY IN LONDON
Where Boswell met Johnson
The place where James Boswell met Samuel Johnson in 1763.
Location: 8 Russell Street, Covent Garden, WC2B 5HZ
Description: Boswell's Cafe occupies the place where James Boswell's Bookshop (run by his friend Thomas Davies) used to be. Famously it was here that Samuel Johnson met James Boswell in 1763, thus beginning a long and fruitful friendship. The two became friends and made a noted trip together around the Scottish Hebrides.
In 1778 Boswell was declared bankrupt but he was helped out by Dr. Johnson, as well as a performance to his benefit at Drury Lane Theatre.
In his later years he wrote the popular Life of Garrick (1780) and Dramatic Miscellanies (1785) and Boswell wrote the acclaimed biography of Johnson 'Life of Johnson' published in 1791.
In his Life of Johnson James Boswell noted that since the Doctor's death he had never passed this house without feelings of 'reverence and regret'. Boswell also met and hosted a dinner for Oliver Goldsmith in the backroom here in 1762.
Boswell described the meeting in The Life of Johnson as: 'When I was sitting in Mr Davies's back-parlour, after having drunk tea with him and Mrs Davies, Johnson unexpectedly came into the shop; and Mr Davies having perceived him through the glass-door in the room in which we were sitting, advancing towards us,he announced his aweful approach to me, somewhat in the manner of an actor in the part of Horatio, when he addresses Hamlet on the appearance of his father's ghost, Look, my Lord, it comes . Mr Davies mentioned my name, and respectfully introduced me to him. I was much agitated; and recollecting his prejudice against the Scotch, of which I had heard much, I said to Davies, Don't tell him where I come fromFrom Scotland, cried Davies, roguishly. Mr Johnson, (said I) I do indeed come from Scotland, but I cannot help it. [Johnson] retorted, That, Sir, I find, is what a very great many of your countrymen cannot help. This stroke stunned me a good deal, and when we had sat down I felt myself not a little embarrassed and apprehensive of what might come next. He then addressed himself to Davies: What do you think of Garrick? He has refused me an order for the play for Miss Williams because he knows the house will be full and that an order would be worth three shillings. Eager to take any opening to get into conversation with him, I ventured to say, O, Sir, I cannot think Mr Garrick would grudge such a trifle to you. Sir, said he with a stern look, I have known David Garrick longer than you have done, and I know no right you have to talk to me on the subject.'
There is a blue plaque to commemorate the occasion here.