Samuel Johnson, 'Dr Johnson'

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The statue of Dr Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) which stands at the entrance of the North Quire Aisle was placed there in 1796.

It was paid for by a subscription started by the Literary Club, of which he had been a founder member, and which included a glittering array of writers, artists, and actors of the later 18th century.

The statue is by John Bacon, and shows a very idealised Johnson leaning on a column, dressed in antique drapes, and contemplating a scroll.

The face is furrowed with thought, and, though not handsome, it has been given a kind of dignity of feature which in reality the Doctor probably lacked. He was a prodigious figure, admired, feared and sometimes mocked (but never to his face).

He was born in the city of Lichfield, to a provincial bookseller, and became first a schoolmaster and then a journalist and writer in London, living a precarious life for many years.

His fortunes were changed by the English Dictionary which he began in 1747.

He was immensely sociable, and we know many of the extraordinary things which he uttered spontaneously in company because James Boswell, his friend and admirer took care to write them down over many years.

His circle included Mrs Thrale (with whom he was later to quarrel when she became, as a widow, Mrs Piozzi). His letters to her, published after his death, are prized among his many works.

Johnson's career was the literary success story of a sickly boy from the Midlands who by talent, tenacity, and intelligence became the foremost literary figure and the most formidable conversationalist of his time.

"The freedom with which Dr Johnson condemns whatever he disapproves is astonishing."