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Dr. Johnson's London: Coffee-Houses and Climbing Boys, Medicine,… (2000)

by Liza Picard

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
552736,142 (3.74)18
Like its popular and acclaimed predecessor Restoration London, this book is the result of the author's passionate interest in the practical details of the everyday life of our ancestors, so often ignored in more conventional history books. Based on every possible contemporary source - diaries, almanacs, newspapers, advice books, memoirs, government papers and reports - Liza Picard examines every aspect of life in London: the streets, houses and gardens; cooking, housework, laundry and shopping; clothes and jewellery, cosmetics and hairdressing; medicine, sex, hobbies, education and etiquette; religion and popular beliefs; law and crime. This book spans the years 1740 to 1770, starting when the gin craze was gaining ground and ending when the east coast of America was still British.… (more)
  1. 10
    Restoration London: Everyday Life in London 1660-1670 by Liza Picard (John_Vaughan)
  2. 00
    The Expedition of Humphry Clinker by Tobias Smollett (uncultured)
    uncultured: Surprisingly easy to read 18th century novel, written as a series of letters. The characters (and letter writers) include a cranky old maid; her nephew, a hotheaded young aristocra; his sister, an innocent romantic; and their gruff uncle, a country squire with a heart of gold. They travel about England, with especial emphasis on Bath and London, allowing the author [a physician) to point out just how disgusting even the highest society could be. Part travelogue, part comedy, part bittersweet commentary on age and family. Easily the equal of Henry Fielding.… (more)
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» See also 18 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
Useful survey of daily life in London at all levels of society. Based on much original research. There is perhaps too much anecdote and too little synthesis, but this does not pretend to be a work of deep scholarship ( )
  ponsonby | Sep 29, 2021 |
A fascinating book looking at London in the 18 Century. It is split into four sections, and split into lots of chapters covering all manner of subjects. The original source material is based on numerous books that Pickard has combined into this volume.

Parts of the book will make you shudder, especially the medical section. It bring home how bad things were in London in this time period, from the dirt, the smells, the adulterated food, the arbitrary justice and the polarisation between rich and poor.

If you like history and like London then you'll like this ( )
  PDCRead | Apr 6, 2020 |
What living was actually like in mid 18th C. London.
Read Oct 2004 ( )
  mbmackay | Nov 30, 2015 |
"When a man is tired of London he is tired of life;
for there is in London all that life can afford"

Samuel Johnson

Liza Picard is a lawyer by training who, since retirement, has written a series of social histories of London. As far as possible she uses primary sources for her books rather than other people's research (although this is unavoidable to some extent). Dr Johnson's London covers the period from 1740-1770 and focuses on the life of ordinary folk at the time; the lives of the poor and the middle class (known as the 'middling sort' at the time) take up the majority of the book with only a few brief chapters at the end devoted to the rich and upper class. This tries to cover a lot of ground in a relatively short book so it reads more like a collection of fascinating facts about the period rather than a more analytical work but Picard's style is often dryly humourous and I found the facts contained in the book very fascinating so I didn't really mind the lack of depth. Reading about the life of everyday folk in the mid-eighteenth century also made me feel very grateful that I was born at the end of the twentieth century!

A couple of minor criticisms: firstly a map of London at the time would have been wonderful; secondly, 75% of the endnotes printed at the back of the book were just references to her sources but about 25% of them contained amusing comments or anecdotes and there's no way to know which one a particular footnote will be without flipping to the back of the book. So, of course, I had to check every single footnote. It would have been so much better if the footnotes containing further information could have been incorporated into the main body of the text in some way.

I'd recommend this as an introduction to the period but not if you're looking for something with a lot of depth and analysis/commentary. ( )
4 vote souloftherose | Mar 25, 2012 |
New to Liza Picard's writing I so enjoyed this very readable historian I ordered the rest of her titles. The book portrays the lives of the common 'man in the street' as well as many facts of the period.

As a regular reader of History, I find Liza's slightly lighter approach refreshing - even her footnotes are humorous and enlighten the reader, rather than confuse.

A fascinating insight to the period and to more history on a city I love.
  John_Vaughan | Mar 15, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)

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When a man is tired of London he is tired of life;
for there is in London all that life can afford.
- Samuel Johnson
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Like its popular and acclaimed predecessor Restoration London, this book is the result of the author's passionate interest in the practical details of the everyday life of our ancestors, so often ignored in more conventional history books. Based on every possible contemporary source - diaries, almanacs, newspapers, advice books, memoirs, government papers and reports - Liza Picard examines every aspect of life in London: the streets, houses and gardens; cooking, housework, laundry and shopping; clothes and jewellery, cosmetics and hairdressing; medicine, sex, hobbies, education and etiquette; religion and popular beliefs; law and crime. This book spans the years 1740 to 1770, starting when the gin craze was gaining ground and ending when the east coast of America was still British.

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