Johnson Statue by Richard Cockle Lucas. 1838. Seated statue of Dr Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), who was born in Lichfield, on a "Greek Revival chair" (listing text) with a row of volumes beneath it, reminding us of all the books he read, and all those he consulted to produce his dictionary. Ashlar stone on a substantial stone plinth with torus moulding to base (see Noszlopy and Waterhouse 86). Market Place, beside St Mary's Church, Lichfield, Staffordshire.

Left: Whole statue. Right: Closer view of Johnson's face. The statue was presented to the city” by James Thomas Law, Chancellor of Lichfield Cathedral, and shows Johnson in the traditional posture of a thinking man. This is particularly suitable to Johnson too because of the "somewhat melancholy mood of the work" (Noszlopy and Waterhouse 274).

Left to right: (a) Relief showing Johnson "listening to Dr. Sacheverel preaching." Johnson is the little not-quite-three-year-old sitting on his father's shoulders, awed” by the great preacher in nearby Lichfield Cathedral. (b) Detail of relief showing Johnson's schoolfellows carrying the clever child from school ("Thus he was borne from school"). (c) Relief showing Johnson's "Penanace in Uttoxeter Market," when he suffered at the thought that he had refused to help his father at his market-stall many years before.

These shallow reliefs, after the manner of Donatello's Schiacciato (see listing text), each illustrate touching and well-known stories relating to Johnson's life. Lucas is said to have been "at his best in his smaller works" (Noszlopy and Waterhouse 274), and perhaps these reliefs count as such. At any rate, they are full of character, and very distinctive — though sadly worn now. There are two inscriptions on the rear, one commemorating Dr Law's original gift of the statue, the other commemorating the 200th anniversary of Johnson's death.

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Photographs and text by Jacqueline Banerjee, 2012. [You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one. Click on the images for larger pictures.]


"Dr Johnson Statue, Lichfield". British Listed Buildings. Web. 19 September 2012.

Noszlopy, George T., and Fiona Waterhouse. Public Sculpture of Staffordshire and the Black Country. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2005. Print.

Raby, Joseph Thomas. Bi-Centenary of the Birth of Dr. Samuel Johnson. J & C. Mort, 1908. Internet Archive. 19 September 2012.

Last modified 19 September 2012