Samuel Johnson, the writer, lexicographer and wit, was born on 18 September 1709. Johnson visited Brighton on several occasions in the late eighteenth century, as his friends Henry and Hester Thrale owned a house at the bottom of West Street.
Unfortunately, Johnson does not appear to have enjoyed the town. After his death, Hester (named Piozzi following her second marriage) published Anecdotes of the Late Samuel Johnson in 1786. There she records that Johnson once remarked that Brighton was:
‘so truly desolate… that if one had a mind to hang one’s self for desperation at being obliged to live there, it would be difficult to find a tree on which to fasten the rope’
Clearly, he was not one of those who regarded Brighton as ‘London by the sea’….