Two Tales of a City: London in Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist and Samuel Johnson’s London

Document Type: Original Article


Assistant Professor of English Language and Literature, Faculty of Literature and Humanities, University of Guilan, Rasht, Iran


Adopting a descriptive-analytical method, this paper aims to examine the representations of London in Ben Jonson’s early seventeenth-century play The Alchemist and Samuel Johnson’s mid-eighteenth-century poem London. The texts’ treatment of London is marked by the authors’ critical view of the city. Jonson’s drama depicts life in his native London mainly to satirize it. Likewise, Samuel Johnson’s poem denounces London life for what he thinks to be its immorality, anarchy and corruption. However, both authors seem to have been fascinated with London at the same time: while Jonson’s interest is evident from his detailed listing of city sites, Samuel Johnson gradually reconciles himself to London to finally declare it to be the city that houses all that one may wish for.