Punch,  57 (1869), 190, 193.

Dr. Johnson on the New Bridge



Drama, Drollery


Engineering, Architecture, Controversy

    Following the recent opening of Joseph Cubitt's new Blackfriars Bridge this drama consists of an exchange between Queen Victoria, several 'Citizens', Samuel Johnson, and Joseph Cubitt. Cubitt explains that in 1759, when the City of London 'determined to build a bridge at Blackfriars, many schemes were laid before the authorities, one of them, I may observe, by the illustrious Smeaton', although the 'favoured competitor was a young Scot, named Robert Mylne who proposed a bridge of nine elliptical arches'. Johnson then explains the ellipse to some citizens, and Cubitt responds by explaining that Johnson was engaged in a controversy with Mylne, the man of letters having 'great regard' for Mylne's rival, John Gwynn. In the midst of Johnson's pedantic comments on Cubitt's vocabulary and grammar, Cubitt praises Johnson for his 'marvellous mastery' of a topic (bridge building) foreign to his 'habitual investigations'. (190) The discussion then turns to the foundations of the Pitt Bridge which originally spanned the River Thames at Blackfriars, and which, according to Cubitt, was opened in November 1769. Queen Victoria agrees that it is fitting that Johnson should witness the opening of a bridge which has replaced the decaying and ruined bridge which he criticised, although Johnson points out that he believed Mylne's bridge 'might have endured many years longer, but for the removal of Old London Bridge, and the liberation of the vast flow of waters restricted by those nineteen arches'. (193)

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