London History Bulletin – January 12

January 12, 1763 – the night James Boswell made love five times to actress Louisa. Play-by-play commentary from the London History Bulletin.


London calling.

London Walks connecting.

London Walks here with your daily London fix.

Story time. History time.

Oh what the hell, we might as well. It’s partly that I’ve got a couple of heavy writing and guiding days ahead of me, so this one’s going to have to be pretty much a reading one. And here’s our jumping-off point.

It was exactly 260 years ago tonight that 22-year-old James Boswell did it five times with an actress named Louisa. Well, there are worse ways I suppose to get through a January night in Georgian London. Though it must have been fairly strenuous, even for a 22-year-old. He was very proud of his achievement. So proud he set it all out in an extraordinary diary entry. Which we’re about to get. Be good to know more about Louisa. But, alas, all we know about her is her night of amours with the future biographer of the great Dr Samuel Johnson. We know a great deal about Boswell, thanks to his letters and diaries and private papers. And of course the write-ups he gives himself in what is generally regarded as the greatest biography in the English language.

I daresay, it’s certainly arguable that we know rather more about Boswell than we’d like to know. That he contracted venereal disease 17 times, for example. Testosterone for brains, I’d say. You see it at the end of this diary entry. I guess the word for it is over-sexed. I mean, five times, you’d think he’d be shagged out. But sure enough, his mind starts to wander… But not toward the lovely Louisa. Here’s the diary entry. 

From your ringside seat in Louisa’s boudoir, everybody’s blushes concealed by the friendly curtain of darkness

Concealed by the friendly curtain of darkness, from your ringside seat in Louisa’s boudoir, you’ve been listening to the London History Bulletin for January 12th. 

You’ve been listening to the Today in London History bulletin.

 Emanating from – home of London Walks, London’s signature walking tour company. London’s local, time-honoured, fiercely independent, family-owned, just-the-right-size walking tour company. And as long as we’re at it, London’s multi-award-winning walking tour company. Indeed, London’s only award-winning walking tour company.

And here’s the secret: London Walks is essentially run as a guides’ cooperative. 

That’s the key to everything. It’s the reason we’re able to attract and keep the best guides in London. You can get schlubbers to do this for £20 a walk. But you cannot get world-class guides – let alone accomplished professionals.

It’s not rocket science: you get what you pay for. And just as surely, you also get what you don’t pay for. 

Back in 1968 when we got started we quickly came to a fork in the road. We had to answer a searching question: Do we want to make the most money? Or do we want to be the best walking tour company in the world? You want to make the most money you go the schlubbers route. You want to be the best walking tour company in the world you do whatever you have to do to attract and keep the best guides in London – you want them guiding for you, not for somebody else. Bears repeating: the way we’re structured – a guides’ cooperative – is the key to the whole thing. It’s the reason for all those awards, it’s the reason people who know go with London Walks, it’s the reason we’ve got a big following, a lively, loyal, discerning following – quality attracts quality.

It’s the reason we’re able – uniquely – to front our walks with accomplished, in many cases distinguished professionals: barristers, doctors, geologists, museum curators, archaeologists, historians, criminal defence lawyers, Royal Shakespeare Company actors, a bevy of MVPs, Oscar winners (people who’ve won the Guide of the Year Award)… well, you get the idea. As that travel writer famously put it, “if this were a golf tournament, every name on the Leader Board would be a London Walks guide.”

And as we put it: London Walks Guides make the new familiar and the familiar new.

And on that agreeable note…come then, let us go forward together on some great London Walks. See ya tomorrow.

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