Reading reflections in the Bookinglass

An expat with a love of fiction

Samuel Johnson’s House

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IMG_1072In a square tucked away just off Fleet Street, London, stands the pretty inocuous house once inhabited by Samuel Johnson. Otherwise known as the mysterious, and catchy, ‘The House of Words.’ Don’t worry, I didn’t have a clue who he was either. I initially feigned some knowledge when two friends I asked to accompany me to this place enthusiastically told me,

‘Wow! That’s the guy who wrote the first English Dictionary.’

Yeeesss…I think that’s him. Now I have visited his house though, turned into a cosy musuem, I can say a lot more. He’s the one who said,

‘When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life,’

which  sums up his quick-witted personality and verbose nature. He wasn’t too posh during his life though, I gather that he is remembered most not for his dictionary (not the first, by the way, but the best since the first and only took him 9 years to compile, the French took 40+ years),  but because he was a friendly, humerous and intelligent man with many varied acquaintances. Kind of like a Stephen Fry of the 18th Century. He knew thrilling people including murderers, actors and courtesans, but also invited the original circle of ‘bluestockings‘, women with a keen desire to be seen as equal to men in intellectual discussions, to his house for literary, political and philosophical debate.

I think the highlight of the place is the creaky wooden floorboards, and the twisting, narrow staircase. Watching the way everyone walks around as if Sammy J himself is in the room nearby sleeping, is also amusing. We had a few tittles at the sign ‘Please do not sit on this wooden chest it belonged to David Garrick.’

Do not go if you don’t enjoy reading though, as it is only though the info sheets that the house and Sam can be understood.

On the tube, to and from the house I was reading Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies. More on what I read before and after my encounter with Samuel Johnson will follow on the next post.

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Written by bookinglass

August 28, 2009 at 11:53 pm

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