Hello my silent internet friends! Nice to talk at you again. Let’s do this!
Dr. Johnson’s House
This lovely brick house was home to the famous Dr. Samuel Johnson! It is four floors of period rooms and pithy Johnson quotes. Johnson was the compiler of the first ever dictionary and a prolific writer. He is (reportedly) the second most quoted author in the english language – after Shakespeare.
I managed to visit just after they opened so I was able to get some nice photos of the place with no other humans in it! Not sure if that’s how museums want to look- aka EMPTY.
So, I admit I did not know much about Johnson or his life history. But I can now say I KNOW A LOT. Each room has laminated info sheets so you can go at your own pace. The man in the photo above is thought to be Johnson’s servant and friend, Francis Barber. Barber was a freed slave and was sort of given to Johnson as a child. Johnson was rather unusual in his day and actual sent Francis to school and treated him like a human (wow the bar was low). There was a really nice info sheet about the black community in London. There’s been a substantial and traceable one here since the 1550s or so!
I always like houses to address social history and its ills and Francis Barber was placed in the Parlour of the museum- nice and prominent. The cabinet doors in the photo above were apparently for those powdered Wigs!
Upstairs was a fancy room- partially because it was easier to keep clean! It discussed Johnson’s circle of friends including members of the Bluestockings (aka badass women who demanded to be educated and taken seriously as scholars) like Lady Montagu, Elizabeth Carter, Frances Reynolds (sister of the more famous Joshua) and Fanny Burney. Dudes he knew included David Garrick aka the proprietor of the Drury Lane Theatre! They even have one of his costume trunks. The room has nifty moveable walls that could divide it into a drawing room, a salon and a hall landing.
The house is on a nice little square in the City of London. You’ll notice that the City is capitalised. It specifically refers to an area called the Square Mile or the old part of town. Today it is home to a lot of the banking and finance businesses which means it is pretty dead on the weekends.
The lighting was really nice. On the top floor they have rotating exhibitions. The one I saw was about Shakespeare as it’s his 400th year anniversary and Johnson wrote an important critique/ analysis of his plays. What I learned most about Johnson was that he was always short on cash and basically wrote CONSTANTLY in order to stay afloat.
Also, some of you more savvy internet people may recognise his portrait as he is a meme. I think he’d approve.
Pros: Great location, nice collection (one of his original dictionaries! and facsimiles you can flip through), well organised curation- it really flowed well as a whole. Nice little shop and awesome dress up station (for kids and adults!), multiple events ongoing including reading groups. I like that it never shied from his faults or society’s.
Cons: Not wheelchair accessible at all! There are also not very many places to sit. The kitchen was not on display- and you all know that I adore kitchens. No cafe. Kids may get a bit bored
Insider tip- make sure to read the signs outside as you must press the buzzer in order to be let in! Also it cost 50p to take photos.