Here we are, joined by Dick Turpin, who has taken time out from his usual course of business to join us on our visit to Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum and Bookshop, Lichfield on the 7th November!
We were given a lovely welcome from one of the very enthusiatic guides working for the Museum who led us through its most charming house and giving all the fascinating and homely details of its most unlikely hero of the 18th century.
Samuel Johnson was not your average well-to-do Georgian gentleman. In his heyday, living in London, he was known to be somewhat untidy, even a bit dirty, with bad eyesight and poor skin, rather deaf and maybe suffering with bi-polar symptoms, but he had an extraordinary way with words and was therefore sought after by all the learned people of the day.
This led, amongst many other accomplishments, to his being the compiler of ‘Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language’, published on 15 April 1755. It was not the first dictionary, but it was the most complete and the first to include sources for words. The first edition of 2,000 was expensive, but it was quickly edited into more affordable concise editions, and it set the standard for the following 150 years. Copies of this dictionary are available to purchase even these days.
Johnson worked with a team of 'amanuenses', who took dictation or copied manuscripts for him . Work began in 1746 and Johnson expected it to take three years - it took nine! It made him famous, but not wealthy, and his fortunes did not change until in 1762 George III awarded him a pension of £300 a year.
Many events are arranged at the Museum and we were invited to come back to sample some of the delights of their Christmas celebrations over the weekend of the 1st and 2nd December - mulled wine being one of their specialities.
Photographs curtesy Eileen Donohoe and Janet Jordan (article photo)