advertisement

A rare surviving middle-class home from the 18th century (built in 1700), this slouching and brick-faced abode happens to be that of the famous lexicographer Samuel. He lived here from 1748 to 1759. If you’re hoping to learn a lot about him, you’ll have to spring for a book in the gift shop. Little substance is provided in the house itself, which fortunately merits some mild interest on its own terms (the corkscrew latch on the front door, which prevented lock-picking from above, is an example). The rooftop garret in which Johnson and his six helpers toiled to publish the first comprehensive English dictionary was burned out in the Blitz, ironically, by a barrel of burning ink which flew out of a bombed warehouse; you can still see some scorch marks on the ceiling timbers. Ink defined the house and nearly destroyed it, but it also saved it, because the printers who used it in the intervening years boarded up the walls, preserving them. While you’re here, pop round the corner to the wonderful Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub. Dr. Johnson sure liked to.