Wednesday, 18 March 2015
Lichfield - Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum
E and I had a trip out to Lichfield on Monday afternoon. Despite a dry afternoon being forecast, it was tipping it down when we arrived, so we first had coffee and cake and then visited the Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum and Book shop.
The house was built for Michael and Sarah Johnson (Samuel's parents) in 1707/08. It was both a family home and a bookshop. Sarah, at the age of 40, gave birth to Samuel on 18th September, 1709. He attended Lichfield Grammar School and in 1735 married Elizabeth Porter or Tetty as he called her. She was 20 years older than Samuel and had 3 grown up children. They set up a school in Lichfield which closed after only 18 months and, aged 27, Samuel moved to London to seek work. He wrote articles for The Gentleman's magazine, published a satirical poem entitled "London" and a biography of the poet Richard Savage. Samuel and Elizabeth had little money but Samuel gained a reputation for diligence and his knowledge of literature.
He was asked to write an English dictionary and began work on it in 1746. In 1755 his "Dictionary of the English Language" was published. This was not the first dictionary but it was the most complete and the first to include sources of words. When it was first published the Dictionary was very expensive but subsequent edited concise editions were more affordable and it set the standard for dictionaries for the next 150 years. Johnson continued to write essays and a play "Irene" was staged at the Drury Lane Theatre. Elizabeth died in 1752. Johnson was still relatively poor until George III awarded him a pension of £300 a year in 1762. Samuel became one of the great "celebrities" of the period and was invited to many dinner parties. He continued to visit Lichfield throughout his life and travelled to the Western Isles of Scotland with James Boswell in 1773. Samuel and James had originally met in a bookshop in 1764 and Boswell eventually wrote "Life of Samuel Johnson". Samuel continued to write, publishing an edition of Shakespeare's works, a book "Lives of the Poets" and regular revisions of his Dictionary. He died on 13th December 1784 and was laid to rest in Westminster Abbey.
Michael Johnson's Work Room
A copy of a portrait bust of Samuel Johnson made by Joseph Nouekensin in 1777.
The original portrait bust
The room where Samuel was born.
His wife, Elizabeth
The museum was very interesting and there was a lot to see - its well worth a visit if you ever find yourself in Lichfield.
We then had a wander round the rest of the City Centre.
St Mary's church - the present building dates back to 1868 and is the fifth church on the site since medieval times.
Samuel Johnson Commemorative Statue
Statue of James Boswell
The Guild Hall
Beautiful flowers in this tub but what a shame about the slug pellets :(
I was hoping to pay another visit to the Cathedral but we just didn't have time. Once E finds herself near clothes shops you just can't get her away!! I will return to the Cathedral later this year - I understand the restoration and repair of the Lady Chapel is now complete and I shall make sure I go when the Chapter House is open.
Reference : Souvenir Guide of the Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum and Bookshop