Samuel Johnson's garret - an unexpected lull


Unexpected free time, a chilly walk, a brown plaque leads me to Dr Johnson's house near Fleet-Street. The most striking thing about this house is the windows - massive, bright windows looking down into a quiet central London courtyard. Every room tirelessly explains how Johnson couldn't bear to be alone and so filled his house with intellectuals, bluestockings,murderers, drunkards and clergymen.

It is now silent, dead as any museum, barren with artefacts behind glass and darkened paintings with heavy gilt frames. I am pleased to report that it has free visitors' wifi to manage an XML conversion project on Basecamp, post to my blog and grab some documents on email. The latest in a long line of itinerants taking advantage of Sam's hospitality.

I'm writing this post in Dr Johnson's garret - which during the time of the compilation of theDictionary contained five or six amanuenses working at tall tables creating galleys for the printer. 
I find the detailed description of Johnson's working methods deeply satisfying ("...later on in the process, Johnson ordered the quotations to be written directly on the manuscript, probably to save time, leaving room for him to fill in the definitions. This caused problems as it proved impossible to guess the correct amount of space required. Johnson had to revise his working methods as a result and the Dictionary thus took much longer than he initially expected...").

In the end, it took three years longer than anticipated. In an effort to get the thing done, the printer paid Johnson one guinea per page submitted.

I must point out at this juncture that although my working methods have never caused a three-year lag in publication, he and I would have a great deal to talk about. I buy a postcard.