This weekend I'm reading a couple of books, each on eighteenth century London. The more entertaining one is Liza Picard's Dr. Johnson's London. The other is a big bulky book with lots of illustrations, Classical Architecture in Britain: The Heroic Age.
Dr. Johnson lived in London from 1737 until his death in 1784. He's known here simply as "Dr. Johnson" but his name was Samuel Johnson, and while to the British he needs no introduction, to Americans, he's not so well known. In the first class I took here I remember the instructor going on and on about this Mr. Johnson, and not liking to be out of a secret, finally I asked who this dude was, and why wasn't he referred to by his first and last name, like any other figure of history?
In Britain, he's considered the writer of the first English language dictionary, although Americans prefer to dismiss Johnson's attempt in favor of Webster's. Picard's book actually tells us little about Dr. Johnson, but a lot about what life was like in London in the eighteenth century.
The other book (and here I'm tempted to write "tome") is a little less entertaining, but it's also proving useful as a guide to eighteenth century London. Who lived where, what sort of houses did they live in, and most importantly, which buildings have since been demolished.
Why am I so hot on eighteenth century London, you ask? Well, I'm planning to do a bit of time traveling in the not too far distant future, so I'd like all the guide books to the area—and era—that I can find.
That's not meant to be a joke. I'm actually writing a paper from the p.o.v. of a foreign visitor to the capital during the eighteenth century, around the time Ben Franklin lived here. I haven't got much more than a glimmer of an idea and a few paragraphs as of yet, but it sounds like fun.
Perhaps we'll have Dr. Johnson stop by.