Trying On 300 Year Old Underwear in Dr.Johnson's House

It's no secret that I love everything to do with eighteenth century history. I spent many happy hours pouring over tiny conduct manuals from the late 1700's in final summer of my masters degree (and many stressed and unhappy hours typing up the notes in deadline week!). I've always loved the tactile nature of history. Going to an estate and sitting under the bower of an oak that's older than the house itself. Complaining loudly that they lock away the books so that vagabonds like me can't touch them. Eating a hot sausage roll in a cafe converted from the servants quarters. Historical houses are my jam

The other week myself and my chap Joe planned a staycation. We live in London, but like so many Londoners, we rarely get out and experience all this mad city has to offer. Having done most of the 'big' London attractions, we started ticking off things from the 'days out' list I've added to over the years. Last year I heard about Dr. Johnson's House Museum when I visited Benjamin Franklin's House; a beautifully preserved Georgian terrace near Embankment. Imagining myself as a time-travelling socialite, I was keen to visit the home of Samuel Johnson near Fleet Street. After having a blustery walk from Waterloo over the Thames towards the City, we took a little alley behind Cafe Nero and there it was. Quaint, tidy and cobbled. A world away from the busy office workers in their glass fronted towers next door.

There's a reason this is a 'house' museum; you literally feel like you're stepping into someone's home. Ring the doorbell, pay £4, leave your umbrella by the door and walk yourself around the oak panelled rooms. There's a distinct 'hands off' approach which I LOVE in a museum, yet plenty of knowledge nearby should you need it.

So what's to know about Dr. Johnson? Well, he only wrote the first dictionary! What a champ. Struggling to pay for life in the City, Sam Johnson wrote quite literally to put food on the table. His novels, many being the first of their kind, influenced Jane Austen massively who wrote about him so frequently in her letters that she very nearly comes across as 'fan girling'. 'Rasselas: Prince of Abyssinia' is a short novel by Johnson so bizarre, philosophic and beautifully written that you'll be thinking of it long after it's been put down.

Kim and Kanye circa. 1756
The best thing about the house? Dressing. Up. I cannot hide how deeply thrilled I am every time I see a dressing up box. Examples of me in a dress from 1760 and 1810 garb can be here and here. My daydreams are filled with muslin, bonnets and frilled sleeves. If there was a job to walk around country estates in a Regency costume I would do it in a heartbeat. That's a legitimate career, right?

Bum padding hooked on, bloomers hoicked up over jeans, hair tucked into an unruly wig no doubt as itchy as the original, BOY DID I LOOK FABULOUS. Although I was ready and waiting with a long speech about how handsome and gorgeous Joe would look in a cravat and tricorne hat, I needn't have bothered because it took NO persuading at all to get him dressed up too. We 'took a turn' of the drawing room and I thought I might burst with happiness. DREAMS DO COME TRUE. After the queue of children arrived to try on the clothes half an hour later I reluctantly took everything off, which took AGES. I can see why it was someone's job back then to help women put on extortionately large dresses.

Outside in a little courtyard, we had our packed picnic next to a statue of Dr. Johnson's cat, who he was hugely fond of. So much so, that he bought and fed it oysters. Lucky thing. My Snug rating for the museum? 8/10. A real hidden treat in busy ol' London.

I'll keep you updated with the other things we got up to on our Staycation in future posts. Things are winding down at work, so now I can get back to Snug and put all my remaining energy into it. Happy days!

What's your favourite 'off the beaten track' museum?

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