The other day a family stumbled out of the rain into Dr Johnson’s House Museum. They hung their coats up, became comfortable and glanced out the scowling portrait at ‘Surly Sam’ that sits above the desk.
“Oh,” exclaimed the mum, “I thought this was Samuel Pepys house. We’ve just been up the monument.”
“It’s okay,” I reassured her, “my dad mixes up the Samuels all the time, I’m a fan of both.”
“Who’s this one?” The mum asked.
“Oh, he was an eighteenth century writer. He wrote lots of things but is probably most famous for the dictionary he wrote here.”
I picked up the huge two volume facsimile of the dictionary off the desk and showed it to the children who tried in vain to carry it together.
“Oh yeah,” the dad piped up. “I’ve heard of him. He’s the one from that Blackadder episode, Hagrid played him.”
I agreed that he was the one from the Blackadder episode whilst trying to smother the surliness that matched the portrait of Sam above my head. I sorted out the money, introduced them in the house and encouraged them to look up ‘sausage’ in the dictionary when they got to it.
That got me thinking. Most people only know of the illustrious Samuel from that episode and it’s a very poor introduction, so I thought I would point out a few of the issues. Here is a video of me doing that, which is almost as long as the episode itself.