Beware of authors

In “The Boarding House,” one of his Rambler essays, Samuel Johnson talks about his search for affordable quarters:

When I first cheapened my lodging, the landlady told me, that she hoped I was not an author, for the lodgers on the first floor had stipulated that the upper rooms should not be occupied by a noisy trade. I very readily promised to give no disturbance to her family, and soon dispatched a bargain on the usual terms.

After a short time as a tenant, Johnson becomes curious about the previous lodgers. He learns of the tailor who complained about the lack of light and skipped out owing a few weeks’ rent; the young woman from the country who paid her rent promptly but had to be dismissed because of frequent visits from a male “cousin”; and a pleasant gentleman who turned out to be a counterfeiter, and who narrowly avoided capture by creeping out the window and across the roof as the local constable thundered at the front door.

At last, a short meagre man, in a tarnish’d waistcoat, desired to see the garret, and when he had stipulated for two long shelves and a larger table, hired it at a low rate. When the affair was completed, he looked round him with great satisfaction, and repeated some words which the woman did not understand. In two days he brought a great box of books, took possession of his room, and lived very inoffensively, except that he frequently disturbed the inhabitants of the next floor by unseasonable noises. He was generally in bed at noon, but from evening to midnight he sometimes talked aloud with great vehemence, sometimes stamped as in rage, sometimes threw down his poker then clattered his chairs, then sat down again in deep thought, and again burst out into loud vociferations; sometimes he would sigh as oppressed with misery, and sometimes shake with convulsive laughter. Whern he encountered any of the family he gave way or bowed, but rarely spoke, except that as he went up the stairs he often repeated,

This habitant th’ aerial regions boast.

hard words, to which his neighbors listened so often, that they learned them without understanding them. What was his employment she did not venture to ask him, but at last heard a printer’s boy inquire for the author.

My landlady was very often advised to beware of this strange man, who, tho’ he was quiet for the present, might perhaps become outrageous in the hot months; but as she was punctually paid, she could not find any sufficient reasons for dismissing him, till one night he convinced her by setting fire to his curtains, that it was not safe to have an author for her inmate.

A bad bunch, those author types.

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