LONDON —He craved more, more and even more stuff.
"I think he went a bit loopy after his wife died," whispered the woman standing next to me as we stood in Sir John Soane's Museum gazing at antiquities dangling from ceilings and perched on the rafters.
But London is full of houses of unusual people and some of them are museums, too. One day, I set off to visit as many of them as I could, those of Soane, Sigmund Freud, Charles Dickens, Queen Victoria and Sherlock Holmes.
Behind every front door was a story.
A famed British architect in his day, Soane was what you might now call a gentleman hoarder, collecting far more Roman, Egyptian and Greek statues, urns, friezes and doodads than advisable even keeping the giant sarcophagus of Egyptian Pharaoh Seti I in his basement.
After his wife died in 1815, he used her money to keep collecting. When he died in 1837, he left an endowment to run the house as a museum. Eventually, the British government took over its support.
Astonished visitors will see a home stuffed with 5,888 ancient artifacts, 17,474 architectural drawings and prints, 202 engraved seals, 160 architectural models, 7,783 books and more, displayed nearly exactly as Soane left them.
What you think of it likely depends on your sensibilities.
Some, like me, will not be able to get past the weird stuff, especially a crypt in the basement devoted to items he collected for his "imaginary friend," including a strange gold chair and a skull.
On the other hand, some will marvel at how he created an inventive personal museum for his architectural students, a way to let them see in person treasures they could not otherwise have glimpsed.
Still. Can you imagine dusting this place?
Sir John Soane's Museum: 13 Lincoln's Inn Fields; Holborn tube stop. Free. http://www.soane.org.
Id and ego: Freud Museum
Objects that surround you are not just objects, but symbols of your unconscious beliefs, psychoanalysts believe.
If so, Freud had a whole bunch of inner thoughts. In 1938, he moved from his lifelong Vienna home to London when the Nazis invaded Austria, and he brought everything.
His pretty brick home in the north of London today has an optimistic sky-blue front door and a charming rose garden. Freud lived only the last year of his life here 1938 to 1939. His daughter Anna continued to live here until the 1980s, when it was turned into a museum.
Most fascinating is Freud's study, where he saw patients. Rather gloomy and full of cabinets of books, his large desk is nearly totally covered with small yet priceless ancient statues his muses. There's the green chair on which he sat, never taking notes, and the analytic couch on which his patients lay, free-associating.