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Dr Johnson's House

17 Gough Square
Greater London

This House can be described as a shrine to the English language, for it was here that Dr Samuel Johnson worked for many years to compile the first comprehensive English Dictionary which was published in 1755. Dictionary Johnson, as he was known, lived at 17 Gough Square from 1748 until 1759 and it was here that a nucleus of friends formed including Joshua Reynolds, Elizabeth Carter, Charles Burney, David Garrick, William Strahan and Lord Southwell 'who was so generally civil that no one thanked him for it.' This small group later expanded to include Edmund Burke, Oliver Goldsmith, the Thrales, and, of course, James Boswell, who reported the Gough Square period in his Life of Dr Johnson from other peoples' descriptions.

Boswell described the garret of the house, while work was continuing on the Dictionary, as being 'like a counting house.' It was in this room the six copyists stood and transcribed the entries for the famous Dictionary. Meanwhile, Johnson would be busy compiling further lists of words by reading all the best literature available from his friends' collections and his own. His habit of marking the words he wished copied in thick black pencil made the books unreadable by the time he had finished with them!

Dr Johnson and his wife chose this house because it was close to William Strahan, the printer. The Dictionary made Dr Johnson's reputation, but his wife did not live to see it for she died in 1752. Nor did it make his fortune, and much of his life was dogged by debt.

The house, one of the very few residential houses surviving of its age in the City, has been restored to the condition it was in during Johnson's stay and visitors will be able to enjoy that atmosphere. Of particular note is the staircase which is completely original and the panelling in American pine which has been preserved wherever it was found.

A collection of period furniture has carefully been gathered to complement the house, including a mahogany bureau-bookcase and a Whatnot both of which originally belonged to Johnson's friend Mrs Carter. There is also a fascinating collection of books, including first editions of the Dictionary, letters, prints, mezzotints and portraits. There is the particularly fine Wedgwood medallion of Dr Johnson and a number of works in the style of leading artists of the period. All these reflect the famous occupant and his age.

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Well signposted from Fetter Lane, Shoe Lane and Fleet Street.

Dr Johnson's House Postcode for SatNav: EC4A 3DE


+44 (0)2073 533 745

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