Archive for April, 2009

Dr Johnson’s House

Samuel Johnson, intellectual, tea lover and lexicographer, was born on September 18, 1709. In this 300th anniversary year, Martyn Oliver visits the house in which the doctor compiled his Dictionary of the English Language.

Wine Office Court, Fleet St,
London EC4 © Martyn Oliver 2009

London’s Fleet Street is a maze of courts, narrow covered alleys which burrow through the tall, imposing buildings of what was once the hub of England’s newspaper industry, and lead to a warren of side streets and tiny squares. Duck into the dark alleyway that is Wine Office Court, between Fetter Lane and Shoe Lane, emerge into the sunlight again by the old Cheshire Cheese pub, bear to the left, and you step into the peace and quiet of Gough Square.

Surrounded on three sides by tall, anonymous office buildings, Gough Square’s fourth side is occupied by No. 17, Dr Johnson’s House. Samuel Johnson rented the house in the mid-18th century, and it was here that he compiled the famous Dictionary, which was published in 1755.

Johnson was one of the foremost thinkers of the day; in fact, in many respects he was very much ahead of his time, particularly in his encouragement of a group of intellectual women, several of whom were frequent visitors at Gough Square. They were known as ‘Blues’ or ‘Bluestockings’, after the blue worsted hosiery they often Read more…