Dr Johnson’s House – Once Home of Samuel Johnson

Dr Johnson’s House Was Where Samuel Johnson Completed His Dictionary:

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Dr Johnson's House © Travel Signposts

Samuel Johnson or Dr Johnson as he was often referred to, is famous as the man who wrote the first modern comprehensive dictionary – the Samuel Johnson Dictionary of the English Language which was published in 1755.

Samuel Johnson was born in 1709 in Lichfield in Staffordshire. From an early age he was beset by ill health (he suffered Tourette syndrome) and as his father was deeply in debt, Johnson had to leave Pembroke College, Oxford without a degree.

He moved to London in 1737 to try and earn a living as a journalist and his lucky break came when a group of publishers approached him in 1946 to create an authoritative dictionary of the English Language. Dr Johnson rented this house at 17 Gough Square and with the help of six assistants, he completed his dictionary in nine years, six years longer than he had anticipated. However, when compared to the Académie Française, whose forty scholars spent forty years to complete its dictionary, Dr. Johnson’s effort was hailed as “one of the greatest single achievements of scholarship”. And, until the Oxford English Dictionary was completed 150 years later, the Samuel Johnson dictionary was regarded as the pre-eminent British dictionary.

History of Dr Johnson’s House

Dr Johnson lived in this Gough Square house from 1748 to 1959. It was in a derelict and dilapidated state when it was bought by Cecil Harmsworth in 1911. Harmsworth, a Liberal MP, restored the house and in 1912 it was opened to the public. The House was nearly destroyed on three occasions during the Second World War bombing. Fortunately, it was being used as a rest centre and arts club for the Auxiliary Fire Service and they saved it. Built in 1700, Dr. Johnson’s House is one of the few residential houses of its genre that’s still surviving in London. The House has been restored to its original condition and visitors can see period furniture, prints, portraits and a collection of exhibits relating to the times when Dr. Johnson lived in the House.

Dr. Johnson’s House is open from Monday to Saturday throughout the year. Located to the north of Fleet Street, the nearest Tube stations are: Temple (Circle & District Line), Holborn or Chancery Lane (Central Line).

Opening hours are:
11am – 5:30 pm (May to September)
11am – 5:00 pm (October to April)

Dr. Johnsons House
17 Gough Square
London, EC4A 3DE

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