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At Dr Johnson’s House

August 1, 2019
by the gentle author

I walked over to Fleet St to pay a visit upon Dr Samuel Johnson who could not resist demonstrating his superlative erudition by recounting examples of lexicography that came to mind as he showed me around the rambling old house in Gough Sq where he wrote his famous Dictionary

House. n.s. [hus, Saxon, huys, Dutch, huse, Scottish.] 1. A place wherein a man lives, a place of human abode. 2. Any place of abode. 3. Place in which religious or studious persons live in common, monastery, college. 4. The manner of living, the table. 5. Family of ancestors, descendants, and kindred, race. 6. A body of parliament, the lords or commons collectively considered.

Acce’ss. n.s. [In some of its senses, it seems derived from accessus, in others, from accessio, Lat. acces, Fr.] 1. The way by which any thing may be approached. 2. The means, or liberty, of approaching either to things or men. 3. Encrease, enlargement, addition. 4. It is sometimes used, after the French, to signify the returns of fits of a distemper, but this sense seems yet scarcely received into our language.

To Rent. v.a. [renter, Fr.] 1. To hold by paying rent. 2. To set to a tenant.

Ba’ckdoor. n.s. [from back and door.] The door behind the house, privy passage.

Door. n.s. [dor, dure, Saxon, dorris, Erse.] The gate of a house, that which opens to yield entrance. Door is used of houses and gates of cities, or publick buildings, except in the licence of poetry.

Hábitable. adj. [habitable, Fr. habitabilis, Lat.] Capable of being dwelt in, capable of sustaining human creatures.

Time. n.s. [ꞇıma, Saxon, tym, Erse.] 1. The measure of duration. 2. Space of time. 3. Interval. 4. Season, proper time.

Stair. n.s. [ꞅꞇæᵹꞃ, Saxon, steghe, Dutch.] Steps by which we rise an ascent from the lower part of a building to the upper. Stair was anciently used for the whole order of steps, but stair now, if it be used at all, signifies, as in Milton, only one flight of steps.

Chair. n.s. [chair, Fr.] 1. A moveable seat. 2. A seat of Justice or authority. 3. A vehicle borne by men, a sedan.

Díctionary. n.s. [dictionarium, Latin.] A book containing the words of any language in alphabetical order, with explanations of their meaning, a lexicon, a vocabulary, a word-book.

A’ftergame. n.s. [from after and game.] The scheme which may be laid, or the expedients which are practised after the original design has miscarried, methods taken after the first turn of affairs.

Mystago’gue. n.s. [μυσταγωγὸς, mystagogus, Latin.] One who interprets divine mysteries, also one who keeps church relicks, and shews them to strangers.

Box. n.s. [box, Sax. buste, Germ.] 1. A case made of wood, or other matter, to hold any thing. It is distinguished from chest, as the less from the greater. It is supposed to have its name from the box wood. 2. The case of the mariners compass. 3. The chest into which money given is put. 4.  The seats in the playhouse, where the ladies are placed. (David Garrick’s box illustrated)

Fascina’tion. n.s. [from fascinate.] The power or act of bewitching, enchantment, unseen inexplicable influence.

A’fternoon. n.s. [from after and noon.] The time from the meridian to the evening.

Intelléctual. n.s. Intellect, understanding, mental powers or faculties. This is little in use.

Prívacy. n.s. [from private.] 1. State of being secret, secrecy. 2. Retirement, retreat. 3. [Privauté, Fr.] Privity; joint knowledge; great familiarity. Privacy in this sense is improper. 4. Taciturnity.

Lexicógrapher. n.s. [λεξικὸν and γράφω, lexicographe, French.] A writer of dictionaries, a harmless drudge, that busies himself in tracing the original, and detailing the signification of words.

Ca’binet. n.s. [cabinet, Fr.] 1. A set of boxes or drawers for curiosities, a private box. 2. Any place in which things of value are hidden. 3. A private room in which consultations are held.

A’bsence. n.s. [See Absent.] 1. The state of being absent, opposed to presence. 2. Want of appearance, in the legal sense. 3. Inattention, heedlessness, neglect of the present object.

Work. n.s. [weorc, Saxon, werk, Dutch.] 1. Toil, labour, employment. 2. A state of labour. 3. Bungling attempt. 4. Flowers or embroidery of the needle. 5. Any fabrick or compages of art. 6. Action, feat, deed. 7. Any thing made. 8. Management, treatment. 9. To set on Work To employ, to engage.

Way. n.s. [wœʒ, Saxon, weigh, Dutch.] The road in which one travels.

Court. n.s. [cour, Fr. koert, Dut. curtis, low Latin.] 1. The place where the prince resides, the palace. 2. The hall or chamber where justice is administered. 3. Open space before a house. 4. A small opening inclosed with houses and paved with broad stones.

Cat. n.s. [katz, Teuton. chat, Fr.] A domestick animal that catches mice, commonly reckoned by naturalists the lowest order of the leonine species.

To Mew. v.a. [From the noun miauler Fr.] To cry as a cat.

Visit Dr Johnson’s House, 17 Gough Square, EC4A 3DE

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Jonathon Green, Lexicographer of Slang

17 Responses leave one →
  1. Paul Loften permalink
    August 1, 2019

    Cat. n.s. [katz, Teuton. chat, Fr.]
    ” Lowest order of Leonine species am I ? So let him find a bloody lion to catch the mice then”

  2. Caroline Bottomley permalink
    August 1, 2019

    Very well done
    Thanks GA 🙂

  3. John Woodman permalink
    August 1, 2019

    You are a wonderful photographer of interiors.

  4. Jill Wilson permalink
    August 1, 2019

    Abfolutely brilliant!

  5. August 1, 2019

    I really enjoyed this blog post. Having visited recently myself I can see just how much of a brilliant photographer you are as you have captured the atmosphere of the house so well.

  6. August 1, 2019

    I wonder if we’re related lol

  7. Bernie permalink
    August 1, 2019

    I would only echo previous commenters and say that this post is wonderful and distinguished (in all the best senses) for its photography, conception and execution. A brilliant contribution that itself deserves to be part of the historical record.

  8. August 1, 2019

    As I looked at the great photographs, I wondered if you had forgotten about Hodge, but no, there he was at the end, the cat who ate oysters. By the way, we have not had news from Schrodinger in quite a while, is he all right?

  9. Phaedra permalink
    August 1, 2019

    I was waiting for the cat statue to appear!

  10. Anne Scott permalink
    August 1, 2019

    Thoroughly enjoyed this visit to Dr. Johnson’s house!

  11. Kathleen Shier Ellis permalink
    August 1, 2019

    Brilliantly conceived!

  12. Jeannette permalink
    August 1, 2019

    i always imagined that house as a tenement. i guess from the account of johnson holed up in a garret with his impecunious dictionary researchers.

  13. Gary Arber permalink
    August 1, 2019

    Wow ! If that was an example of the sort of material that was used to aquire an M.A. Oxon then I am glad that I settled for a B.Sc. Eng. Well presented G.A.

  14. Ian Silverton permalink
    August 1, 2019

    As a former Resident of Fleet Street and worker,this bought back good memories of my time there,living just around the corner of Dear old Dr Johnson in Fetter Lane, his house was the next alley to my local Pub the Peels on the corner of Fetter Lane, with old Harry selling the evening papers right outside the pub,further along just before the Alley was DIVTO cafe selling our mourning Breakfast,still there in some form I’m told, great pictures GA more please on Fleet Street as was,or have you already done it? Good luck

  15. August 1, 2019

    I am left wondering about Johnson’s use of the apostrophe. Was he removing yet acknowledging letters from more common spellings? (I know standardised spelling was not universal in Britain at this time.) Mmmnnn…you have aroused my curiosity GA. And the use of accents? I will have to try and find out.

  16. Karen Chapman permalink
    August 2, 2019

    Thank you GA.

    This is now on my list of things to do!

  17. Pamela Traves permalink
    August 4, 2019

    What a Beautiful Vintage Home!! I would love to walk through those rooms!! Thank You So Very Much!!

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