Friday, May 11, 2012

Gough Square

I enjoyed reading Mr. Newton's essay on Gough Square. He is right, "Gough Square is not too easy to find."

I was in London in 2002 with my mother, fondly known on that trip as The Aged Parent. We wandered back and forth in search of the tiny square and Dr. Samuel Johnson's House. But we persevered and were delighted to be admitted to the house at number 17 that has been a museum since 1914. After Johnson moved out in 1759 having written his famous Dictionary of the English Language there in 1755, it served as tenement apartments, a sort of family hotel, and then it was let to a firm of printers.

But it was purchased in 1911 by a Mr. Cecil Harmsworth and with great restraint it was repaired and restored. There is no furniture to speak of as anything owned by Johnson is long gone, but there are a couple of his letters, portraits of the man, the original door handles, and two copies from the original run of the dictionary.

I climbed the stairs and sat on the wide windowsills in the Dictionary Attic where Johnson's staff of amanuenses put all those words together. And on my way out, I gave a pat to the head of Hodge, Johnson's most famous cat. The statue features the cat sitting on a dictionary. I wonder what word he is waiting to look up when no one is watching?

My other question is, how does one pronouce Gough. Is it "Gow", "Go", or maybe even "Goff"? If anyone knows, please let me know.

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