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The collection has been built up since Cecil Harmsworth purchased the House and opened it to the public in the early 20th century. He was adamant that Dr Johnson’s House should not be filled with ‘irrelevant 18th century bric-a-brac’. Items in the collection had to be connected to Johnson and appropriate for the cheery home of an impoverished writer. Harmsworth turned down some donations, including Johnson’s death mask (too gloomy) and Chippendale furniture (too fine). The Harmsworths donated many early items and the Johnson Club transferred their entire collection to the House. Over the years many generous donations of relevant books, paintings and artefacts have entered the collection.

The curatorial principles of Dr Johnson's House and the themes and priorities for future collecting are set out in our Collections Development Policy (.pdf)PDF image for Volunteer blog document

Collection Highlight

Picture of the bound poem, London: A Poem, by Samuel Johnson

London: A Poem
In Imitation of the Third Satire of Juvenal

by Samuel Johnson, 1738
1st edition, printed for Robert Dodsley

This wonderful and rare item is a new addition to our library.

Johnson composed London shortly after his arrival in the city. His satirical allusions to financial problems, immigration, corruption and crime reflect his observations of public concerns during the 1730s - and read very much like some newpapers and politicians today!

Oil painting of Elizabeth Carter by Katherine Read, 1765Elizabeth Carter (detail), by Katherine Read, 1765
LondonShh. Small Historic Houses Link to London Shh website Accredited Museum