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Past Exhibitions

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‘Gratifications of the Palate’: Cuisine in the Age of Samuel Johnson

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From July 2023

Join us to discover 18th - century society through the lens of food and drink.

Johnson greatly esteemed companionship and conversation and was known for celebrating conviviality, and as such he highly valued opportunities for dining with friends. During his lifetime he established a number of dining societies, known as ‘clubs’, where he could gather together the leading minds in a variety of fields and disciplines to eat, drink and debate, at least one of which is in existence to this day. This exhibit is inspired by Johnson’s attitude to the value of sharing food and drink with family and friends and offers an insight into what was typically available, from the richest to the poorest of plates, during the ‘Age of Samuel Johnson’.

This exhibition explores some of the prominent food and beverage cultures of the 18th century, with a particular emphasis upon the experiences of Samuel Johnson, James Boswell, and their contacts and associates in England and Scotland. Join us to explore the four themes: taverns and inns; the growth of tea and coffee consumption during this period; the range of street foods available; and home cooking and entertaining during this era.

Johnson directly: ‘People have a foolish way of not minding, or pretending not to mind, what they eat; for my part, I mind my belly very studiously and very carefully, and I look upon it that he who does not mind his belly, will hardly mind any thing else.’

This exhibition is curated by Professor Sheila T. Cavanagh of Emory University in conjunction with Celine Luppo McDaid, The Hyde Director and Curator of Dr. Johnson’s House. Prof. Cavanagh thanks the Emory Fund for Public Scholarship, the Guildhall Library in the City of London, the London Metropolitan Archives, and the Trustees of Dr. Johnson’s House for their support of this exhibition. Special thanks are also owed to Guildhall Librarian Peter Ross.

Free with standard admission


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Johnson and Satire

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From July 2021 - July 2023

Join us to discover 18th - century society through the lens of satire from a variety of key artists of the period and beyond.  London at this time was full of inequalities and hardships but also humour and innovation, especially within the work of the many satirists operating during this time.  The prints, paintings and other printed material on display explore Johnson’s significance in London society and as a popular subject for its contemporary satirical artists, but also how crucial his own writing was in addressing various social issues, often in a satirical tone.

Free with standard admission



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Queen of the Blues

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From July 2021 - July 2022

Queen of the Blues is a set of community created responses to the life, work and letters of Bluestocking, Elizabeth Montagu and funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. This exhibitionhas been created and filmed by Unity Arts, in collaboration with Dr Johnson’s House. Queen of the Blues was the name given to Montagu by Samuel Johnson and the pieces that are displayed have been created during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The artwork, 3D installations, audio, photographs and information panels came out of online workshops, heritage trips in pairs and one to one socially distanced meetings with the researchers and artists. Alongside these artworks, you can see Elizabeth Montagu's letters and portraits of Montagu and Johnson from the Dr Johnson's House collection.
You can view an online preview of the exhibition here.

Free with standard admission

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Johnson and Boswell at the Tea Table

Detail from Tea, by Thomas Rowlandson after Samuel Collings, 1786

James Gilray' print of Johnson

Detail from Apollo and the Muses inflicting penance on Dr Pomposo round Parnassus by James Gillray

Elizabeth Montagu artwork

Queen of the Blues artwork from Unity Arts participants

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