Grub Street

Grub Street

Until the early 1800s, Grub Street was the name of a street in London's impoverished Moorfields district. In the 1700s and 1800s, the street was famous for its concentration of mediocre, impoverished 'hack writers', aspiring poets, and low-end publishers and booksellers, who existed on the margins of the journalistic and literary scene. Grub Street's bohemian, impoverished literary scene was set amidst the poor neighbourhood's low-rent flophouses, brothels, and coffeehouses.

According to Samuel Johnson's "Dictionary", the term was "originally the name of a street...much inhabited by writers of small histories, dictionaries, and temporary poems, whence any mean production is called grubstreet." Johnson himself lived and worked on Grub Street.


The name 'Grub Street' is probably derived from the word "grube", which means "ditch" or "drain." The street was located near a major drainage ditch, which was used for waste water and sewage, and thus the early forms of the name were 'grobstrat' and 'grobbestrate' in the 1100s. [Heaney, Peter. "Grub Street (1700-1760)."]

Samuel Johnson himself lived and worked on Grub Street: in addition to compiling his famous dictionary, he wrote occasional poems, essays, and largely fictional accounts of Parliamentary debates. It can be said that as much as he made Grub Street famous, it made him famous.

In 1830, the street's name was changed to Milton Street to honour a local builder named Milton. Nevertheless, long after the literary scene had been displaced, the area continued to be known as "Grub Street," and the legends of the area's 1700s and 1800s bohemian counterculture became part of British literary history.


By the late 1900s, the term 'grub street' was used in western literary and journalistic circles to characterize the hard-luck period of a writer's career when they had to scrape by churning out low-quality hack articles. Since there are many more aspiring writers than available spaces in the publishing world, a great number of would-be authors end up writing poorly-paid articles to fill out the back pages of small magazines or low-quality anthologies.

Writer George Augustus Sala said that during his years as a Grub Street 'hack',"...most of us were about the idlest young dogs that squandered away their time on the pavements of Paris or London. We would not work. I declare in all candour that...the average number of hours per week which I devoted to literary production did not exceed four." (Cross, 94) [ [ Bohemian London ] ] [In "The Literary Encyclopedia".]

Grub Street is also the name of "New York Magazine"'s food and restaurant blog.


*Eisenstein, Elizabeth. "Grub Street Abroad: Aspects of the French Cosmopolitan Press from the Age of Louis XIV to the French Revolution" (1992)
*McDowell, Paula. "The Women of Grub Street: Press, Politics and Gender in the London Literary Marketplace, 1678-1730" (1998)
*Rogers, Pat. "Grub Street: studies in a subculture" (1972)
*Taylor, D.J. "The street of no shame." In "The Guardian", December 1, 2001. Available at: [,6000,609871,00.html]

ee also

*"New Grub Street"—a novel by George Gissing, set in late-19th-century London—which contrasts a pragmatic journalist with an impoverished writer and examines the tension between commerce and art in the literary world.


External links

* [ History of the street name]
* [ Modern map]
* [ Johnson's Dictionary entry]
* [ Continuing the Tradition]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Grub Street — Grub Grub, n. 1. (Zo[ o]l.) The larva of an insect, especially of a beetle; called also {grubworm}. See Illust. of {Goldsmith beetle}, under {Goldsmith}. [1913 Webster] Yet your butterfly was a grub. Shak. [1913 Webster] 2. A short, thick man; a… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • grub-street — Grub Street, 1. a former street in London, where struggling writers lived (now caed Milton Street). 2. writers who write merely to earn money; hack writers: »He [Balzac] served a long apprenticeship in the labyrinth of Grub Street (Listener).… …   Useful english dictionary

  • Grub Street — Grub′ Street n. 1) geg a street in London formerly inhabited by impoverished writers and literary hacks 2) lit. literary hacks collectively …   From formal English to slang

  • Grub Street — n. (often attrib.) the world or class of literary hacks and impoverished authors. Etymology: name of a street (later Milton St.) in Moorgate, London, inhabited by these in the 17th c. * * * noun the world of literary hacks • Hypernyms: ↑world,… …   Useful english dictionary

  • Grub Street — 1. a street in London, England: formerly inhabited by many impoverished minor writers and literary hacks; now called Milton Street. 2. petty and needy authors, or literary hacks, collectively. * * * ▪ literary hacks       the world of literary… …   Universalium

  • Grub Street — 51°31′13″N 0°05′27″O / 51.52028, 0.09083 …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Grub Street —    See Milton Street.    Not properly Grub Street any further than the Post and Chain ; the other part in the Freedom or Liberty of the City is called Grape Street (W. Stow, 1722) …   Dictionary of London

  • Grub Street — noun Etymology: Grub Street, London, formerly inhabited by literary hacks Date: 1630 the world or category of needy literary hacks …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Grub Street — noun the home or state of impoverished writers and literary hacks Upon the occaision of his first publication he quit his day job, only to find that Grub Street wasnt lined with manors and villas but hovels and slums …   Wiktionary

  • Grub Street — noun the world or class of impoverished journalists and writers. Origin the name of a street (later Milton Street) in London inhabited by such writers in the 17th cent …   English new terms dictionary

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