- Grub Street
Until the early 1800s, Grub Street was the name of a street in
London's impoverished Moorfieldsdistrict. 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.
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 Johnsonhimself 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.
George Augustus Salasaid 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) [ [http://www.mtholyoke.edu/courses/rschwart/hist255-s01/boheme/london.html Bohemian London ] ] [In "The Literary Encyclopedia".http://www.litencyc.com/php/stopics.php?rec=true&UID=1664]
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: [http://books.guardian.co.uk/departments/politicsphilosophyandsociety/story/0,6000,609871,00.html]
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.
* [http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.asp?compid=1315#s1 History of the street name]
* [http://www.streetmap.co.uk/streetmap.dll?G2M?X=532557&Y=181879&A=Y&Z=1 Modern map]
* [http://library.stanford.edu/depts/spc/rbc/johnson_definitions.htm Johnson's Dictionary entry]
* [http://grubstreet.ca Continuing the Tradition]
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