Grub Street

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Until the early 19th century, Grub Street was a street close to London's impoverished Moorfields district that ran from Fore Street east of St Giles-without-Cripplegate north to Chiswell Street. Famous for its concentration of impoverished 'hack writers', aspiring poets, and low-end publishers and booksellers, Grub Street existed on the margins of London's journalistic and literary scene. It was pierced along its length with narrow entrances to alleys and courts, many of which retained the names of early signboards. Its bohemian society was set amidst the impoverished 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 had lived and worked on Grub Street early in his career. The contemporary image of Grub Street was popularised by Alexander Pope in his Dunciad.

The street name no longer exists, but Grub Street has since become a pejorative term for impoverished hack writers and writings of low literary value.


According to the Oxford English Dictionary the verb grub translates as "To dig superficially; to break up the surface of (the ground); to clear (ground) of roots and stumps." The earliest use of the word is in 1300, "Theif hus brecand, or gruband grund", and in 1572 "Ze suld...
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