Swedenborg House

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Swedenborg House

 
Emanuel Swedenborg was a fascin­ating character, whom Jorge Luis Borges called ‘the most extraordinary man in recorded history’. Born in Stockholm in 1688, Swedenborg gained an enviable reputation as a scientist and inventor before under­going a spiritual trans­form­ation in the mid-1740s and pouring out hundreds of essays and dozens of books on all aspects of what was essen­tially an entirely new form of Christianity. He died in London in 1772 – appar­ently on the precise day he had predicted some time earlier.

The Swedenborg Society was founded in 1825 with the primary aim of trans­lating his works into English and keeping as many as possible of them in print.

The society’s grade-II listed home is located at 20-21 Bloomsbury Way. Regrettably, it is something of a disap­pointment. In contrast to the impression given by its welcoming street­front bookshop, most of the building is in need of tasteful refur­bishment and the restor­ation of what remains of its period features, while throwing out some of the less pleasing 20th-century additions, many of which are in a depressing state of disrepair. The lecture hall (which hosts occasional talks, readings, perform­ances and film screenings) has appar­ently been described in The Guardian as “one of London’s most atmospheric venues” – but this must have been said a long time ago. Given the remarkably generous bequests made by some of the society’s past adherents it is to be hoped that a radical makeover may prove affordable.
 
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