Swedenborg House

Nuggets – bite size chunks of London


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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