Samuel Johnson Tercentenary 2009
‘This Month will be publifhed, in Two large VOLUMES in FOLIO (Price bound Four Pounds Ten Shillings) A DICTIONARY of the ENGLISH LANGUAGE ; In which the Words are deducted from their Originals and illuftrated in their different Significations, by Examples from the beft Writers. To which are prefixed, a GRAMMAR and a HISTORY of the LANGUAGE by SAMUEL JOHNSON A.M. ‘
Public Advertiser (London, England), Saturday, March 1, 1755; Issue 6346
Creating and publishing dictionaries had been popular by Johnson’s time, when previously the idea of looking up information in a book, using the front and middle and end of a book, A-Z , had been a relative novelty.
Johnson was an extraordinary writer, always strapped for cash, and the dictionary became a great challege for him to compile over many years, sifting out words and descriptions suitable for his readers from those he felt were not suitable [every language has … its improprieties and absurdities, which it is the duty of the lexicographer to correct or proscribe.. ‘ Preface to the Dictionary]
It is interesting to note that Johnson was well aware that despite the publishing of a list of words and their meanings, the English language would still grow and develop. In the preface of the the Dictionary he tells his reader that ‘sounds are too volatile and subtile for legal restraints….Those who have much leisure to think, will always be enlarging the stock of ideas, and every increase of knowledge, whether real or fancied, will produce new words, or combinations of words.’
Johnson’s friends were perhaps rightly aggreived to see the poor send off the author received at Westminster Abbey when Johnson died in 1784. Wax candles had been ordered, along with the playing of the organ, however one person observed that ‘not a key of the organ was ftruck, or a fingle taper was lighted up on the occaifon. The fervice, the mutilated fervice, was mumbled over …in the moft unfkilful and unfeeling manner….’ Public Advertiser (London, England), Tuesday, December 28, 1784; Issue 15785
If you would like to learn more about Dr Samuel John and his time, please see the resources below.
Domestick privacies :Samuel Johnson and the art of biography /edited by David Wheeler shelved on Level 2 at 828.6 JOH/DOM
The political writings of Dr. Johnson /edited by J.P. Hardy shelved on Level 2 at 942.07/JOH
The life of Samuel Johnson /James Boswell ; edited, abridged and annotated by John Canning shelved on Level 2 at 828.6 JOH/BOS