You Got Style
· Pointed Takes on Style Delineated ·
April 15, 2005
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· Historical Drudge Report — Samuel Johnson's 1755 Dictionary ·
So did Samuel Johnson after eight years of hard work mark himself aptly in his great Dictionary published on April 15, 1755. Though its appearance came late by six years, what's the difference, especially for those given to lasting work? For when it's done well, work can bring official or even officious credit-takers to account. Consider Johnson's way with Philip Stanhope (Lord Chesterfield):
You've got to admit, Johnson had style (Grub-Street honesty, I'd call it). But he was also attentive to what it takes to work truly in others' debt. Consider how he wrote of John Milton's Paradise Lost, considering that Johnson's dictionary was not our first:
Of such work, one sees no private or personal account taken just for itself, however much one sees the real measure of its judicious certainty. Maybe it's for this reason that Adam Kirsch, by chance writing in Slate in 2003, happily concluded with this thought:
*"I am not so lost in lexicography," Johnson also wrote, "as to forget that words are the daughters of earth, and that things are the sons of heaven."Permalink
Curious that Johnson, of all souls, should find words to be "the daughters of earth" and things "the sons of heaven." I should think that, for Johnson, it would be quite the opposite — that words would be daughters of heaven, while things would be sons of earth.
Or, is that just the way it is for me?
For you, if you're Catholic, yes; for Dr. Johnson it's maybe a matter of being Anglo-Catholic.
Like Martin and Jack, in Swift's A Tale of a Tub, he might be weighing what to do with their brother Peter's coat. "Give the thing to the word and the word to the thing," he could be saying, "then everyone will be happy."
But don't expect a ruling soon. It might be tough renaming Mary, "Pope."
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God."
As Martin Luther would say, "This is most certainly true."
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