Johnson’s dictionary


It takes an eccentric to read dictionaries for pleasure. I do not use the word insultingly; I am glad that there are such people out there, and I wish there were more. however, in the category of works that are admired more than they are read—the Faerie Queene and Remembrance of Things Past are typical members—a dictionary must be at the absolute top of the list. While Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language, which celebrates its two hundred and fiftieth anniversary this year, is a greatly admired book, it is also surely one of the least read. Yet Macaulay called it “the first dictionary which could be read with pleasure,” and even a short look at it will reveal the truth of his assessment.

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