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Preface To A Dictionary Of The English Language

by Samuel Johnson

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Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), often referred to simply as Dr Johnson, was one of England's greatest literary figures: a poet, essayist, biographer, lexicographer and a critic of English literature. He was also a great wit and prose stylist, well known for his aphorisms. Between 1745 and 1755, Johnson wrote perhaps his best-known work, A Dictionary of the English Language. During the decade he worked on the Dictionary, Johnson, needing to augment his precarious income, also wrote a series of semi-weekly essays under the title The Rambler. These essays, often on moral and religious topics, tended to be more grave than the title of the series would suggest. They ran until 1752. Initially they were not popular, but once collected as a volume they found a large audience. Johnson's final major work was his Lives of the Poets (1781), comprising short biographies of about 50 English poets, most of whom were alive in the eighteenth century. Amongst his other works are The Idler (1758-1760), Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia (1759) and The Patriot (1774).

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Among these unhappy mortals is the writer of dictionaries; whom mankind have considered, not as the pupil, but the slave of science, the pionier of literature, doomed only to remove rubbish and clear obstructions from the paths through which Learning and Genius press forward to conquest and glory, without bestowing a smile on the humble drudge that facilitates their progress. Every other authour may aspire to praise; the lexicographer can only hope to escape reproach, and even this negative recompense has been yet granted to very few.



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