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Congreve, The Way of the World
John Dryden, Fables
Queen's Royal Cookery
East India Company sales catalogue
Jonathan Swift, A Proposal...
Sugar in Britain
Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe
Trade and the English language
Swift, A Modest Proposal
East India Company: Bengal textiles
English arrives in the West Indies
Hogarth, Harlot's Progress
Cities in chaos
James Miller, Of Politeness
Samuel Richardson, Pamela
Advert for a giant
The Art of Cookery
Henry Fielding, Tom Jones
Sterne, Tristram Shandy
Rousseau, The Social Contract
Walpole, The Castle of Otranto
Goldsmith, She Stoops to Conquer
Captain Cook's journal
Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland
Burns, Poems Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect
Notices about runaway slaves
First British advert for curry powder
Storming of the Bastille
William Blake's Notebook
Thomas Paine's Rights of Man
Walker’s correct pronunciation
Wollstonecraft's Rights of Woman
Songs of Innocence and Experience
Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language is one of the most famous dictionaries in history. First published in 1755, the dictionary took just over 8 years to compile and listed 40,000 words. Johnson required only 6 helpers. Each word was defined in detail; the definitions illustrated with quotations covering every branch of learning. It was a huge scholarly achievement, more extensive and complex than any of it's predecessors - and the comparable French Dictionnarre had taken 55 years to compile and required the dedication of 40 scholars.
This page defines 23 love-related words, including loveapple, lovemonger, lovesecret and lovetoy.
The audio extract is from Johnson's preface to the dictionary, in which he discusses the ways in which languages change over time. However much the lexicographer may want to fix or 'embalm' his language, new words, phrases and pronunciations are constantly appearing. Johnson writes: 'When we see men grow old and die at a certain time one after another...we laugh at the elixir that promises to prolong life to a thousand years; and with equal justice may the lexicographer be derided, who being able to produce no example of a nation that has preserved their words and phrases from mutability, shall imagine that his dictionary can embalm his language, and secure it from corruption and decay.'
Can't play the file above? Listen to the audio clip here
Read from the Preface to Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language:
Those who have been persuaded to think well of my design, require that it should fix our language, and put a stop to those alterations which time and chance have hitherto been suffered to make in it without opposition. With this consequence I will confess that I flattered myself for a while; but now begin to fear that I have indulged expectation which neither reason nor experience can justify. When we see men grow old and die at a certain time one after another, from century to century, we laugh at the elixir that promises to prolong life to a thousand years; and with equal justice may the lexicographer be derided, who being able to produce no example of a nation that has preserved their words and phrases from mutability, shall imagine that his dictionary can embalm his language, and secure it from corruption and decay, that it is in his power to change sublunary nature, or clear the world at once from folly, vanity, and affectation.
With this hope, however, academies have been instituted, to guard the avenues of their languages, to retain fugitives, and repulse intruders; but their vigilance and activity have hitherto been vain; sounds are too volatile and subtile for legal restraints; to enchain syllables, and to lash the wind, are equally the undertakings of pride, unwilling to measure its desires by its strength.