English Lexicography -- By: Noah Porter, Jr.
BSac 20:77 (Jan 1863) p. 78
Times have somewhat changed with the English people since the tradition concerning the elder Pitt was quoted and received with a look of wonder, “that he had actually read Bailey’s Dictionary twice through in course.” ‘Indeed! and what could have been his motive? What possible interest could a man of his genius feel in a task so irksome?’ The
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BSac 20:77 (Jan 1863) p. 79
reply was always given, that he wished in this way to enlarge his vocabulary. Thus, in order that his ready mind need never be at a loss for the precise word which he needed, and his facile tongue never trip in uttering it, he had imposed on himself a discipline of the driest and most tedious of all kinds of reading. At that time the readers of dictionaries were esteemed the most stupid description of people, save one, and they were the makers of dictionaries. These last were looked upon as a necessity indeed, and therefore to be tolerated in the field of letters; literary drudges, for the convenience of the thinkers and speakers whose genius could turn to splendid account the materials which they collected with so great pains — “stone-breakers,” as we once heard them called, who prepared the highways and byways through the fields of knowledge, for the more luxurious and respectable to walk in. But now the study of words has become invested with an almost poetic interest. For we have learned that, as we trace out the history of words through the tortuous and dusty labyrint...
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