English Lexicography -- By: Noah Porter, Jr.

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 020:77 (Jan 1863)
Article: English Lexicography
Author: Noah Porter, Jr.


English Lexicography

Rev. Noah Porter

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

1. On the Study of Words. By Richard Chenevix Trench, D.D. New York: Redfield. 1857.

2. On the English Language Past and Present By Richard Chenevix Trench, D.D. New York: Redfield. 1859.

3. A Select Glossary of English Words used formerly in Senses different from their Present. By Richard Chenevix Trench, D.D. New York: Redfield. 1859.

4. Rambles among Words: Their Poetry, History, and Wisdom. By William Swinton. New York: Charles Scribner. 1859.

5. An American Dictionary of the English Language. By Noah Webster, LL.D. Revised and enlarged by Chauncey A. Goodrich. With Pictorial Illustrations, Appendix of New Words, Synonyms, etc. etc. Springfield: George and Charles Merriam. 1859. pp. 1750.

6. A Dictionary of the English Language. By Joseph E. Worcester, LL.D. Boston: Hickling, Swan, and Brewer. 1860. pp. 1854.

7. Proposal for the Publication of a New English Dictionary by the Philological Society. London: Trübner and Co. 8vo. pp. 32.

8. Lectures on the English Language. By George P. Marsh. Revised and enlarged edition. New York: Charles Scribner. 1862. 8vo.

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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