Tuesday, March 28

Samuel Johnson: Father Of The English Dictionary

Samuel Johnson is a big name in English literature. His contribution was to English literature as a poet, Playwright, Essayist, Puritan, Literary Critic, Biographer, Editor. He has faced many difficulties in his life. He struggled since childhood.

Samuel Johnson
source: britannica.com

He was born on 18 September 1709, in Litchfield, Staffordshire, England in a very poor family. His mother’s name was Sarah and his father’s name was Michael Johnson. His father was a bookseller. When Johnson was about to be born, his mother was 40 years old, which is not the normal age for pregnancy. Because of this, Johnson’s birth was not even normal. When he was born, he was not like a healthy baby. Therefore, when he was born, there was a fear in everyone’s mind that whether Johnson would survive or not. Coming to infancy, many diseases had arisen in Johnson’s body.

Firstly, there were many spots on his face, secondly, his eyesight also started decreasing gradually and thirdly he also started having difficulty in hearing. Due to this physical deficiency, he was separated from other children of his age. And perhaps from there, he was self-respecting and self-sufficient since childhood.

Once when he was in nursery school, one day his babysitter could not reach school in time to pick him up. Then Johnson himself walked towards the house with his hands and feet. He used his hands and feet to avoid the potholes and creeks on the way. This incident shows that despite his physical shortcomings, he has wanted to be self-sufficient since childhood. He didn’t want him to be a burden on anyone. Due to his father being a book shop, he was very fond of reading books since childhood. He had read almost all the books of the shop, due to which he had got a lot of knowledge at a young age.

After some time he went to his cousin. He didn’t give in to Litchfield. His knowledge grew further after he left Litchfield. There was no shortage of talent, because of this, his thinking and creativity were greatly expanded. When Johnson grew up, he went to Oxford to study. But poverty did not leave him behind. Other students came to know about his poverty, so he wanted to help Johnson. So a student put a new pair of shoes outside their room.

When Johnson saw this, he found it very insulting. They felt that people are taking pity on me because of my poverty. He did not have to bear this humiliation anymore, so he left Oxford. It was very disappointing for Johnson that his poverty came in the way of his studies. This incident deeply hurt Johnson’s heart. After that, he fell into depression. One of his friends, Edmund Hector, supported him. Helped him and gave him courage. Johnson came out of the depression because of Hector.

samuel johnson
source: wikipedia.org

In 1735, when he was 26 years old, he married a widow, Elizabeth Terry Porter. Terry Porter was twenty years older than him. Perhaps Johnson thought it right to do so, given his physical and family condition. After getting married, he thought of taking up a job considering his responsibility. But he had no degree. And perhaps for this reason his teacher’s job did not last long.

In 1737 he went to London. There he got the job of writing articles. Apart from writing in magazines, he also used to review books. In this way gradually he was established as a creator. His poem “London” published in 1738 and the poem The Vanity of Human Wishes published in 1749 became very famous.

Samuel Johnson
source: wikipedia.org

After this, he started being counted among the great composers. Johnson did one such thing which proved to be the greatest work of his life. On 18 June 1746, Johnson received a contract to prepare a dictionary. According to that contract, as soon as they pay the installments of the manuscript to the publisher, they will get the money for their work. Johnson thought that he would complete this work in three years. But his financial condition did not favor him. He sought financial help from many people for this work. One of which was Lord Chesterfield. But no one helped him.

To further the work of the dictionary, Samuel Johnson wrote a series entitled “The Rambler”. This series became very famous later. Despite this, his economic condition was not as strong and so it took 10 years for the dictionary to be formed. All this happened because of his courage, hard work, and dedication. The happiest thing for him was that he had completed this work alone And all the expenses were borne by himself. In 1755 the dictionary was completely ready. When this was done, Lord Chesterfield wanted to help. Then Johnson sent back the amount he had given with a letter. In which he compared himself to a man who was crying for help while drowning in water and no one helped him. When he went to the side of the river in his efforts, he extended a helping hand to someone.

Samuel Johnson
source: wikipedia.org

Although Johnson was not the first person to create a dictionary, his dictionary was prepared after much research. English was also distinguished because of Johnson’s dictionary. That dictionary became authentic, and Johnson received the honorary title of “Father of the English Dictionary“.

The period from 1750 to 1760 was a very difficult time for him. For example, the debt he had taken to make a dictionary was also to be fulfilled, and in 1752 his wife also died. Despite all this, he never gave up. In 1762, when he started getting a pension from the government, his condition improved. Due to the pension, he paid his debt and proceeded with his writing work. In 1763, a young man named James Boswell became Johnson’s friend. James Boswell was from Scotland. James wrote a biography of Johnson titled “The Life of Samuel Johnson“. Samuel Johnson died on 13 December 1784, and his biography, written by James, was published in 1791.

Samuel johnson
source: azquotes.com

In addition to creating a dictionary, Samuel Johnson has done many works.

  • Messiah, a translation into Latin of Alexander Pope’s Messiah -1728
  • Birmingham Journal – 1732
  • A Voyage to Abyssinia, by Jerome Lobo -1735
  • London -1738
  • Life of Mr. Richard Savage -1744
  • Miscellaneous Observations on the Tragedy of Macbeth -1745
  • Prologue at the Opening of the Theatre in Drury Lane -1747
  • The Vanity of Human Wishes -1749
  • Irene, a tragedy -1749
  • Biographies, criticism -1749
  • The Rambler – 1750
  • The Adventurer – 1754
  • Novellas -1755
  • Universal Visiter – 1756
  • “Life of Browne” in Thomas Browne’s Christian Morals -1756
  • Proposals for Printing, by Subscription, the Dramatick Works of William Shakespeare -1756
  • The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia -1759 The Idler – 1760
  • Preface to the Plays of William Shakespeare -1765
  • The Plays of William Shakespeare -1765
  • The False Alarm – 1770
  • Thoughts on the Late Transactions Respecting Falkland’s Islands – 1771
  • The Patriot -1774
  • A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland -1775
  • Taxation No Tyranny -1775
  • Lives of the Poets -1779
  • The Beauties of Johnson -1781
  • Poetry -1781

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