According to the little Oxford Dictionary is “a book that lists and explains the words of a language or the topics of a subject.”
Chambers defines Dictionary “a book containing the words of a language alphabetically arranged with their meaning, etymology etc; a lexicon; a work containing information on any department of knowledge, alphabetically arranged.”
Dictionary is a term taught during the process of learning. It is an instrument associated with a language. Dictionaries are available in almost all the languages. It facilities us to be familiar with correct spellings, parts of speech and accent of the words.
The first Dictionary in English language was compiled by Dr. SAMUEL JOHNSON, who after this was renownedly known as DICTIONARY JOHNSON.
Let us know more about this literary figure, who has made a valuable contribution to the English Language.
BIRTH AND PARENTAGE: Samuel Johnson was born at Lichfield in Stafford shire, on the 18th September 1709. His father was Michael Johnson, who settled in Lich field as a bookseller and stationer.
His mother Sarah Ford, descended of an ancient race of substantial yeomanry in Warwickshire.
Michael and Sarah had two children, Samuel their first born and Nathaniel the second, who died at the age of twenty five.
CHILDHOOD: Johnson derived from his parents, or from an unwholesome nurse, the distemper called King’s evil or scrofula. It is supported that this disease deprived him of the sight of his left eye and also impaired his hearing.
SCHOOLING: Johnson was first taught to read English by Dame Oliver, a widow, who kept a school for young children in Lich field. His next instructor in English was a master, who published a spelling book and dedicated it to the UNIVERSE. He began to learn Latin at the age of eight, with Mr. Hawkins.
AT OXFORD (1728): A man Mr. Michael Johnson had never thought of sending his son to the expensive University of Oxford. Corbett, a man to whom Johnson assisted in his studies had taken him to the University of Oxford. The college tutor Mr. Jordan, was a man of no genius; he imposed upon him as a task the translation of POPE’S MESSIAH. Johnson grew more regular in his attendance. Ethics, theology and classic Literature were his favourite studies. In 1731, he left the college. In the same year his father died.
EARLY STRUGGLES: In 1733 Johnson translated “A voyage to Abyssinia,” written by Jerome Lobo, a Portuguese missionary. This was the first Literary work from the pen of Dr. Johnson. For this work he had from Mr. Warren only the sum of five guineas.
MARRIAGE: Johnson was married to Mrs. Porter the widow of a Mercer in Birmingham who admired his talents. It is said that she had about eight hundred pounds and Johnson used it to project the scheme of an academy for Education
MIGRATION TO LONDON: Johnson having now abandoned all hopes of promoting his fortune in the country, determined to try his fortune in London. Johnson’s fame as poet was gained by his “LONDON”, a poem in imitation of the third satire of Juvenal. It was published in May 1738.
JOHNSON AND SAVAGE: In 1744 he produced one work, fully sufficient to maintain the high reputation which he had acquired. This was “THE LIFE OF RICHARD SAVAGE”.
WORK ON SHAKESPEARE (1745): Every era of Johnson’s life is fixed by his writings. He projected a new edition of Shakespeare.
PLAN OF DICTIONARY (1747): A new undertaking was proposed namely an English Dictionary upon an enlarged plan. It took seven years for him to complete it.
In between in 1749 a play “VANITY OF HUMAN WISHES” was published. In the year 1750 essay “THE RAMBLER” came out.
DICTIONARY PUBLISHED (1755): In 1755 the first Dictionary of the English Language was published, the dictionary with a Grammar and history of the English language, being now at length published, in two volumes folio. The definitions in the dictionary have always appeared as an astonishing proof of acuteness of intellect and precision of language, as indicate a Genius of the highest rank. This it is which marks the superior excellence of Johnson’s Dictionary over others equally or even more voluminous.
In 1759 his mother died. Pension was sanctioned to him in 1762. He established a Literary club in 1764.He got a Doctor’s degree from Oxford in 1775. His work “THE Lives of the poets’’ appeared from 1779-81. He died on December 13th 1784.